Sarah at Graphic Medicine Conference in Chicago!

This is going to be great! I’m going to Chicago for the second Graphic Medicine conference: COMICS & MEDICINE: The Sequential Art of Illness, June 9-11. First of all, I will finally meet the wonderful Brian Fies, who has been extremely kind and supportive since I first contacted him when my agent and I were shopping Tangles around. Cannot wait! And, hello, I get to go to a conference where Scott McCloud is a keynote speaker. Scott McCloud! And Phoebe Gloeckner! Anyway, I am going to deliver a paper (!) “Documenting a family’s struggle with Alzheimer’s Disease: from sketchbook to graphic memoir,” and lead a workshop, “From diary to graphic narrative: finding the story in your personal experience.” It is all going to be ridiculously awesome. And check out the conference graphic, from Brian Fies’s book Mom’s Cancer.

Sarah at Non-Fiction Collective Conference, Banff, April 29-May 1

In just over a month I’ll be heading for beautiful Banff, where I haven’t been since the summer of 1977, when my mom and dad packed us all into our maroon station wagon and drove from Maine to Washington. Instead of going on a guided horseback ride and holding up the entire group by bursting into tears because my horse scared me, I will be delivering a workshop for my fellow non-fiction writers about graphic memoir. It might be a little less scary.

Image from

See the conference program on the Creative Non Fiction Collective website.

Spamics by Sarah: first try

For a while now I have been drawing illustrations for my favourite spam subject lines. Most of them I can’t really post here, because, well, I have not been sufficiently creative to stray far enough from the original intent of the spam — if you see what I mean. Basically, I just don’t want my website to be full of drawings of penises. But I thought I could post this one.

Drawing while watching TV

I’m slowly recovering from a week of yucky flu. Man, I watched a lot of TV this week! I felt like such a loser for not working on my art. So I brought my sketchbook to the couch last night in an effort to redeem myself.

First there was the classic Law and Order SVU… God, why do I watch this stuff?

Larissa, known as Brandy by the disgusting abuser:

And Daniel, victim turned abuser:

I don’t consider myself a Trekkie at all, but I super love Star Trek Voyager more than any other TV show ever… But they started putting it on so late that I couldn’t stay up to watch it anymore. But last night I did! And it was awesome. Bellana was in a bad situation.

Luckily they did not leave it up to Tuvok to resolve the situation… Those silly Vulcans!

Anyway, that’s my first attempt at doing something useful with couch time. Perhaps more to come.

Sarah Leavitt and Lynda Barry: animated!

My friend Terra Poirier took these photos at the Vancouver International Writers Festival in October, and Donimo added effects and animation. She says it proves that cartoonists are weird. I think I agree.  That was such a fun day! At some point I might stop talking about it, but don’t hold your breath.

My comics workshop for youth at Youthwrites

It was so great to be asked by the Vancouver International Writers Festival to lead their Youthwrites workshop this year. Each year, the VIWF runs a contest for all high school students in the Lower Mainland and then holds a workshop for the winners. These are the rules I made up for this year:

Submit a short story about a) a piece of clothing that was very important to you when you were a little kid, b) an unusual pet that belonged to you or someone you knew, or c) an important lesson you learned outside of school. The winners will transform their written pieces into one-page comics in a three-hour workshop with Sarah Leavitt, author and illustrator of Tangles: A Story About Alzheimer’s, My Mother and Me.

I had a great time with the winners. We talked about what comics are and how they work, and then they just got right into working on their stories — they got into that space where they’re writing and drawing with such concentration that it’s dead quiet and you can feel the energy coming off the pens and pencils. They all finished their stories in only four hours. Wow. I’m kind of jealous.

Read more on the VIWF website

Download the PDF of the booklet the youth made, Hamsters in Bathrooms

Reading and chatting with the Amazing! Lynda! Barry! Can you dig it?

The night before I was scheduled to read with Lynda Barry, I felt like my head would explode. I realized that I was going to meet someone in person who I had admired for many years, probably 20 at least. I had no idea what it would be like. The next morning I walked into the hospitality suite for the Vancouver International Writers Festival, and there she was, sitting at a table, with a red bandanna in her hair, looking just like she does in her drawings. She looked up and saw me, jumped out of her chair and came towards me with her arms outstretched, telling me how much she loved Tangles and how wonderful it was to meet me in three dimensions. It had never even occurred to me that she would have actually read my book. I had to sit down because I was shaking and laughing and crying. We just sat and looked at each other and sniffed. And then we just had the most wonderful morning of my entire life, talking and talking and laughing so hard. Nancy Lee arrived and the three of us laughed and talked more, then we did our event — reading from our work and then talking with Nancy and then taking questions from the audience. It was an inspiring and joyful discussion about creativity, hard work, what makes a “good” drawing, the silliness of aspiring to unreachable excellence instead of just doing your own work… I am in awe of Lynda’s brain, and her ability to draw and paint these intense, moving images of teenagers and demons and monkeys and chickens and magical monsters, and the way she fills up the stage with her tiny little self, and projects this love and acceptance, even as she talks about the overlooked power of hate, and how she likes to ask her students how they would kill someone, what method they would use.

Here are some photos from this Magical! Lynda! Barry! Day!

I think that was the best day of my life. Lynda’s so smart and funny and generous and just emanates love and passion but not in a syrupy way at all, in a kick-ass, hilarious, edgy, challenging way. Wow. I feel so incredibly blessed.