Crafting a Book: Q & A with Alissa Haight Carlton

If you’re a member of the Modern Quilt Guild, my guest for this month’s Crafting a Book interview should be well known to you. Today, I’m delighted to be sharing the insights of MQG co-founder and Executive Director Alissa Haight Carlton!


Alissa Haight Carlton: Didn’t Get the Memo

I’ve been in love with Alissa’s quilts since before I knew who she was, and I’ve been so lucky to be a member of the organization she helped start (plus I totally admire her and fellow MQG founder Latifah Saafir’s go-for-it attitude!) Alissa has written two books with Stash, including Block Party, a compilation of block patterns and tips for modern quilting bees. Compilation books are a topic I’ve been curious about lately, so I was particularly interested in getting her perspective on leading the production of one.

Modern Minimal Block Party

In addition to running the MQG and writing books, Alissa has also just released a new line of Modern Solids crossweaves with In the Beginning Fabrics! She also hosts an annual fundraiser for Action Kivu each summer on her blog, which I highly encourage you to check out. See the end of this post for more places you can find Alissa online, and enjoy her insights into the book writing and publishing process!


Alissa Haight Carlton: Modern Solids II (detail)

How did you initially get interested in publishing a book? What did the proposal process look like for you–any tips for readers thinking of proposing their own books?

For my first book, the bee I was running with Kristen Lejnieks, which we called Block Party, was approached by Susanne Woods, the then acquisitions editor for C & T Publishing.  They were about to launched Stash Books and Block Party ended up being a part of that. Before Susanne approached us, Kristen and I had talked about the idea of it making for a good book… Susanne getting in touch was the push we needed to put together a very thorough proposal.

I think the biggest tip I have about a proposal is that you should work hard to make sure that your vision for the book shines through in it.  Include visual elements such as photos and colors and formatting that match how you see the book.  If you do this from the get go, that vision can stay clear through the process of getting the book written and published. It will be what you turn to for every decision you make about the book so make sure you really have that vision clear in your head and that you’re able to communicate it.

For your solo book, Modern Minimal, what was the writing process like for you? What were some of your favorite parts of the process? Least favorite? Were there any aspects that you found surprising?

I was a little bit crazy with how I wrote Modern Minimal. I did the entire thing in three months.  I work another freelance job and I knew the time of year that I would have to be working at it full time.  When I submitted the proposal for Modern Minimal, I did it around a schedule that would give me three months before the other job would start.  I got the greenlight on the book and I spent those three months writing the book and making all of the quilts for it.  This was before I had a kid, and it was ALL I did for those three months.  Morning, noon and night I worked on the book and quilts. Non-stop. I’m very deadline driven so I was motivated to work hard at it the whole time.

What I really enjoy about the process of writing a quilting book is that there’s more to it than writing.  There’s the making of the quilts, there’s the writing the patterns… When you tire of sitting in front of your computer, you can go and sew.  When you tire of sewing, you can go and write.  There’s always a change of pace to be found.  That was very helpful for me. My least favorite part of the process is just straight up, the math… While I can do it (and do it all the time) I don’t enjoy it. Double checking all of my numbers is a real chore for me!

Block Party, was a compilation of projects by different quilters. What was it like managing a group of authors? Did the proposal process look any different from that of Modern Minimal (e.g. did you already have a group of quilters signed on, or did you find them after the proposal was accepted)?

It was a ton of work to manage the group of quilters who made all of the blocks and quilts for Block Party! I often joke that writing an entire book and making all of the quilts alone, for Modern Minimal was a lot easier than coordinating all of that sewing! It was really a lot of work… just lots of organizing and checking in and emailing and checking in again type of work…The women involved were all of the original members of the virtual quilting bee that we were actually doing… And the quilts that were the result are so beautiful.  That book really has a lot of life to it and it’s because of all of the wonderful women who were involved in it.


Alissa Haight Carlton: Intersections (detail)

I’ve always heard that the deadlines in craft book publishing are intense, and now I’m experiencing that first hand. How did you juggle making (or managing, in the case of Block Party) so many projects in this type of time frame?

The deadlines are intense, but I’m someone who’s driven by deadlines so I actually really appreciate them.

For Block Party we just had to do A LOT of coordinating in advance and setting deadlines for everyone that included a bit of padding in them… And when it’s just me working alone, well, for both books I was lucky and I wasn’t juggling all that much. I had the time to focus on the books. Now I have a full time job at The Modern Quilt Guild and a kid too, so another book won’t happen for a bit of time!

What was it like working with a team of editors?

It was great! For me, the technical editors in particular and a wonderful help.  Remember how I said double checking my numbers is a chore for me?  Well, technical editors are there to help with that and catch issues before the book is published.What kind of design input did you have in producing your books? What was it like working with a design team?

For both books I had a very strong feeling about how I envisioned them. For Modern Minimal I hired and worked with the photographer for all of the photos in the book. I used all of my friends’ homes for locations… it was a really fun process. I really knew what I wanted that book to be and I pushed to keep that vision along the way. I also worked with very talented people who were able to help make that vision come true.

How did you promote your books once they were released?

Blog tours, release parties locally…that sort of thing. I’m admittedly not as good of a promoter as I should be. That’s a whole additional job that you don’t think about being part of it when you’re first writing your book… it’s a ton of work to promote it too!

Are there any other parts of the publishing experience that you found particularly interesting?

For me what’s the toughest is how long it takes for books to come out.  From the time you have the first vision, to the time it comes out is over two years. It’s a hard thing when you’re used to the fast paced online world of sharing your work instantly.  As a result of this time lag, you either have to have a book idea that is ahead of trends, or is timeless.  Otherwise your book will feel dated before it’s even out and no one wants that!


Alissa Haight Carlton: Bias (Displayed at QuiltCon 2013)

Thanks, Alissa! If you are interested in following Alissa elsewhere on the web, you can find her at the following links:

Handmade by Alissa (blog)



One thought on “Crafting a Book: Q & A with Alissa Haight Carlton

  1. Pingback: Crafting a Book: The Publisher’s Viewpoint |

I love hearing from my readers, so thanks for considering leaving a comment. They always make my day!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s