This week on the People’s Guide to Publishing podcast, we talked with Jess Driscoll about her sweet new book, The Magic of Pockets: Why Your Clothes Don’t Have Good Pockets and How to Fix That. We had a great conversation about traditional and underground publishing (Jess is a longtime zinester, blogger, and multi-media creator), what it was like working together (including some solid advice for coming up with and pitching a book idea), and of course our many and big feelings about pockets in clothes! Below the video, you can read the answers to some more questions Jess kindly answered for us, plus her original pitch that sold us on the book.
What inspired you to write your book?
In August 2018, I made a zine every day, and one of them was called, Thanks, it has pockets!, titled after a viral tweet about how femmes compliment each other’s clothes. It was a tiny, messy guide to how to sew pockets into your clothes, and I always thought I might go back and make it a longer zine. Then in September 2018, I visited Portland and the Microcosm store, and I immediately recognised that the zine could be a book, and it might belong on those shelves.
What was it like to publish with Microcosm?
It felt like working on a project with friends. I met Elly and Joe in 2019, and it just confirmed to me that I wanted to publish a book with Microcosm. I’m a teacher in my daily life and a DIY kinda person at heart; I was already writing instructional zines. Elly was a great editor, always there with gentle nudging reminders and helpful suggestions for this first time author.
What was the submission/query process like for you?
I have been thinking about publishing since I was a teenager, so I’ve read every book and website about the querying process. But the submission guidelines on Microcosm’s website were so comprehensive and clear that I just followed them exactly. I workshopped the pitch with my two closest friends, then sent it in. I woke up the next morning to an enthusiastic acceptance!
Do you still have your original query to us? Are you willing to share it?
Yep! Here it is:
Thanks, It Has Pockets! How to Alter Your Clothes and Cut Down Capitalism is do-it-yourself guide for sewing pockets into store-bought, pre-made clothing, the kind that never seems to come with pockets built-in. While many sewing books teach by guiding students through the construction of an entire garment, this book has a tight focus for those who don’t want to sew their whole wardrobe, who simply want to learn a skill to make life a little better. This book is a practical guide to a single alteration that makes a big difference.
Thanks, It Has Pockets! fits among Microcosom’s DIY titles, like Fix Your Clothes, Bread of the Resistance, and Honing Your Craft.
Thanks, It Has Pockets! How to Alter Your Clothes and Cut Down Capitalism contains step-by-step instructions and line drawings to sew six simple pockets, along with suggested alterations to give the reader freedom to create exactly the pockets their wardrobe needs, while sidebar essays and lists teach a short history of pockets. All of these projects can be sewn by beginners, and most can be made by hand, no machine required.[note: Jess’s original pitch included an annotated table of contents which was excellent but we’re not sharing it here because it’s also very long!)
What else have you written?
In another lifetime, I thought I might fiction, but for the last five years, my focus has been nonfiction and zines. Most of them are free to download on itch.io. This year, I started making zines on a livestream so the audience can watch me write and do layout and follow the whole process. As someone who has been blogging since 2001, I enjoy seeing works in progress as much as the finished product.
What are you currently reading?
After a long few years of not having the attention span for books, I’ve been trying to read again. Currently, I’m in the middle of Four Thousand Weeks by Oliver Burkeman and Easy Beauty by Chloé Cooper Jones, and I’m rereading Animal Farm by George Orwell because I’m teaching it.
What’s the best book you read in the last year?
Wintering: The Power of Rest and Retreat in Difficult Times by Katherine May. I started a year ago after reading a Charlie Warzel article which referenced it. Even though Wintering was written before the pandemic, it’s the perfect pandemic book, about seasons and cycles and quiet living. I picked it back up again in the spring of 2022 and finished it, like the universe knew exactly what I needed at that moment.
What’s next for you?
I haven’t pitched my next book yet, but I’m thinking a lot about living alone, how life changes with the seasons, and boredom.
Where can people find you online?
Jessdriscoll.com is my website, and I write a regular newsletter, which will be the best place to connect with me going forward. I’m feeling burned out on social media (again), and I’d love nothing more than to spend the next year reading and writing and hiking rather than spending time on someone else’s platform.
Any in-person events coming up soon?
I would love to do some events! But it just isn’t safe yet. The pandemic isn’t over. I was sick in February 2020, and this year, I’ve been dealing with a chronic fatigue like I’ve never felt before. And then I got Covid in September. But I’ve been planning some videos for my YouTube channel, and I’m available for your podcast!