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Working update (May)

Wednesday, 22 May, 2013

A quick post about work-related thingies.

Comic Gong

I went to Comic Gong on Saturday and it was a lot of fun! The program looked amazing and very family friendly—anime screenings, circus performers, comic drawing workshops, how to make a shield, costume competitions in various age groups (and the kid dressed as Predator looked absolutely amazing!), and of course, the Artists' Alley, which is where I was.

All set up! #ComicGong
The crowd at #comicgong today.
Also, inflatable remote controlled dalek! #comicgong cc @tanaudel

I gave out stacks of postcards, had good conversations with people who stopped by, and managed to sell out of every copy of Kinds of Blue I'd brought with me. Other highlights included meeting lurking Sydney Comics Guild members and other Aussie comic creators—in particular, Pat Grant, creator of Blue, who went on to win an Aurealis Award for best illustrated book/graphic novel that very night.

The whole day worked wonderfully well—particularly as I'd asked the family to come with me, so Ben was entertaining Astrid during the three hours the con was on, and then the three of us had a very nice lunch looking out over Wollongong Northbeach afterwards before driving home with a very tired toddler in the back.

MCA Zine Fair

Next up this Sunday is the Museum of Contemporary Art Zine Fair, which is happening in association with the Sydney Writers Festival. That goes from 11am to 4pm. I'll be tabling with the lovely Paul Caggegi, creator of the sci-fi adventure comic Pandeia. Here he is at Comic Gong:

The amazing @pandeiacomic!

I don't have many print copies of Kinds of Blue left! So I am definitely looking into the costs of reprinting—but probably not on such a big scale. I'm going to need copies for Supanova in June, otherwise I'm going to look like a dork, just handing out postcards. (I have waaaaaay too many postcards!)

Sydney Comics Guild

Speaking of the Sydney Comics Guild, I'm taking the workshop for June, which is tentatively titled, “What I wish I knew about making art in my 20s”. It's an amalgamation of some of the things I've been writing about on this blog. Come along if you're free! And interested. Or just like to hear me ramble in person instead of in text.

M&M Vanity Project

Hmm, looks like I never blogged about this! I wrote it in 2011 and sent it off, but nothing came of it (hence the word “vanity” in its title). But then a couple of weeks ago, things started happening with it. I don't think I can say much more about it at the moment, though—other than it's not as vain as I thought it would be. Also, it has nothing to do with M&Ms.

Graphic novel

What I can talk about, however, is the graphic novel script (that is, what I have been referring to on Twitter as the #OGNSpaceOpera). In my last working update, I said I'd finished the first draft of the script. When I did that, I started trying to find an artist to work with. And once I had found one, we put together a collaboration agreement (which took a while as I've never done anything like that before and I had to learn a lot of legal things pretty quickly, and if you're interested, pages 51-57 of Business and Legal Forms for Authors and Self Publishers by Tad Crawford has a very useful negotiation checklist [though I had to look up what a lot of the things meant] and the St Louis Volunteer Lawyers and Accountants for the Arts have a nice sample collaboration agreement, and taken together, both are a good starting point). And then we both signed it.

So now I am most pleased to announce that the supremely talented Paul Wong-Pan and I will be working together again and I couldn't be more excited! You can see more of his wonderful artwork on his DeviantArt page and follow him on Twitter. That's him on the far left of the back row at the Kinds of Blue launch: (photo care of Bec)

Most of the Kinds of Blue crew

Paul and I worked together on the second story in Kinds of Blue“The real you”, which was about depression in a marriage. Funny story: Ben actually met Paul at a charity screening of Serenity a number of years ago and happened to mention to him that I was working on a graphic novel (and yes, it was this particular graphic novel; I just took a very long time to actually do anything about it). I finally met Paul at his graduating exhibition at TAFE, where he had been studying illustration. Then a number of years later, I enlisted his help to finish off a comic I'd been working on with Dan Gilmore, who was the artist on the third comic in Kinds of Blue: “Toward the waves”. That comic was “Going home”: Dan did pencils, Paul did inks and I wrote the script. I think it's the first comic I've ever written. Certainly it's the first one I've ever collaborated on.

The idea for the graphic novel came about in 2001. I wrote about it here. But I dithered on it for years because I couldn't figure out how to make it work—in the production and publishing sense. My brain is a little obtuse that way: unless I can figure out the practical logistical things of how to make things happen, working on them feels like an exercise in futility. The stumbling block for me when it came to graphic novels (and I don't mean to use the term in a highbrow sense because I know a lot of people are sensitive about that because the word “comics” has been associated with lowbrow trivial things, whereas calling them “graphic novels” seems to make them so much more palatable; I use the term more in the sense of “a longer [novel-length] piece of work in comics form”)—sorry, the stumbling for me when it came to graphic novels was the expense and effort associated with getting them made given that I am just a writer. I can't draw, which means collaborating with an artist, and the amount of time an artist would have to spend working on a project of this length would be quite insane—especially as he or she would be doing pretty much everything: pencils, inks, colours and lettering. Comics are expensive. I confess I wondered whether it was worth it. I wondered whether I was better off writing the entire thing in prose.

Two things helped me shift my thinking. Firstly, Jordan D White, editor at Marvel (who, for some reason, I was following on Twitter, which is quite funny because I don't even read Marvel comics [well, apart from the current run of Young Avengers, but that's more because, as you probably know by now, I'm a Kieron Gillen/Jamie McKelvie nut] Guh! Got lost in the brackets again)—firstly, Jordan D White started up a Formspring account and, in a fit of madness or desperation, I asked him a question:

If you're a writer, is it foolish to keep on working on a graphic novel-length project when there is little chance of it ever being published? Should you give up on the comics medium and switch to prose?

To which he replied,

If you want to make comics, it is not foolish to make comics. Lots of people have self-published, or done small press work.

But if you're writing a graphic novel*, you need an artist. And that is going to mean finding someone else who is willing to work for nothing, and split the small (if any) profits for the sake of the work. So, it's really difficult to get something like that off the ground. I would recommend speaking to/reading interviews with people who have done original GNs for their first/early works to see what it is like. It will be a hard road, but if you do good work, who knows what you can accomplish? If it is worth it to create a great book you can be proud of, then do it! I don't recommend doing it as a means to get hired at Marvel—not because it can't work, but because making comics should be its own reward, or else it is just too much risk on something so hard to break into.

Prose is easier in that you don't need a partner to share the (huge) burden and financials. But the prose print world is not doing that great, either.

*I am assuming it is an original one. You should not write a graphic novel length script of a Marvel Character—it will almost certainly never be read by Marvel. You need to make your own comics first.

What a wonderful thing the internet is! How lovely that a professional who knows what he's on about and who doesn't know me at all should bestow upon me a snippet of his wisdom. The bit that resonated with me was “If you want to make comics, it is not foolish to make comics”. (Obvious, right? I don't understand my brain sometimes.) I think the reason why it resonated was because it answered with authority all those silly little niggling voices in my head that kept telling me, “This is ridiculous”, “It's never going to work” and “Why are you even wasting your time?” and silenced them once and for all.

The second thing that helped me shift my thinking was a brief chat with Colleen Doran at the Australian Society of Authors comics masterclass in 2011. Unfortunately I never blogged about it and have since forgotten what she said to me exactly; it had something to do with publishing, publishers and writing scripts. But I do remember coming away from the conversation feeling like I had a better idea of the way forward—that what I had thought was impossible was suddenly more possible.

I'd worked on the script on and off over the years, but last year I committed to finishing it. I set myself a goal of 50 comic pages so I could apply for the Varuna Writers-in-residence mentor program. (I was unsuccessful.) Then the second half of the year was largely devoted to the Monster Editing Project (finished version), and things got a bit out of control, so I swore that this year, I'd finish the script once and for all and not let anything else distract from it.

So here we are. I've called the graphic novel Eternal Life (which may change). It's a science fiction drama—a boy-meets-girl sort of story. I workshopped part 1 with my writing group and they gave me some excellent feedback, so I am now keen to workshop the rest of it with them as I redraft the script for Paul. You probably won't see much about it until we are ready to publish pages (which will probably happen around 2015), but hopefully that's given you something to look forward to!


Right. That wasn't very “quick”, was it. (I obviously have the same issues with “quick” as I do with “brief”.)

Final thing: I'm not the only one in this family who has been developing creatively and putting work out there; recently Ben has been dabbling in stand-up comedy. Here's a post he wrote about his experiences.

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Writing

Kinds of Blue: Cover art

Twitter

Blinks:

A way of funding writing in the future: pitch and idea and get people to support it.

Place where you can hire play equipment for parties, etc.

How to recalibrate the home button on your iPhone.

Unsolicited manuscripts accepted by Pan Macmillan with certain conditions.

Thought Balloon is a group blog in which the writers tackle a new theme every week? month? with one-page scripts. This URL is for their Phonogram ones.

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