Artist’s Corner: My {Friends} Fiction Library

C.J.'s Artist Corner

Artist’s Corner | My {Friends-} Fiction Library

I have, since around high school age, been fortunate enough to join various online writing groups and mailing lists.

(Yes children, before social media there was such a thing as email, or “Ye Olde Social Media” as we called it, and it involved typing in full sentences without Emojis. Try to stay with me here . . .)

Over the course of those groups, I made friends and, as a bonus, got to proof-read (or just read) rough works which were never formally published. The forums and websites that represented them no longer exist (in most cases) but I still enjoy reading them, rough and incomplete as they are, because the stories themselves have lost none of their humor, charm or nostalgia over time.

For a reader, there is no greater gift! 😊

 

Now, preservation is the struggle.

I was so young at the time I didn’t know how to copy and paste my friends fiction into Word docs. Even the stories I eventually did, old viruses and computer crashes have wiped out a lot of my previous digital copies. And my printouts have yellowed, torn or peeled with time and poor care, just like antique books.

Most of the old works are long since archived, as I said, and the sites disbanded. So it’s not like I can just go online and print a fresh, new copy of their work.

And frankly, I’ve lost touch with many of my old online friends. (SITA—if you read this, email me! I miss chatting with you!)

 

I built a personal fiction library of all my favorite online fiction (as written by old and dear friends of mine) from over the many years and across various groups/communities I was involved in, with the help of colorful binders, a laminating machine, labels & colored Sharpies and, in some cases, a good quality scanner.

(My completed library of “fiction binders” neatly labelled and organized by author.)

See below for the details.

 

  • Several solid 3-ring binders (in designs you like). I look for back-to-school sales, garage sales, thrift shops and discount shops to find them cheap. Or you could do all one solid color and decorate them yourselves with scrapbooking/craft supplies.
  • Colored binder tabs, to separate out stories & chapters. Generally I can find a pack of 6 or 8 wide tabbies at Walmart for a few bucks. Probably cheaper online. For more tabs per pack, you can buy date (12) or alphabet (26) tabs for about the same price, then “relabel” over them with adhesive labels with, e.g. chapter #’s.
  • Print outs of the fiction you want to organize.
  • A laminator (if you have it) or you can get lamination done cheaply by the foot, if you shop around at the educational stores. Mardels used to do it for .25 cents per foot. I don’t have a Mardels close by, so I go to Lakeshore School Supply and they do about the same and usually have pretty good deals with coupons too. I laminated a recipe book the same way to keep spills and stains off my recipes.
  • A 3-hole punch.
  • Scissors. (A paper cutter works well too).
  • Large self-adhesive white labels. I think I got a pack of Avery labels at Walmart.
  • Colored Sharpies/or/marking pen (or you could print the labels with a special font if you prefer).

 

First you print out the fiction you need and decide how you want to organize your library. My library is organized by author, since that is how I like to read their fiction—and I have a good memory of who wrote what among my friends.

But I put an index of chapters (typed and printed on cardstock) on the inside front cover of each binder, like so.

If at all possible, I recommend printing your fiction two-sided (or duplexed). My fic however was too old and I saved paper (as a kid, not having the money to buy a ream of copy paper) by printing it on the backside of old school recycling paper.

Instead I taped all my pages front to back with scotch tape and placed them neatly in a storage box to take to the laminator. Makes them easy to run through in order too.

 

Some of my fic was so yellowed, decayed and dreadful, I wasn’t willing to laminate it for posterity. So I went to Office Depot and used their Xerox All-in-One scanner with fingers crossed.

To my delight, the transition from yellowed printout to .pdf file (when it was scanned in black and white) was mostly okay . . . sometimes a little black spotting from the page damage that didn’t interfere with the legibility of reading.

From there, it was a snap to email myself the pdf files and print them fresh on clean white paper to laminate. Of course, they aren’t text anymore so I can’t change or alter them but I don’t need to. I’m just cleaning up the existing printouts.

 

Once laminated and brought home in a big sheet, use your scissors to cut the individual pages apart, then trim (or use paper cutter to trim) the excess lamination off, leaving just a little around the edges to seal the paper inside. Hole punch your pages and pop them into each binder. Easy-peasy.

On the binder spine, I stuck a label and just wrote the author’s name in colored Sharpie. But of course you could download an Avery template and go to town with the labels. It’s up to you.

On the inside front cover, I put a list of fictions by the author—a “table of contents” if you will. This I just typed and printed on cardstock so it’d be nice and sturdy through many readings (and here’s hoping I saved the template somewhere). I stuck a laminate sheet on top just to keep it preserved and smudge/splash-proof.

(So sometimes I snack while I read. In the bubble-bath. Don’t judge me.)

Finally, add your binder tabs between each fic (or fic chapter, if you prefer) and label them too so you can easily flip between fic to fic when you go to read. If you have one of those clip-on bookmarks, they work great for saving your page for later (since its really hard to “fold down” laminated paper corners.)

Now take the excuse, and read your booklist away to make sure everything looks good. 😉

 

None that I can really think of.

Overall, the project worked incredibly well: it’s just very time-consuming, mostly because I have years and years worth of priceless archived fic.

So it’s ongoing until I finish all the binders—but on the plus side, I can always stop and read the finished ones (which is half the delay in finishing, I think. Me stopping in the middle of the project to exclaim, “OMG!! I FORGOT I HAD THIS!!” then reading fic for the next hour and half instead of organizing it like I started doing. *LOL!*)

But I keep the not-yet-organized printouts (and all the project supplies) in one of those big Sterlite plastic boxes from Walmart and pull it out periodically to work on in my (limited) spare time.

And, of course, to RE-READ with much love & lolz!!

 

  1. The original idea of mine was to stick my printouts in “clear page protectors” and I started the project that way. (In fact, I think some of the older photos might show that).

But I quickly realized, not only was I gonna need millions of page protectors (which grew really expensive) but it was so time-consuming, trying to slip the printouts into each one. Lamination was a much cheaper and even quicker alternative—and it accomplished the same purpose of protecting my printouts from elemental wear and tear. It takes time to chop the excess laminate off, true and hole-punch each page, but I still think it works out faster and it’s only once.

(Later I repurposed those page protectors to hold temporary paperwork, like pay stubs and tax returns).

You can work on it one binder at a time and in little bits until you get all the fiction you want preserved. The finished library you’ll have to read until the binders fall apart, pretty much.

 

  1. Couldn’t you have the fiction printed and bound into actual books for you to keep instead?

I guess I could, but first it’s not actually my writing (to publish or not publish) so I feel like intellectual copyright gets squirky if I bind and print under my name.

Also, so much of my content only exists in “ancient paper” that it couldn’t be professional printed as a book, without being retyped and digitally formatted first. This was my way around that dilemma; more a long-term preservation solution.

 

  1. Is it too much work for old fic nobody cares about?

I’d say that depends on your perspective. Certainly, it is a lot of work and time investment—but, though it is old fic, I love it better than many books on the market today, and I deeply care about it. It was written by my friends and that makes it incredibly personal to me and worthy of care and preservation, much as one might carefully preserve a first edition that was signed by its author.

So to me, as much an “online-archived fic lover” as one might use the term “booklover”, I consider this project to be worthwhile.

 

Suggestions, thoughts, comments? What do you think of this library project? Have you embarked on a similar project and want to share your results?

Weigh in, my fellow artists and bibliophiles!! As always, I look forward to seeing what you create next!

 

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