Folks went mad for Typeset Mad Libs at Maker Faire Bay Area 2012

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[Alyson Kuhn] For Maker Faire Bay Area 2012 (May 19–20). Pam DeLuco found a fun way to give makers an appreciation of typesetting. Last year’s typefacebook project was such a big hit that she didn’t feel she could repeat herself this year. Instead, she came up with a marvelous — and maddening — new typesetting exercise.


Like last year, Pam and her team of volunteers let participants know that making a book is a commitment, and that it would take 30 to 40 minutes to: compose their Typeset Mad Lib entries in lead type; print their cover on a little tabletop letterpress; stitch their cover and pages; and refile their lead type in the California job case. Pam estimates that well over 100 Mad Libbers took home their very own handbound book each day.


Mia Murrietta, a friend of Pam’s, is a writer (currently on staff at The Pachamama Alliance) and freelance editor. She wrote several Mad Libs (MLs), one of which was preprinted (digitally) on the covers. Her additional MLs were preprinted on the inside pages, for folks to enjoy at home: “Teach Your Cat to Code”; “Quilting With Robots”; “Mushrooms Can Do Anything” and “Living La Vida Steampunk.” Mia, whose father is a graphic designer, is a longtime hand-letterer, and she free-handed the letters for Pam to paint on the Typesest Mad Libs banner.


Pam comments, “Mad Libs are multigenerational — you only have to know parts of speech to ‘play,’ and we had Quick Review sheets at the booth to help with that. But you really had to follow the instructions to typeset your answers so that they would print in the right spots. We had more kids who wanted to do the project this year than last year, and they worked really hard to ‘get it right.’” She adds, “The parents were so appreciative — many of them thanked us for doing this project.”

A composing stick with lead slugs and spacers. The instruction sheet in the background shows how to typeset your answers so they will print in the right spots.

Certain letters are easy to confuse, leading to brain cramps, typos and occasional incredulity. It’s easy to turn an n npside dowu, if you see what I mean.

“Characters Difficult to Distinguish” sheets helped participants mind their ps and qs. Makeready sheets (practice prints) got funnier as the day wore on.

Locking the type into the chase

Have press, will travel: A close-up of Pam DeLuco’s Kelsey 3 x 5 press.

Pam (above) demoed the first print for each maker, and then everyone got to print their own cover.


The next step after printing was stitching. Mike Magee of Playland Press built Pam a nifty punching cradle that made it easy to align the cover and pages, and then punch the stitching holes with an awl.

Covers (and inside pages) printed on Mohawk Loop 100% pcw. The color is Chalk. As for the typos: We love them, especially upside down. Silly is funny with the y on its head, and crumble seems to, well, crumble at the end.

Pam loves to share the delights of setting type. On February 14 this year, she and Drew Cameron of Combat Paper popped up a table on Market Street in downtown San Francisco and invited passersby to set and print a Valentine on the spot — for free. Pam says, “People were pretty surprised! Everyone who made a Valentine loved doing it.” One of them showed up at the Typeset Mad Libs booth on the first morning. He recognized Pam and exclaimed, “Hey, didn’t you do a thing on Valentine’s Day on Market Street? Well, my wife liked it so much that she framed it!”

Two fine examples of ambitious typesetting: Lòók at the lovely ligatures in afflict and fiancées (book at left). And Pam reports that the Mad Lib on the right is the handiwork of a very careful kid “who was probably only 9 or 10″ and did not need any help with spelling. Bravo!

Pam’s project won an Editor’s Choice blue ribbon from Arwen Griffith, an editor for Make magazine and a member of the O’Reilly family, founders of the Maker Faire. Didn’t that make her fairly delirious?

Pam DeLuco is the founder of BANDmade Books. The first BANDmade book was a collaboration with CAKE. We featured it here and here.

Photos: 1, 7, 8, 13, 17 – 19 © 2012 StudioAlex

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Comments (1)

  1. Posted by Nancy Kuhn on 05.29.12 at 3:56 pm

    Thanks for writing about this; Pam’s enthusiasm for her craft(s) is boundless and, hopefully, contagious- events like the Maker Faire will inspire the next generation of talented MAKERS, typesetters included! Best wishes to Pam in future endeavors.

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