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Behind the Scenes: Susan's Day in the Life

Here’s the latest in our series of peeks behind the RLM curtain. Susan shows us what it takes to make life histories beautiful and readable: tons of image prep, research for a new book design, and a tiny dollop of goofing off.

7:00AM: First things first. Within minutes of opening my eyes I check the previous day's results of the New York Times app Spelling Bee puzzle, to which I'm happily addicted. Then it's tea and toast while reading over the news and relaxing with the dog before starting my day.

8:30AM: Typically, I tackle image prep in the morning, evaluating every scan for quality and making adjustments so that each one looks its best. The batch for a memoir currently in progress includes beautiful black-and-white family shots from the 1930s. It's deeply satisfying to clear away 90 years worth of fading and dirt so that the true images shine through.

11:00AM: Today I'm researching printers for a new recipe book design soon to be available to RLM’s clients. In upcoming days, I'll select the trim size and fonts, think through graphic elements, and compile images. Since Samantha and I are all about marking occasions with delicious food, this particular book is really up our alley.

12:00PM: Lunch break! I walk the dog, and if I have time, a few minutes are frittered away online, checking out some stellar West Coast Swing dancing or wandering around the Cotswolds.

1:00PM: Composing pages for each book—deciding where the text breaks and how to size and position photos—is a puzzle and my favorite part of my job. Today I'm paging a collection of essays and poems written by a client's mother. Applying publishing standards to a complex and image-heavy manuscript can be like taming a wild animal: thrilling (when it's finished) and exhausting (anytime before then).

4:30PM: Sometimes projects have components that require special attention. A memoir that’s in production will feature a large family tree. This afternoon's task is to ensure it can be designed to appear on a spread, while still being easy to read.

5:00PM: Time to check in on the chicks my son is raising and make dinner.

7:00PM: At the end of the day I try to get a head start on tomorrow's to-do list. For now, I'll prepare some layouts at different trim sizes for the recipe book design to determine which best fits the tone of the manuscript.

8:00PM: Work on a knitting project (currently a scarf, nearly done at 5'8") and watch International House Hunters with my son (more travel!) or the news.

10:30PM: I'm in the midst of a beautifully written World War II-era biography of an extraordinary woman, written by her nephew, novelist Nicholas Shakespeare. I'll read for 45 minutes, then lights out!


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