In 2011, my book ‘Chocolate Rain’ was published by Hawker Publications, UK. It has been received well and has steadily found its way into the hands of more and more relatives, carers and professionals who work with people with dementia.

Last month I received wonderful news, my book had sold out of the first printing and is being reprinted because it had been chosen along with 24 others as part of Reading Well’s Book Prescription list for Dementia! I went to the official launch while I was in London, met a few friends there, John Killick and Richard Hawkins to name two, and was inspired to learn more about this initiative.

Reading well is a health initiative of the Reading Agency, a non profit that encourages people to read more. Their Books on Subscription project is brilliant in its simplicity. They team up with libraries, health professionals, and health organisations to make self-help books on common health problems widely available through libraries.

At the launch I was most impressed by the transdisciplinary collaboration that makes this project possible. Reading Well’s Book prescription list for Dementia is actively promoted by the Society of Chief Librarians, partly sponsored by the Arts Council England, and works closely with health organisations like the Alzheimer Association. The combined efforts of all of these bodies make general health information, in this case information about dementia, low threshold and easily available to everyone through their local public library. Particularly cool, I find, is that doctors and other professionals (therapists, social workers, etc) can prescribe these books to their patients so that they can become more empowered by becoming informed about their-, or a relative’s condition.

Last year the books were available in 95% of all the libraries in the UK.

In its first year, the scheme reached 275,000 people with accredited self-help reading, helping people to understand and manage common mental health conditions such as anxiety and depression. Library issues of titles on the core book list have increased by 113% and around 7,000 health professionals are using the scheme on a regular basis to recommend books.

What it means for me and the other 24 authors, is that our books will get a huge boost in getting out to where they are needed. Last year’s book saw large sales increases as well, which is only good news to anyone who relies in part on royalties for their income.

My book is an activity/support for carers book, additionally there are books on Living well with dementia, including, ‘Dementia Positive’ by John Killick, Luath Press. In the category, Support for relatives and carers,  Graham Stoke’s much lauded,’And still the music plays’, published by Hawker. And in Personal stories, ‘The little girl in the radiator: mum, Alzheimer’s and me’ by Martin Slevin, (Monday books).

‘Chocolate Rain’ is available at the many Dementia and Care congresses organised by Hawker publications in the UK. And on line from Book depository, Amazon uk, etc., and directly from Hawker publications.


choc rain in germanresized

I’m so excited. I received the German edition of my book in the mail yesterday. Originally published and available from Hawker publications, they have sold the German rights to Hans Huber, a large international publishing house with branches in most major European cities.

I’d seen one other translation they’d done of one of Hawker’s books- it was well done and ‘clean’, but the same handling of my warm, hand crafted book   would have killed it. I wrote the book and illustrated it, then Hawker gave me free hand in designing it. I also set it up in InDesign and prepared the  preproduction process which was a steep learning curve for me. So you can imagine, after having been able to design each and every page and spread, and attend to every last detail to the fraction of a millimetre, how hard it was to let it out of my hands. I hadn’t been consulted on the translation at all, so I was preparing myself for a major let down as I was opening the package.

Well, I hardly have words to say how beautifully the whole thing is done. Whoever handled the art direction loved this book as much as I did. The spreads were preserved, all the design was intact. Even the most difficult, hand-written spread was done as well as I could have done it using my own handwriting. There is so much care put in to preserve the spirit of the book in every way, I am infinitely grateful.

So Chocolate Rain is going out to an entirely new public, where hopefully it will connect people to the power of the arts to move, engage, bring healing and comfort to people with dementia, their caregivers and families.

Catching up

November 26, 2011

Decorative letters and packaging workshop

I haven’t posted in awhile because of uncharacteristic busyness as well as being away for a week.

The photo shows the last session of my recent series of creativity workshops here locally. We’d just decorated some tissue paper with mixed media and were puzzling over a complicated 6 piece triangular origami box.
The next course is a wild adventure (I hope) disguised as  7 week (1x/week) beginners drawing course. Participants will get basic drawing skills while being exposed to a lot of other media and techniques. They ‘ll be encouraged to let go of  ‘getting it right’ and let go a bit to discover their secret talents. For any local people (Northern Holland, de Marne area) the course begins on January 11. Keep on the lookout for a possible free introductory lesson.
I’m recently back from Glasgow where I had a project with Alicia Devine shooting film clips for an internet course we are working on for caregivers on the topic of dementia. This was under the benign and inspired direction of David Ramsay, one of the world’s rare artist friends and enablers.
I’ll keep this one short because I ‘ve got more to share here about my recent trip to Scotland as well as some of my pet themes such as painting, art and money, creativity as a binding element in community, and craft as a potent political force.

Current projects

October 29, 2011

Last Monday, October 24th, my buddy Jan Krol and I gave 3 workshops at the 2nd Art and Dementia conference in Eindhoven, Holland. For Dutch readers here is the link . It was a wonderful, well attended event and the responses to our workshop were very positive. We did a hands-on art exercise, role play, small group work, had a creative approach discussion, and sewed the handouts (excerpts from Chocolate Rain) into a pamphlet book. This all had to fit in exactly 60 minutes. There were 25 people in each group and we had three groups in the course of the day.

People especially responded to the role play that Jan (in Holland Jan is a man’s name pronounced, Yan)  and I did. Jan played a person with dementia, and I, an overactive pushy activity organiser. I barge into the room talking on my cell phone, don’t greet Jan, and more less push the activity I’ve been preparing for him for days under his nose. He isn’t having any of it and sits apathetically at one point picking his nose quite explicitly. I get more and more frustrated, and though there were a lot of laughs, and this was an exaggerated depiction, people recognized the situation. Then we invite participants to come up and act out a better way to engage the person.

Home again, recovering from a cold, I now have less than 2 weeks before I leave for Scotland to get illustrations ready for a DVD I’m working on with my friend Alicia from Glasgow. It is an e-learning course on dementia for social workers and caregivers. We’re supporting the lesson material with quirky cartoons and several video clips written by Alicia, in which she and I will be acting. This time I will have the part of Mary, a 67 year old lady in various stages of dementia.

After I come back from Scotland, hopefully I’ll have a few weeks to rest before the harpsichord case is delivered from Germany. Then it will be a feast of flower painting which I will record and post here as it progresses. Johan Hofmann (Dutch language site), my client for this project has some fresh ideas about the painting and colour scheme, so this instrument, while staying within the tradition of 17th century Flemish Ruckers harpsichords will also be gently declaring its own modern identity. The craftsman in me doesn’t mind doing one after another of the same kind of paintings, but the artist wants growth and exploration. So both will be fed with this commission.

I hadn’t had time to get to my oil painting in the last week, but am looking forward to getting back in the studio.

Kate's woollen lair

Continuing on the theme of inspiration from my recent trip to London and Edinburgh, I stayed overnight at Kate’s. We went to the large craft fair that was part of the Edinburgh Fringe festival  and saw among others, Lesley’s work. And we went to Remade as inspiration for my shop.
Sleeping in Kate’s living room art studio let me completely soak up the colours and inspiration of her many and beautiful handmade cushions, blankets, multicoloured socks, samples and afghans.
I’ve met Kate through the dementia field, she works closely with John Killick on creative projects for people with dementia. She is a psychologist and writer and textile artist.

Entering her living room in Edinburgh is like coming into an Aladdin’s cave of treasure. Everywhere are textile projects in process. The walls are painted in rich colours and her knitted, crocheted, and woven blankets glow with the colour of the moors: sky blues and slates, moss greens, lichen rusts and ochres, heather purples and pinks. Most of these are also my colours, I realize, but the way she combines them gives me a new slant. There is less ‘air’ between her combinations, making a dense impression of tapestry or richly clad yurts, far away in some African desert.

Thanks Kate!

 Click here   Introduction   to look inside and read the introduction.

There have been various availability problems primarily for people in the US who want to buy my book. I am happy to say that book depository now carries ‘Chocolate Rain, 100 ideas for a creative approach to activities in dementia care’.  They ship all over the world for free! And they are a good, reliable business, we order books there regularly.

Sarah (left) holding the book, with Karen (right) the first person to buy a copy. Photo by Andy, thanks Andy.

Now that I have your attention!  🙂 I’ve recently returned from the book launch at the 5th UK Dementia Congress in Bournemouth. It was a wonderful and inspiring event with impassioned speakers and an atmosphere of cooperation and support. Next year’s congress is in Liverpool, I highly recommend it.  Keep an eye on this blog for further information. 

Hawker Publications  launched two new books this year: my book ,’ Chocolate Rain’, and ‘Dementia and sexuality’ by  Elaine White.
Friends quipped that it was a tough choice to make- Sex or Chocolate!

Karen Borochowitz pictured above is the Executive director of Dementia SA  and was my first customer. Most people who heard about the book during the plenaries came to look at it and once they had it in their hands, seemed to want to take it with them. It was very heartening to see how the colour, design and illustrations invited people to look further and eventually take one home.
One delegate came up to me during the signing and said he’d gone back to the hotel tired after a day of lectures, and just wanted to take a glimpse inside it. It was an hour before he looked up and realised he’d read about half the book.

As well the book going to South Africa, England, Scotland, and Ireland-  it was taken to Singapore by two charming women,Yan Ling and Helen, as an inspiration for their new Mental health education programme for carers of people with dementia. Good luck ladies!

Friends are ordering copies for libraries in the US and Australia. And heads of nursing homes and care services throughout the UK are ordering batches for their activity organisers.  Friends from the congress said, ‘everyone was talking about it’.

Waterstones has it listed, though we need to supply more material. And I wouldn’t recommend ordering from there if you are outside England, a friend in the US has had no end of delays in getting his copy- even after it was dispatched they said it would be another 21 days!  Amazon UK has it, and the Central London Library was promising to order one. It can be ordered directly from Hawker Publications as well.

So basically I am home, recuperating from the last push on the book. Next step is finding a Dutch publisher.

A look inside

September 11, 2010

A look inside

Here is a spread from my book. And below is another.

From the 100 Activities Handbook section

The book is really taking shape now.  Should be done in three weeks!

Here is a sneak peek at the front cover for my book Chocolate Rain, which will be published by Hawker Publishers this fall.
I’ve mentioned in a previous post that it is an idea book for caregivers and families for activity design for dementia care. It contains chapters on how to develop activities suited to your particular situation as well as a fully illustrated 100 activities handbook.

The Pitch
I also give quite a bit of attention to developing your own creative capacities so that you can keep coming up with your own ideas on the spot. Most caregivers’ training develops the intellect which is obviously needed,  but dealing with dementia also asks for the ability to imagine, improvise, intuit, and play. These are all skills developed by anyone regularly engaged in creative processes, such as visual artists, inventors, writers, and innovators in any field.  I haven’t seen many books on creativity addressed specifically to caregivers, so this is a fairly new area.

I know from meeting many nurses and doctors through my experience as an artist in health facilities, that they are incredibly creative people who generally haven’t found an outlet for their creativity in their work. Or they feel attracted to the creative fields but don’t know how to start. Usually, doing the simplest craft project together, taking less than 5 miinutes, can open up a whole area of discovery for these individuals. My book contains at least 150 of these projects which are simultaneously activities for people with dementia, and artistically satisfying creative projects for caregivers, family or anyone interested.

The Process
I will remember this summer primarily as being spent in front of the computer or in my attic studio with the fan on, with quick forays out into the garden (but with my thoughts still in front of the computer).  It is a joy to be given the task of illustrating and designing the book myself.  But in the time given (it all goes to the printer at the end of September), it would be less nerve wracking to be working with a team.

As it is, I am the team, and that entails generating all the artwork and scanning it, reworking in Photoshop; checking the text and editing where necessary; doing the interior book design and cover; the typography throughout, preparing it all so it is printer-ready, checking what needs copyright permission and getting it, etc etc.

Coincidentally, I also have a life, so it is quite a juggling act. This week, I’ve written all the task areas out and for the first time prioritized, because I was getting lost in details.

Right now I am working on getting to a definitive page count as well as a consistent design for the chapter and section headings, which often involve illustrations.

Luckily for me, Rende is going to deal with a lot of the technical details which go beyond my Photoshop knowledge. He’s a real wizard with that.

I feel like I am just starting to get to know the book, getting into it at a level where working on it is a sort of listening and it reveals directions that I wouldn’t have hit upon by intellectualizing.
Hard to describe, it is a recognition, a welcoming and affinity.
And it is delicate and needs time to unfold. 
As more of the parts become clear, they start influencing the whole picture, which again influences how the parts relate. The whole entity is morphing and bubbling like a magic cauldron from day to day. 
 I’ve finally done a mini mini paste up like a story board which I can gleefully change without having heart failure every time the right and left hand pages shift yet again!