A Cover's Evolution

 

My client, F. D.  Raphael, finished her book, THE ROCK STARS OF NEUROSCIENCE: How a Groupie in Crisis Emerged as the Heroine of her Family’s Victory over Mental Illness, and made the decision to self publish. One of the biggest decisions she had to then make was what to put on the cover. She did a wonderful job of coming up with a compelling cover package. Here she is explaining the process:

"I believed that as a self-publishing, debut author, the book cover and title would need to be a key marketing component of the book. I was on a shoestring budget, and called upon a graphic designer friend to help. Unfortunately, although I presented her with many examples of memoir covers that I liked, I tasked her with the job of coming up with the cover concept. There is a huge difference between a graphic designer and a concept designer. She designed the first 3 brain images and they just didn’t work:

Then, like a stroke of lightning, I looked on my bulletin board, which had been on the wall in front of me the entire time I was working on this book. I suddenly noticed a pushpin holding up of a portrait my son had drawn of me in crayon, on a napkin. This had been hanging on my bulletin board for almost 10 years. Yes, this was the perfect image of me for this book. Not a picture of a brain, or of neurons, but of a mother going off to work, looking cool; yet falling apart inside. I sent a pdf image to Create Space (Amazon's self-publishing arm), but felt they had missed the mark in terms of the book’s design. (See #4 purple background.)

Walking with a friend one morning, I mentioned my dissatisfaction with the book cover.  I had completely forgotten that her husband was a very successful concept designer.  He was excited to help me and to add my book cover to his portfolio for the launching of his new website: Brian Johnson, Command A Studios. He presented me with two different comps.

We both preferred the final red typeface. But I had him reduce and lower the black type, which was too big and blocky. I asked him to saturate the color, and made sure that the red sub-title caps were grammatically correct. I especially love the way the image continues on to the spine of the book. The crazy thing is that I hadn’t turned the napkin over. Voila! Brian discovered my son had written M-azing MOM on the back! This, of course, became the back cover of my book."

The Rock Stars of Neuroscience: Introduction

Every life is a pilgrimage to understand the brain—its strengths and weaknesses, its delicate simplicity and rich complexity, its gentle benevolence or camouflaged malevolence. But in my life, this path has been the essence of everything. I was eight years old when my brain became sickened by cluster headaches—the beginning of my intimate involvement with the ways in which our brain can betray us.

I watched my brother’s life-long suffering from the crushing combination of his MENSA brain crippled by undiagnosed Asperger’s Syndrome (AS). Drug and alcohol addiction, a soul-sucking disease, contaminated my bosses' brains, the members of Aerosmith. Then my young sons both developed debilitating brain disorders—one had Tourette syndrome (TS), attention deficit disorder (ADD), and a mood disorder; and the other had obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), panic attacks, and depression.

In 2003, mental illness kidnapped me from a successful career in the music industry and dumped me into a dark, desolate abyss. I spiraled into a state of entropy in this unwelcoming landscape, haunted by years of inadequate prescription imperatives, orphan drugs to treat erratic and punishing symptoms of mental disease, and a spinning palette of psychiatrist and psychologist therapy sessions. My sons’ conditions continued with little improvement.

Where are the experts? I wondered. I am not a doctor. I am a woman who needed help, a mother who needed to know as much as I could about how to fix a dysfunctional brain. I found some answers through men who made brain science their life’s work. From revered neurosurgeons to counter-culture heroes, my rock stars of neuroscience include Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, Dr. John C. Lilly, Dr. Simon Baron-Cohen, Dr. Dacher Keltner, Dr. Timothy Leary, Dr. Ross Greene, Dr. John Piacentini, Dr. Adam Gazzaley, Dr. Michael Okun, Dr. Andrew Weil, Dr. Michael Jenike, Dr. Lloyd Sederer, and Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn. Each of these neuroscientists helped me through a kaleidoscope of mental health crises, most through personal relationships, several through their published work and articles, and in one instance, through a chance meeting in an airport in California.

Here are my notes, culled from more than a decade spent exploring and testing traditional and alternative therapies, cutting-edge technologies and surgeries, residential facilities, neuroelectrics, optogenetics, lead investigators for research grants and clinical trials. Consumed with finding the best treatment outcomes for my family, I became a groupie of neuroscientists.

In 2013, my transformation began. I understood that there are no experts, and there are no cures for mental illness. However, these rock stars gave me hope and bolstered my resilience. Against great odds, I pulled my family through this crisis, and we survived.

There are no maps or instructions to finding help for treating mental illness. This long-distance ride along treacherous roads filled with potholes and streets that go nowhere is like driving a snowmobile to Vegas. Yet, navigating this unwieldy terrain emboldened my advocacy. Hope, often obscured by reason, requires a gigantic leap of faith; an action so powerful because all of the unknown possibilities exist in this infinite space. Hope is a choice to persevere, an opportunity to overcome improbable odds. We all possess undiscovered superhuman strengths. We can be transformed, and emerge from a crisis as heroes with death-defying courage, endurance, and love