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Wednesday, July 1, 2009

"Let There Be Lightbulbs!"

Like most authors, I’m a packrat. I hoard old journals and notebooks, out-of-date atlases, out-of-print magazines (remember Omni?), crinkled newspaper clippings, and phrases I copied from books back when my handwriting was better. I came across this line the other day from Osbert Sitwell’s 1949 autobiographical Laughter in the Next Room. He describes the “permanent stain of blue or purple ink on the inner side of the middle finger of my right hand.” Up until the advent of the computer keyboard, this was the distinguishing mark of the professional writer. Our high-tech society has cleaned up our writing spaces and created another challenge: Lighting.

There are so many choices now -- backlighting, overhead lighting, side lighting, ambient, indirect. Here in the Stone Arch Books office, every editor and designer has his or her own individual preference. Here’s a small random sampling:

Sean (Billy Blaster): No overhead lighting. Has spillover from another editor’s light. Also, uses a retro looking desk lamp perched high above his keyboard.

Hilary (Robot & Rico): She inhabits the darkest cubicle! One lone 40-watt bulb burns in front of a 3-foot high face of Daniel Radcliffe from Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.

Emily (Katie Woo): Lots of lighting! But she hates fluorescent lights, so the building manager removed one tube from each overhead fixture above her space. Their radiance is softened by the glow of a small lamp.

Brann (Zinc Alloy/DC Batman chapter books): Built-in desk lighting that he almost always turns off. Sometimes he turns on a standing lamp that is adorned with a golden Hello Kitty coin bank and an Indiana Jones-style fedora. Apparently, if you remove his lamp, poison darts shoot out of the walls.

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