In which all our reasons for procrastination are thrown unceremoniously out the window.
Ice cream might be the very last thing on your mind this time of year, but the recent book The Story and Recipes of Valerie’s Cat Eye Scream by Gilmore Girls costumer Valerie Campbell should be something of an inspiration to anyone resolving to get more done in 2019. I say this because Valerie not only hand wrote and illustrated its contents last year, she also had it printed and distributed, too. What's more, she did all of this in the spare moments most of us spend bemoaning the fact that we don’t have enough time to pursue our own projects – myself very much included.
Long known on film and television sets for sharing the fruits of her homemade ice cream making hobby wherever she went, Valerie was encouraged to publish her recipes by Gilmore Girls Fan Fest founders Jennie and Marcus Whitaker at the end of January 2018. The day after the idea was floated, Valerie came up with a list of every ice cream she had ever made – quite a formidable list.
Two days later, while on set, “I started doodling on my computer,” she explains. “I tried to write down a recipe but instead got bored and started drawing the elements.” Inspired by these sketches, she quickly envisioned what her book could – and ultimately would – look like.
For the next two months, she further sketched out a rough idea for the book, stealing moments of down time while working on the TV series Timeless – and pretty much every waking moment when she wasn't otherwise tackling work or home responsibilities.
The book features Valerie’s own recipes, as well as heartfelt, ice-cream-related reminiscences about Gilmore Girls veterans such as the greatly-missed Edward Herrmann (Richard Gilmore), Keiko Agena (Lane, and an author in her own right) and Rini Bell (Lulu), among many others. You can get your own copy of the book here.
Once everything started coming together for her mentally, what followed was a flurry of activity that would make anyone’s head spin.
At the urging of actor Paterson Joseph (who forever won our hearts as Simon in Mitchell & Webb's recurring "Numberwang" sketch), she dived into the world of Instagram, resolving to create at least one post a day, phone and computer issues be damned.
After sampling some of her ice cream, Paterson asked where he could get more. From then on, every time they worked together she'd give him more, and gave him a peek at her early sketches for the book. "He was so proud when I finally gave him a copy," she remembers. "And was like 'I knew you could do it.'"
It wasn’t until the end of March 2018 that she was able to spend her first real days working on the book without interruption.
Deep in the creative process, she was also concerned with how she was going to be able to get the book published. Friend of a friend WM Smith convinced her that self-publishing was the only way to go, and passed along his contacts, as well as the promise of an ISBN number. All the while, the manuscript continued to grow and grow.
Day after day she hand wrote and drew each and every page directly on her Surface laptop so that they could be laid out electronically; something designer Pamela Norman (aka my better half) was only too happy to do. Valerie also continued to communicate with the shop that would ultimately print the book; she kept her friends and fans apprised of its progress on social media all the while.
With the printer’s bill looming, Valerie bit the bullet and launched a Kickstarter campaign, which included taping a video, coming up with the pledge premiums and negotiating all the confusing back-end details such campaigns entail. The Kickstarter was a huge success, raising more than $7,000 from 175 backers – her original goal had been a modest $2,000. (The actual total was $7,438, she points out, "although with the fees taken out by Kickstarter, I only received $6,808.")
In the meantime, there was the hustle.
“Any free moment, if a friend would invite me somewhere I would bring ice cream and start to get the word out about the book and Kickstarter,” she remembers. “Everywhere I went, I used it as an opportunity to get exposure, whether it was a house-warming party, a fancy dress-up gala, film festival, or even a friend’s play.”
After shepherding the book through the printing process, she marked its publication with a book signing at her home on Sept. 15th, and began delivering copies to some of her Kickstarter backers. She also took a fair number to the 2018 Gilmore Girls Fan Fest the following month.
Valerie also proceeded to share images of the book on social media in the most unlikely places, interspersed with videos of people sampling some of her latest ice cream flavors. At the time of this writing, she’s still out there posting pics of it at the 2019 Rose Parade, at restaurants, as well as photos from book recipients in the far flung corners of the world, or at least in one case, Loch Ness, which I think we can all agree is pretty cool all on its own. "It also went on a fighter jet in Afghanistan," says Valerie, "which is kind of the craziest thing the book has done."
Now if you don’t mind I have to continue complaining that I haven’t the time to promote my own projects, and get to work writing my New Year’s resolutions for 2020, which will doubtless include the words “This year, I’ll work harder on my books.”