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“Who will help me build my book?” asked the Red Hen

In 1980–’81, J. Odell, at that time a former member of the Society for Creative Anachronisms, and one of a number of amateur costumers in the Los Angeles area, wrote a theatrical crafts book based on the information and techniques which has developed in these groups over the course of the 1970s, dedicated to drafting, fitting, and construction of Tudor-style foundation garments for stage and public festival use (i.e., Renaissance fairs).

Query letters (with S.A.S.E.) were duly sent out to every theatrical crafts publisher with an address that could be found, as well as a few other publishers whose lists contained items which were at least somewhat related. Most of whom took their own sweet time to respond. (The record holder was Dover Publications, who kept the S.A.S.E. for over a year before sending their rejection back.)

The consensus was, almost universally; “We do not accept unsolicited manuscripts.”

And so the matter rested.

In July of 1990, Odell's employer finally permitted the Graphics Section to acquire a Macintosh computer. By April of 1992, the author also had a Macintosh at home. Over the following couple of years the text of the manuscript was retyped, the construction diagrams digitally redrawn, and the muddy black-and-white photocopies of the proposed plates were re-evaluated, new plates selected, all proposed plates scanned in and cleaned up (insofar as they could be. Garbage in/garbage out is one of the laws of the universe) to serve as FPOs (For Position Only).

Once all the files were digitized, query letters were again sent out (with S.A.S.E.) to whichever theatrical crafts publishers had addresses which could be found — amounting to a couple of dozen by this point. The result of this exercise pretty much duplicated the first attempt.

At which point, flirting with the notion of self-publishing, the project was taken to the next level, which entailed combining the pieces into a formal layout of a complete book. The original PageMaker document was later ported over into the newly-launched program, InDesign, in order to take advantage of the more sophisticated typesetting controls in InDesign.

It was at this point that the author discovered that she really enjoyed designing books.

The concept of self-publishing did not flirt back. The work required an unsupported trim size which vanity presses would have been reluctant to consider unless the client had a lot more money to throw at them than she did. Even today, with Publish-on-Demand a major factor in publishing, the trim size required by the number — and any rational grouping —of the diagrams would be well outside that of the standard formats currently on offer. The layout could conceivably been reduced to 90%, and fall within the range of sizes used in some other theatrical resource works. But this was not a service on offer.

In the academic year of 1999–2000, after taking two semesters of classes in Photoshop at L.A. City College, front and back cover designs were created. The text of the book was updated to reflect the changes in amateur costuming resources which had developed over the ensuing 20 years, copies of the text were printed, dummies of the front and back covers were printed and laminated, and a half a dozen dummies of the finished book were wirebound in preparation for the next foray into the wonderful world of publishing.

In November 2001, a dummy of the finished book was taken to a local costumers’ supply shop run by members of the local branch of the International Costumers’ Guild. It was seized upon by the proprietor, a published author under the masthead of another small theatrical publisher, who recommended contacting this publisher, and to mention her name. A query letter (with S.A.S.E.) was at once sent off to the publishing house, mentioning the contact’s name and offering the book for consideration.

On April 30, 2002, when the first version of this site was uploaded, they had yet to respond.

  Why a Red Hen Website?

Ah, Technology

Not to mention the march of progress.

The plain fact is that the “good old days” simply weren't. Not in all respects, and definitely not where it comes to pretty much anything to do with computers. Even if this does mean that you periodically have to relearn three quarters of what you thought you knew. And that goes double for the internet. Which presents problems in and of itself.

In particular; back when this site was new — in the year 2002 — hardly anyone had access to anything like broadband, and a 17" monitor was fairly deluxe. The original site was built with this in mind. Well, there are indeed still people on dial-up, although nowhere near as many. And screens on desktop computers seem to start at 17" and go up to sizes which were all but unimaginable back when I was fumbling my way through GoLive 5.

There are, however, limits to which I intend to attempt to march in step with progress. This site was built for a specific purpose, and that purpose was to showcase 11" x 8.5" .pdf files. You cannot do this on a smartphone.

Therefore: for so long as the point of this site is to showcase the files over in the Publications collection, you can just forget about any attempts to make the site compatible with smartphones.

I'm afraid that also goes for things like iPads. They might be able to display a (landscape) letter-sized .pdf — in which case there isn’t a problem. But I don’t know that, and I’m not going to be finding out on my own any time soon. I will be satisfied if the site displays adequately on a laptop.

As to why there is a site at all; as I’ve stated for the past decade, the original reason for a website was to enable file transfers between me and the authors of the works under development for eventual posting in the Publications collection. Nothing is posted on this site without the author’s approval, and an author can hardly give me approval (or corrections) without reviewing the work. And they cannot review it if they can't see a copy.

At that time, most ISPs had file attachment size limits of about 1MB.

You can just imagine how feasible that was.

These days, fortunately, most ISPs now have attachment file size limits large enough to send most authors a draft copy of the full work. Yes, even AOL.

But they still cannot showcase them.

  So who is Red Hen?

portraitWho is Red Hen? Frankly, nobody in particular. But here are a few of the particulars.


Retired. I was employed for some 40 years by the City of Los Angeles in, variously, the Department of Public Utilities and Transportation (now absorbed into the Department of General Services), the Department of Water & Power, the Department of Parks and Recreation (Griffith Observatory), the Department of City Planning, and the Department of Building and Safety. For something over 30 of those years I was employed by the Department of City Planning, in the Graphics Design and Services Section in the capacity of a Graphics Designer.

My official job classification was not, however, that of Graphics Designer. On paper, I was the Section’s last Cartographer.

This was a sore point. Although I worked in the field of Graphics Design for the whole of my term of employment for both the Department of Parks and Recreation, and for the Department of City Planning, Management refused to promote me into the Designer classification. The whole classification of Cartographer was eliminated at some point in the late 1990s. After that point, all of the Cartographers were expected to transition into the classification of GIS specialist. Those who did not, (or were not given the training to) will take the classification with them when they retire. The City is no longer hiring Cartographers.

It definitely no longer hires Cartographers to serve as Graphics Designers. But prior to the elimination of the classification it did. At least in the Planning Department.


I hold an aging BA in Theater Arts from California State College (not University in my day) and take classes in various software applications at City College.

Organizations and Disorganizations:

I belong to an Amateur Press Association (APA) which was founded in 1972 by fans of children’s fantasy literature, a few local preservationsist’s groups, and NAPP (National Association of Photoshop Professionals). I don't even take pictures, but I do use Photoshop.

I am also active in various online forums and branches of fandom.

Yes, I am a Model:

Or, in any case, I did once model for an issue of The Chicken Boy Catalogue for a Perfect World, which was and is run by one of my former neighbors.

Chicken people should stick together, so here is a link to Chicken Boy. http://www.chickenboy.com