Thebaid Book Design takes flight!

Dear Friends and Supporters, Fellow Pilgrims!

I am very happy to be able to share with you a significant amount of pre-press news since my mid-July update, as well as a page-spread example of our working design for the book:

With one or two exceptions, St. Tikhon’s Monastery Press (STM Press) and I have been conducting weekly production meetings (our “Thebaid Thursday” virtual sessions) since mid-July, and have actually worked through a few different design concepts during this initial period.

I really appreciate the creative and flexible approach Fr Mikel Hill has taken, and the opportunities for collaboration which make it all work so well for us both. We realized after our first couple of meetings that we were faced with a challenge over how to “introduce” each monastery throughout the book, given that some were older, larger, and well established, whereas others were only recently founded, sometimes with only one or two monastics, and with far fewer photographs for inclusion as a result. Larger monasteries would have numerous photographs spread across several pages, whereas smaller monasteries could conceivably be only two pages! How best to honor everyone as they are all striving worthily in their calling?

After a couple of variations, Fr Mikel has developed an intuitively strong design which lends itself just as well to the small sketes and hermitages as to the larger monasteries. You can see in the sample page spread above for Holy Myrrhbearers how this will generally look, with a full-page bleed image opposite the monastery intro page, featuring the name & location, a brief overview (typically my own reflections and impressions, providing a first-person journal experience), a small antique map with a red pin to show the location, and a small image or two to lead the viewer into that monastery section.

There is such variety to the types of images in my portfolio from these thirty plus monasteries, that this too created a challenge in layout and sequencing. In the above, we have a strong photograph at right showing a classic, almost iconic scene of the nuns ringing the bells to call the sisterhood to the divine service. The small image inset at left with room for a caption shows a more spontaneous moment akin to a photojournalistic approach. There is a little motion blur of the sheep, but otherwise it is tack sharp, and it shows a slice of life central to the monastery’s daily routine.

Regarding the photo of the sheep, I was told by the nuns that the sheep liked me and felt comfortable with me there. I asked how they could tell, and they replied with some humor, “Because they didn’t get nervous and didn’t make a mess!” It is little stories like these that I especially look forward to sharing, and which will, I hope, make this book an endearing, heartwarming experience for viewers.

So, this is now our basic template, with each monastery having a variation of this for its intro page. Subsequent pages will show a variety of views of the worship and life of the monastics, or of the grounds, guest house, and even other pilgrims.

I look forward to sharing more page spreads with you in the weeks ahead, and in keeping you updated on the progress. This is an exciting time with the layout in place for the first couple of monasteries, and it’s very rewarding to finally be hitting our stride on this.