6 Years

This Wednesday marks 6 years since my mom died.  For the last couple years, I’ve made a comic in order to recognize the day.  This time, a comic didn’t come out.  Instead, what emerged is a poem.  It’s an ekphrastic poem, though, so I’d like to think it in some way is tapping into the medium of comics.  What I’ve noted, too, is that this poem is in a much different place than the previous two comics have been.  The nightmares that usually spring up for me this time of year have been few and far between—or maybe they just don’t impact me the same way anymore?  I’m not sure.  I do miss her—but the pain has faded quite a bit.

Here is my poem:

The Animals

Hanging on the wall

of the hallway

that led to the waiting room

of the treatment center

at the City of Hope

was a painting filled with wild animals.

 

That waiting room

scared you

made you nervous

made you nauseous.

 

Those others waiting

weren’t like you—

you said.

 

So you waited there

in the hallway

facing that painting

til the door opened and a voice said your name

(the nurses knew where to find you).

 

And over the weeks and months that you waited

you memorized the placements and gestures

of each of those animals—

leopard sitting, monkey scratching, toucan perching, rhino bored.

 

All those wild animals unnaturally piled together eased you

and from their strange, colorful, cacophonous world

they waited with you

in artificial calm.

The last month: highlights

The last month has been a whirlwind.  Here is my attempt to capture some of the many many highlights (with photos!):

On June 13th, I got to present at Laydeez do Comics!  I'm a huge fan of LDC and their mission and it was a great privilege and honor to be invited to speak at the Chicago franchise.  The event was held at Quimby's, which you should definitely make a point to visit.  Photo credit Liz Mason.

What started the whole excursion off was a presentation, on June 13th, at Laydeez do Comics! I’m a huge fan of LDC and their mission and it was a great privilege and honor to be invited to speak at the Chicago franchise. The event was held at Quimby’s, which you should definitely make a point to visit. Photo credit Liz Mason.

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While in Chicago, I was hosted by good friends MK (Comic Nurse) and Cindy and their sweet and beautiful Wheaten Terrier Alice Bea. One night, we stayed in their home in Michigan, which is just yards from the Lake. I grew up on this lake (on the other side, in Wisconsin) and so I was thrilled to be able to spend time on it. Thanks for being such lovely, thoughtful hosts and friends!

Another highlight from Chicago was attending and tabling at CAKE (Chicago Alternative Comics Expo).  I'm finding that one of my favorite aspects of tabling is connecting with other comics artists and friends.  Several folks made the trek from Seattle (including the very talented Eroyn Franklin, Tim Miller, Tom Van Deusen, Darin Schuler, and James Stanton).  I had the chance to re-connect, too, with Kenan Rubenstein (his "Last Train to Old Town" inspired many aspects of "Roots") and Tyrell Cannon (eager to read his new comic "Victus").  And was so exited to have Dave Kelly and Lara Antal as table neighbors.

Another highlight from Chicago was attending and tabling at CAKE (Chicago Alternative Comics Expo). I’m finding that one of my favorite aspects of tabling is connecting with other comics artists and friends. Several folks made the trek from Seattle (including the very talented Eroyn Franklin, Tim Miller, Tom Van Deusen, Darin Schuler, and James Stanton). I had the chance to re-connect, too, with Kenan Rubenstein (his “Last Train to Old Town” inspired many aspects of “Roots”) and Tyrell Cannon (eager to read his new comic “Victus”). And it was such a pleasure to have Dave Kelly and Lara Antal as table neighbors.

Next stop was London for the Narrative Medicine conference.  One of the highlights for me at the conference was David Small's craft talk.  Among the many stories he shared was one about sending his manuscript in boxes with stitches embroidered into them.  Yes, there was swooning!  It was great to be back in London—seeing old friends and making new ones.  One of my favorite pit stops on this visit was a pub called The Ship.  Garden seating with a heated gazebo!  Minimal weird looks.  Close to hotel!

Next stop was London for the Narrative Medicine conference, where I presented a paper on panic disorder comics on a panel focusing on Graphic Medicine.  The panel also featured Ian Williams, MK, and Linda Raphael (felt very lucky to be part of this group).  One of the highlights for me at the conference was David Small’s craft talk. Among the many stories he shared was one about sending out his Stitches manuscript in boxes with stitches embroidered into them. There was swooning! It was great to be back in London—seeing old friends and making new ones. One of my favorite pit stops on this visit was a pub called The Ship. Garden seating. Friendly vibe. Close to the hotel!

From London, MK and I traveled to Lincolnshire where we stayed with Nicola Streeten and John Plowman in the derelict Methodist chapel that they renovated into their gorgeous home.  It was so nice to get out of the bustle and noise of London and step into the, um, bustle and noise of an all-day birthday party for Nicola (50), her husband John (60), and a friend of theirs (40).  Their were dogs in costumes and 8,000 cakes and a walk through the countryside and much much laughter.  Thank you for hosting us, Nicola.  Such a great weekend!

From London, MK and I traveled to Lincolnshire where we stayed with Nicola Streeten (co-founder of Laydeez do Comics with Sarah Lightman) and her husband, artist John Plowman, in the derelict Methodist chapel that they renovated into their gorgeous home. It was so nice to get out of the bustle and noise of London and step into the, um, bustle and noise of an all-day birthday party for Nicola (50), John (60), and a friend of theirs (40)! There were dogs in costumes and 8,000 cakes and much much laughter. Thank you for hosting us, Nicola and John. Such a great weekend!

The next day, we traveled by rail with Nicola to Glasgow to attend the International Comics Conference (Nicola and Sarah were presenting papers). I wouldn't call this train journey a highlight necessarily, but it was definitely memorable.  There were missed trains and stolen bags and songs about storms in the distance.  Despite a lot of mishaps on the train journeys (including a sprained ankle for me in Manchester--ouuuuch!), one of my favorite parts of the trip was looking out at the moving snapshots provided by the train windows.  I'm in the process of making a comic about it based on the actual snapshots I took.  :-)

The next day, we traveled by rail with Nicola to Glasgow to attend the International Comics Conference (Nicola and Sarah were presenting papers). I wouldn’t call this train journey a highlight necessarily, but it was definitely memorable. There were missed trains and stolen bags and bad made-up songs about storms in the distance. Despite a lot of mishaps on our train journeys (including a sprained ankle for me in Manchester–ouuuuch!), one of my favorite parts of the trip as a whole was looking out at the moving snapshots provided by the train windows. I’m in the process of making a small comic about it based on the actual snapshots I took. :-)

I'd like very much to go back to Scotland some day.  I haven't been very successful at turning conference-related trips to visits where I can actually enjoy and take in the place.  Glasgow was lovely—so so friendly.  But I'd like to go back for a longer period without having a conference to attend!  I give that preamble in order to share that the highlight of the Glasgow portion of the trip had nothing to do with Glasgow!  On the 26th of June, MK and I sat in a restaurant awaiting to hear the Supreme Court decisions relevant to marriage equality.  MK nervously texted with Cindy as we drank prosecco in anticipation of the rulings.  And it happened and there were tears and giddiness.  And I took this photo of the people next to us who had no idea about why the Americans were ordering yet MORE prosecco.

I’d like very much to go back to Scotland some day. I haven’t been very successful at turning conference-related trips to visits where I can actually enjoy and take in the place. But Glasgow was lovely—so so friendly—and I’d definitely like to go back for a longer period.  I give that preamble in order to share that one of the highlights of the Glasgow portion of the trip had nothing to do with Glasgow! On the 26th of June, MK and I sat in a restaurant awaiting to hear the Supreme Court decisions relevant to marriage equality. MK nervously texted with Cindy as we drank prosecco in anticipation of the rulings. And it happened and there were tears and giddiness. I took this photo of the people next to us who had no idea about why the Americans were ordering yet MORE prosecco.

It was also so great to spend time with Nicola and Sarah—incredible and inspiring artists and scholars.  In addition to presenting at the conference, they hosted the inaugural session of Laydeez do Comics, Glasgow.  A fun evening.

It was also so great to spend time with Nicola and Sarah—incredible and inspiring artists and scholars. In addition to presenting at the conference, they hosted the inaugural session of Laydeez do Comics, Glasgow. A fun evening.  Highlight was the short film Sarah screened from her project.

The next stop was Manchester, where we allowed ourselves the chance to rest in a hotel (after staying in the dorms in Glasgow, this was a real treat).  One highlight here was a delicious ale in the Northern Quarter—and the cheap curry afterwards.  We also visited the John Rylands library, which has a ridiculous archive of very very old books.  The pillars in the library are meant to look like trees.  Swoon!  Much of what we saw is owing to Ian Williams, who makes Manchester him home.  Thanks, Ian, for the tour of your city!

The next stop was Manchester, where we allowed ourselves the chance to rest in a hotel (after staying in the dorms in Glasgow, this was a real treat). One highlight here was a delicious ale in the Northern Quarter—and the cheap curry afterwards. We also visited the John Rylands library, which has a ridiculous archive of very very old books. The pillars in the library are meant to look like trees. Swoon! Much of what we saw is owing to Ian Williams, who makes Manchester his home. Thank you, Ian, for the tour of your city!

Next, we took the train to Bristol where we visited Katie Green and Paula Knight.  There are so many highlights from this portion of the trip, but very few photos (so here is the cream tea we had during a day trip to Bath!).  Mostly, the time was spent catching up with good friends.  I also had the chance to read an advanced copy of Katie's new graphic memoir, Lighter Than My Shadow (out from Jonathan Cape in October).  I was (still am) blown away by it—its story and its art.  I've had many discussions about the lack of empowering coming-of-age stories for girls.  Katie manages to move eight steps ahead of that question by dismantling what we expect and need from such stories in the first place.  Instead, she gives us an honest, heartbreaking, but very real account of her experiences through her teens and, in doing so, offers an incredibly identifiable, sympathetic, complex, and powerful portrayal.  Read it!

Next, we took the train to Bristol where we visited Katie Green and Paula Knight. There are so many highlights from this portion of the trip, but (owing to my sprained ankle) very few photos (here is the cream tea we had during a day trip to Bath!).  Mostly, the time was spent catching up with good friends. I also had the chance to read an advance copy of Katie’s new graphic memoir, Lighter Than My Shadow (out from Jonathan Cape in October). I was (still am) blown away by it—its story and its art. I’ve had many discussions about the lack of empowering coming-of-age stories for girls. Katie manages to move eight steps ahead of that issue by dismantling what we expect and need from such stories in the first place. Instead, she gives us an honest, heartbreaking, but very real account of her experiences through her teens and, in doing so, offers an incredibly identifiable, sympathetic, complex, and powerful portrayal. Read it!

From Bristol we traveled to Brighton for the 2013 Comics and Medicine conference.  As this post has already grown far too long with highlights (are you really still reading?), please stay tuned for the next:  COMICS AND MEDICINE 2013!

This week

Just had a great time tabling at Olympia Comics Festival yesterday.  OCF was the first fest I tabled at (last year), and so it holds a special place for me.  The organizers (Chelser Baker, Casey Bruce, and Frank Hussey) of this community-driven and -oriented fest put their hearts into the planning and the day and it shows.  For me, the best part of the festival has been the chance it provides to meet and reconnect with area artists/friends.  There are some ridiculous talents in the Pacific Northwest—Seattle, Portland, Olympia, Bellingham.  It feels energizing to be around them—and I feel lucky to be a part of this community.  Here is some of the stash I came away with:

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Featuring Chelsea Baker, Intruder Comics, David Lasky, Reid Psaltis, Joel Skavdahl, Kelly Froh, Eroyn Franklin, Tom Van Deusen/Poochie Press, and Robyn Jordan.

Next up!  I leave for Chicago on Thursday!!  That evening (June 13th), I’ll be presenting at Laydeez do Comics Chicago, hosted at Quimby’s (amazing comics bookstore—of the kid-in-a-candy-store variety).  The festivities begin at 7 p.m.

Over the weekend (June 15th and 16th), I’ll be tabling at CAKE (Chicago Alternative Comics Expo)!  If you’re around, please come say hi.  I’ll be at Table 57—with a copy of this new book (big thanks to Mandolin Brassaw for being on the binding assembly line): 

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I’m very excited to be back in Chicago.  Thank you to MK, Cindy, and pup-Alice for hosting me.

From there, it’s off to the UK for more adventures …

Done!

Except for the printing and binding, I am done with the 20-page excerpt!  Here is the inside cover:

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The process of completing this excerpt was unusual.  I had a vague idea of what I wanted to include in Tree Girl’s tale, but I was clueless in terms of how the narrative would unfold.  Because of my time constraints, I needed to find a way past my writer’s block.  I decided to take the six or so empty pages that I had left to write and simply (simply?? pah!) began drawing panels and images—allowing the pictures to dictate the story rather than having a specific dialogue or narration in mind (though, again, I had a vague set of ideas in my head and some notes here and there).

imageFrom there, I began considering the words.  I spread all twenty pages  (some still blank) on the floor and was able to see better what the narrative as a whole looked like and where there were gaps that I needed to fill.  I re-wrote and re-drew plenty—and sometimes moved certain dialogue pieces to different panels.

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I ended up switching a couple of the pages around, too, to make for smoother transitions between the drawn pages and the collaged ones.  Hopefully it all makes sense!  I am eager to print and bind it.

To close, here is what one of the unfinished hybrid pages looks like:

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King Yeti: Night Watchman

I’ll be at CAKE (Chicago Alternative Comics Expo) this June and am hoping to complete a 20-page book(ish) that will share Tree Girl’s origin story in time for it.  Here is the mostly completed last page (I have 19 before it that are still in progress … ) featuring Kind Yeti placing the moon in the sky.  After it, you’ll see some process images.  Hope you enjoy!  And, if you’re in or around Chicago on June 15th and/or 16th, please come see me!  More on summer plans coming soon …

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Template:

imageTree triangles:

image (3)Tree scraps:

image (2)Background:

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Woolf

I’ve almost finished assembling the cast of characters that Tree Girl will encounter in the woods:  Woolf (seen below), King Yeti, Lumbering Jack, and a few others.  Woolf is not a big bad wolf, but, as the “wool” of his name may suggest, a sheep in wolf’s clothing (probably people think more of Virginia Woolf …).  Make no mistake; sheepish as he is on the inside, he does pose a threat.

Here he is, with TG, in process:

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Tree Girl completed (the “non” on her neck was coincidental, but perhaps is fitting): 
P1000556Body.  The grey comes from a photograph that accompanied an article about North Korea.

P1000555  Tracing paper for the arms and tail:P1000557Coming together:

P1000558And here is an exercise in the importance of eyebrows.  Without a telling eyebrow, Woolf looks like an eager puppy!P1000560With the addition of the eyebrow, he’s turned sinister.  I like how well the lowercase L worked.
P1000561  Finished piece:

P1000562And now I’m off to prepare stuff for printing.  I’ll be tabling at Stumptown at the end of the month!  Excited.

Storyboarding

About a year before she died, my mom went through the boxes and boxes of photos we had collected over the years and began organizing them into photo albums.  She made one album in particular for me.  It collects photos from throughout my childhood—though now and again you’ll find a random photo of her alone as well.  She captioned each one—names, dates, locations, etc. (though what information she chose to include is not consistent—and some of the years listed, I think, are incorrect).

These photos and handwritten captions are the basis of the section I’m working on right now.  At the good suggestion of Paula Knight, I’ve decided to slow down my process.  I’ve been struggling with completing pages and then not being quite happy with what the “finished” page looks like (a panel will seem to be missing—or an image will read differently than it did in my head).  Although I do take notes and have sketched the images before beginning “construction” of a page, these templates aren’t as elaborate as they could be.  Paula suggested that before moving to the art (which is time-consuming and so a little heartbreaking when a page doesn’t hold together right), it might be a good idea to storyboard big “chunks” of the narrative.  I agree.  Too, I think I’m at the stage where I need to see what the “big picture” will look like.

And so today I worked on some of the transition pages—pages that will connect the tree girl narrative to the “conversations with my mother” narrative—that are based upon the photos and captions included in the album my mom had made for me.   I’m not mimicking her handwriting as well as I’d like to—reminds me a little bit of how I not-so-successfully attempted to write notes in her handwriting in order to get out of P.E. class when I was in the sixth grade (I was totally busted!!!).  But these are just storyboards and I may go through at a later stage and scan the actual captions and add her writing to the images digitally.  There is something haunting about seeing the words that she wrote (a couple weeks before her death, she sat with me and, with pen in shaky hand, relabeled all of her pill bottles).  Her handwriting is very curvy and swoopy—kind of like the line that I’m using to represent her.

Here are a few of the sketches.  Still working on the lines and the writing—and I’m planning on cutting the frames out of craft paper to create a layered effect.

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Morphing

Here is a page from a section I’ve been working on which, for now, I’m calling “morphine”—a section that will recount some of the uglier moments from the night my mom died.

Wishing I could have a month to devote to nothing but writing and storyboarding.  As it is, finding an hour here and there has been, well, not ideal  It’s been taking me about a month to produce a scant number of pages.  When they’re done, I look at them and think, “That’s not right.”  That’s not true for all of them, of course.  And the whole story is coming together  in my head so much more clearly than just a couple months ago.  Still, I need to find a way to devote more time to it.  I want what’s in my head to be on the page!!  It’ll happen.

Plus, exciting things afoot.  A new issue of Ivy coming soon.  AND I’ll be going to CAKE in June!