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.

 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.