Interview Series: JHWS “Carla Buttons”

This 2nd entry for the Interview Series is a unusual because I’m not the one giving the interview, I’m the one responding. Bob Katz JHWS “Willow” contacted me after my interview with “Cocoa” and pointed out that not a lot of people know me personally, so he volunteered to interview me.

Willow: When did you first read the Canon?

Carla Buttons: Not too long ago, actually. I grew interested in the Canon a little after I returned to the US and settled down near Seattle after several years abroad. I read the entire Canon during the summer of 2012, I believe. After that, I started listening to the BBC Radio 4 dramatization of the Canon and realized that I needed to meet more Sherlockians because I couldn’t bottle up my excitement for the stories for much longer.

What was the first Sherlockian organization that you joined and how did you hear about it?

Once I became enamored with the radio dramatizations, I wanted to share my interest with others but I didn’t have anyone to talk to about the stories. My friends are good to me, but they can only put up with my Sherlockian ramblings for so much until losing interest entirely. I was hoping to find a circle of friends who would share my interest in the Canon.

I finally found an opportunity to do this at Sherlock Seattle, a local convention. I was too shy to attend the event alone, so a friend joined me. It was there that I saw a couple sitting at a table dedicated to the Sound of the Baskervilles. The friendly couple was none other than the leaders of that scion society, Terri and David. I signed up immediately.

What was it like when you attended your first meeting?

I was more than a little nervous and shy when I went to my first meeting, but the experience turned out better than I could have ever imagined. I thought it would be awkward and that I would feel out of place, but I felt that it would be worth it because I could finally discuss Holmes and Watson’s adventures with other people. By the time the first meeting was over, I didn’t want to leave. I had made new friends, participated in a lively discussion, and learned more about the stories than I ever could on my own. It quickly became an event I look forward to every month. I rarely miss a meeting. Even when I had to miss one, I’d wish I could be at two places at once.

How did you hear about the John H Watson Society?

One friend I quickly became close to when I joined the SoB was Sheila. She became a member of the John H Watson Society when she (JHWS “Daisy”), Margie (JHWS “Gwen”), and the rest of the SoB team won the first JHWS Annual Treasure Hunt. When I told her my idea for a paper I wanted to write, she recommended that I join the JHWS and submit my paper to the Watsonian for consideration.

How did you become so involved in the activities of the JHWS? What were your initial duties and how did that evolve into your present role?

I joined and submitted “A Dissection of the Cyanea Capillata” to the Watsonian in early 2014. I don’t often write papers, but I am still quite proud of this one. It came from the heart and since it was about the BBC Radio 4 series, it allowed me to contact someone I greatly admire, Bert Coules. Mr. Coules was so kind to me that he read my paper and offered helpful corrections. I bought and mailed him a copy of the Watsonian out of gratitude.

Time passed and I participated in the JHWS as many do – taking part in the weekly discussion forum and occasionally trying my best at the weekly quizzes. Eventually, I earned my very own moniker, “Carla.” I love it. You see, the male side of my family is composed of a long line of Charles, in fact my little brother is Charles IV, so Carla would suit me fine in my family if I weren’t an Ariana. When August came around, I kept my promise to “Daisy” and “Gwen” to join their SoB team in the second annual Treasure Hunt. We won the team category and Buttons sent us each a prize. I was so proud that I could help my team complete the Hunt!

In the fall, I wanted to do more to help out the JHWS. I contacted Don “Buttons” and asked if I could help Joanne “Sandy” with the layout and design, since I was learning a lot about the process and working with an experienced designer would be a great opportunity. Within a few weeks, to my surprise, I was now in charge off all of the design and pre-press work. I was so nervous but “Buttons” was very encouraging.

After March and all that followed, my participation in the John H Watson Society has changed drastically and I’m still not sure if I’ve figured out my place yet. As “Gwen” likes to say, I’m now “TheBiB” – The Boy in Buttons. Although I would think that “A Boy in Buttons” would be more accurate – there would only ever be one true “Buttons.” So now, I still design the publications, but a great deal more work is involved in organizing volunteers, fielding questions, and numerous other things I’m trying my best to handle one day at a time.

Tell us what it’s like to do the design and layout of The Watsonian.

Most of the groundwork was done by “Sandy,” who provided me with the files before she passed the position to me. I then cleared out the pages and started the new design from there, slowly shaping how it would eventually look. A lot of the hard work comes first: How big should the text be? How should the titles look? How should the Table of Contents look? And so on. Once I’ve decided how it should go, most of the work that follows is all about making sure all of the pages stay consistent with the design.

With each new book, I’m slowly growing more and more used to the style of JHWS publications. The most difficult part for me so far is the fact that I don’t actually consider myself an artist, simply someone trying her best while stumbling through the dark. I know how to use programs to shape a book for publication, but I can’t draw a perfect circle with pen and paper to save my life. I’m simply trying my best and hope it works out OK. A few people I respect greatly, such as “Buttons” and “Sandy,” have told me I’m doing well and that they like the work I’ve done, so if they were satisfied, I’ll just keep at it and grow through the experience.

One thing I’m particularly critical about is the cover. I just can’t seem to nail down how I want it to look and I’ve made embarrassing mistakes with it so far. I need to consider a new approach, so I’m always open to suggestions.

You’ve made lots of friends around the world through the JHWS. Have you met any in person, beyond internet communication?

Not many, but I would love the opportunity to meet more fellow Watsonians. I know all of the members of the Sound of the Baskervilles who also happen to be members of JHWS. I’ve also had the pleasure of interviewing Larry “Bertie” earlier this year due to his amazing work at Imagination Theatre. I’ve spoken with Andrea “Asta” over the phone. I would love to meet so many more Watsonians, so if anyone happens to be in the Seattle area, please feel free to drop me a line.

Are you participating in Sherlockian activities beyond your local group and the JHWS? Tell us about the various organizations and their activities and traditions.

The Sound of the Baskervilles has a number of activities throughout the year and I try to take part whenever I can. A few traditions I enjoy is the Master’s Dinner we have once a year, where all of the members gather and I could meet people I haven’t encountered before. There’s also the annual Wreath Toss to symbolize Richenbach Falls, followed by a lovely meal to celebrate the return of Sherlock Holmes. I’ve also volunteered for a few activities in the past, such as giving a presentation on the history of Holmes and Watson on the radio and hosting a couple of panels at Sherlock Seattle this year.

Would you like to tell us anything about your background and career?

I’m Brazilian American. My Dad is retired in the Philippines and my Mom lives in southern Brazil. I grew up mostly in the US, Japan, and Singapore. My Portuguese skill is rather poor, but I’m fluent in Japanese and I currently work as a translator for a video game company. I love travel and I try to see family whenever I can afford to, but lately I’ve really wanted to go to places I’ve never been. I’d like to see England next, so if anyone happens to have advice on affordable accommodations and public transport, please let me know.

I’m a huge fan of comic books. I learned how to do digital lettering several years ago to help friends with their comic book projects. Now I am doing a bit of freelance work lettering for web comics and also a couple of titles for Image comics. It does not seem like glamorous work, but lettering is so essential to comics that personally it feels quite rewarding. I studied book layout and design last year in an effort to help a friend put her graphic novel together and that knowledge is what led me to work on JHWS publications.

Do you have a favorite Sherlockian film or television program?

I love The Great Mouse Detective and Without a Clue. They aren’t canonical by any means, but they are what I watch when I want to relax and laugh. Although the BBC series is fun and I love the actors, I think the Granada series did its best to stay true to the Canon, so that’s my favorite Sherlockian TV program. Above any other form of media, I love audio dramas the most, so the BBC Radio 4 series is my favorite adaption. Clive Merrison and Michael Williams are my Holmes and Watson.

What Sherlockian books do you read?

I read annotations and non-fiction Sherlockian books. My favorite book is “221 BBC” by Bert Coules, which details all of the work that went into adapting Sherlock Holmes for the radio.

I do enjoy pastiche, parody, homage, and fan fiction, but if it seems that Dr Watson is being used poorly in the story or if his role gets replaced by an entirely different character, I’m not particularly interested in it. For me, the dynamic of their friendship is as important to the story as the mystery being presented. A few of my favorite Sherlockian fictions are “Dust and Shadow” by Lyndsay Faye, “The Case of Death and Honey” by Neil Gaiman, and “The Queen’s Migration” by Elinor Gray “Misty.”

Are you a collector of any type of Sherlockiana?

I don’t collect too much. I’ve moved around so much in the past, I’ve become something of a minimalist as a result. However, if there is something that has anything to do with Sherlock Holmes on the radio, I’m interested. That much is obvious. However, I have a few treasures that I keep: a signed script for HOUN signed by Bert Coules, the entire BBC Radio 4 series collected on CD, my prize from the Treasure Hunt given to me by “Buttons,” and a few commissioned drawings from artists I greatly respect. It’s not a big collection, but I don’t have a big apartment, so that works fine for me.

5 Replies to “Interview Series: JHWS “Carla Buttons””

  1. Thanks. So nice to get to know other Sherlockians from other parts of the country — or world!

  2. What a great idea! Thanks Willow for thinking of it. This series is so much fun. And, ‘Carla’, I will cease with the TheBiB, and move on to ABiB… 😉

  3. Lovely interview. Watsonians (and Holmesians) are such interesting people.

  4. Hmmm-everyone who reads this interview with Carla Buttons can see why she is not only one of my favorite Sherlockians but also one of my favorite people. She and Gwen (Margie Deck) are the tops for me, also my fellow members of the Sound of the Baskervilles, and the people in the JHWS. They are the reason, in addition to the canon Baring-Gould, Klinger, some pastiches, the Granada series and the BBC radio series are why my time as a Sherlockian so very rich and satisfying. I remember very well when Carla asked me to look at her paper on LION; I immediately recognized it as a piece that needed to go into a journal with an international following. I asked her if I could send it on to Gwen for her ideas; Gwen concurred with me completely. So–the rest is history in the making for Carla and the JHWS.

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