In April, my beloved partner Donimo passed away. My friends Terra Poirier and Krisztina Kun created a gorgeous tribute website, which continues to grow, and which comforts me. The tributes not only celebrate Donimo but also continue to teach me about the power of friendship and love, and the richness of queer history. If you want to add to the site, I hope you will. Meanwhile, I am grieving and celebrating and continuing to find comfort in drawing and writing. More: donimo.blue
At the Calgary literary festival in October, I was honoured (and stressed!) to be part of a panel with Alicia Elliott, author of the incredible essay collection A Mind Spread Out on the Ground, and David A Robertson, GG-winning author of comics, novels and kids’ books. The sold-out event was called Honest Talk About Mental Health, and it was moderated by the fantastic writer, broadcaster and mental health advocate Shelagh Rogers. We talked about portraying mental illness in our writing and comics, as well as our experiences with mental illness in our own lives. It’s the first time I’ve discussed my struggles with anxiety in front of an audience. We laughed much more than I anticipated. And in spite of how nervous I was to do it, I was fine! You can listen to a 25-minute edited version here on Shelagh’s CBC Radio show, The Next Chapter.
That experience gave me extra inspiration to keep digging into my Therapy Pony project on Instagram, where I’ve been exploring depression and anxiety, among other things, in stories about ponies, mice and birds. I’m just following where my characters go and trying to be open to whatever comes. I’m finding out that this is a way for me to finally write/draw about experiences and feelings I’ve wanted to explore for a long time. These are a couple images from a recent comic, Dance Lessons, featuring anxious Mouse.
I can’t believe Agnes has been out in the world for almost four months! I’m keeping track of all the media coverage on the Agnes page, if you’re curious. I’m particularly grateful for Becky Toyne’s review on CBC Radio — be sure to click on the Listen link to get the original audio — and Andrew Woodrow-Butcher’s review in Quill and Quire. You can hear me talking about some of my influences and creative process in this interview with Matthew Parsons on North by Northwest.
In October and November I got to meet and read with writers and cartoonists I admire, at literary festivals in Vancouver, Victoria and Calgary. So far in 2020 I’ll be at the Jewish Book Festival in Vancouver, the Alberta Library Conference in Jasper and the Sunshine Coast Festival of the Written Arts. You can see all upcoming events at the bottom of the home page.
After nine years of thinking, writing, drawing, procrastinating, freaking out, eating lots of snacks, drawing some more, revising, revising, and revising, I finally let Agnes go to the printers in June. Plans are being made for launch events in October, and I’ll have news to share soon about festival appearances. Agnes looks forward to meeting you. Well, in her own way she does.
I have been super bad at updating this website. Mostly because every spare second is being spent on either teaching or getting my book done. You can catch me on Instagram if you miss me. Flowers, dogs and bits of my work in progress.
Ugh. I am not doing much besides class prep + working on my book… But sometimes I post these little drawings on Medium; it’s a series I’m calling “Creature of love.” Then I wonder if I should be doing Instagram instead. Then I think about that and research it for a while and then I don’t draw and then I do self-recrimination. But in between I draw these little guys.
This week I got my copies of the Korean translation of Tangles. I’d seen a PDF of the cover and I knew it was aesthetically pleasing, but I didn’t expect to start crying when I held the book in my hands. Partly I was touched by how much time and care had been put into the book. But there’s also something very intense about watching someone take Tangles and make it into something new. It’s a certain kind of honouring of the story and of my art.
Like here’s the cover. Look how the designer searched through the English Tangles and picked out little bits of the drawings and put them all together into something new.
[I just realized I need to email the publisher and get the designer’s name so I can credit him/her here!] Designers are Jihye A and Joonoh Jang of Sparksedition. Tangles is published in Korea by Woorinabi Publishing.
That sideways cat is my favourite. It looks so bratty. How did they think to turn it sideways? Awesome.
Then on the inside pages they just kept going…
I am so excited about how they found this tiny flower from one of the panels and made it into this crazy beautiful pattern.
This is where it originally appeared:
These plants on the first inside page are all from different chapters: willow from walking along the river in Fredericton, bird of paradise from my parents’ apartment in Oaxaca, and some other plant behind my mom that I don’t even recognize, really. And look at that tiny deer, for God’s sake!
The experience of looking at characters that I can’t read is very interesting — the writing becomes another element of the artwork for me. (How does this relate to Eisner, McCloud, et al’s discussions of how text and image combine? What happens if you cannot read the text as text but only as pleasing marks?)
There is something so odd about looking at pictures of yourself and your family speaking a language that you don’t speak. This was true of the German and French Tangles but I find it even more strange and thrilling here… My sister and I talk on the phone in Korean. Though oddly my dad’s letter to me is not translated.
Even the cat speaks Korean:
I really want to know how they decided what to translate and what not to translate. Like my dad’s letter above and here, when my sister and I are banished to the treehouse because we can’t stop saying bad words…
In part two, my mother writes in Korean…