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Write--or edit!--the book you want to read
In 2017, I was a writer who felt like I had tricked a few editors into publishing my text+image experiments and collages. I kept waiting for someone to say, “Haha, nice try, you can’t do that.” Sometimes the imagined emphasis was on the “you” as in: YOU can’t do that. Other times it was more like: you can’t do THAT. Either way, I felt like it was only a matter of time until I would be informed that what I was making was obviously neither art nor writing, and/or called out for as the impostor I was.
But I also have a bit of a reputation for being incorrigible:
So I kept making these weird works, but I didn’t know what to call them—visual stories? collage narratives? sequential art? There were no panels or speech bubbles, so I was pretty sure I wasn’t making comics. I wasn’t using ink on bristol board like I’d read you were supposed to use for comics. I painted pages of my journal in gouache then typed words on my typewriter and glued them onto the page, or added words digitally once I figured out how.
Meanwhile, as a professor at Indiana University South Bend, I was teaching courses on what I called “Narrative Collage” where students created stories and chapbooks combining text and image. They created comics, collages, erasures, and all sorts of delights, and I longed for a book I could assign that would offer examples of the range of works they were making.
I also wanted a book for myself, one where I could go deeper, learning more about the possibilities of creating comics and graphic narratives. I’d found a number of books about making comics, but, as I’ve said, I wasn’t sure that comics was what I was making. I sought out information about literary collage, but most of it didn’t include images, just postmodern pastiches of text. I wanted a book where comics and visual poetry and literary collage and mixed-media narratives and erasures and altered archival documents and graphic memoirs and novels were all between the same covers.
By 2017, I’d published two books with Rose Metal Press, Liliane’s Balcony: A Novella of Fallingwater and The Bitter Life of Božena Němcová (which includes some of my collage art). And for years I’d been regularly reading and teaching from The Rose Metal Press Field Guides: to Writing Flash Fiction, Prose Poetry, and Writing Flash Nonfiction. At some point, I thought: I wish Rose Metal Press had a field guide to graphic literature. These are just the kind of thoughts that get you into trouble because, if you’re like me, the next thing you know, you’re the one creating the thing you want.
Rose Metal Press had an open submissions period coming up. I knew how badly I wanted this book and that I needed to be the one to pitch it. I also knew that I would need help. I have a Ph.D. in literature and am a professor of creative writing, so I was familiar with the literary and academic worlds, but I was not as familiar with the DIY-comics world.
That’s when I found Tom Hart, who has been a teacher and inspiration to so many. After attending a week-long workshop at his Sequential Artists Workshop in Gainesville, I asked/begged/pleaded with him to be my co-editor in a book proposal. He didn’t know me well. I was one of hundreds, perhaps thousands, of students who had passed through his school. But his passion for graphic literature and for teaching and for all fellow creators got the best of him, and he said yes. I’m thankful for that yes every day.
Together, we came to Rose Metal Press with the outline and pitch for the book, and, thankfully, they said yes as well. Together we found 28 contributors whose work exemplifies the exciting possibilities of graphic literature and who generously share their process and craft. Together with the contributors and press, we made the book that we wanted to read, and that we know will inform, instruct, and inspire.
And after SIX years in the making, it was officially published this week!
[Note: Parts of this post were lifted from my Introduction to the Field Guide!]
Publishers Weekly: “a dazzling showcase of short academic essays designed to get artists and educators jazzed about the “hybrid form” of comics.”
Booklist: Starred Review! ⭐️
NewPages: “To say my mind was blown when I first thumbed through this collection would be an understatement.”
Autobiographix: “[T]his book isn’t like other “how to’s” or comic guides you may have experienced before–it is a work that truly champions and explores the possibilities of comics when they are paired with other genres and movements, like poetry, surrealism, eco-writing, schematics, taxonomies, and more.”
Also, I hate to brag, but our contributors made the BEST PLAYLIST for the book at Largehearted Boy!
Where to find it
FRIDAY, July 28 - Gainesville, Florida
Book Release Party for The Rose Metal Press Field Guide to Graphic Literature at the Sequential Artists Workshop at 6:00 pm, featuring co-editor Tom Hart. Free and open to the public with books for sale by Third House Books.
The Sequential Artists Workshop
1314 S. Main Street, #2
WEDNESDAY, August 2 - Virtual Event
A virtual panel conversation with editors and contributors to The Rose Metal Press Field Guide to Graphic Literature at 7:30 pm EDT on Zoom. Hosted by SAW and with book sales by Third House Books, this round-table event features co-editors Kelcey Ervick and Tom Hart and contributors Arwen Donahue, Lauren Haldeman, Zeke Peña, Lawrence Sutin, Naoko Fujimoto, Josh Neufeld, Marnie Galloway, Sharon Lee De La Cruz, and Nick Potter. Free and open to the public.
THURSDAY, August 17 - Evanston, IL
The Chicagoland Book Release Party for The Rose Metal Press Field Guide to Graphic Literature at Bookends and Beginnings at 6:00 pm, featuring co-editor Kelcey Ervick and contributors Naoko Fujimoto, Scott Roberts, Marnie Galloway, and Lauren Haldeman. Free and open to the public.
Bookends and Beginnings
1620 Orrington Ave.
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