It’s been a few weeks since my last newsletter so I thought an update is in order after an eventful week (also, I don’t feel like working out this morning). Plus, learn exactly how I came up with the idea for a short comic.
Pushing people out of the circle is essential to insecure people who want to make sure the circle has edges and they are safely inside.Jessica
What I’ve been up to
My two main projects
For the most part, I’ve been grinding away at my two main projects: my graphic memoir and Mythological Fight Club.
Organizing the graphic memoir has been a pain because I wrote down SO MANY memorie and ideas. But I had a bit of a breakthrough, thanks to Malaka Gharib’s I Was Their American Dream and Mythological Fight Club.
I re-borrowed Gharib’s book from the library because it’s a focused and well written, with no chaff whatsoever. Everything in her book is there for a reason. This time I paid attention to the organization, and hers is pretty straight forward: each chapter states a theme, usually as part of a story, and the rest of the chapter explores that story and maybe 1 or 2 other stories that are related.
Plus, she spent precious little time on anything that wasn’t actually a memory or experience of her – unlike me, who had whole sections devoted to Indian history, or Hinduism, or my parents’ complete and detailed backstory.
(Speaking of my parents: did you know that my mom has always put the roll of toilet paper the wrong way? I’ve tried switching it to the Right Way but it always goes back. I don’t get why someone wants to reach an extra 3” to get some TP.)
This is where my other story comes in: I had a meeting with my critique group last week, so a solid week of the last month was writing a new draft (outline/summary) of the story. The focus this time was on agency for the teen characters, and trying to make clear who the main character was.
It was during this rewrite that I realized that I had a chronic problem of trying to start a story with waaaaay too much backstory & exposition instead of getting to the point. I finished the draft, got some really good feedback from my critique group and am well-prepped for the next draft (which will be written next month at the earliest).
But combined with what I learned from scrutinizing Gharib’s book, organizing the graphic memoir all of a sudden made a lot more sense: focus on the most important memories and experiences I’ve had and what I’ve learned from them. That’s it – no sections or chapters on India’s history, Hinduism, all the drunkards in the family, etc.
I am someone who happily gets bogged down in details that are not relevant to the heart of the story.
This is great, and I should have an improved outline in a couple of weeks. But it also sucks because all of the experiences – and I mean ALL of them – are negative or traumatic.
This is probably fine, no one watches reality tv for an infusion of happiness.
Taking a workshop with the Center for Cartoon Studies
Back in May I shared some good news: I’d won a BIPOC scholarship from the Center for Cartoon Studies in Vermont to take one of their summer workshops online. I decided on Creating Graphic Novels for the Young Adult Market, took off from work (almost completely) this past week, and had a wonderful, heart filling week of workshopping.
I’m sure that some people are happiest working on their own but I need to talk shop and commiserate with other creators. It’s cool to see the different ideas, processes, and methods that other creators bring to the table.
I want to spend more time online (and eventually in-person, when breathing in death is less prevalent) drawing and discussing comics with other creators. I do get this week my critique group but I guess talking shop is like a drug – it just whets the appetite for more.
(If you’re wondering which drug, ask Huey Lewis.)
(And enjoy that earworm.)
The workshop was led by Glynnis Fawkes and Jo Knowles, who did a brilliant job of nurturing a secure & welcoming environment that allowed us to all to be and share. A number of us were writing very personal stories and the support we gave each other, while critiquing, was beautiful.
The last day felt a bit like the end of the The Breakfast Club, where we all felt closer to each other and didn’t want to go our separate ways (except without the stereotypes, bullying, institutional power trips, misogyny, or sexual harassment).
(Basically without 90% of that movie. I really need to find a replacement for the ‘strangers become friends’ trope – PLEASE HIT ME UP WITH SUGGESTIONS.)
A big thing for me were the exercises and assignments – basically working on pages & spreads of a scene. My working methods have been improving over the past few months and a big problem I had was this need to work in a linear fashion. Working a on specific scenes felt like a breakthrough.
I’ve noticed that whenever I feel blocked that it almost always indicates a subsconscious understanding that something is not working. The best way to break the block is to try something different – rewrite/redraw a scene or a chapter. Or even rewrite the whole story starting at the top.
The only way to improve a work is to keep working on it and trying different things until it makes sense.
I watched Twilight (after never having read the book)
How I came up with my latest story idea
I haven’t been asked (yet) where I get my ideas but dammit – you’re getting the answer.
I happened to be perusing Instagram when I came across this post by the History of Punk Rock account:
Most of the comments were against this decidedly anti-punk ethos – but of course there were a few jackholes who believe this nonsense.
Posts like that always bring to mind Jessica’s quote at the top of this post (a quote I’ve used before for a similar IG post).
So I see the above IG post and Jessica’s quote starts kicking around my head.
Lately I’ve been focusing a LOT on improving the craft of writing. One of the things I wanted to explore was The Twilight Zone, for focused, effective narratives that hit hard without a lot of bluster.
And then the thought came to me: this gatekeeper would be the type to go back in time to kill the band he believed ruined punk. (Basically, ideas are just connections between the random crap that floats about in your head.)
And that was it – the idea for my next comic: The Ramones Must Die!
(I know, The Ramones are one of the seminal punk bands. You’ll have to read the comic to see why some jackhole thinks they need to die.)
What I’m reading
Louise Sprouse Stole My Heart (And I Have Two Hours To Get It Back) by Kyle Starks: I’ve waxed on before about my love for Kyle Starks’ stories. They’re action-packed and funny, with just the right amount of stupid (and by stupid I don’t mean ‘dumb,’ I mean silly fun). Last year for FCBD he asked his tweeps for title suggestions for a free comic and the result was the amazing Karate Prom. Same thing this year – click the link to download & read this brilliant story. It’s free but it’s worth chucking a few bucks his way.
The Ghoul Next Door by Cullen Bunn & Cat Farris: Cullen Bunn is one of my favorite writers (and I can’t believe I haven’t gushed about Harrow County yet). He’s soooo good at weaving creepy & compelling tales. When I saw that this book was released, I bought it without any further thought – and it was well worth it. The 12 year old creepy story lover in this house (that’s not me) looked at the cover, checked out the pictures, and then devoured it in one sitting – that’s how damn good it is. Now I just have to get off my ass and add it to my Recommended Reading.
How to Write Tales of Horror, Fantasy & Science Fiction (various): I joined Cullen’s membership site (ie the P-word) because he noted advice on writing. This book was his #1 recommendation for the craft of writing and it does not disappoint! Because it’s written by so many different authors with different points of view, not all of it is relevant – but when some wisdom hits, it hits hard. I originally got it from the library then discovered ThriftBooks which has a great selection of used books not sold by Amazon. Click the link to buy the hardcover for less than $5.
That’s all folks! Be sure to leave a comment below so I don’t feel like I’m talking into the void.