The late 19th century ushered in some big things for the USA: the concept of Manifest Destiny, the abolition of slavery, the opening of the U.S.’s first hotel in Saratoga Springs…important stuff like that. The 1880s, in particular, were quite interesting: Americans cheered the publication of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and Treasure Island, they heaved a collective sigh of relief over the first successful testing of the rabies vaccine, and they embraced one of the most useful similes in the English lexicon: “like a chicken with its head cut off.”
At least, I find the phrase useful. Others must, too, because you hear it practically every day, don’t you? In fact, isn’t it hard to believe there was a time when people weren’t utilizing this quaint simile? Surprisingly, it took until the 1880s for someone to finally observe that some folks, when excited or upset or just crazy busy, tended to dash about frenziedly in the manner of poultry that has recently been decapitated. Thank goodness our eyes were opened! Understandably, the colorful simile caught on. Sources such as the venerable Atlanta Constitution even started wielding it for journalistic purposes, as in the AC‘s July 1882 coverage of an escaped prisoner: “Finding himself free from the heavy shackles, he bounced to his feet and commenced darting about like a chicken with its head cut off…”
I know I have times when I feel frenzied and decapitated, running from one task to another without full comprehension of where my feet are taking me. Some people would call this live/work lifestyle “putting out fires”, but really that’s not as satisfying, is it? So I pick the feistier fowl version, taking solace in the fact that it’s all figurative, of course. I mean, if my head were literally cut off, I’d be in a world of hurt. Aside from the obvious inconvenience of being dead, I would have no place to rest my sunglasses, and I wouldn’t know what to do about all the “hats” I like to pile upon my topside. Triplet Mom, Wife, Writer, Freelance Editor, Speaker, Friend, Daughter, Sister, Playdate Coordinator… the hats keep accumulating on me, sometimes in triplicate. Right now I’m trying out two nifty bonnets called “Graphic Designer” and “Webmaster.”
In the two years since I stopped editing children’s books full time and started writing my own novels, I’ve been getting a crash course in self-promotion, and two of my biggest tasks in that arena have been creating my website and my promotional bookmarks. I’ll leave the website topic for another day, because, boy, is that a doozy. Instead, I’m in the mood to talk bookmarks, for I just received my second bookmark from the printer. It was like Christmas in November! Grabbing the UPS package from my front porch, I bounced and darted giddily (or perhaps that should be frenziedly?) into my kitchen for the scissors. There I found myself propping a new bookmark against the wall next to the first bookmark I’d designed. Was there improvement? Was this burst of pink any better than the black one? I’m sure a professional designer would faint at my amateurish designs, but I do my untrained best. What do you think?
Regardless of how the bookmarks look, I have to say that the quality of the printed product is fabulous. I use www.printplace.com, a company that has great prices and an easy website (though don’t try to call them for help, as they never seem to answer their phones in under ten minutes). Simply by tinkering with my computer’s basic Power Point program, I’m able to design bookmarks myself and upload to the site instead of paying others to do it for me. And I’m all about doing it myself when I can. Save the money, gain the knowledge and all that. And you know, I have to say, I’m kind of proud of myself for pulling it off, plainly put. My bookmarks aren’t polished, but they make me happy.
My next goal is to figure out the best way to put these bookmarks, or less ink-intensive versions, on my website for readers to print if they want them. The HONK IF YOU HATE ME book club guides I posted on the site keep coming out blurry, so clearly I haven’t reached the top of the learning curve with the web design stuff. But, I’m sure I’ll figure it out one of these days. After all, I may not have an extra head for my Graphic Designer hat, but the head I’ve got enjoys tinkering around with the computer.
Now if I could just find the extra time to tinker…