Tag Archives: writing

Yonis in Academia

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As Dolly Parton once said, “Find out who you are and do it on purpose.”

The original plan was to write this comic before I tackled Women and Other Animals. The progression went: SSML put out the call for submissions, I joked that I considered myself the world’s foremost expert on Bonnie Jo Campbell, Bonnie Jo encouraged me to submit a abstract for the conference, after which I got accepted, after which she asked me to create this comic book. So the symposium was always waiting at the other end, and this story was always dancing in the background, but it took forever to get the script down; I couldn’t seem to focus on it until I’d gone through the stories. It’s still my introduction to the comic.

Another reason I wanted to draw this comic was because yonis were the only part of the human anatomy I didn’t draw in the course of illustrating the complete short fiction of Bonnie Jo Campbell.

I dug out the original “Yoni” essay, and, unlike a lot of my older work, this one seems to have aged pretty well. It’s a tight piece, although I’m much more conscious of trans-exclusionary language these days, so there are definitely parts that I would have tackled differently, and some of the things I wrote about my body 20 years ago are no longer the case since I turned 40. However, it was fun to research and write, and still fun to read.

I’m not sure if I was a redhead at the time of this story, but my hair does look great. Also, I realized after I laid out panel 1 that I didn’t have a laptop at the time. I didn’t have my first laptop until more than a year after this story happened, and it wasn’t a sleek little MacBook, it was an enormous, clunky ThinkPad. I drew something closer to the ThinkPad anyway, so we can all remember how ridiculously large computers used to be. Because the desktop CRT wouldn’t have fit in this comic.

The illustrated euphemisms in panel 1, clockwise from top left: honey pot, a pearl on the steps of the temple of Venus, phoenix nest, little man in a a boat, and of course, whenever possible, I do like to include my filthy little pussy in comics. Her name is Lupin. The little man in the boat is Peter Dinklage, because the world needs more Peter Dinklage. Obviously. “Phoenix nest” is sort of archaic and out of favor. When I Googled it, I didn’t get pictures of genitals or fiery bird nests. I got mostly pictures of people in fur suits.

The images in panel 2 came out of my files. When I gave this presentation, I blew them up and mounted them for visual aids. There was a big poster at one time, but I just found these little ones. It’s so great that I’m a packrat so I could recreate these original images as well as the hard copy I read that day. I tried to locate the video of the reading, but I’ve never had a copy and I don’t remember who shot it, so that was a bust. Not even a still photo. But the people who were there in the audience that day definitely remember.

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Crimes against a Tow Truck Driver

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All about being all about American Salvage

Bonnie Jo wrote this script and provided the pictures of the junkyard. She also wrote the following text:

Why Write Fiction?

Most of the stories in AS were all inspired by real life, but I ventured far from actual characters and events.

Sometimes we fictionalize a story in order to make more sense out of it

As Mark Twain’s Pudd’nhead Wilson said, “Truth is stranger than fiction, but it is because Fiction is obliged to stick to possibilities; Truth isn’t.

There are some stories that can be told ONLY in fiction. In “The Inventor, 1972,” I write a guy trying to rescue a girl he’s hit with his car, and while she’s lying there in the road, he has a fleeting thought of molesting her. No man who hoped to survive the night could dare admit to such a thought.

The Origins of Super Bon Bon

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I continue to not understand why a plain black dress costs as much as an F-350 stake-bed truck.

Bonnie Jo had the idea for a comic about the origins of American Salvage, and she sent me about 6 sentences, one per panel, and then we sort of bounced the script back and forth until it worked for both of us, so this is actually the first true collaboration we’ve done in 2 books. The other 31 (thirty-one!) comics I’ve written about her work didn’t really involve any direct communication or feedback during the process. So this was fun. I love memoir.

The dog in panel 5 was named Rebar, and he only had 3 legs. The picture of me in panel 6 is totally recycled from the last book. The donkey in panel 4 is the only donkey I drew for American Salvage, while Mothers, Tell Your Daughters is full of them. American Salvage, on the other hand, features many more drawings of blood and weapons.

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.