Friday, July 28, 2006

Tucson

I'm back home after an extraordinary couple of days in Tucson, Arizona. Dr. Scott Bolhack, Paige, and their colleagues at TLC Healthcare couldn't have been more gracious or welcoming. As I wrote earlier, Dr. Bolhack first found Mom's Cancer as a webcomic and has been working a long time to make my visit happen. I got to know him a bit better before my talk and during dinner afterward, and was happy to find he's a real comics fan knowledgeable about the potential of the medium to tell serious, adult stories. Not a lot of men, let alone accomplished professionals, would be secure enough to share their passion for The Flaming Carrot.

Dr. Bolhack and his staff had invited hospice, palliative care, counseling, and related healthcare professionals from all over the area to hear me. Perhaps 40 to 50 came, and Dr. Bolhack made sure they all got a signed copy of the book. I put together a PowerPoint presentation and talk just for this audience that, like my Comic-Con talk, might have been more ambitious than I originally thought. Before I began, Dr. Bolhack asked me how long I thought I'd speak; I estimated 20 or 25 minutes. I think I actually went about twice that (I've really got to start rehearsing these things....). Couldn't shut me up. Luckily, unlike my Comic-Con panel, there wasn't anyone waiting for me to leave so they could take over the room.

I think this engagement was one of the most moving, fulfilling things I've done. These folks who help people like my mother live and die every day--physicians, nurses, chaplains, social workers--told me I'd done a good thing and done it right. A few said I'd made them rethink their approach to their jobs and given them insights they could apply to people they were serving now.

Which is pretty much why I wrote the book.

Which is as good as it gets.

With Dr. Scott Bolhack

In addition, I had the pleasure of visiting Tucson. I'd never been there before and didn't realize there are about a million people living in the city and nearby. Beautiful mountains all around, a nice summer desert rain shower the morning after I arrived ... it looks like a great place I'll have to come back to and get to know better.

When I approach a signing or speaking engagement, it's very important for me to know who I'm talking to. The story of Mom's Cancer has a lot of stories within it: how you create a webcomic, how you get a book published, how a family dealt with a crisis. At the San Diego Comic-Con, I talked about the creative and life experience that put me in position to write and draw Mom's Cancer, as well as the process of refining the story and working with an editor to produce a book. In Tucson, I said very little about creating a comic and more about my family's experience, trying to tease from the story threads I knew my audience encounters in their jobs. I like doing both kinds of talks but they're completely different. I can't deliver my message well unless I know who's there to receive it. It is hard for me to imagine a more receptive audience than I found in Tucson.

My thanks to Dr. Bolhack, Paige, and everyone who made this event happen and treated me so well. They're doing some wonderful work in the Southwest and this was definitely a lifetime highlight. I'm very grateful.

Guten Tag
I knew something was up when I checked my visitor log today, and reader Michael was kind enough to e-mail me and explain it. Mom's Cancer has received a very positive review in Der Spiegel, an immensely popular German periodical. I had no idea that was coming. My thanks to Michael and Spiegel writer Stefan Pannor, it is much appreciated.

3 comments:

ronnie said...

Wow, Brian, "Der Spiegel" is international big-time!

I read the review via Google's webpage translation service, which is very shaky yet can give a good sense of the tone of a piece. And every now and then some of its translated lines are accidental poetic gems:

(Referring to the fact that you drew the strips as events unfolded:)

"Not afterwards tells, but he drew the events of the days of the soul for as it were live."

"The authenticity of the told one is thereby its strength. Fies does without wrong pathos or spreading dramaturgy - diaries do not have moral."

and finally:

"It is so honest and direct a every now and then painful book, as it can be only the medium Comic in its best moments."

I couldn't have said it better myself.

Stefan Pannor said...

It's always nice to be seen. ;-)

Great book, reading it did hurt me a lot, beacuse it reminded me much on what my family's been through on the dead of my grandfather.

Brian Fies said...

Thank you again, Stefan. I understand your feelings and am glad you read my book and found something worthwhile in it anyway. All my best to you and your family.