In my memory, we were sitting at the basement bar of a drinking establishment regularly frequented by the college crowd. However, in reality, our conversation could have easily taken place anywhere. The only relevant details are in what he had said to me—not the location. It was my senior year of college, and I was chatting with my good friend, Ben. Ben was an English major, and a talented poet; I was finishing up my BFA. When I think back to that night we were seated in the dark bar with music uncomfortably loud, probably drinking something so ridiculously sweet I couldn’t even taste the alcohol. Ben turned to me and said something along the lines of:
“Carly, when I write my first book, I want you to do the cover. I know, sometimes, the publishers choose the cover image of a writer’s first book. But, Carly, if I have a say—I want your art.”
It meant a lot to me, I suppose that’s why his comment has remained in the recesses of my memory all these years. I was flattered my friend loved and appreciated my work enough that he would want it be the cover of his book.
Years passed. I moved about the world with my Air Force husband always making art, and Ben attended a graduate program in Vermont, later moved about Minnesota ending up in Saint Cloud, working various jobs over the years and always writing. We’ve stayed in touch off and on.
Towards the end of last year, I received an email from Ben—his first chapbook of poetry, Sometimes Out of Turn, was getting published. He was curious if I would be willing to create several cover image concepts to submit to his publisher. (However, the publisher still reserved the right to refuse any of my submissions and select their own cover image.) I was (and still am) very proud of Ben. Poetry is his love. Despite his personal struggles and several unsatisfying minimum wage jobs, he always took time for his writing. For me, this wasn’t only an opportunity to support one of my favorite humans; it was also an opportunity for my work to reach a different audience. I must admit, I was a little surprised after all this time, he still thought of me for his cover image. His email made my heart happy, and when he notified me that the publishers had accepted one of my images, I was even more delighted.
To my surprise, I received this in the mail yesterday.
Congratulations, my dear Ben-friend, and thank you for allowing me the opportunity to create a cover for your beautiful words.