Happy New Year!
I’d like to kick things off by sharing the story of how The Little Book of Bonsai came to be.
Two years ago, I received a note from the gardening editor at Ten Speed Press, a division of Penguin Random House in New York. They were interested in publishing a book about bonsai.
As coincidence would have it, I’d already started writing a bonsai book for beginners. I shared my plans with the publisher and we agreed it would be worthwhile to submit a proposal.
I roughed out a plan for the rest of the book, assembled notes about who the book is for, and provided a writing sample.
One month later I heard back from the publisher – the proposal had been accepted!
Over the next few months, we nailed down the contract, settled the scope of the project, and selected the photographer.
When the publisher suggested we use David Fenton for the photography, I was both relieved and a little stressed. I knew the photos would look great so I’d need to make sure the trees look good too!
I made a list of all of the photographs for the book long before the manuscript was finished. I indicated the season for each shot and the candidate trees required to demonstrate the various styles and techniques covered in the book.
The photo shoots – all nine of them – were really fun. The day before a shoot, I’d prepare the trees, tools, or branches we’d be working with. This wouldn’t have been possible without help from students and from friends like Adam Toth and Daisaku Nomoto.
Adam working on the black pine that appears on page 83
During the shoots, I noted the goal of each shot and watched David do the work. It didn’t take long for him to figure out the best way to present each shot.
David shooting a branch that appears on page 49 – note the twigs from page 53 off to the side
Although most of the trees in the book are from my collection, more than a third are from the collections of friends. Special thanks here go to Eric Schrader (whose trees appear in nine photos) and the Bonsai Garden at Lake Merritt (the garden and its trees appear in six photos).
Shooting the ginkgo from the Bonsai Garden at Lake Merritt on page 11
Eric was also a big help with the manuscript. After reading the third draft of one chapter, Eric admitted that it was finally “less bad” or something to that effect. I agreed, and was grateful to have made it that far!
My girlfriend, Lauren Takahashi, read almost every draft I wrote providing grammatical improvements and “common sense” – the crucial perspective of someone who doesn’t think about bonsai every day. For that, and for helping me maintain sanity throughout the project – thank you!
Speaking of the manuscript, the book was completely written from scratch – no blog posts were re-purposed along the way. This was to maintain a consistent tone and voice. Plus, the book covers a number of topics I have yet to address online.
I completed the first draft in roughly seven months. The revisions took another seven months. It was during this part of the process that I came to appreciate how important it is to have a great editor. On this topic, all thanks go to Lisa Regul, Managing Editor at Ten Speed Press, for helping me figure out how to get from rough draft to the final edit.
The last set of revisions
The finished product went to the printer several months ago and I’m now waiting for the hard copies to arrive.
The book will be available online and in stores on January 28th. I’m planning a launch event soon after the release – I’ll share more info when the details are set. In the meantime, you can pre-order the book from a variety of online booksellers. Learn more at The Little Book of Bonsai.
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