Making the Period Coloring Book

pcb

Last year I crowdfunded and published a Period Coloring Book. It’s exactly as it sounds: It’s a coloring book about periods.

Growing up as a sexual health educator, I’ve always had a keen interest in this space. I’ve heard a lot of period experiences and stories over the years from clients, strangers, friends, and family. Years ago, I started sketching out some ‘menstrual imagery’ in my spare time. As I sharing some of these images with friends, I was encouraged to pull them together into a coloring book.

The drawings started out as a personal art project. When I decided to bring this work into the public domain, it was important for me to consider the meaning and representation of these images to others. This forced me to think through the consequences of what I chose to include or not include in the finite pages of the book, and made me more critical about my decisions. I found a healthy balance between what I had initially started to create with illustrations, and how I wanted to see them come together as a book that could resonate with a diversity of experiences and people.

To bring it to life, I learned about what it takes to promote and publish a book. Having seen numerous successful indie projects fundraise through crowdfunding, I thought this would be a great way to cover the costs of publication. I started my crowdfunding campaign in November 2016 with a goal of $2,500 USD. After 30 days, I raised just over $5,000.

I often get asked what I learned from my experience creating this book. Below I offer my high level takeaways:

  • Strategic crowdfunding  >  As a crowdfunding novice, I did my research months before the campaign. After sifting through online advice and interviewing people who had run successful campaigns for similar products, I built my own crowdfunding strategy – from costing/sourcing services and materials to perks, fulfillment and shipping. My goal was to keep my promises simple and fulfill them. I planned for several scenarios where things would go well above, below, or just meet my expectations. It was important to be honest with myself in terms of what I could achieve given timelines, costs and workload. 
  • Opening up a conversation about menstruation  >  This project reminded me that there are many ways to start a meaningful conversation about menstruation, and a coloring book just happens to be one of them. I hope that the book adds to a larger conversation about periods, and that the more resources we have to do so, the better. I have met people who love the book, people who don’t care for it, and those who just don’t get it. Putting something out into the world, especially about menstruation, in such a public way was humbling, and left me open to praise, criticism, internet trolls, and everything in between. It was important for me to expect this range of responses and leverage them in the most productive way possible. And, I think I am better for it. Receiving such warm response for the book was validating, and the thoughtful feedback I gained has only pushed my thinking for the next thing I work on.
  • Getting the word out  >  Through my own background research and some amazing supporters and introductions, the Period Coloring Book gained traction with Teen Vogue, the Huffington Post, Metro, Bustle, Thinx, and Clue. It also caught the attention of some companies that I have admired for their work in sexual health like Lunapads and Natracare who very generously donated to the campaign. Publishing these articles at the launch of the campaign (and throughout) offered the work some credibility and exposed the campaign to those well outside of my social networks. 
  • People are amazing  >  I asked for a lot of help and advice throughout this journey. From feedback on the illustrations to the person who shared the campaign with a friend on Facebook to each and every campaign contributor, I was incredibly grateful for the support I received. It always amazes me how many people are actually willing to help if I simply ask. The generosity and support of those around me, particularly feminist activists and allies, made the book possible. 

I cannot emphasize the last point enough! I’m also thrilled to see the book be used in meaningful ways. Recently, the Calgary Sexual Health Center (where I worked as a sexual health peer educator growing up!) purchased books for use in their girls programming. I’m excited to see where else the book will go. 

If you’re interested, you can order the book here: PeriodColoringBook.com

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If Wes Anderson Created a Period Starter Kit

Hello Flo’s latest viral video, First Moon Party, made me appreciate the company’s refreshingly positive (and hilarious) take on menstruation. The ad shows a young girl so eager to get her first period that she fakes it, prompting mom to throw her an awkward and over the top ‘First Moon’ party as punishment for lying. What I love is that the messaging counters our common perceptions of first menstruation as dreadful, embarrassing, and what many have affectionately nicknamed “the curse” — the time of month when a woman is bloated, bleeding, and b**chy.  Periods are a natural part of being human and quite phenomenal when you consider how and why people menstruate in the first place. Just think: the body cyclically prepares itself for pregnancy so it may nurture, grow and birth new life…and we can actively manipulate these complex processes using contraception. In fact, it’s a good reminder of just how sophisticated our bodies are.

As a former sexual health educator, I think it’s important to embrace and normalize menstruation, even before that very first period. This means it is crucial to encourage girls and young women to learn about their bodies in a manner that is honest, open and accurate, and enables them to make informed decisions about their sexual and reproductive health. This also means calling things out as they are (that “va-jay-jay” is actually a vagina) and creating awareness around the full gamut of care options women have during menses so they can find a best fit for themselves.

I’ve seen a lot of “starter kits” for a first period — googling around gives you a sense of what these look like. Most contain what you might expect: jewellery, candy, painkillers, carrying bag, etc. I decided to quickly jot down some of my own ideas, with an intent to expand a woman’s options beyond those typical pads and tampons:

  1. Mirror: A mirror can serve as a very simple yet powerful educational tool for understanding parts of the body that cannot be easily seen on a day to day basis. It can also clarify where exactly to insert a tampon, sponge or cup.
  2. Extra underwear: Important backup for any spillage.
  3. Sweets: Sometimes a little sugar can help distract from those cramps.
  4. Diary: A personal health record for keeping track of the flow and the experience.
  5. Painkillers: To wrangle those potential aches and pains.
  6. Tampons: A good option for those comfortable with insertion.
  7. Pads: Can be reusable or non-reusable and serve as panty liners.
  8. Menstrual cup: An insertable, reusable yet less popular option.
  9. Sponge: Not to be confused with the contraceptive sponge (which always reminds me of Seinfeld), this is an option made of naturally occurring materials.

I personally think it’d be great to see all of these items in one kit as it offers more than what you would typically find in the “feminine hygiene” aisle of your local pharmacy. I think it’s also worth noting that we can talk about tools for menstruation as well as a mindset for menstruation…this list focuses on the former but directly informs the latter.

Because my mind just works this way, I decided to illustrate this list using a visual style inspired by Wes Anderson. See below. If you’re not familiar with the reference, SNL made a brilliant spoof of Wes Anderson films you can watch here. And in case you’re wondering, the spoon is how I visually think about the amount of menstrual fluid generated per period (2-4 tablespoons on average).

I’d be interested to hear what else would be helpful in such a “starter kit”? Maybe books, a carrying case…?

 

menarche

mirror

underwear

sweets

diary

painkiller

tampons

pads

cup

sponge