When I first became a publisher and needed a name for it, I decided on Rose Press not just because of my last name, and not even just because of loving flowers (later, I would find the wonderful old proverb, “A book is a garden carried in your pocket”), but also because of the “press” part.
A press is part of a distillery, the process that turns raw materials (grapes, fruits, even roses) into an essence: wine, brandy, perfume. A press is also what enables printmaking: the original plate is drawn on (an etching on copper or zinc; a woodcut; a linoleum cut; a lithographic stone), treated chemically to hold the drawing fast, inked, and then run through a press with great force per square inch, resulting in a print on paper that will be pretty much the same from the first print to the last (even the 200th).
This pressing part has fascinated me for most of my adult life. A visual artist in my youth, I spent many happy hours in printmaking classes, incising the etching plates with my drawings, then watching as the developmental process took place through the acid bath, etching grooves at the site of the drawing. Inking the etched plates, then wiping off the plate with a soft cloth so that the only ink that remained was inside the etched grooves, I could not wait to take the plate to the printing press, place it face-up, and lay on top of it a dampened sheet of printing paper, and start the press going. As its rollers applied pressure to the dampened paper, the paper would be forced into contact with the inked etched-grooves; and when the rollers had passed over the paper all the way, I could pull the print off the plate, hold it up, and see my original drawing now appearing on the paper. And not just one time, but as many times as I wanted; hundreds, even.
What I loved about this pressing process, as it pertained to printmaking, was that I could put my entire self into the original drawing ~ hold back nothing, give it everything ~ and then, like little emissaries of itself, it could be duplicated, multiplied indefinitely, and it would still (with a few exceptions, depending on things like the thickness of the ink, each time) look exactly like the original. Unlike a painting, where you could give your all (or not) for one, and only one, “product” ~ which you could keep or sell, but not both ~ with printmaking, you could have your cake and eat it too. You could treat your original as if it were the painting of your heart, giving time and attention to it as if to your greatest masterpiece, and then sell the prints ~ give away the prints ~ keep the prints, all. You could be the creator living with your creation; commercial, selling your creation; and simply generous, giving your creation, perhaps many times over.
So when I needed to choose a name for my then-new publishing house, and Rose Press arose as a possibility, the joy of pressing prints was already in my memory and body. And when it occurred to me to find out how roses, themselves, were used to make rose perfume, my research revealed that pressing played an essential part in the distillation process. The image of women and men gathering the equivalent of 10,000 rose petals while it was still dark outside, easing them into cloth bags, and this fragrant cargo being taken to an alembic distillery (usually copper), where a combination of heat and water or solvent “pressed” the oil out of the petals drop by drop, until out of those 10,000 petals just 1 pound of rose perfume resulted, fascinated me ~ and reminded me of what it was like to write a book from the deeper Self.
So Rose Press it was.
It is one thing to write a book from the intellect, with its ready-made structures (e.g., “Step 1,” “Step 2”) and to some degree self-enclosed world (one idea requiring another by dint of logic). Not to diminish the value of books written from the intellect ~ we, and I, read them often, seeking knowledge, how-to's, and so on. But to write a book from the all of you, from the depth of you, bringing into the process more than you ever expected would want to come along for the journey and show itself to you ~ this is a different process and product altogether. And why it seems to me that it actually is a distilling process ~ apart from the distillation and refinement that organically comes with revision ~ is because when all of you comes into the creative act, bringing forth not only esthetic and artistic aspects of your soul but also:
- your longings,
- your knowings,
- your not-knowings,
- your embarrassments (but those, available to be transformed by compassion),
- your wisdom (perhaps showing itself there for the first time in that way),
- your soaring imagination,
- your feet-on-the-ground experiencing,
- your seeming dead-ends,
- your U-turns,
- your beginning-agains,
- your despair,
- your prayers,
- your beauty,
- your glory,
- your gift,
then all of this eventually sifts itself so that the more turgid, unmoving, weighty, clumpy parts fall to the bottom, and the essence of your beautiful effort rises to the top ~ like cream, like wine, like the best, $500-an-ounce perfume. A marathon of sorts writing a book from the deeper Self is; but in completing it, you have done more than get yourself in shape, or achieve beyond your former horizon; you have distilled, for yourself and anyone else who is open to it, all of this inner movement towards lasting beauty. When a great wine is drunk, the taste of it is there in the moment, then gone quickly, perhaps a memory of having enjoyed it remaining as proof of the experience. But when a great book-writing journey is packaged in a book, when it is read it makes an indelible impression on the mind, heart, even soul of the reader ~ “etching” in some understanding, some image holding promise, some heart-quality that will actually become part of the fabric of your being. Memory of it might fade from the foreground of your awareness, but still it will be there inside you, subtly working to bring you closer to what you value most, whether you are even aware of it or not.
To put this kind of distillation between covers as a book, and to offer it to the world, through Rose Press: this is both a kind of gardening of the soul, and being gardened. “A book is a garden carried in your pocket,” says the old proverb (sometimes attributed as Chinese, other times as Arabic). It really can be true. When a person takes on the holy task of writing a book from the deeper Self ~ as I am privileged to say many of my clients have, and as I have, myself ~ then something flowers, if the writer stays with it and gives everything to it. Something flowers in the writer, something flowers in the writing, and something flowers in the reader. It is all one single impulse to come true, and everyone benefits in the end, as well as along the way.
Copyright © 2012 by Naomi Rose. All rights reserved.