While I wait for editors to reply to my narrative non-fiction submissions, I grow impatient and want to post these writings on this blog. Some teasers like Shuffling through the ruins of a summer and Ma Rainey, don’t sing them blues no more were released. One astute reader provoked this post: Yes, it is true. But on the advice of published writers, I can’t post much more without jeopardizing publication. So, I wait. Keep writing. And reading. This weekend one blogger reminded me of OctPoWriMo–31 poems/31 days. This seems to me like a good exercise to do while I wait on editors.
In this scene, the main character stands on a busy sidewalk beside a slender tree. He looks down at the scattered ruins of a summer of expectations. “How should I have prepared for this?” he asks himself. “What do I do now?” He feels relief and that surprises him. This is a new beginning. A fresh start. Unlimited opportunities. However, this is also the first time in his adult life he is unemployed. And without an automobile. Adjusting the strap of his laptop attache, he walks up Lexington Avenue to catch a bus. The feeling of relief is quickly replaced with a deep, consuming despair. In this scene, the crowds of tourists walking down College Street talk loudly and trample the gathering leaves under their shoes as the main character weaves his way toward Pritchard Park. He doesn’t hear them, only hears the sound of his own boots on the sidewalk and wonders where will he be a year from now.
There’s a story behind this image that wants to be told. It’s a reminder that seasons and people transition. Loyalty tested against the panes of transparency. Everything goes sideways when turning the corner and down the street of uncertainty, when faith and doubt pressed up against a steamy autumn window and all they see is loss. It’s a story still worrying the line. Still blue enough, blue enough, still bluer than Ma Rainey singing “Bo Weevil Blues.” It’s a story where the clarinet sweeps back and forth, sweeps low and easy, sweeps in a song looking for a place to stay, sweeps in a song saying “don’t sing them blues no more…” Don’t tell me ’bout the job you lost. Don’t tell me ’bout your broken down car. Ma Rainey, Ma Rainey, “don’t sing them blues no more…”
A very observant reader and friend asked of this week’s post: “Is this story related to the teases from other photos?” Yes, they are all teasers for scenes from a narrative non-fiction book I’m writing. Some of the chapters have either been sent or are in the process of being sent to journals and magazines for publication. I am waiting on editors at this phase in the process.
For those who missed it, here’s the sequence so far: There is a story behind this photo, What hides behind this foggy morning photograph?, Sisyphus tears down the mountain in a Chevy, and this week’s There’s a story… about double red doors….
It has been awhile since mentioning a comic strip I’ve written and illustrated. The Indie has published the series since December. It is called Strange Familiar Place and features a magazine A & E editor (at least in the first two strips) and the main character Hudson Stillwater, a graphic designer.
Strange Familiar Place also features Heather (Hudson’s wife) and presents a slice-of-life drama of living and working (and losing a job) in a cultural creative urban mountain city (or at least a city that looks a lot like Asheville).
Beginning in mid to late April, Strange Familiar Place will be illustrated by someone else. I’ll still be the principal writer, but I hired an illustrator that I am confident will present the visual narrative with a higher quality of art.
The Indie features part one of my creative non-fiction comic, Strange Familiar Place, this month. It has been a year of trying to find a place courageous enough to take the risk on a no-name amateur artist.
So I am excited and disappointed at the same time. Excited because it is finally printed. Disappointed because the publisher enlarged the art almost double the size. This may not be a big deal for most of you, but fellow artists (especially those lacking confidence) realize enlarging one’s artwork reveals all the naked mistakes. Nothing worse than being naked in a December issue.
The Indie is available at: Malaprops, True Blue Arts, Pack Library, Woolworth Walk, Rosetta’s Kitchen, Mellow Mushroom, Hannah Flannagan’s, Fine Arts Theater, Early Girl Eatery, Port City Java, Burgermeisters, Lucky Otter, West End Bakery and many other locations.
The publisher received the first installment of my creative non-fiction comic this week. It has been almost a year since a posted about a creative non-fiction comic I’ve been illustrating and writing. Previous posts on creative non-fiction comics:     
It appears the one the inspirations for my work now has a blog (which isn’t bad) but he posted this: “In the old days i’d have made a one-page … but today we squander our narratives in a blog.”
What a pisser.
The first installment is due to hit the streets in December and the medium is horribly dated. Another source of inspiration has a blog as well but hasn’t updated since 2003. However, Vertigo released a five-issue miniseries by him that began in September.
Maybe it’s not as bad as Drawn considered.
A while back, I mentioned that the first installment of my creative non-fiction comic is complete and pending publication. The first installment is titled “Higgins: Inside the Box.” Last weekend I completed half of the second installment (four strips or roughly 12 panels) which is the conclusion to the story arch, “Higgins: Inside the Box.” Then I began scripting a 5-part comic strip for a third installment which features a story line about this event. There isn’t an official title to this one. However, “Higgins: Outside the Box” seems like a logical progression.
Last Tuesday was the SECNCS meeting and fellow artists encouraged me regarding my inking techniques and suggested some tips on lettering comic strips. One artist, who is regularly featured in the Rapid River magazine, recommended that dialogue text be all caps and narrative text be upper and lower case. The recommendation is already being implemented beginning with the second installment.
This endeavor of combining illustration and creative non-fiction, have inspired me to study the poet William Blake. The illuminated text is not a new media; many ancient manuscripts were illuminated. For example, The Book of Kells is famously known for its illuminated text. Years ago, I studied under a calligrapher who taught me the secret of the Celtic knot work and spirals represented in the Book of Kells. The discipline of the knot-work has served me well, though not in my recent illustrations.
But William Blake illuminated his own poems and printed his own collections with the help of his wife. It helped that he was trained as an engraver and went on to apply his trade for book and magazine publishers. Being an innovator in his own right, he applied his trade to illuminate and print his own literature. Like William Blake, I studied graphic design (the modern day digital engravers if you will) and know how to produce books and magazines for clients. I wonder what William Blake would think of creative non-fiction comics?
The first installment is done. I’m a little bit nervous about sending it to the editor.
A couple months ago I began exploring the idea of literary comics; more specifically creative non-fiction comics.
I began sketching a 14-panel demo story and showed the drawings to some other cartoonists at a monthly meeting. The narrative non-fiction comic strip was modestly received and they encouraged me on some drawing techniques.
Casually inspired by Harvey Pekar’s American Splendor, Jessica Abel’s Radio: An Illustrated Guide and Eddie Campbell’s Alec McGarry, I began work on a narrative non-fiction comic strip storyline in five parts. Each strip, four panels, needed to be enough of a story to encourage a reader to come back next week. This would make it ideal for a weekly publication. The long term goal is weekly syndication (hah, stop laughing–everyone has dreams). The short term goal is a self-contained 5-page story.
The editor and publisher of a zine, Bitter Black Coffee, requested I put together this 5-page comic for an upcoming issue. In fact, the 14-panel demo story featured our intial meeting. So, this is a bit of a test run to see if I can complete something I started. We’ve been discussing this for over two months.
My personal goal (not the editor’s) was to have all 20-panels drawn, lettered and inked by Thanksgiving. However, personal crisis, illness and a full time day job prevented me from meeting that deadline. So, I adapted and gave myself three more weeks. The week before Christmas all 20-panels (plus a few bonus ones) were completed and scanned and ready to send. Only one hitch (actually two)–I didn’t have a name for the strip. Then I upgraded my laptop to Tiger and somehow lost the files I needed to email the editor. The naming of the comic strip still didn’t come to me. The muse must be on vacation or holiday or something. Maybe she has the stomach flu like I had last week.
During the Christmas holiday I found myself flipping through a copy of Alec: How To Be An Artist and I thought of a working title. I told myself it was too simple and too silly, but I went with it. I haven’t thought of anything else ingenious so the strip will be submitted with a working title. Maybe that’s the whole Malcolm Gladwell thing about snap judgments and split-second decisions.
Last night I got the files ready to email. Tomorrow I submit the self-contained 5-page story to the editor and publisher of Bitter Black Coffee.