I’ve been neglecting this website to work on my next book, but here are a few odds and ends

Just in case anyone still comes here ever, I thought I’d say, Hey, I’m still around but spending as much time as possible working on my next book. (Sometimes I post on Facebook or Twitter.)

The most recent comics I’ve done are three kitten-themed postcards for Morgan Brayton’s amazing kitten rescue fundraising campaign. My first foray into the land of cat comics.One of three comics by Sarah Leavitt in support of kitten rescue

In early April I was one of the featured writers at the University of North Dakota Writers Festival — the 45th year and one of the only free writers festivals left. Got to meet the fabulous Robert Pinsky and spend time with some of the most engaged and engaging writers festival participants I’ve ever met. Videos from the conference have just been posted.

I got interviewed for this great series of articles on Jewish women cartoonists.

Tangles continues to get reviews in Germany, where it was published last spring, and I will soon have details to share about the upcoming French publication.

Oh, here is a Japanese translation of two pages of Tangles done by a local Japanese community association, Tonari Gumi:

Tangles pages in Japanese

I have a comic all about menstruation in this book: MESS: The Hospital Anthology, and some more illustrations and comics in forthcoming publications.

Meanwhile I’m getting ready to teach two classes in the UBC Creative Writing Department in 2014/15.

I hope this is less like a boring holiday letter, and more like an inoffensive update. 😉

If you are patient, you might see a new book from me within three years.

Love,

Sarah

Illustrated poetry

The latest issue of Poetry Is Dead just came out — the queer issue. There is lots to love in here, and I’m really happy about my collaboration with Jen Currin — maybe just because I sweated so much over it. When the editor asked me to choose a poem of Jen’s to illustrate, I was quite intimidated but figured I should give it a try. Since to be honest I am inexpert at reading poetry and at illustrating, but would like to be better at both. Jen sent me a number of poems and I chose One Virtue because of the crows and the boys and the rhythm. I focused on trying to find a way of illustrating the poem that wasn’t too literal, reading the poem over and over, finding more and more layers as I did. I wanted to find my own interpretation and at the same time honour Jen’s intent. She was lovely and trusting and just let me do what I wanted. So here is what I did (they’re designed for a spread, so the bottom line on the first page continues onto the bottom of the second):

One Virtue by Jen Currin, illustrated by Sarah Leavitt, page 1 of 2One Virtue by Jen Currin, illustrated by Sarah Leavitt, page 2 of 2

I went to Torngat Mountains National Park last August

I kept wanting to tell everyone in the entire world, but I couldn’t, because the radio documentary hadn’t come out yet, but now it has. So guess what? This is Part 3 of 3 in the amazing series, How I Spent My Summer Vacation: I went to Torngat Mountains National Park! I had the extreme good fortune to be one of five writers chosen by radio icon and all-around awesome lady Shelagh Rogers to join her on this adventure.

You can hear all about it on the podcast at CBC’s The Next Chapter. And here is one of the drawings I did during that magical week:

Icebergs, drawing by Sarah Leavitt

 

Tangles made the Canada Reads top 40

Thanks to everyone who recommended Tangles — apparently there were 10,000 recommended books, so it’s super great to see Tangles in the top 40! I am also just excited that there are three graphic narratives in the list: Tangles and Scott Chantler’s Two Generals and Chester Brown’s classic, Louis Riel. Comix FTW! You can see the whole list and vote over at Canada Reads. Voting will determine the top ten; then 5 judges will each choose one book to champion. Fun times!

 

Drawing Lessons

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what it means to be good at drawing. I really do believe that a good drawing is a drawing that either pleases the viewer aesthetically and/or inspires an emotional response. I don’t think that “good” equals representational or highly polished. So in that way I am OK with the fact that my own drawings in Tangles are kind of crude or unskilled. I know that they have pleased and moved people and that is great. At the same time, I want to improve my drawing, make it more confident, more intentional, have the control to be able to decide between simplicity and detail, rather than being limited to a certain style because of my skill level. So I am going to take drawing lessons — though I might be too sensitive to take lessons like the one I drew here. But come to think of it, my favourite writing instructors have been the tough ones who make me cry.

Drawing Lesson by Sarah Leavitt

Drawing Lesson 2 by Sarah Leavitt

Comics & Medicine 2011: attempt at an articulate summation

I will now do my best to write a brief report on the Comics & Medicine conference without using “OMG,” “awesome,” or excessive exclamation marks. We’ll see how I do.

For months now I have been both looking forward to and completely stressed out about this conference. Here’s why I was looking forward: I kept thinking about how Comics & Medicine was not only (ha!) a gathering of cartoonists, doctors, nurses, academics, and other extremely interesting people; it would be my first time meeting Brian Fies, author of Mom’s Cancer, who has supported me since I emailed him in 2009 to get advice on publishing a graphic memoir about illness; a chance to meet MK Czerwiec, who writes and draws the Comic Nurse comics and who I could tell was awesome cool after just a brief email correspondence; and a chance to rub shoulders with people I had huge admiration for, like Scott McCloud, Paul Gravett and Phoebe Gloeckner. And here’s why I was stressing out: everything I just said! Plus, I was preparing for a panel presentation and a workshop, and I was convinced I had no idea what I was talking about. In fact, I had realized that I was a fake cartoonist, with no talent and nothing interesting to say.

So it was wonderful when not only did nothing bad happen, but, to put it mildly, the conference was a brilliant weekend of electric connections, artistic and intellectual stimulation, laughter (the kind that happens over drinks and shared stories of beloved parents with dementia) and  self-reflection. OMG OMG OMG!!!!!!

Here are some photos:

I arrived in Chicago Thursday evening and was late getting to my hotel because the traffic was crazy due to extreme thunder and lightning that ended right before our plane came in. I raced to the opening reception…

Meeting Brian for the first time, at the opening night reception. We became BFFs right away, which was a true act of bravery on his part, because I looked a bit crazy I was so excited!

Sarah Leavitt and Brian Fies at Comics and Medicine 2011

This is a page from Tangles at the art exhibit at the opening reception. Wine did not reduce my extreme, vibrating excitement.

Sarah Leavitt with art at Comics and Medicine 2011

This is part of a comic by Thom Ferrier, the doctor/cartoonist who started this whole thing. I love this bit with the brain deteriorating… Thom is great at combining humour and pathos. See http://thomferrier.com

Tough by Thom Ferrier

Then came the conference:

This is Phoebe Gloeckner. If you have not seen her work, go buy it and read it. This is a bad photo and does not adequately convey important info, such as a) she is ridiculously attractive, b) she presented a completely jumbled slide show that nevertheless captivated everyone, and c) the slides show the illustrations she did for Vogue Hommes in which she illustrated men’s fashions in interesting ways — the image on the right is a guy in a Dolce and Gabanna suit flashing a woman and her daughter in a park. See http://www.ravenblond.com

Phoebe Gloeckner at Comics and Medicine 2011

Brian introduced me to Scott McCloud, once I got over my shyness. Scott was very nice and chatty and normal, and even wore a checked shirt!

Scott McCloud, Brian Fies, Sarah Leavitt at Comics and Medicine 2011

One of my conference pals was John Swogger, an archaelogical illustrator and cartoonist from Wales. See John’s conference post here: http://bit.ly/iAp1Gl

John Swogger at Comics and Medicine 2011

These are just some of the photos I took. For more from the conference, see Brian Fies’s blog. And keep an eye out for updates on the Graphic Medicine website.

I went to all the panels I could, and they were great: using comics for health education with youth; looking in detail at Our Cancer Year, how the art both draws the reader in and pushes them away (by smartypants Mita Mahato of the University of Puget Sound), and more… Paul Gravett gave an incredible overview of the history of graphic medicine — I think maybe 1/1,000,000 of the comix expertise he carries in his head, Scott McCloud guided a worshipful crowd through a rapid-fire examination of comics and visual information, David Small talked about the torturous process of creating Stitches, and so on… I met Raney Linck, a nurse educator from Minnesota, Shelley Wall, an extremely talented medical illustrator from Toronto who is writing and drawing about her partner who has Parkinson’s…

Ultimately, I came away from the conference feeling like I had found my people. This group of smart, somewhat nerdy, compassionate, curious, generous people. It made me feel like they were all Jewish, or all lesbians, they felt so familiar. Especially, but not only, the cartoonists. Aside from my good friend Eve Corbel, I really had never connected with any other cartoonists. And now I have. And somehow, this experience of finding a place in the world of cartoonists is a super deep and meaningful moment. After a successful panel and workshop, and excited responses to my book, and especially after a stern lecture from Brian Fies, I even believe that I am real cartoonist. Don’t worry, I am still cynical and snarky. But this is serious. :)

If for some weird reason you want more after finishing this long post, check out the tweets I did during the conference (Twitter account link to your right), or the #comicsmedicine hashtag on Twitter, or stay tuned for my post about the workshop I presented, “From Diary to Graphic Narrative.”

I will end with two of my 100 architectural photos, from the delicious day and a half I spent wandering the city with MK Czerwiec and Paul Gravett after the conference was over.

The Aqua Building by Jeanne Gang.

Aqua Bldg by Jeanne Gang, Chicago, photo by Sarah Leavitt

Cloud Gate by Anish Kapoor, amazing outdoor sculpture.

Cloud Gate by Anish Kapoor, Chicago, photo by Sarah Leavitt