Just Get It!
Let me introduce you to the best reference a pierced consumer could have: The Piercing Bible, a book by Elayne Angel.
There’s nothing else like it out there, and no one but Angel could have written this book. I know she has worked very hard on it, and I am bursting with pride for her. It’s a fantastic book for everyone interested in body piercing, and I do urge everyone to pick up a copy.
In the interest of disclosure, I had a small part in the conceptualization of the project. I knew we needed a book like this, and I’m so excited to finally have it. I’m not going to do a “review,” because I can’t be unbiased, although I plan at least one more blog post on the book, more content-related. For right now, allow me to introduce Ms. Elayne Angel, piercer, author, a pivotal figure in modern body piercing, and not the least to me, my friend.
Cloud: As a bibliophile, I loved your blog post about greeting your book for the first time:
I opened the box and lifted the book–hefted it really, to feel its pleasant and considerable weight. Smiling, I took a look at the front and back covers, then thumbed through the whole thing and heard the sound of the paper, then took a big whiff of the fresh paper and ink. I did everything but lick the thing. I wanted (needed, even) to experience my book with every possible sense I have. What a delight!
Cloud: Let me ask you: Are you sure you didn’t lick it? Just a little when no one was looking, hmm?
Angel: In all honesty, I was tempted, but I did not lick it. At the time, I was in New Orleans, staying with friends–so I didn’t have a lot of private time with my new book. I will admit that I took more than just a whiff, though. I suppose it would be accurate to say that I briefly huffed the book.
Cloud: I know exactly how hard it was to find a publisher and I know how hard you worked on this. Are there any thoughts about the process you’d like to share?
Angel: I’m glad I never set out to make writing my “day job,” that’s for sure! People keep asking me what I’m going to write next (as if it is a foregone conclusion I’ll write another book). I can’t even think about that right now! Completing this book (while meeting the harsh deadlines my publisher demanded) was one of the hardest things I’ve ever tackled in my entire life. When I talk about “blood, sweat, and tears” being involved, I’m not speaking metaphorically.
One of the greatest challenges was dealing with the illustrations. The artist is a wonderful woman named Jennifer Klepacki, and we’ve become fast friends through the process. But she was in Connecticut, and I was in Mexico, so creating the drawings over that distance was pretty crazy!
Because the book’s budget limited the number of illustrations I was able to include, quite a few piercings had to be drawn on one view of anatomy–for example male genitalia with 10 different pieces of jewelry in it. I’d send her perhaps 7 or 8 different photos of piercings that needed to be incorporated into one drawing, along with written instructions on relative jewelry sizes, piercing placements, and so on. She’d draw up a draft, scan it, and email it to me.
Quite quickly I realized that no matter how much detail I put into writing about the way an illustration should look, words alone would not suffice. So I started to print the drafts, and draw on them myself, and then scan them and email them back. I am artistic in a variety of ways, but drawing has never been one of my best skills, so this really caused me to stretch my capabilities.
Sometimes we’d go back and forth dozens of times until I was satisfied. Jennifer was fantastic about doing whatever it took to get to that point. What a trooper! Also, as soon as we began the project, the publisher cut four weeks off of the deadline, and they wanted all 23 illustrations done in a month! That was one of the more difficult (but ultimately rewarding) parts of the process.
Cloud: I can’t draw worth a damn, either. We can create pictures with words, but artists are visually oriented. These are technical drawings, which need precision, but they are quite wonderfully done.
Angel: Here’s another story: My editor Lisa and I bounced different versions of the manuscript back and forth many, many times. I can’t even count how many edits it went through. It honestly seemed like the book would never be done. So after months of passing it between us, I ecstatically sent Lisa the final version (on deadline). I wrote her a thank-you note, and flew out the following day to see my family in California. I’d gotten up at 4:00 in the morning to make my early flight, and spent a long day traveling. I had a nice dinner with my folks and was exhausted and ready for bed.
I decided to check my email for just a moment before turning in. And there it was: my manuscript, along with a note from my editor asking me to spot-check the cross-references. Because the material is so interrelated, there are about 143 locations where the reader is sent elsewhere in the book for more information on a subject: “See page 47 for details.” This is one of the last things in the process, because every edit causes page numbers to change. But I’d already checked this once or twice, and given my corrections; I couldn’t believe I had to deal with it yet again, and while I was bleary-eyed from travel.
So, I randomly checked a cross reference and it gave the WRONG page number. There I was, in the middle of the night, rechecking every single cross-referenced in the book. I’m glad I did; three of them were wrong! Of course, then I started to wonder what else was still wrong. It could drive a person crazy! Apparently it is common that changes are made after the first print run, and errors can get corrected at that time.
Being a perfectionist is great characteristic for a piercer, but in a writer . . .
Cloud: Was there any part of the book you had to fight to include, or that gave you particular trouble?
Angel: The publisher and I wrestled over the cover quite a bit. At one point I was so distraught, I regretted having signed the contract. Ultimately we settled on the current cover, and I’m pretty happy with it, except that the color isn’t nearly as purple as I would have liked.
I don’t want to give a negative impression of my publisher. Ten Speed Press is fantastic, and I feel that the whole team there worked really hard to make The Piercing Bible as good as it could possibly be, and I’m very appreciative of everyone’s efforts.
The end-notes were a bitch or organize, because the publisher’s program doesn’t work with the formatting for automatic endnotes in the Microsoft Word program that I used. I had to manually put in special codes for their placement. Then, edits caused things to get swapped around and I’d hve to re-do them. I wriestled with those damned end notes for what seemed like a lifetime!
Cloud: What do you have planned for the official debut?
Angel: The official debut is coming up at the annual conference for the Association of Professional Piercers in Las Vegas the first week in May. We’re having it at the Tropicana this year (a change from our many years at the Riviera). I’ll have booth and will sell and sign books and I’ll be selling my poster there, too (pictured here). The publisher is making some postcards for the book, and I’ll have those also.
Cloud: I hope it goes smashingly for you. I had hoped to attend the conference this year, and perhaps volunteer, but as you know, conference can be exhausting even without being post-op! The Tropicana better treat you guys right–it’ll be great to be down at that end of the Strip. Are you planning any other appearances at conventions or events to publicize the book?
Angel: While I’m at the APP Conference, I will discuss book signing/guest piercing opportunities with my colleagues from around the country. So, those plans have yet to be made, but I’ll be happy to keep you and your readers posted.Following the Conference (on May 16 at 6 pm) I’ll be having a book signing in Los Angeles at an alternative gallery: Antebellum Gallery. http://www.rickcastro.com/antebellum/antebellum2.html .
Cloud: Please do keep me informed about appearances. Every little bit helps, right? You’re probably watching the Amazon.com reviews pretty closely, and so far they’re great, but have you received feedback yet from other piercers?
Angel: No, the book just started shipping a matter of days ago, so I figure it will take a little more time–there are over 300 pages after all! I’m kind of surprised that anyone had time to actually read the whole thing and post a review already.
Cloud: That’s exactly what I’m doing, and what Noah [Babcock of Evolution in ABQ] told me–you have to set aside time to read and study it because it’s so dense with information! And yet it’s very readable at the same time.
Angel: I’m looking forward to hearing whatever feedback people have. So far, it has all been good, but I’m sure piercers are apt to be my harshest critics (of the content, anyway). The book IS on the conservative side, but if it wasn’t, then the non-piercing communities (like healthcare professionals, educators, legislators, etc.) wouldn’t take it seriously. A very important goal of mine is for The Piercing Bible to be accessible and acceptable to these other types of people. There isn’t a single other resource that has the potential to encompass and educate such diverse audiences.
Cloud: Oh, I entirely agree. Just waiting until the nurses and health care inspectors get hold of it–they should be falling on it like mana from heaven! When the APP does outreach to these professionals, it seems like they’re so hungry for good information.
Angel: Even though I clarify that the content is largely based on my own opinions in the book’s disclaimer, “Substantive research studies, statistical analyses, and other definitive resource materials related to modern piercing are in short supply; therefore, the information, practices, and procedures described in this book are largely based on my own extensive, clinical experience. I’ve integrated industry standards where they exist, but there is still preciousl little that is truly standard, so my opinions are a primary component of many chapters.” I won’t be suprised to hear from piercers who disagree with some of my perspectives.
Cloud: Me neither. How many piercers does it take to change a light bulb? None; the light bulb never gets changed because they can’t agree on the proper procedure! Although piercing procedures don’t have quite the same history and mystique that tattoo procedures do, do you anticipate anyone saying you are giving away “secrets” or something?
Angel: I doubt it. I don’t think piercing has suffered from that same affliction that has impacted tattooing. Jim Ward always shared his information (and created a magazine to help: PFIQ), and I’ve always shared whatever information I’ve had. Since we were part of the foundation of the industry, I think that helped to set a precedent for a more open sharing among piercers.
Cloud: There seems to be a great deal of interest in and thirst for knowledge about piercing by people in Mexico and Latin Amerca–any plans to translate the book into Spanish?
Angel: I certainly hope so! That’s part of the deal with the publisher, so hopefully the book will sell well enough in the US that they’ll decide to proceed with versions in several different languages. Everyone can help: buy a copy if you don’t have one already!
Cloud: I’ve bought a couple extra copies for gifts! As I’m sure you know, my area of the border and many areas of Mexico have experienced increased amounts of horrific violence related to drug wars–have you seen any signs of unrest in your area?
Angel: No–the Yucatan is almost like another country. We aren’t anywhere near a border, and our areas is not at all affected. Actually, the Yucatecos don’t consider themselves “Mexicans” at all. It is very different here. They have their own culture, customs, cuisine, and so on–all quite different from the rest of Mexico. in fact, people always tease us when we travel to the US: “So, what do you want to eat? Mexican food? And they’ve always surprised and think we’re joking when we responde, “Yes! Please!” We don’t get Mexican food here of the type we’re accustomed to from living in California, and we miss it!
Cloud: I’d send you some green chiles if I could. Are you missing doing piercings?
Angel: I must be, I keep dreaming about doing piercings. In fact just last night I had a dream I was guest piercing in a studio in the UK. My client wanted a genital piercing, but we were all together (two tattoo artists and me) in one big room. So I was trying to position the table so my client could have as much privacy as possible given that we were in plain view of everybody. Hmmm.
I have done some piercings when I travel, and now that the book is done, I’d like to do more. I’m probably going to be dong some guest piercing/book signing engagements in the US and maybe elswehere. I’ll keep in touch and let you know my plans as they develop.
Cloud: So, now that the this project is done, I’m sure you heaved a big sigh of relief. What’s next?
Angel: Now that The Piercing Bible is available, the next phase is publicity, marketing, and promotion. I want to let everyone know about the book so that anyone who needs the information gets to read a copy. I could spend all day, everyday, on the internet working on that! I also help my husband with his business. Somehow, I stay busy ALL the time, even though I don’t have what you’d call a “real job” at the moment. I’m enjoying life very much, and I plan to keep on doing that!
While I have “the floor” so to speak, I wanted to let everyone who reads your blog know that you were totally instrumental in getting this book to happen, and that I truly appreciated all the time and effort that you put into it. You do deserve a lot of credit and I hope you know that I freely give it to you. Thanks, Cloud, for getting theat whole ball rolling. Your contributions are part of what helped to make The Piercing Bible what it finally became.
Cloud: It was my pleasure to contribute in a small way. I’m not surprised at the dream, either–your empathy and sensitivity to a piercee’s needs are among the qualities that make you a great piercer, so this must be your equivalent to “naked classroom” dreams.
Thanks, Elayne, for talking to me about the book, and I wish you fantastic success with it. Now you can literally say you “wrote the book” on body piercing!
So, there you have it–my attempt at journalistic greatness by interviewing the much greater Elayne Angel! Go, pick up a copy of The Piercing Bible at Amazon, or ask you bookstore to carry it. You won’t be disappointed!
Note: As I’m writing this, there’s a knock on my frontdoor. The mailman, with a surprise delivery. What is this? The return address was from no one I knew, but the size and shape reminded me suspiciously of . . . The Piercing Bible! With a special message from Angel. Completely aside from the utility, uniqueness, and detailed content about piercing, this will always be a special book for me. I’ll keep my other copy for reference and for mark up, but my autographed copy goes into the category of life treasures.