Archive for the ‘Writing’ category

Rabbits Unwrapped – Winona Linn

May 17, 2015

Periodically over future posts, I’ll be deconstructing the process I used for  the illustrations of Winona Linn’s collection of poems, The Truth About Rabbits, but I thought I’d introduce you to the shakers and movers of this project.

First and foremost, we have Winona Linn, a young woman who is certainly making a name for herself. When I say she’s a Kingston-based poet, I beg you to take that in the loosest manner possible, since she floats between Kingston, Paris and other worldly points.


One of the benefits of having one’s own press is that one may print what one likes  (and you have to say it like that, first person singular pronoun, with a really snobby accent). So I won’t go on and on about the quality of Winona’s poems; if I  didn’t like them, I’d have passed on the opportunity to illustrate them. I will say that these poems are smart, sharp, poignant and witty with refreshingly light-hearted, self-deprecating moments. It is those latter aspects  that conjured images for me from her verse. You see, it has been a very long and dark couple of years; if I had been writing and performing poetry during that time, I would have fit right in with most of the poetry scene – a lot of dark emoting. In fact, I only made one illustration for a book a year or so prior to Rabbits, also for Thee Hell Box Press. Here is that one:


Linocut illustration from Shane Neilson’s Out of the Mouth 2014 Thee Hellbox Press.

Well. Enough said. There’s plenty in Winona’s vivid imagery to conjure dark images, but (to rip off another poet) ‘I am half-sick of shadows’, so instead I’ve done a lewd Starbuck’s logo, a crow who is about to (or has just) pooped cherries on our poet, a toaster slowly browning a copy of Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar,  young lovers in a church etc. Periodically I’ll blog about the imagery that inspired the illustration, and the sometimes bizarre route I took to creating them.

I should note here that Winona does not only excel at writing and performing her own poetry, but she is an illustrator and artist of some force. Prior to her departure for Paris after Rabbits launched, she showed me some of her linocuts…. All I’ll say is that I’m hoping I get the chance to work again with this amazing artist.


Zombies at Greyweathers Press

December 8, 2013

Laser printed layout dummy for the first page. The square beneath the drop cap shows spacing for a long, narrow illustration.

And so production begins on The Necromancer and the Seventh Daughter, the sequel to the popular Vampire & the Seventh Daughter that we printed a few years ago. I didn’t start the press for vanity purposes, but once in a while it is satisfying to watch one’s own words roll of the press. These “Gothick Trifles” as I call them harken back to my reading and viewing roots in sci fi, horror and fantasy literature so I consider these works more than most personal projects.


This was the title page for the first book. In it, we are introduced to Septima who, being a 7th daughter of a 7th daughter, has some extraordinary powers, and a particular brand of pugnacious courage that is a particular nuisance and foil to baddies. The baddy in that story was the vampire princess who was eating through her serving staff, and for some reason her father the king didn’t seem all that alarmed. Enter Septima and, well, it’s a fable so I’m hardly spoiling it to say that things go poorly for the vampire. This is often the case.

The second Gothick Trifle is longer, about 2,000 words and a bit more complex. I wanted to play with the story of the golem, but also work in some kind of environmental comment, and zombies, because, well, you know, zombies are hot.It may have been a bit too many devices for once very short fable, but there you go. The first draft was about 3,500 words. Even after crunching it down and taking out all the stuff I really liked, it still took about about 700 words of back story before Septima even got mentioned, so I rewrote the whole so that she came in at the beginning, and a little sooner in the story.

The first one had four pretty simple linocuts. This one will have perhaps eight wood engravings, or so that is my intention now.  I’ve doubled the paper (it will be sixteen pages as opposed to the previous eight) but I still thought I’d have to set in 10 point, but as it turns out, a little more judicious editing (the first draft was 3,500 words) and cutting a couple of illustrations means 12 point will work, which makes the setting job easier. Naturally, it will be hand set lead type, our house face, Italian Oldstyle. While I work on the type and engravings and printing, I’ll be pondering the binding, which I may do the same as the last one, or try something different entirely. I’m hoping for an edition of 75.



Family History – Part Seven

October 15, 2013

The Family History – typeset, printed and bound.


Part Seven

As mentioned earlier, Joshua’s Family History has been transcribed, printed and bound into a new edition, with a limited run of 20 copies.

I should emphasize that this effort was strictly a transcription of Joshua’s work, as opposed to a revision, rewritten or heavily edited version, done with as few editorial intrusions as possible, with changes made only for blatant errors that, presumably, Joshua would have been grateful to see eliminated. Regrettably, in the process of typesetting and laying out the text, other typographical errors have come into being. Most historical spelling and usage has been preserved. In many cases, large blocks of text have been broken into paragraphs to make it easier to read. I have also corrected some archaic misspellings and usage and very occasionally rearranged somewhat arbitrary headings and sub-headings into a more consistent and coherent order.

Part One |Part Two | Part Three | Part Four | Part Five | Part Six | Part Seven | Part Eight | Part Nine

Family History – Part Six

October 15, 2013

Family portrait of Dr. Charles Walden Thompson, Joshua’s son.


Part Six

Joshua confesses some of his own faults – his quick temper, for example, apparently a family trait; others can be deduced through his writings – pride perhaps. Still, his tone is reflective and contemplative – that of a man looking back on his own and his family’s life in the hope of creating a legacy. His zealous pen cannot conceal the deeply felt grief for parents, siblings and children long dead, or his obvious pride in his surviving children and grandchildren. In undertaking this great task, Joshua’s motivation must have been love; indeed, he loved his family so much that he dedicated years of his life revisiting a great deal of loss and sorrow by creating a written record to preserve their legacy for them, and for their descendants. Some brief updates and notes appear in the manuscript, made by Joshua, and later by his son Dr. C. W. Thompson. They end around 1920.

Part One |Part Two | Part Three | Part Four | Part Five | Part Six | Part Seven | Part Eight | Part Nine

Family History – Part Five

October 15, 2013

Long exposures in early photography made it nigh on impossible to pull off group portraits, so sitters were shot individually and a then grouped as a composite.


Part Five

Joshua enriched his work with rare photos of his family. As with many vintage photographs, these have an eerie sense of time long past and yet preserve the dignity of the sitters. Best of all, these faces have a name and a story, unlike so many vintage photographs of anonymous faces found in abundance at flea markets and auctions.

Occasionally, Joshua will make an allusion to some past dispute or scandal in the Thompson family, but as a rule he is averse to gossip. This leaves some intriguing silences in the text:  tantalizing hints of untold stories. Conversely, he is often quite courageous in recording events that might daunt other chroniclers: the devastating mental illness of his father, for example, or the final moments of his brother’s gruesome death from tuberculosis. Having lived long and suffered much, Joshua found it easy to dwell on darker subject matters. That, and Joshua’s strict moral rectitude hardly makes the Family History a vehicle for wanton humour – at least, not humour intended deliberately.

No contemporary reader can overlook Joshua’s own strong religious bias. The entire work is steeped in fundamentalist Methodism and a fiery sense of Christian righteousness, complete with the intolerance one might expect from this kind of fervor. Readers are treated to regular spasms of zealous outburst, usually sparked by some emotional event, ending with biblical quotations, allusions and sermons. He records that the Family History is not his first writing project of substance. Apparently, a hefty manuscript of religious writing and opinion had earlier been sent off to the authorities in the Methodist Church (these were included in the copy of the Family History given to daughter Gertrude). Without doubt, Joshua had a heart inclined toward the pulpit. His feverish digressions may distract the reader, but they also hint at the rigorous faith and emotion behind his need to record facets of his life and those of his family.

Part One |Part Two | Part Three | Part Four | Part Five | Part Six | Part Seven | Part Eight | Part Nine

Family History – Part Four

October 15, 2013
Photo of Joshua placed near the end of the History.

Photo of Joshua placed near the end of the History.


Part Four

Joshua progresses very methodically though his family’s history, beginning with his own scant knowledge of his grandparents, stepping through parents, brothers and sisters, his own autobiography, children from two marriages and finishing with several addenda concerning his grandchildren. He writes sections based on the length of the blank journal page, beginning with a heading and subheading followed by a single page of text, whereupon he breaks the narrative flow and begins a new page with a new heading.

Joshua tells the story of an Old World working class Anglo-Irish family beginning anew in North America. He never fully explains why the Thompson family decided to make the arduous trek in 1819 from Mountrath, a village near Dublin, across a great ocean and vast tracts of wilderness to arrive, finally, in a farming community a few miles west of Kingston, Ontario. They hoped “to make a home and a fortune for their family,” Joshua writes, as he tells the remarkable tale of the challenges endured and chances taken by these settlers in the New World.

In his own words:

Ice In St. Lawrence Brakes Up – A Disappointment
Purchased a Farm

My Father did not find Canada as inviting a place for a home as he expected and consulted with my mother and they both concluded it was best to return to the states. I think he was at Mr. Baker’s two weeks. So he engaged two other teams to take them back to Cambridge [NY]. When they reached Kingston, a distance of thirty miles, they heard that the ice in the river St. Lawrence had broken up and it could not be crossed with teams so they did not proceed any further. He soon got a house for the family and unloaded the sleighs, settled with the teamsters and got the house arranged for the family.

He then searched and got employment in a shoeshop in town conducted by a man the name of William Carroll. My Father worked for him about a year and cleared some more than his expenses and began to think he could make a home for himself and his family in Upper Canada. He kept inquiring of those customers who got work done in the shop for a suitable place for his business and a home for the family and himself. He heard of fifty acres of land that could be bought cheap with a frame house and log barn on it and in a good neighborhood that needed a shoemaker. This place was twenty four miles north-west of Kingston and ten miles from John Baker’s in Richmond. My Father at once went to see it and the owner who lived in the same neighborhood. His name was Thomas Empey, Esquire, called “Squire Empey.” They soon made a bargain for the land. I think the price was $250, and my Father soon left Kingston and moved to his farm and new home in Ernestown in the spring of 1823. This was a good purchase (five dollars per acre) and was a good Christian society, but a poor farm to till. JT

Part One |Part Two | Part Three | Part Four | Part Five | Part Six | Part Seven | Part Eight | Part Nine

Family History – Part Three

October 9, 2013



Part Three

Here’s a sample of Joshua’s writing, taken from his Preface:

About seven years ago, I started to write sketches of my Father’s family history (including my brothers and sisters) and short biographies of each of his children. As I was the only surviving child of a large family of eleven children, it seemed to me that God had lengthened out my life and health for a purpose and had given me a family to train up in the way they should go, both by example and precept, and the six children who are living might prize a work of this kind from the brain and pen of their aged Father as one of his last acts of kindness that would remain with his children when his body is laid to rest in the silent grave.

I have to write under some disadvantages as some of the events I shall narrate took place many years before I was born and I got the facts orally from my Parents more than sixty years ago and stored them in my memory. My parents are dead over fifty years. As to the age of my grandparents, I had to suppose or guess their ages. I had my parents’ age in a family record and that of all their children. I left my first family home at the age of twenty-nine years. My parents had died and I left in the year 1852 [leaving] three brothers and four sisters all in good health and in 1882 the last one died leaving me the only living child in my Father’s family. It is wonderful how well the memory retains what it gained in childhood or youth. I cannot trace our Family history in the past further back than Grandfather.

As a strong inducement for me to undertake such a task now in my old age, my children have given me tangible proof of their sincerity in supplying me with blank books for me to write a copy for each of them (providing the task was not too much for my strength) as they would preserve it carefully as a lasting souvenir of my many acts of paternal kindness to my family. I make no promises as the future is all hid from me. My life and times are in the hands of my Heavenly Father. I have four blank books to fill; not a bad year’s work for me to do. “I may die in the harness” and some of my children may complete the task. I feel better to be employed at something that may benefit those I shall leave behind. If I have blank pages to spare, I will give a short sketch of my mother’s family (the Langfords) and the mothers of my children (the Walden and the Stewart families). They well deserve a page in this book of chronicles.

If these biographies and narratives and reviews give my children or grandchildren or reader of these pages the pleasure they have given the writer, I will be amply rewarded. I pray that God may preserve me in health to finish this volume which I will cheerfully present to my son Dr. C. W. Thompson of Clinton and his family to improve on a new edition.

I have written this introduction on Saturday the Sixth day of May, 1905. May Almighty God bless this last effort of your aged Father and Grandfather! Amen!

Joshua Thompson
St. Marys
[Updated September 10, 1910]

Part One |Part Two | Part Three | Part Four | Part Five | Part Six | Part Seven | Part Eight | Part Nine

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