Tag Archives: writing

Poetry Is in the Air

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Always searching for words to explain.

This is my friend Patricia Jabbeh Wesley, the Liberian-American poet, in the first panel. We went to graduate school together. She came to America as a refugee, one of a million people displaced by a war that killed 200,000. There were only like 2 million people in Liberia before the troubles. She knows something about how bad the world can get.

Most of my poet friends seem to write Facebook statuses that are also poetry, and when I saw this update, it felt like it had the same rhythm of some of my 4-panel comics, so I asked her if I could adapt it and she kindly said yes. I love the line, “If you ain’t start writing poetry this year, you might never.”

If you’re unfamiliar, panel 3 is Harry Carey, a popular sportscaster whose catchphrase was “holy cow,” and panel 4 is an iconic picture of activists Gloria Steinham and Dorothy Pitman Hughes illustrating solidarity.

Facts

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I only believe ideas that conform to my previously held beliefs, and those are sufficient facts for me.

Nuances of style, voice, and tone in writing can be difficult to understand even for students interested in writing, which is a very small subset among college students taking freshman composition. Almost everyone who likes writing tests out of this course, so you don’t expect much more than average ability from your students to start. But some people defy your expectations, like this kid. I swear, this is a true story. He told me he was writing like a stereo manual on purpose, because that was the only good way to write, and he wouldn’t alter his written voice, even though revisions accounted for a huge percentage of the semester grade.

That’s the nature of reality. One person can spend a five years studying the structure, detail, and and elements of language that place Lolita among the pantheon of the most wonderfully written novels ever written and still feel that they have much to learn on the subject of verbal expression, and this freshman can proclaim with equal or greater certainty the stereo manuals are objectively the best, most effective use of English. This guy gave up an easy A because considering my perspective would mean compromising his own powerful belief.

And that is how we get to a place where people can proclaim that anything that isn’t personally a problem for them, isn’t a problem for anyone, anywhere, period. When you’ve already decided the truth about the world, you can’t hear further information on any subject.

So I repeat. It’s pointless to argue after you realize that the person you’re arguing with is choosing not to evaluate information that contradicts their predetermine notions. All the facts in the world won’t persuade someone who’s already made up their mind.

Dragon Comics 152

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I don’t have proof that the pen is mightier than the sword, but I do know the pen is the only weapon I know how to wield proficiently.

There used to be this old joke about how writers, like squids, released vast clouds of ink when threatened, but, in the way of rotary phones and cursive handwriting, the idea that writing is linked to ink will fade from the collective conscious. Is there an animal that released warning flashes of light? Everything is pixels. Anyway, I’ve always done this, whether I felt that danger was imminent or not. Creation is a compulsion.

But I do feel threatened. The news reads like an episode of Black Mirror. And not the “San Junipero” one.

Ms. Kitty reminded me that making snarky webcomics is an action. Maybe not on the level of Nazi-punching, but better than rolling over and pulling the covers over my head. In fact, I’m not hiding anymore. By and large, I’m fully exposed. Kind of a risky strategy, but I feel like I can stick my neck out a little more if it seems to be helping others.

Be Funny

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Panel 4: Interrobang!

The pressure to accomplish something every day simply because someone else expects you to is a tremendous motivator. For years, the Fox and I emailed each other every day for “accountability.” We would share our word count, or number of pages edited, or queries submitted, like that. Definitely, there came days when I would have just skipped writing, except that it shamed me because he would know that I failed. So I wrote a lot more to keep from disappointing my friend.

Practically every night I think my ideas are good when I come up with them, OK as I create them, and terrible when I upload. Usually trolls don’t excoriate me. Maybe once or twice a year, although 137 upvotes/messages might be an exaggeration. Still, it’s enough to keep me going. Yesterday I was thinking about quitting. Today 7 people told me they hoped I didn’t. So, you know….

If you are among those who get something out of this work and don’t want me to quit, please consider making a small monthly donation to my Patreon. For the price of a cup of coffee a month, you could make a difference in the life of an artist. And to my 2 current Patreon patrons, thank you! You are appreciated.

 

Sleepover (More or Less)

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Obviously, I took a couple liberties with this one, but I think I caught the gist of it.

Well, that’s a wrap. There were a few moments when I didn’t think I’d make it, but I did: 16 comics in 4 weeks and 1 day, 6 panels for every one of the 16 stories in Mothers, Tell Your Daughters by Bonnie Jo Campbell. And now I can tell you that these comics will all be available in print, an actual physical comic book that you may have the good fortune of possessing if you happen to check out Bonnie Jo’s upcoming book tour this fall, and maybe if you attend the Tucson Festival of Books this spring, and perhaps some other places as well. It’s pretty exciting.

So, yeah, it’s more about me than about “Sleepover,” but I think, if you parse this comic the way I parsed the rest of the stories, you’ll see the connections. From the very beginning of this project, while trying to figure out where and how to begin, I knew that I would have to tell this story, and so the first piece in the book would have to come last, because who wants to read about Monica? Besides the people who apparently read these blog posts, I guess. Actually, more people read any of my individual blog posts than have read all of my novels put together.

Really, I don’t think I totally understood “Sleepover,” or Stu’s advice entirely until reaching the last panel. Although, don’t you just understand everything on an increasingly deeper level the older you get? Maybe in another decade it will all carry even greater meaning.

It seemed imperative to get Stu’s actual words and handwriting into this comic, which necessitated spending nearly an hour going through papers for this one particular paper, and even though I was kind of freaking out about the time as it happened, looking over some of this stuff was delightful. I had forgotten what excellent feedback both Stu and Bonnie Jo gave, voluminous critique. Stu covered almost an entire page with comments about “Changing Planes,” a story of fewer than 250 words. He wrote almost as much about the story as there was story, and it wasn’t even for class. He gave me an extra critique just because I asked. And Bonnie Jo headed my thesis committee, even though she wasn’t even employed by the university at the time.

I miss grad school. But the future might be even more fun.

Golden Snowflake Mandala

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I know it looks like I spilled coffee on this mandala, but I don’t drink coffee, so I can’t say what that stain is, but it’s probably not coffee.

I wrecked my hands pulling weeds this weekend, because I received a letter from Big Brother explaining that my property was in violation of local law, and if I did not pull weeds, the city was going to pull my weeds for me, and charge me for the privilege. It’s a pretty irritating system. For one thing, I don’t believe in weeds. A weed is a plant growing where a human doesn’t want it to grow, and I was perfectly happy to let those plants grow in my yard. The birds and lizards seemed to appreciate  my laissez-faire approach to landscaping, as did my cat. So, I could argue, there were no weeds on my property to begin with.

The other super-annoying this about this is that I still live in Arizona, and these plants only grow in the monsoon, and the monsoon is over, so in a couple weeks, they’ll all be dead anyway. But no dice. The city doesn’t care about the natural cycle of the land. Remove all weeds and grass within 10 days, or I would be abated. Abatement does not sound like something you want.

The third terrible part to this is that I need my hands to draw webcomics, and now they are covered in blisters and micro-abrasions. The blisters are pretty prominent. I only figured out about the micro-abrasions later, because I promised the kids lemonade after they helped me. And really, the kids aren’t that much help at all. But they drank most of the lemonade. And I got to figure out where exactly on each hand I had a tiny little cut.

Still, tomorrow is the last scheduled BJC comic, which I have been writing for a month now, and tomorrow is also the day that I write with the Fox, and also get a massage to help undo the ravages of time and the physical strain of drawing webcomics 25 hours a week, which doesn’t leave a lot of time left over for shilly-shallying.

Purple Classic Mandala

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Around and around and around it goes, and where it stops, nobody knows.

If I focus only on the good stuff, it’s hard not to be optimistic. Not only did I manage to convert 1/4 of Mothers, Tell Your Daughters into comic format in a single week, the comics were well-received in literary circles. Two professors told me that they intend to teach the comics with the book in the upcoming year, and Bonnie Jo is already talking to a printer about having the comic printed and bound as a comic book, to take on her paperback tour this fall. There are some other good things that could materialize from this, too.

Plus, just on the strength of the story of how I came to create these comics, another author who I greatly admire has stated that she wants to work with me to create a couple graphic versions of her stories for her next book. (Maybe I can name names when the project has a little more behind it than a single conversation, but it seems fairly likely that it will go forward. I suggested the writer scrutinize my work more closely to ensure that my style would jibe with theirs, and was told, “I feel this in my body,” i.e., she didn’t care what they looked like, she just knew she wanted to work with me.) There was a lot of synchronicity going on that day.

I had to tell the Rabbit that she was correct; putting The Hermit into the Kindle store was the right idea. In the fall, there will be  dead tree version, and it will most likely have quotes from several well-known and successful authors on the back cover.