The Incredible Benefit of Writing In a Group

From Flickr User: Vancouverfilmschool

At Wildcat Comic Con, I gave a presentation called, “Know Thy Characters, Love Thy Villains: A beginner’s writing workshop.”

Check out the Slideshow in Powerpoint, or Download the PDF.

I’ve been giving writing workshops as much as possible lately because I love them.  If you’re in Williamsport and you want to take an incredibly inexpensive workshop with me at Pennsylvania College of Technology, click here.  I’m offering three that begin in about two weeks.

I always do group writing prompts in workshops.  In fact, the Know Thy Characters workshop was more prompt than presentation.  In my workshops at Penn College, we’ll do one prompt at every meeting.  The first ten minutes of class.  It gets us in the zone.

Last year, a lot of Big Thinkers were talking about how the workplace is trending more toward collaboration and socialization and how this is not good for certain types of creative introverts.  (Those links are gold, btw.  The first is to a NYT Column, the second to a very entertaining TED talk).   Penelope sees a lot of evidence of de-valuing the individual in Generation Y (of which my sisters are a solid part, and of which I am on the cusp–I was born in 1980.  Most of my behavior and the way I view the world is very Gen X.)

So I’m not here to tell you that you ALWAYS should write in a group.  No no no.

I will tell you that it’s probably almost always better to write alone.

But here’s what happens for me whenever I write in a group, or even with one other person, or even spend a few hours (not writing) surrounded by other creative people:

1. The gates between my inner and outer life are opened for a bit.

  • It’s really easy to get too lost in my own head, to forget that there’s a rest of the world, and to remember that my ideas are generally best when I let them out of my mental vacuum.

2. The energy of other creative people comes in through the gates.

  • I never get more breakthroughs in my thinking about my writing writing than when I’m writing in a group.  This is almost never a breakthrough in terms of phrase or diction, it’s an idea breakthrough.  For example, I’d been having trouble with a character in my book, Delta.  At Comic Con, when I was surrounded by creative people and taking part in this amazing buzz of enthusiasm and energy, Delta got an identity, or at least a skeleton of an identity.

3.  I surprise myself.

  • This is going to sound egomaniacal, but I surprise myself a lot in general.  I think that’s in large part because whenever I am alone, I am convinced that I’m an uncreative loser with nothing to contribute.  So whenever I have a great blog day or a big idea, I am surprised.  The ways in which I surprise myself whenever I write in a group are different.  I get these brilliant phrases and I think, “I don’t write that well.”  It’s attributable to the open gates thing, and to the fact that whenever I write in workshops, I do it with a pen on paper and not–where I do most of my writing–at the keyboard.

And Here’s What I’ve Noticed for my Students:

1.  They surprise themselves!

  • I’m using the Comic Con Workshop as an example because it’s the most recent, but this kind of stuff has always happened.  The writers who came to my workshop were all over the place in terms of their ages and writing achievements and ambitions.  I had very young students all the way up to adult students who were teachers themselves.  One guy found out that his villain wasn’t really a villain.  Another was surprised that her hero was more like a villain.

2.  They get more out of the workshop.

  • People are accustomed to getting droned at.  Sometimes, you can watch their brains shut off in their faces as they walk into a classroom.  Writing prompts, engaging in a creative process with other people, opens them up again.  Even if you only follow the prompt with one question, and that question is as lame as, “What did you think of that prompt?”, the students are re-engage and contribute more.  This engagement and contribution increases as the workshop proceeds.

3.  They get inspired.

  • The day I gave my workshop at WCC was my best weekend blog day to date.  Where I normally have 20 or fewer views on a weekend day I don’t post, Saturday of WCC I had almost 100.  People were looking for my workshop.  So that’s one action, but another–and one that I’m sure happened, and may still be happening–is that the folks had big ideas that have helped to propel their stories.  Some of them even told me that they never thought about loving their characters before, especially their villains, and they seemed jubilant about it.

So do you want to get inspired?  Come to my workshop.  The ones at Penn College will be a ton more involved than the one provided here, and I won’t be using Powerpoint (at least not all the time).

 

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Weeks To Geek: Impressions of Walter Koenig & Geek Culture

Walter Koenig is writing graphic novels these days.  His newest one, Things to Come # 2, is available on Amazon.

That’s why he was at the Wild Cat Comic Con, which was held this past weekend at Pennsylvania College of Technology.  You can read about my involvement with the con here and here and here.

I did not attend his presentation, which was about the graphic novels, but at the closing ceremony of the con, Koenig gave a Q&A and shared his short film with a public audience for the first time.

Here’s his head shot:

Walter Koenig Head Shot

I didn’t watch Star Trek much.  I saw a few episodes when I was a kid, but more The Next Generation,  than the original, and I enjoyed it well enough, but I couldn’t conjure a mental image when I heard that Koenig was going to be at the Con.  I consulted IMDb and checked out his website, and felt confident that I would have another 40 hours of media catch up to play in order to be equipped to comment adequately on his work.

So I offer the following as a Trekkie outsider.

My experience at WCC’s closing ceremony

Koenig is tiny and frail and he wears a big, black jacket.  He wears a black baseball cap.  Baseball caps always make people look like cartoon characters.  From my seat in the audience, I can’t tell if his coat is leather, but it looks heavy on his shoulders.  Maybe he is hunched with age.  That head shot makes him look at least a decade younger than he does in person.

Even though his physical presence is microscopic, he commands the stage with grace and humor.  His voice has the lilt of a person who had training in diction back when Hollywood cared about such things.

He shows us a short film he made called “Handball,” that is more self indulgent character sketch born out of grief than contribution to the film canon.

I think, “when you’re a guy who was part of a show that people now treat like a religion, you can do that,” and I feel like it’s okay.

The film deals with loss and haunting.  Maybe you know that Koenig lost a son too recently.  Anyone who’s lost a child, no matter how long ago, has done it too recently.

At the end of the film, “For Andrew” flashes across for a few seconds.

After the film, a man in the audience who is old enough to know better asks, “Is Andrew your son?”

Koenig’s discomfort is clear.

Later, the same man asks, “So was the film about your son?”

Koenig’s discomfort is clearer.

Later still, someone else asks a more intrepid question about the connection between the obvious theme of loss in the film and Koenig’s son.  Koenig says, at that point, something like, “You never get over losing a child.  Sometimes you try to think about something else, you have to.”

I am embarrassed for the people who are asking questions in the audience.  With only two exceptions, the questions are masturbatory and showy and designed by the askers to indicate how much privileged understanding they have of Star Trek and what they imagine to be true about Koenig as a person, instead of his character, Anton Checkov.

They seem to be folks who fail to understand the difference between fiction and nonfiction, reality and make believe.

They insist on asking him about multiple science fiction movies, even though he clearly doesn’t know what they’re talking about.  He says his favorite film last year was Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris, which makes me so happy.

The aesthetic in his short film is realism.

He is clearly bewildered by the audience’s insistence that he is like them.  Or maybe I project my own bewilderment, it must be something he’s used to.

I can’t help but pity him for his fifty-year career that’s besotted by fans who fail to recognize the difference between a character and the actor who plays him.  I think about that funny, but smart movie, Nurse Betty.

And I pity the geeks, too:  The people who believe that he’s something more than a regular guy, an artist, who lives in a posh house in California somewhere, who has more money than most people, and who also happened to play a beloved role on a beloved show which became another show which became another show which became some movies and a bunch of toys and stuff.*

I am relieved for him when the time is up, when Koenig can go sit in his first-class airplane seat and warm himself with a cup of tea and think about himself and the world and be sad.

He deserves to be sad.  But he is motoring forth.  His website is abuzz with projects and ideas.  He even has a blog.

If only more of us regular people could be like Walter Koenig the man, instead of dressing up like his character on Star Trek.

*It begs mentioning that not a single person asked a single question about his more recent Babylon 5.

No Mo Weeks to Geek: Today is the first day

So I’m keeping it short this morning so I can have breakfast and enough coffee a pot of coffee in time to register & get my but and my spy pen in seat so as to hear all the groovy stuff I want to hear. Conveniently, it’s all in the same room, and the stuff I’m most intensely interested in is happening this morning, which is also lucky since I’ve got to interview a musician at 3:30.

Thanks for joining me on this voyage of Geekery, and look for more to come ’till next year’s Wildcat Comic Con.

Here’s a really funny picture that none of the news outlets who ran stories were interested in, and I think it is appropriate to introduce you all to Shableski, the guy who organized (with boundless energy and unbelievable connections) this event & has been my tutor in geekery insofar as lending me books and getting me moving in a direction.

That's Shableski there, begging for his life, and those are Storm Troopers of the Garrison Carida 501st Legion. Photo used with permission & taken by Penn College of Technology Staff.

As I interviewed the presenters, I heard a whole bunch of really great Shableski stories.  I’m looking forward to seeing some first hand.

And of course, next week, I’ll weigh in on the good stuff I learned at the Con, and tell you all about Zombie Train, which I’m hoping to talk Fella into attending tonight.  Tomorrow is my stuff (the panel I’m moderating & my presentation).

One Week to Geek: The Walking Dead

This is the source link: http://www.fanpop.com/spots/the-walking-dead/images/17116731/title/walking-dead-comic-wallpaper. I think it is fan art? It's pretty righteous, though.

The thing I am most excited about at Wildcat Comic Con, besides meeting all the cool people I’ve been talking to over the past several months (and trying to sell stories about), is the Zombie panel I’m moderating.

The subtitle for our panel started out as something like, “A semi-serious conversation about Zombie Apocalypse.”  The suggestions for questions were mostly about positing hypothetical apocalyptic scenarios and analyzing the morality/ethical issues.

Trouble is, somewhere along the line, the panel presentation scored professional development credit for educators, and two of the panelists are educators themselves, so we decided the panel had to be a little more than “semi-serious.” So instead, I get to ask three incredibly smart people about zombie art & literature that has stretched or defined the boundaries of zombie representations since like 1960 (even earlier, but that bit of it is a secret).

I am most excited about the movie, Pontypool.  If you haven’t seen it, do.  Prior to Pontypool, the Zombie movies I’d seen were Night of the Living Dead, Shaun of the Dead, and The Serpent and the Rainbow.

Today I started my Zombie Lit Binge with none other than The Walking Dead.  I read the first and second volumes of the graphic novel series, and I have watched the full first season of the AMC show.  I’ve written about it here.

Next up is World War Z, and I will finally read 1that Lovecraft Story (ugh), and anything else I can get my hands on that the panelists will recommend.  I have some scholarly journal article titles from them, and I’m pretty sure I’ll get more excited the more I read.

The Comic is not bad…

**Style Side Note:  See what I did there with that ellipsis?  That’s the right way to use an ellipsis, to intentionally suspend gratification for the reader, or to signify halted speech in dialogue**

Listen, I’m new to graphic texts.  Maybe I’m getting it wrong, or my snobbery is carrying over or something.  But Here’s what I think about the graphic novel series based on the first two issues:

Compelling characters, pretty poorly written (in terms of literary chops), and a riveting, endlessly developable premise.  I dig how it brings brass tacks of post-zombie-apocalypse life to bear.

And listen, I get it about how writing a comic book is more like writing a script than writing a novel, and about how the comics market calls for non-pretentious dialogue, and I also get it about accessibility.

But something that bugs me all the time is when writers overuse bold and italics to help me hear the characters in my head.  I’m a reader.  I will hear the characters in my head regardless of how the writer does, and if I hear them differently, then their italics and bolds will be totally distracting, and totally unnecessary, and for me–totally off-putting.

In The Walking Dead series of comics, the written emphasis is totally overdone.

Besides that, they over-tell me stuff.  The real finesse of doing a graphic text is not over-writing, and not over-illustrating.  The two halves of the thing must be symbiotic, and they must guide me, but they mustn’t bash me over the head.  Here’s an example from the text:

Should be obvious how it’s over-written, but let’s just say this:  On the page before, we see these well-clad, healthy people approaching our group.  We already saw (in the last book) Rick and Shane wind up in fisticuffs, and not re-telling that story here wouldn’t do anything detrimental to the story in Vol 2.  Also, readers who begin a serial somewhere other than Vol. 1 expect to have to deal with some story swiss cheese, you know?

Also, about the art?  I liked the art in the first one more than the art in the second one.  The first volume is drawn by Tony Moore, the second by Charlie Adlard.  I was disappointed as a reader by the non-continuity. While there were aspects of the second edition’s art that were darker, more intense, I was kind of thrown off by the slightly different faces of the characters, the differently rendered facial hair.  Even the characters behaved differently.  For example, in the first book, Donna’s kind of a judgy jerk, in the second, she’s sweet and round and everbody’s sad when she dies.

Here’s rick from Vol 1 and Vol 2:

Walking Dead Vol 1's Rick
Walking Dead Vol 2's Rick

The TV Show is Fun

I think the thing that gets me is how Andrew Lincoln so beautifully disguises his British accent to put on that podunk one.

But I also think that the characters’ intensities translate really well to the TV medium, and that the show has made some pretty excellent choices about the plot of the book.  For example, In the graphic novel series, Alan is a more sympathetic character than Donna, but in the TV show, it’s Alan who’s a jerk (an abusive one) and who gets killed.

In all, I think that The Walking Dead–both TV and book–buck the focus-on-the-final-hours schtick of most Zombie stuff.  I think that after cultural Zombie Mania dies out (will it?), perhaps people’s interest in The Walking Dead will, too, because it will certainly become (more than it already is) a Soap Opera with Zombies.  Which will be cool for the final episode… I mean, Zombies really don’t require an inciting incident to descend and feed.

What Will Become of Weeks to Geek posts?

I don’t know yet.  I’d love your input.  I have lately considered starting the week after the Con with 51 Weeks to Geek and reading a graphic novel every week until next year.  There are certainly plenty to read, we probably have half that many here in our house, and some I’ve become extremely interested in as I’ve done these interviews: Maus, Persepolis.

I’d basically review the graphic novel and talk about whatever else it makes me think about or how it correlates with my life…

Anybody say yea or nay?  Other ideas?

Two Weeks to Geek: Librarians are Comics Heroes!

Used with Permission from John Shableski

Don’t forget to register online a tHttp://wildcatcomiccon.pct.edu.  Only a few days left to take advantage of the March Madness sale!

Yesterday, I wrote about resources for writers.  I was thinking specifically about online resources, but as I thought through the post for today, I realized that omitting mention of libraries as a resource is a woeful and egregious error.

Libraries–which would not be except for librarians–are usually free, are convenient to almost every community, and even the smallest, least well funded libraries contain books on all manner of topics, both mainstream and obscure.  And oh yeah, it’s the future so they also have the internet.

As I’ve done the research and interviews for WCC, librarians have emerged as champions of literature.  Of course they are, it’s just, I never thought of them that way.  Shame on me.

Indeed, librarians at Madigan Library at Penn College of Technology have been instrumental in organizing WCC and supporting the efforts to bring the event to fruition.

I am embarrassed to admit that whenever I did think of librarians–which I didn’t do too often–my mind conjured a tangle of anger and annoyance, for during my youth (except for Mrs. Bressler, the elementary school librarian), librarians were stern-faced humans who went about shushing.

In my pre-WCC life, librarians were not what I now know them to be, and that is brilliant people who love all kinds of books.  They are  heroes for the graphic text, an integral bit of the infrastructure for so much comics scholarship and fandom.

The thing that thrilled me most about the librarians with whom I spoke–and this may be a quirk of comics-interested librarians, though I doubt it–is how very wide open their minds are about books. They seem to believe that all texts are worthwhile, and if they need to learn 100% of everything about a particular type of unsung text, they will.  Gladly.

The Librarians

Kat Kan, editor of Graphic Novels and Comic Books, said,

“I like to tell people I’m a reading omnivore.  I started reading at age four, but I was also reading comic strips at the same time.  I think the two very much go hand in hand.”

I also spoke with Columbia University Librarian, Karen Green, who just last weekend, ran Columbia’s Comic New York:  A Symposium, which has only three presenters in common with WCC (Herself, Dean Haspiel, and Tracy White).
Of her own event, Karen said,

“As for how it went: wow.  I’m still riding the rush of adrenaline.  I knew that it was going to be great, but I had no idea just how great.  Every moderator, every panelist, gave 110%.  It was interesting and informative and entertaining.”

Karen writes a column at ComiXology, and in this link, you may read about how it happened that Columbia began to collect comics for circulation.

Her story is a common one, and has been a theme that I’ve heard as I’ve done these interviews.  Librarian says to self, “we should get more comics.”  Takes idea to those in charge while shaking in proverbial boots.  Those in charge say, “Of course we should.  We are embarrassed that it’s taken us so long.”

There is a certain amount of academic snobbery toward comics.  Everybody knows it.  So comics emerge as a thing to be championed.  But in recent history–I’d say since about 2003 or so–it’s more about people’s fear of the antagonism than an actual and widely held belief that comics do not hold hold literary, cultural, historical, or canonical value.

In fact, quite the opposite seems to be true, where many (though certainly not all, and probably not the most powerful) librarians have been secreting away with comics since their childhoods and believe ardently in their value as both entertainment and education.

The trouble is, since intellect is the academic’s capital, it takes a certain amount of bravery, and a certain willingness to potentially commit career suicide to come out as a comics lover.

Think I’m being dramatic about that career suicide thing?  Don’t.  Not all, certainly not even most scholars in universities can be outright nasty and bloodthirsty and utterly closed off from anything unfamiliar or not classical.  Similar to how one queer cross of a petty boss can land a person in the unemployment line.  The same BS and stereotypes exist in academia, they just have bigger vocabularies.

Robin Brenner, who’s the teen librarian at Brookline Library in Massachusetts (which is right next to Boston) said,

“I think comics have become mainstream enough that they’re now kind of everywhere.  Especially for the youngest readers.  They are big comics fans.  They read everything else, though, and don’t differentiate.  Adults are different.  If they grew up with comics, they continue to be what we think of as comics fans.  They go to comic book stores, they sort of keep the fan boy alive.”

She chuckled as she said that last bit, the thing about fan boys.

But I think another reason that comics have remained a lesser-respected medium over the years is that the fan boys kind of prize their own otherness.  There are innumerable representations in film, television and literature of greasy teen boys huddled around a comic book, wearing capes and talking in funny voices.  Of pining after the skinny beautiful girl while drawing or writing their own comics, furiously, and role playing on weekends.  It’s become a badge of honor.

Still, comics are earning an ever-increasing number of spots on shelves in libraries.

But according to John Meier, who is a librarian at Penn State’s University Park campus, and who established the Lynd Ward prize  in 2011, and who was talking specifically about a very specialized sort of comic that explores sciences at all educational levels (though there are similar concerns for fictional graphic texts, as well),

“Not only are they hard to track down, but what do you do with them? Do you put a science comic in the science library?  Do you put it with the other comics? I hope no one proposes this, but a lot of times they’re stuck with the children’s or juvenile collection with the educational books.”

And then there’s the regional anime champion, Jim VanFleet, a librarian at Bucknell who gave a marvelous email interview and said,

I have watched anime rise from obscurity in the United States and “fandom” to become a legitimate subject for academic study, with courses  being taught at universities, and the publication of  journals   and books   of critical analysis.  My own web page   focuses on this critical reception and academic study of anime.  I’ve worked hard, with the help of the Bucknell Anime Club, to build a good representative collection of anime and manga for an academic library, and the supporting books and journals to allow students and faculty to “engage” with anime as a subject.

So as there’s more than corn in Indiana, there’re more than creators at Wildcat Comic Con.  And from personal experience, the panels and presentations by these librarians will be at least as entertaining as anything the creators will dish out.
Besides which, Comics and Graphic texts’ most important ally and champion is the library and, most importantly, the librarians within it.

Three Weeks to Geek: Beddor & Mendheim, Worlds & Games

Used with permission from WCC

The thing that got me intrigued by this Comic Con in the first place–and the thing that got me to pull my head out of my ass and realize that the project is revolutionary, and it just happens to be coming alive in this relatively small, conservative town in which I live–was when John Shableski (the guy who’s in charge of WCC, and who has boundless drive, energy, and knows everybody who’s somehow touching the comics industry) sent me the preliminary schedule for the con when we were first discussing my involvement.

I expected a smallish program full of mostly local people talking about how much they love comics and wish Stan Lee was coming to Williamsport.

That assumption kind of touches on my prior ignorance of all things Comic, and in some ways, I feel I got a new brain through all of this: one with a better understanding of what comics have become, and why they’re important.  Yes, important.  Like canonical literature important, my literary friends.

But the program in one of its earliest iterations was equal parts comics and scholarship.  There was everything from people talking about comics they wrote or drew to panels discussing social concerns, circulation, and very few local people.

And the thing that continues to impress me about the scope of Shableski’s vision is that he is drawing attention to connections between comics and text, comics and film, and comics and video games that are not blatant.

As someone who has only lived in Williamsport a short time, I can say this, probably not without some backlash (steels self against comments):

There’s a general antagonism toward outsiders here.  Williamsport is a town that would rather celebrate local talent than acknowledge that–while we do have a disproportionate amount of it here–it could be complemented and edified by the big, bad, outside world.

This has made bringing the WCC to fruition a tricky task, and has required all of us who will take part to become proselytizers.

And the folks who are coming are as varied as the stories they tell, but they have two common characteristics: enthusiasm and vision.

I talked to two of the presenters this week, and I’m sharing tidbits from my conversations with them because they represent two very distinct pieces of this comics-as-new-media world.

Hatter M Book Cover, used with permission
Nature of Wonder Cover, Used with Permission

Frank Beddor is author of a series of novels called Looking Glass Wars that became a series of graphic novels called Hatter M.  These are an alternative version of Lewis Carroll’s Victorian classic, Alice in Wonderland.  And though I’ve only read Hatter M of the graphic novel series, I can tell you with certitude that the stories are dark and engaging and thoroughly imagined.

Here’s a clip from our phone interview:

Michael Mendheim is a video game producer who has been working in the video games industry since the 80s.

He says his favorite ever was this one:

Michael Mendheim's Mutant League Football, used with permission

And here is a tiny excerpt of our interview:

Me:  Has doing a graphic novel always been your dream?  If it has, how did you wind up finally doing one.

Michael Mendheim: Yes, I’ve always loved comics and thought the Four Horsemen concept would be perfect for a graphic novel. The Four Horsemen video game was in development with a small team at the 3DO Company. We were developing the game and a comicbook series (which Simon Bisley was illustrating).

3DO endured financial hardship when the tech bubble burst and they filed for bankruptcy. Rather than let the property die, I purchased it out of bankruptcy – it took about 18 months for the property to clear but once it did, I owned it free and clear and immediately  called Simon Bisley and told him we were getting the band back together.

Four Horsemen Cover, Used with Permission

Once Again, you really shouldn’t miss this thing, even if you have only a cursory interest in comics, or if you’re a teacher, or if you like books, or if you just like to listen to cool and/or smart people talk about stuff they’re into.

Four Weeks to Geek: Press & Creators

Used with Permission from John Shableski

I was going to save my second Weeks to Geek post for tomorrow, give you good folks a day off.  But tomorrow, I think I’ll wax poetic about being a late-bloomer where gym membership and physical fitness are concerned.

So this post will be two things.  First, It’ll give you spots to watch for additional press about the Con.  I’ll post more as they arise, and on the WCC Facebook Page.  Second, it’ll give you images and a quotation from some of the creators I’ve had the honor to interview so far.

Wildcat Comic Con Print Press Spots to be on the lookout for:

Webb Weekly: Early April
The Williamsport Guardian: Late March/Early April
Williamsport Sun-Gazette: March 22, and April 9, plus David Small Q&A Last Week
The Daily Item:  Soon

Creators

As I gathered these quotations, I was struck–as it seems I am at least a dozen times a week–by what an amazing event this Comic Con is going to be.  Following is just a smattering of the creators who’re coming to WCC, but each of these folks has an utterly unique perspective, and will add greater diversification to the already revolutionary discussion of comics that WCC has been designed around.

Anybody who’s close enough to Williamsport to come down for this would be a plain fool not to show up.  Register and buy your tickets now at http://wildcatcomiccon.pct.edu.

‘yuumei

“I’ve had that account since I was twelve.  It’s not like I woke up one day and everybody knew my art, but [becoming internet famous] was still nice.”

Tracy White

My book was not therapy.  I’d already had therapy.” Read How I Made It To Eighteen

“I’m a story teller first and foremost.  I like to tell stories with words and images.  That’s the way I like to communicate my ideas.  When I first started making comics, I only made them online.  I started making comics in Graduate School.”

“in 1996, Netscape 1.0, I started thinking about how to put comics online.”

Dave Elliott

“Talking about the comics industry is a little like being the subverted  wise man that’s touching up the Elephant’s ass, not realizing that’s not the trunk.  It’s a much larger industry than people think.”

“Educational Comics Publishing is in a new place.  I’m old enough to remember twenty years ago when they made a push to get comics into the class room, and there was a lot of resistance.  Now educators are like, ‘if I can put something in front of a kid that makes him want to read, that is a good thing.'”

Dean Haspiel

“It started with desire, like with anything else.  Like when you dig something.  I grew up with comics.  I would go across the street to the news stand, when there were still news stands…They were my stories, my soap operas, for lack of a better term.”

“Harvey Pekar’s American Splendor that proved to me that you didn’t have to draw a company’s character–a Franchise Characters–you could write and draw and create your own characters and tell your own stories.”

Barry Lyga

“I wrote some comic books back in the ’90s, some very small press, nothing anybody would’ve heard of.  I grew up at the comic book stand, and I always wanted to write comics, but it’s a very different discipline, a very different set of skills than people think.”

“Colleen is Colleen Doren.  She is the artist on my graphic novel, Manga Man, which is the title that had John bring me to the Comic Con.”

Sari Wilson

“I’d have to say I’m kind of a proselytizer for comics in my consulting—in including them with all the other range of reading materials that can be used to teach literature and reading. Too often I hear comics referred to as material for “reluctant readers” and sometimes that can be true if the reader is a visual learner, but from my perspective comics are often a sophisticated and demanding literary form. My goal as an educational consultant is to empower teachers and administrators to become familiar and comfortable with the form that it can be used along with and side by side prose texts.”

Josh Neufeld

“I’m just very engaged with comics about real life. I always get a little thrill when I see comics — a medium so closely identified in our country with escapism and fantasy — that deal with the real world and real issues. My fascination with this end of the comics universe began with Art Spiegelman’s MAUS, was stoked by Harvey Pekar’s AMERICAN SPLENDOR, enthralled by Joe Sacco’s many works of comics journalism, and captivated by great comics memoirists like Alison Bechdel, Marjane Satrapi, and Howard Cruse. I think the medium has so much power to engage with real-life topics, and there are endless amounts of such stories still to be told.”