What It Is: How Drawing “Helped Me to Stay”

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“[Drawing] was a form of transportation. I did it because it helped me to stay by giving me somewhere else to go.” — Lynda Barry, What It Is

In high school my notebooks and paper bag-covered textbooks were a mess of my graffiti. I spent every non note- or test-taking moment drawing my personal doodles of frogs and bees, and creating never-ending, constantly dividing tendrils, using my collection of gel ens to draw them and then fill them with the vibrant, shiny color.

Focusing his never been my strong point; I have a mind that tends towards wandering. If I don’t want to lose track of where I am, something needs to anchor me. Writing I can focus on, but only that. For something like Biology class, I needed something to take up the part of my brain that tried to slip away. Drawing—sketching—doodling—that was perfect.

Sometimes, my reasonings for this were not understood, and I was called out on it. Once, in Math, I set to drawing an Orca on the front cover while some classmates spoke at the front of the room. My mistake was shading; the teacher heard the scuff of my pencil, and chastised me for being so rude and not paying attention. I put my pencil away, and had to focus on my classmates without looking at paper or moving my hands. She never did confirm whether I’d really been not listening.

Then, other times, it didn’t bother the teacher at all. I doodled on my folder while the Health teacher explained alcohol poisoning. Suddenly he turned to me and asked if I was listening. “Yes,” I said, without looking up, and repeated what he’d told us. “All right!” he responded, and continued on.

Recently I read Lynda Barry’s What It Is, part graphic novel, part collage, part memoir, part writing guide. The above quote gut-punched me as so weirdly but completely true. Drawing gives you somewhere to go—letting my mind wander, as it will—and helping me stay, letting me pay attention to everything going on around me. I was taken right back to high school, when I did the most drawing, now having words to describe something I always knew was true. I drew then to keep myself in that fantastic in-between place. I want to draw more now, so that I can find it again.

Recent To-Read Pile Additions: SciFi, Roller Derby, Serious, and Fun

I add books to my To-Read list faster than I can actually read books. I know at least half of what I want to read will go unread forever — but here are some that I’ve recently become interested in that I really, really hope I can get to someday.

Red Mars by Kim Stanley Robinson. I don’t know too much about this book, except it’s about humans colonizing Mars. Recently I’ve wanted to read more science fiction, and I’ve heard good things about this series from multiple sources. Plus, there’s apparently going to be a TV series of it in a couple of years, because everything is a TV series now (thanks, Game of Thrones, you started a trend!) so I better leap on that bandwagon before it gets too overloaded.

Mr. Lemoncello’s Library Olympics by Chris Grabenstein. I just read the first book, Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library, and I thought it was a fun book with good characters and really fun puzzles. (Probably helped that the puzzles made me think of Gravity Falls…sigh.) I want to stay on top of what’s pretty popular for kids books, too, and this is a quick read, so I hope to get through this one soon.

Roller Girl by Victoria Jamieson. A kid’s graphic novel about a girl who joins roller derby to get over losing touch with her best friend. This has been out for MONTHS, I have no excuse, I should have read this long ago.

The Memory of Light by Francisco X. Stork. This is a contemporary young adult novel about a girl who survives trying to commit suicide. I’ve read Stork’s other young adult book, Marcelo in the Real World, and I was floored by his complex characterization of Marcelo and the way that character grows by the end of the book. I’m so positive I’ll love this book, I’ll probably fall into a fit of rage if I don’t.

Will I get to these books? Probably, maybe, someday, we’ll see!

What’s on your list?

Books on My Fall To-Be-Read List

Once again I’m taking a topic from Top Ten Tuesday on The Broke and Bookish. This time, the books that I want to read this fall.

  • 20312458A Dance with Dragons by George R.R. Martin. I’ve been putting this off for a while, and I’m not even sure why. I think I’ve just been on a short book kick? And I never did finish rereading the whole series beforehand. (Thanks, Wikipedia!)
  • Walt Disney: The Triumph of the American Imagination by Neal Gabler. I’m currently reading this, but it’s danged long (though not as long as Dance) so this will take me a while to read this.
  • Seconds by Brian Lee O’Malley. I have it, it’s sitting on my shelf, I’m gonna read it this week, I swear.
  • Extras by Scott Westerfeld. I’ve also been putting this one off, because I loved Tally and she’s not the main character here, as far as I can tell from the description. But I want to hand the whole book stack over to other people to read, so I’ve got to finish the series first.
  • Tell Me Again How a Crush Should Feel by Sara Farizan. Not only did I go to Lesley with Sara but her first book, If You Could Be Mine, was truly excellent. I can’t wait until this one comes out in a couple of weeks.
  • The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson. I mentioned last week that I need to read more Sanderson. And I will. Perhaps on an upcoming plane trip…
  • Blue Lily, Lily Blue by Maggie Stiefvater. I also mentioned last week how much I want to read the next in her Raven Boys series. This also comes out in a couple of weeks. October is a good month this year.

Those are the books I plan to read this fall. will I get to all of them? Probably. Will I kick some out in favor of another one I decide I want to read more? Also probably. And obviously I’ll be filling in my months with more than that.

What books do you plan on reading this fall?

Graphic Novels: This One Summer, Say I Love You, and Seeing Red

I’ve been slack in my comic reading lately, which is weird for me. So, between the library and a couple of comic store trips, I’ve been trying to remedy that. Here are my thoughts on a few of the books I’ve been reading lately: This One Summer, Say I Love You, and Seeing Red.

This One Summer by Mariko Tamaki, art by Jillian Tamaki

Rose and her family are traveling to the lake this summer, like they do every year, and she’s excited to see her friend Windy, another girl a couple years younger than her. But this year things are different: her mother is depressed after failing to have another baby, her parents won’t stop fighting, and a local scandal involving a teenage girl wends it’s way through Rose’s life. All through that, she’s starting the horrible transition out of childhood.

Emotions run strong in This One Summer; Rose is bitter that her mother is so upset about not having another baby, as if she’s not enough, and this causes her to blame her mother, and all women, for the messes they get themselves and others into. As an objective adult I can see how bratty and selfish Rose is being, but I also understand that while it may be skewed this is the only way she can see to make sense of the problems around her. Her friendship with Windy get’s rocky, too, as Rose seems to force her way through growing up — taking out the scary movies to impress the boys at the general store — while Windy feels uncomfortable around the teenage boys and wants to keep making goofy jokes, even as it starts to annoy Rose. With constant tension between Rose and everyone else, and the intrigue of the local story, it’s a fast read even for a graphic novel, but Jillian’s illustrations made me pause again and again with the detail in things like the water or the trash at the teenagers’ firepit, or how she gets across whole scenes with their varying emotions often without the help of dialogue. A subtle, resonant character story that’s really everything I want out of comic. (This was a library book, but I may buy a copy for myself.)

Say I Love You Volumes 1 and 2 by Kanae Hazuki

Mei is a friendless loner, but then the handsome popular boy Yamato starts paying attention to her and things change. She gains friends, even rivals, and she starts to come out of her shell as she realizes that sometimes she can trust people and ask for help.

I’d heard great things about the anime, and also the story sounds so similar to Kimi ni Todoke, that I felt I had to check it out. The relationship certainly progresses much more quickly, as they kiss by the first chapter (it takes SO LONG for that to even start to happen in KnT). Mei’s quiet but still kind of standoffish attitude of course makes everyone hate her for being with the popular boy, and it doesn’t take long for a rival, in the form of the only girl Yamato slept with, to show up. I like the characters, and Mei’s ability to get people to understand how to interact with people (based on her experiences of everyone interacting badly with her) makes for a story that reaches beyond her own problems. But, I couldn’t get as invested as I would have hoped, partly because the story moves a little too fast. Also, Yamato, while generally sweet, is a little more forceful with Mei than I’m really comfortable with. I don’t think I’ll be compelled enough to keep up with this series.

Adventure Time: Seeing Red by Kate Leth, art by Zachary Sterling

Marceline forgot her bass at her dad’s house, so she goes back to the Nightosphere with Jake to endure a family reunion and get it back.

So, I love Adventure Time. And I love Marceline. Plus I already own the other books in this series featuring various lady characters, so I had to get this volume. Focusing on one of the bigger problems in Marcy’s life — her dad — she gets back home to find that her bass is gone, and that her dad actually stole it and sold it, sending her and Jake on a trail to get it back. Being in black in white, it’s missing all the bright candy-coated colors from the show, but the scenes are still detailed and full of varied character designs, including awesome frequent costume changes by Marceline. I like Sterling’s panel layouts, too, which are big enough to allow for the aforementioned detail and slow down the story enough to keep it from being too frenetic. The story gets a little cheeseball at the end (though that’s fine with me), with a touching scene between Marceline and her father showing that he may not understand his daughter’s motivations, but he still wants to try to make her happy. I also love the bonus story, in 4-koma style, of Lumpy Space Princess going on a quest for the hottest purse. Nice tough.

 

These are some of the comics I’ve been reading lately. Have you read any of these? What did you think? What other comics are you into right now?

Graphic Novel: Same Difference by Derek Kirk Kim

Same Difference by Derek Kirk KimGetting back on my kick of reading every graphic novel I can get through my library, I checked out a copy of Derek Kirk Kim’s story, Same Difference. The story focuses on Simon and Nancy, two friends who graduated from high school 7 years ago, but still find some of those same insecurities haunting them. Simon still regrets he lied to get out of going to a dance with his blind friend, while Nancy is obsessed with a guy who’s been sending letters and gifts to her address, trying to contact an old girlfriend who doesn’t live there anymore. When they realize that this mystery man lives in Simon’s hometown, the two set off to find him.

Same Difference follows the story thread of 20-somethings who may or may not be talented, but who also don’t know where to go in their lives; they’re stuck. This is something I’ve noticed in other graphic novels, like solanin, and while it tends to make me pretty uncomfortable, it’s also one of my favorite things to read. I have moments I look back on and feel like the worst person, and I’ve gone through what I see as an embarrassingly long stretch of feeling absolutely stuck in my life. But when I see other people, talented people like Derek Kirk Kim write about it and examine it, I get a combination of emotions: a little upset that there is no direct way to deal with these problems, and also immense relief, and even validation,  that I’m not the only person who goes through this, that it’s part of life and it’ okay.

I don’t know if it’s something that specifically affects my generation, but I think Kim nailed it with this book. So I’m just going to leave off with a quote from Simon from the final pages of the book:

And look at me. What have I done since high school? Nothing! What to I have? Nothing! I’m really scared that I’m still the exact same pathetic loser weaving juvenile lies those 7 years ago. Am I any different now? Have I matured at all? I really don’t know…

Yup.

New Manga Bookshelf Post: A Wrinkle in Time

Madeleine L'Engle's A Wrinkle in Time Graphic Novel Adaptation by Hope LarsonA number of events has messed up my writing schedule, but I’m getting back into the swing of things, starting with a new post in my Manga Bookshelf column, Comic Conversion. This time I looked at Hope Larson’s new adaptation of A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle. Basically I found that she did a wonderful job, giving me hope that these things will just keep getting better, and I won’t find myself scraping the bottom of the barrel to fill in article slots. Check out the above link to see my more specific thoughts and to leave a comment.

Manga: Yotsuba&! Volume 11, Witch & Wizard Volume 2

My manga reading hasn’t been picking up too much speed, but this week I was able to take a look at two more volumes fro Yen Press: one thing that I love, and one that I’m just indifferent to.

First was Yotsuba&!volume 11. When the new volume of Yotsuba&! shows up on my doorstep, I am filled with delight. There is no exciting action or important worldly or emotional problems being dealt with in this series, but I know when I see the cover with the little green-haired girl on it I’m going to read a story of pure fun. Without surprise, Yotsuba is up to the same childish goofiness in this volume. She watches a man make udon, tries pizza for the first time, and worries when a friend (her teddy bear Juralumin) has to undergo surgery after being chewed on by a dog. By far, my favorite episode is when Yotsuba’s nemesis, her father’s friend Yanda, comes to visit and proceeds to taunt Yotsuba as he brings out progressively cooler bubble toys that he says she’s too little to play with.  I don’t know how he’s managed it, but Azuma has taken a single concept — a hyperactive, dopey child having fun discovering simple things — and still manages to keep it strong and interesting through 11 volumes.

ISBN: 978031622597 • MSRP $11.99 • Released September 25, 2012

James Patterson and Svetlana Chmakova’s Witch & Wizard  invokes less delight. I took a look at volume 1 of this adaptation of a YA dystopian novel in my first installment of Comic Conversion on Manga Bookshelf, where I noted the quick, constant action that pulls you pretty easily through the story. But the story is so shallow, with the speed of the story also working against the comic. Important things happen one after the other, with little to no time to dwell on them. Betrayals take a couple of pages, allies are introduced then swept away, and months of capture fly by. What could have been an involved love story between Wisty and another teenager begins and ends so fast I actually forgot about it (as Wisty apparently did) until it was brought up again near the end of the book. The variety of magic is interesting, but it also feels like the creators just make something up whenever they need the characters to escape. And I still don’t understand the villain, “The One Who is the One”, with his motivations and desires changing with the wind. Again, one of the saving graces of this comic is Chmakova’s art, imbuing Whit, Wisty, and all the other characters with more depth and emotion than I think Patterson is capable of.

ISBN: 9780316119917 • MSRP $12.99 • Released June 26, 2012

Review copies were provided by Yen Press.

New Article on Manga Bookshelf, Comic Conversion: Pride and Prejudice

The other day the third article for my Manga Bookshelf column, Comic Conversion, was published. This time I took a look at the Marvel release of Pride and Prejudice. While this release isn’t the worst graphic novel adaptation I’ve seen, I found myself disappointed.

At the end of the column I make a call for ideas for future articles. I have a few more books I know I want to look at, but if anyone has an adaptation they love, or are interested in, I want to know.

New Review! Ayn Rand’s Anthem Graphic Novel

 

Anthem by Ayn Rand
Anthem Graphic Novel

 

It’s been a slow week for me. I managed to squeak out one review for Suite 101, the graphic novel adaptation of Anthem by Ayn Rand. I must be on Penguins list of graphic novel reviewers, since this getting sent my way was a surprise. A pleasant surprise, mind you, since I really enjoyed the book! I’ve never read anything by Ayn Rand before, so this was a nice introduction to her philosophy. Be sure to check out my review for all my thoughts.

I wrote a review of Very! Very! Sweet volume 7 for Mania.com; I sent it in this morning, so it should be on that website some time next week. I just have to review Very! Very! Sweet volume 8, and I’ll have (finally) finished my backlog of Mania books – so I can order more! Heh heh.

Treasure Island – Campfire Graphic Novel Review

Treasure Island

Got up my review of Treasure Island from Campfire Comics. The other two graphic novels I’ve reviewed from time were pretty good, but this one was quick and abrupt, which made the story uninteresting, and the art… well, the art was just bad. I’ll probably review Moby Dick from them next, at least the art looks really nice.