My book came out this week; and, like an expectant parent, I held it in my hands for the first time with a mixture of elation and trepidation. Elation that all of my hard work and effort had finally come to fruition. Trepidation that I might not meet its needs and it might not meet my expectations.
I have often dreamed of what it must feel like to hold my own book in my hand, to run my fingers along a spine that has my name on it. In fact, the reality is somewhat anti-climactic. It is like the day after you bring your first child home from the hospital, when it begins dawns on you that you have got at least 18 years of dealing with this person and now what are you going to do?
And yet there is something about our babies and our dreams that keeps us going. Maybe it is the smell. Babies have their own unique smell—that rich, sweet, milky smell that somehow transports us to our own sense of wonder at seeing the world for the first time. Books, too, have their own clean, crisp smell of black ink poised on white pages, waiting to transport us to places we might never be able to visit otherwise.
My book reminded me of when I was a girl. I know I am dating myself here, but our quizzes used to be mimeographed onto paper and then passed out to the class. There is nothing quite like the smell of a mimeograph; “pleasingly antiseptic” are words that come to mind. Of course, the first thing all of us did was hold the paper to our noses and inhale that tangy (most likely toxic) aroma of purple ink on paper. And in that moment, no matter who we were, whether we were an “A” student or an “F” student, there was always the possibility of doing well and of making the grade. It was with that same sense of possibility that I fanned the pages of my book and inhaled the tart fragrance of fresh ink on paper.
One of the shocking things for most authors—and most parents, for that matter—is the amount of control we have over our little creations once they reach maturity. We conceive of them, labor over them, give birth to them...and then they take on a life of their own and become their own creations. From that point on, all we can do is watch and hope.
As the author of a “green” book, I had hoped that my publisher would print sustainably; but I had no say in whether or not he actually would. After all, the guy has got to make payroll; and it is not like the publishing industry is dealing with huge profit margins (although their margins are slightly better than most authors I know).
At any rate, my publisher apparently found it fiscally sound to print this book on FSC certified paper, which means that it comes “from well-managed forests, controlled sources and recycled wood or fiber.” Doesn’t sound very sexy, I know. But, if one can judge a book by its cover, then this book is very green indeed. And that’s a good thing.
The Forest Stewardship Council is a non-profit organization, formed in 1993 by a diverse group, consisting of loggers and foresters on the one hand and environmentalists and sociologists on the other, all of whom wanted to establish a worldwide standard for sustainable forestry. Today, the FSC has offices in more than 40 countries and offers independent, third-party accreditation services that allow consumers like you and me to make sure the products we are buying come from forests “that are managed to meet the social, economic and ecological needs of present and future generations.”
The fact that I have devoted so much time and energy to researching and then writing about businesses and organizations that have met their “triple bottom line” of profitability, social responsibility, and environmental sustainability does not lessen the thrill I get when I consider that my product could also meet those criteria. After all, it is one thing to know something in theory and another to put it into practice.
I suppose if I were truly green I would eschew paper altogether; and, given my own children’s propensity to read books (not!), I suppose that is where we are headed. Amazon’s Kindle may well be a precursor of things to come. And, if it is, I am sure there will be benefits to that change of venue; but I will still crave the scent of a book.