Everything Is Going to Be OK: Q&A with Bridget Watson Payne
As a Chronicle Books employee, and the voice of our company Twitter and Facebook, I feel like I shouldn’t admit to having favorite books. I try to be professionally unbiased, but I’m not ashamed to declare right here and now that Everything Is Going to Be OK is my personal, absolute favorite Chronicle book of all time. I LOVE this book. I even have a poster of the cover art above my desk. So I was thrilled to sit down with the book’s creator, Art & Design Editor Bridget Watson Payne, to gush about it together.
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What inspired you to create Everything Is Going to Be OK?
Back in 2009, I started to notice art popping up here and there featuring text that said things that were positive and hopeful. This seemed significant to me, it seemed to say something about the present moment in our culture, something that was going on in the zeitgeist that maybe started with the Obama “Hope” poster, and the now-ubiquitous “Keep Calm and Carry On” image, and then just started to snowball. But what intrigued me was, why did it snowball? Was it because collectively we were looking to embrace a discourse of positivity that wasn’t cheesy or corny or saccharine but really authentic and sincere and true?
What were some of the images that resonated with you early on? When did you realize you had landed on a trend that could translate to a book?
Some of the first images I spotted were Susan O’Malley’s “You Are Exactly Where You Need to Be,” Sean Sundholm’s “Let’s Find Some Beautiful Place to Get Lost,” Chris Kenny’s “Be a Lamp or a Lifeboat or a Ladder” and Clifton Burt’s “All I Want to be is Someone That Makes New Things and Thinks About Them.” These were all pieces that spoke to me personally, the kind of images you save in a folder just because they make you so happy. After a while I started to notice that the folder was getting rather full, and that’s when I started to think there might be a book there.
Unlike a book proposal that gets submitted to us by an author or artist, this was a project that you developed in-house with the Art & Design team. Can you walk us through the process of developing a “homegrown” book?
It’s not so very different from any other book I work on. In a more traditional book project, the author or artist gathers the content, guided by his or her vision. In this case it was me and my colleagues in the Art & Design department seeking out the material ourselves. It was exciting to get to express our own vision. But as with any proposal, I submitted it for acquisition, made a budget, sent lots of project management emails, reviewed galleys and all that, just like I would for any project. The most unusual thing, for me, is that I got to write the intro text—that’s not something I normally ever get to do and I loved doing it. It was so exciting to talk about positivity and optimism in a public forum.
There are something like 70 works of art collected in the book. Where did you guys find it all?
After the first few pieces, it almost seemed to start gathering itself! You’d find one thing on someone’s blog, and then when you went to that artist’s site they’d have linked to someone else who was doing something else really cool that would work for the book. We spent a lot of time trolling around on Etsy, Flickr, various art and design blogs, and 20×200. And then we did something that I think was so awesome: we opened it up to the people here at our office. Because there are so many talented and creative people who work here. So about a dozen of the pieces in the book are by Chronicle employees, plus a few Chronicle friends and family members, too.
Did you have a specific audience or reader in mind while you were compiling the book? What kind of response have you gotten about the finished books?
You know, at first, I thought it was for hipsters. For a while we were calling it “The Blue Day Book for the Etsy crowd” and in fact it has done well with the indie art, DIY crowd—it sells like hotcakes at Urban Outfitters. But what I’ve realized as I start to hear more feedback and word of mouth, is that it’s really for a much wider audience than that. My mom and my mother-in-law can’t stop buying copies for their friends. And, ok, they’re biased and that could just be nepotism, but I don’t think so—I really think there’s a universal message there, where it doesn’t matter how old you are, or how cool and indie you are, or where you live, or if you’re a college kid or a mom. Which makes sense, because who doesn’t want to be told, or to be able to tell their friends, that things are going to be ok, that they are loved, that there is hope and joy and goodness in the world?
So true. I’ve seen so much love for this book online, too. I think people forget how important it is to be kind to ourselves. And how nice it feels to stop for a minute and acknowledge that we are all just doing our best, and that’s good enough. OK, to not take the book’s advice to “Be Present” for a minute, what’s next?
So many exciting things! We’ve got a wall calendar and a set of notecards based on the book coming out in the Spring. And then, because this phenomenon has been growing exponentially, we’re already working on a new book. And the stuff we’re finding for it is awesome! There is so much incredible work out there, so many talented people who are choosing to use their powers for good. It’s really inspiring.
I can’t wait. Thanks, Bridget!
Guinevere de la Mare
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Design Desk: The Wes Anderson Art TributeDecember 17th, 2014