It’s now only three weeks until Mansfield and Me is officially published, and I thought I’d show some of my workings – the drawings I did to get to the drawings I made for my actual book. It was easy to write my own story, as I remembered it all (although of course memory is very unreliable!) For Katherine’s story, I had to do extensive research, and one of my favourite ways to get inside her head was by reading her letters and journals and then drawing pictures based on them. Part of this drawing is based on this letter.
Katherine manifests the food and weight anxiety that we imagine to belong to our era alone – she was a plump child, and her mother drew attention to the fact, and then she was obsessed with food thanks to her TB-related weight loss.
These drawings are all done quickly, with a bit of paint splashed on top of them, and messy handwriting. Can you read what she says in that last panel? “I don’t feel right unless I can play on my bones.” I always have this sense of loss doing a good copy – the first draft has a looseness and lack of self-consciousness that the final drawing never has. On the plus side, you can read my handwriting in the second draft – or at least I hope you can.
Oh, and this sequence never made it into my book! Comics take up so much room and I had to set aside a lot of material.
My graphic memoir, Mansfield and Me, is going to be published in October, and I am having a book launch! It’s at 6pm, Thursday 6 October, at Unity Books, Wellington. If you are a Facebook user, you can RSVP to the event over here.
I hope some of you can make it. I will even draw pictures in your copy of the book if you do! And of course, there will be wine and cheese, and Jonathan will play his ukulele, because it’s a tradition.
Before this year started, I imagined something entirely different for it. This was going to be my year of aimless creativity – I was going to set up an artist’s studio in my (leaky) garage, I was going to spend time in the garden and on my sewing machine. I was going to achieve a state of blissful zen, in tune with the universe, not racing to complete my next big project, instead hoping the perfect project would organically present itself thanks to my daily creative practice.
Of course – of course! – it didn’t turn out that way. I did lots of headless chickening about, finishing big projects. My Masters of Design. My graphic memoir. Various freelance jobs. I took on some more freelance jobs – a tutoring position at Massey, a social media role for a literary festival. I looked after my kids, I did the shopping, made the appointments – you know how it goes. In my downtime, rather than meditatively drawing in my journal, I tried to read the entire internet, and watch stuff on Netflix. I read some books, but not as many as I might have done if I didn’t have an OCD relationship with my phone.
Last night, in between trawling Twitter, I was reading Lynda Barry’s Syllabus. Do you know Lynda Barry? She is amazing. She takes a course, What It Is, about writing and drawing. I would love it if she came here to take it. You don’t have to draw to take it – in fact, she celebrates the spontaneous drawing that comes from students who haven’t tried to draw since primary school. As part of her homework, she makes her students write in their journals for four minutes. I thought I can do that. Four minutes takes the pressure off. The reason why I don’t journal is because I imagine that it takes too much time. That’s also the reason why I don’t draw regular comics anymore. But I think something wonderful happens when you do. All the little fragments add up to something – a narrative of your life, a net to catch all those encounters and observations that seem so profound at the time but then evaporate into nothing in your brain.
The other reason why I was reading Lynda Barry was because I have to take a workshop this weekend, in Auckland, with the incredible cartoonist Toby Morris. To be honest, I’d prefer to sit in the audience and be Toby’s student. Our workshop is called The political is personal: autobiographical and political comics. It’s part of a whole weekend of workshops about writing and publishing and trying to make it in the book world. I think it’s going to be amazing, and I’m looking forward to having a little micro-break away from my domestic reality.
I am reading Violet Beverly Cleary’s Ramona The Brave at the moment, for the second time – the first time I read it to her she was four, and hadn’t been to school yet. Ramona has a teacher who she feels doesn’t like her, who is always calm, who cares for order and numbers. Ramona would prefer her to be more emotive and creative. Violet worries a lot about her new teacher, even though it’s a whole four months before she will get one. The problem is I can’t control this situation – just like I can’t control so many. All I can say is that I had a teacher who didn’t much like me and then I had another one, who was a bit bored, and had a giant mole he revealed every time he perched on a desk and his walk shorts rode up. I remember some cool stuff I did with the grumpy teacher though – posters of Ulysses driving a stake into the Cyclops’ eye, making Danish open sandwiches. That was the year John Lennon was shot, and all the standard ones and twos sang ‘Imagine’ on the striped mat.
I was struck by Violet’s conviction that her teacher would take every single flower home, that she would place them on a windowsill, or perhaps put them in a room with all the other flowers, and when she opened the door they would avalanche out, already turned into potpourri.
Hey, it’s only a month until Mansfield and Me is published now – I shall try to blog more so you don’t forget about it! I got an advance copy – here are a few sneaky pictures.
I made a little zine to go with my ‘At The Bay’ one to sell at Auckland Zinefest this weekend (11 am-4 pm at the Auckland Art Gallery). I will give you a sneak preview of some pages:
It’s the same genre as Mansfield and Me – part biography, part memoir – except it’s only 16 pages long!
But of course I want you all to come and get a copy of ‘At The Bay’ as well!
Hey, did you know that I’ve been keeping this blog for over 6 years? I posted my second comic on the 6th of July, 2010. Otto was 7 and was still only allowed one hour of screen time a day, Gus was 4 and Violet was almost 1. Now Otto’s a teenager and I have to hide all the computer hardware in the house in order to get him to stop gaming. Back then I was writing a novel – The Fall of Light. Right now I’ve sent my graphic novel off to print and have not yet started a new project. Is a writer a writer when she is not writing?
Also, I am going to be in Auckland this Sunday for zinefest! I am going to bring up my ‘At The Bay’ comics to sell, along with some copies of Three Words and other stray comics. Come and say hello and buy some comics. It kicks off at 11am at the art gallery and goes until 4. Find out more here.
And that book I was talking about: it’s this one. I still have to read it. I hear it’s very funny.
When I was cleaning up in preparation for doing my tax return (oh joy!) I found a comic that I drew that I never posted. It fits in with my celebrity obsession theme:
… which is one of my recurring themes, as evidenced by my Mansfield and Me book:
I still love Miranda July, but sometimes I think it’s best that you don’t meet your personal heroes. You know so much more about them than they do about you, so the relationship is going to be off-balance. Not to say that I haven’t had some lovely encounters with writers in signing queues – it was so great meeting Jeffrey Eugenides, and Alison Bechdel, and David Mitchell said such encouraging words, and I’m nourishing my inner freak, in accordance with Junot Diaz’ inscription. I cringe when I think of my embarrassing fan letter delivered to Morrissey’s bodyguards. Mostly I think your imagined relationship is so much better than the real one is ever going to be, and it’s fun fantasising about this different world you might inhabit, that your heroes have so vividly evoked for you. I’ve really enjoyed hanging out in Mansfield’s world for the past couple of years, even though when I imagine her with me, she’s a bit disparaging.
Anyway – I’d better get back to my tax return. I’ve been a bit busy to post comics here lately, but I have made a few for the Academy of NZ Literature, as well as writing book reviews for The Spinoff. But I will post some more soon! And I will be at the Auckland zine fest on the 24th of July, so I’d better draw something for that.