Wednesday, December 17, 2008

I haven't had much time in the last few days to think about the book, but I'm up late again, working on my last firing before christmas. I thought I'd just post a picture and say I'm working on the edit where and when I can. I plan to do a lot more of this in the next couple of days and beginning next week- everyday.

This picture was among those found in the clay cellar in Niederbipp shortly after Jake arrived. The hands seems to be of a man much younger than Isaac, but then the photo seems very old. I'll try to post others before Christmas. Ben

Friday, December 12, 2008

Well, I'm up late firing a kiln. If its true that a watched pot never boils, it seems to be even more true that a watched kiln never reaches temperature. The firing just passed the 12 hours point and is nearly done---about 2380 degrees-on its way to 2400 before it will be time to shut it down. This part always take the longest--Especially in the witching hour of 4 am.

So, I have been working on the book. Alot of things still have yet to be ironed out. I have been a little slow this month, trying to get my studio openhouses out of the way and working on last minute Christmas orders. I look forward to next week when I can spend more time editing.

I wanted to post a photo or two.
This is an old picture of Isaac, taken just outside of the Bergerhaus in Niederbipp, circa 1965, back before he bought the electric wheel and was still using the old kickwheel. We found this in the studio, in the clay cellar, stuffed into the middle of an old book. I wonder why the photo was taken. I have written an email to the Mayor to see if he might know.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Ok, so i'm in much better spirits today. I worked in the studio, making some bowls for an order and some answers came to me while I was working. I realized the story has many weak antagonists, but none that are strong. It is hard for me to be negative and mean. It's just not in my nature, but I know I'm trying to writes a story that people can believe, can relate to. The fact is that life sucks sometimes. Sometimes it feels like the powers of hell have unleashed their fury on you.

So, its back to the computer for more work, more slashing and burning. I got the first of the twleve books that I sent out, back today. The readers were very kind, but also blunt and honest and I know I have a lot more work to do.

I spoke to Mike Ramsdell today. He is the author of "Train to Potevka" and self-published his book which has sold over 800,000 compies in three years, mostly at Costco. He is becoming a good friend and mentor. I am meeting with him on Monday.
I promised more pictures, so the one above is a make-shift garden in Niederbipp. This apartment is just a stones throw from the church and Jake passes it every time he walks to or from the cemetary and churchyard by the back way. You might recognize the peppermint growing in the dark planter on the left side. Most of the platters were made by Isaac, but there are a few others that were made by Henry, his father-in-law.
More pictures to come.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

lost in the world of waiting

So, waiting is not my strong suit. I am anxious to move forward with the book, but I am waiting on getting the book back from friends and editors. I asked them to return the book by December 1 so they still have plenty of time, but I am anxious to get moving forward. I've spent the last two days researching presses and deciding where I would like to publish. So far, the best price is from Alexanders in Lindon, Utah. Because I can pick them up myself, I can save a bunch on shipping. I am anxious to get things moving.

As I wait, I realize I have the tendancy to second guess myself. I spent the day reworking the first two chapters, slashing and burning and trying to make it shorter, but in the end, I'm not sure its any better, just shorter. I am interested in gaining more insight from the other readers.

This has been a very spritual journey so far, but this week has not been my best. I want to believe the direction I am moving in is the right way, but sometimes the roadblocks and limitations frustrate me. I feel like I just need to step away from writing for a week or so, go to a bunch of movies, try to escape the world that's bugging me for a while. I'm afraid I'm getting cranky and my wife would probably agree.

The last time I did this, I went to the bookstore, Barnes and Noble not far from my house. I normally love bookstores, but I returned home both empty-handed and heavy hearted. There are so many books there. How am I going to get noticed?

I ran into Mike Ramsdell last Thursday at Costco. He is the author of The Train to Potevka and has now sold more than 800,000 copies through Costco and other bookstores. He is a really nice guy and I enjoyed my visit with him.

Anyway, I hope to get moving again soon

Sunday, November 2, 2008

So, of the twelve copies I printed on Friday, seven were sent to friends around the country, one was set aside for my mom, two were given to friends here in Salt Lake and two more were given to friends with editing/publishing backgrounds. I have only received feedback from the last two. One came in as a phone message on Saturday, the other as an email tonight. These two read my first edition and returned it with some good suggestions and a lot of critique that killed me for a while. Their comments this time around are encouraging.

I thought I was done in March. I realize how naiive and foolish I was. I wish it was true, but reality is good, and generally hard to accept, at least for me. I anticipate there will still be many changes to come, but it feels good to be on this end of it.

I also spent some time talking to Bert Compton, my cover designer and friend today. He is starting some designs we are both very excited about. On Tuesday, I am meeting with another friend, Al Thelin, a photographer who will be doing a lot of photography for me for the book for a cool idea I have for making the book feel more like a package. I'll explain later.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

I thought I might start sharing some images of New Niederbipp, PA.
Most folks just call it Niederbipp any more. I hope to post several photos of the town I grew to love as I discovered this story.
Life is different here. It is slower and meaningful. You can hear yourself think and crickets sing you to sleep at night.

I didn't plan on writing a book, but the voices wouldn't leave me alone. I am a potter. For the past twelve years I have made my living exclusively by playing in the mud, making stuff. With one semester left, I dropped out of college nine years ago to follow my passions, and I still am.

I was just minding my own business when the voices came. I don't remember the day, but I remember where I was. I was working on the wheel when Isaac started talking to me; telling me his story. Over the next few years, he brought his friends and they had tea parties in my head, messing up my hair and refusing to leave me alone.

I am not a writer, but I am a dreamer and I've heard they might be cousins, or maybe step-brothers. As these voices continued to visit me, I began taking notes. The things they were telling me were beautiful and instructive and meaningful. But I am potter. They should know better. I spin mud into vessels, not words into tales.

But they kept coming and bringing more friends.

Five years ago, as I sat at my wheel, my hands stopped working; at least the way I had been used to. I was confused. I am a potter, after all. I need my hands to make stuff. The voices danced about me, telling me they needed a voice others could hear. I reminded them I was a potter, but they wouldn't leave me alone.

So I began.

In the evenings, I started to write. The notes I started eleven years ago were jumbled and crazy, but the voices straightened me out. Their stories needed to be told. The people of Niederbipp needed a voice.

I am a potter with busted hands, but my ears still work. They told me they could work with that.

They don't pay much. In fact, I have yet to receive a dime. (They tell me the check is in the mail.) I realize I didn't do this for money, or for fame. I did it so the good people of Niederbipp would have a voice.

I hope it helps.

Ben Behunin 2008

(From the Prelude at the front of the book)

Friday, October 31, 2008

The first day--I'm now a blogger

So, after spending almost an hour writing my first blog, I pushed the wrong button and erased it all. I'm an idiot.

After more than ten years, I am one step closer to being a published writer. I printed off twelve copies of my book and sent them to some of my friends after they agreed to read my story and get the manuscript back to me in a timely manner.

The editing actually began in March. Anxious for my wife, Lynnette, to finally see what I had been spending all my free time doing, I printed her a copy to read on our long drive to Disneyland over spring break with the kids. She read it and made a lot of notes and I spent a couple of weeks working on corrections before I printed five copies and gave them to family and friends to read.

One friend had experience with editing and I soon began receiving feedback that scared me. The manuscript was still much rougher than I wanted to admit. I was sensative and probably unresonably so, but she was thorough and insightful and brutally honest. When I got her copy back, I set it aside for a couple of weeks, wondering if I would ever return to it. As I thought about it, I realized how right she was and I took the majority of her critique to heart.

That began in May. Six months later, I finally finished, just last night. There is little doubt that I probably still have a zillion hours of editing ahead of me, but it is much smoother and cleaner and more meaningful. Tomorrow, I will have Lynnette help me with some of the content of this blog. I have a lot of things to say. I hope some of it will be worth reading. If I can find a way, I hope to post the first chapter of the book as well as a few other things, but as today was a stepping stone in a postive direction, I wanted to post this and say it has begun. Much more will follow. Ben