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.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

What's Up

Interrupting my coverage of Comic-Con International (which I may have exhausted anyway) to mention a couple of things I'm doing....

I had a nice time yesterday being interviewed for German television. Regular readers may recall that there's a German edition of Mom's Cancer--the only non-English version so far, though I think we're working on others. I met Dennis Wagner from the weekly magazine program "Kulturreport" broadcast on ARD, which Dennis described as the biggest public TV station in Germany. I'll take his word for that. I enjoyed spending some time with Dennis, his girlfriend, and the three adorable German-singing children they're schlepping down the West Coast in a minivan as Dennis pursues a working vacation. I met Dennis in San Francisco at a beautiful spot I suggested overlooking the Golden Gate (near the Palace of Legion of Honor, if you know the area). Dennis really wanted the Golden Gate Bridge in the shot. Unfortunately, the Golden Gate Bridge really wanted to be completely obscured by fog yesterday morning. We made do.

Later today I'm flying to Tucson, Arizona to talk to a meeting of four hospice groups, including nurses, physicians, administrators, social workers and chaplains, about 50 people in all. This speaking engagement was arranged by Dr. Scott Bolhack, CEO of the Tucson Long-Term Care Medical Group and the TLC Palliative Medicine Team, who read my book quite a while ago, saw some value in it, contacted me, and worked with my publisher to fly me down there and put me up for a couple of nights.

I'm very excited about this opportunity. Next to people who've been through a similar crisis themselves, no one's opinion means more to me than that of healthcare professionals who think that Mom's Cancer has something to offer them or their patients. When Mom's Cancer was still online as a webcomic, one of the earliest e-mails I got was from a nursing instructor in Australia who asked permission to print some pages and give them to her students working with cancer patients to help them understand the family dynamics they'd find in the field. That blew me away; I consider it one of my coolest lifetime accomplishments. I've gotten that kind of response from other medical professionals a few times since and it's always a thrill.

I love Comic-Con and similar events but, as I wrote last Sunday, I don't think the wonderful folks who attend them are necessarily my book's first, best audience. The people I'll meet in Arizona tomorrow are the ones who deal with the issues I raised in my book every day and will know whether I got it right or not. I'll try my best to do a good job for them.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Post Post 3: Comic-Con Buys

Third in a series summarizing my time at Comic-Con. Check out the installments below and then come on back.

Although I saw much to covet at Comic-Con, ranging from Golden Age comics to really cool movie props, I came home with just two new things. A lot of cartoonists are also collectors, I think. It's an urge I've resisted although, as I wrote a while ago, the first thing I bought with my advance for Mom's Cancer was a 1914 drawing by cartooning great Winsor McCay that I felt I didn't deserve to have until I could pay for it with "cartooning money." Fantastic, but not the start of a habit.

However, I have begun a small collection of original comic and cartooning art that I hope will grow. The catch is that it has to be drawn by, and acquired directly from, someone I've made a personal connection with. Not necessarily a friend--that would set the bar pretty high--but someone with whom I've spent a little time, had a nice conversation, shared a moment I valued. I expect that criterion to both keep my collection (and related expenses) manageable and give it some emotional weight. I'm collecting pieces that mean something to me.

Raina Telgemeier, "The Baby-Sitters Club."

I think very highly of Raina as a cartoonist and storyteller. She has a crisp, clean, expressive ink line that I really like. On Saturday, she and I spent five minutes discussing ink viscosity (she likes hers thin, I like mine thick). I haven't talked with her about her artistic aesthetic in any great depth, but based on her work I believe we share similar ideas about what cartooning can and should be. She's thoughtful, and deceptively good--moreso because she makes it look easy. I think those traits made her the perfect choice to relaunch "The Baby-Sitters Club" stories as graphic novels.

My page from "The Baby-Sitters Club." Raina pencils with non-photo blue and produces some of the most pristine originals I've ever seen. I love the expressiveness of the figure below from Panel 4, as well as the brick-work texture she uses to anchor both the beginning and end of the page. She makes good choices.


In my previous post, I wrote about the warmth and lack of cynicism I perceive in the cartooning of both Raina and her fiance Dave. It's interesting: as time passes I think I'm getting more opinionated and cranky, but at the same time I have less and less patience for cynicism. Cynicism is lazy. It's arrogant and anti-creative. It doesn't accomplish anything. As hard-headed a rationalist as I am, I increasingly treasure art and literature with heart. Heart is risky and takes skill to pull off. And Raina's work is always 0% cynicism, 100% heart.

Not very flattering, but the only photo I have of
Raina and me together, taken at APE in San Francisco.


Irwin Hasen, "Dondi"

I love the old guys.

The comics industry is famous for devouring its own. I know good, professional artists in their thirties forced out of the business for lack of work while thousands of eager teens line up with sketchbooks in hand ready to take their places. Short memories and fickle trends turn today's creative heroes into tomorrow's tired hacks. There's precious little appreciation or respect for the men and women who began and built the business--many of them still alive, some of them still working.

I've mentioned how I originally met Irwin Hasen in February at my book launch party at the Society of Illustrators building in New York. I saw him again the next day at the New York Comic-Con, selling prints of the old DC characters he drew plus originals from his long-running comic strip "Dondi." I only took the time to greet him briefly, and left New York regretting that I'd let an opportunity slip through my fingers.

.

This original strip from 1968 is huge, nearly two feet wide. No contemporary cartoonist that I know of works that large, mostly because the shrinking space newspapers devote to comic strips doesn't allow for the kind of detail Mr. Hasen drew, for example in Panel 1 below. (I don't know what the ® symbol is doing under the right word balloon--I suspect it was originally pasted elsewhere and migrated over the years--but that's the way I got it so that's where it's gonna stay.)


Last Thursday I saw Mr. Hasen again, set up in Comic-Con's Artists Alley. No one was at his table; in fact, I had to elbow my way through a line of fans queued up to meet the Hot Young Artist at the table next door to get to him. I reintroduced myself and we had a nice conversation, when I looked over his table and noticed only the prints. No originals.

"Oh, I remember you had some Dondi originals in New York," I said, disappointed. "I was really hoping to see them."

Mr. Hasen gave me a conspiratorial nod, pulled a portfolio from under the table, and slid out a dozen "Dondi" strips. We continued to talk as I flipped through them, figuring out which one I wanted to buy. At last I chose my prize.

"You've got a good eye, you S.O.B.," said Mr. Hasen, eyes twinkling. "You picked the best one."

With Irwin Hasen in New York, February 2006

Two pieces of art that will always remind me of the creators who made them and the time I spent with them.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Post Post 2: Comic-Con People


This is my second post about my long weekend at the San Diego Comic-Con. You'd do best to start with the first one and then come back here, I think.

I am always impressed by how nice people in the comics business are. I know there are also prima donnas and raging egos, maybe more than you'd find among the general population, but the pros I meet--who tend to be either friends of friends or people whose work I respect--have been warm, gracious, and generous with their time. I can't think of an exception.

The first person I sought out when I arrived for Preview Night on Wednesday was Otis Frampton. Otis created the "Oddly Normal" character for a series of Viper Comics books and has done hundreds of officially authorized sketch cards (like cartoon trading cards) of characters from Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, and Marvel Comics. He's a great guy with a very clean, stylized line I like very much. Unfortunately, we only had a few minutes to catch up before he had to get back to working his table.

Raina Telgemeier and Dave Roman are two very good cartoonists engaged to marry each other later this year. The comic they drew together describing their courtship and engagement is one of the warmest, least cynical things I've ever read. I'll write a bit more about Raina in the next post, but for now suffice to say that I had a couple of occasions to chat with them both and consider those moments a highlight of my Con.

Jeff Kinney spent eight years developing his "Diary of a Wimpy Kid" webcomic, which Editor Charlie recently acquired for Abrams. In other words, he's almost exactly where I was about a year and a half ago. We'd corresponded a couple of times and finally had a chance to meet during the Con, where we sat on the floor next to a trash can surrounded by screaming kids while I spilled my guts. I hoped to paint a clear and honest picture of the months awaiting him; judging by his tearful anguished sobs I succeeded. I was happy to provide whatever small experience-based advice I could and I really hope his book is a huge success. If people bought books based on the author's niceness, Jeff would be J.K. Rowling.

Jeff Kinney, Charlie Kochman, and me

Without Jerry Robinson, Batman wouldn't have had either Robin or the Joker, at least as we know them today. Along with Bob Kane and Bill Finger (arguments still rage about how much credit each deserves), Robinson created Batman and his world. I actually met Mr. Robinson last year, but only briefly at his Artists Alley table, long enough to say hello and thank him for his work. At this year's Eisner Awards, I got a proper introduction from Charlie and had a very nice conversation with him.

With Jerry Robinson

I'd also met Irwin Hasen before, at my book launch party in New York in February, and had a chance to reconnect with him last weekend. Mr. Hasen is another industry giant, drawing the original Flash, Green Lantern, and Justice Society of America in the 1940s and later starting the comic strip Dondi. I've got a short story about Mr. Hasen that, like Raina, will wait for the next installment.

Mark Evanier has had a long career in comics and show business, working as an assistant to Jack Kirby, a writer/producer on Welcome Back Kotter and dozens of other programs and specials, producer of the Garfield animated series, co-creator of "Groo the Wanderer," and much more. He's also a terrific, prolific blogger whose News From Me is a daily stop of mine. Mark was sitting with Jerry Robinson at the Eisners when Charlie introduced me to both, and I was floored when Mark said that not only had he read and liked my book, but that he'd lost his only copy by lending it to a friend. I think about the sweetest words a writer can hear is that someone liked your work enough to give it to a friend. I'll be sending Mark an inscribed replacement as soon as I can.

Brian Walker is the son of cartoonist Mort Walker, a writer for Beetle Bailey, and a respected comics historian in his own right. As with Mr. Hasen, I'd met Brian in New York and had a brief conversation with him there. I certainly had no reason to expect him to remember me when I approached him after the NCS panel at Comic-Con, but he did. He added that he'd recently spoken to a group about webcomics and used me and Mom's Cancer as an example of one avenue of success available through the medium. I was both astonished and grateful, though I think Brian may need to recalibrate his definition of "success."

Standing beside Brian after the NCS panel was Jay Kennedy. Mr. Kennedy ("call me Jay") is the comics editor for King Features Syndicate, the company that distributes comic strips like Blondie, Beetle Bailey, Popeye, Family Circus, Zits, Sally Forth, Bizarro, and a bajillion others throughout the known world. Although I haven't done so for several years, for a long period of my life I regularly sent comic strip proposals to King Features and the other syndicates. Jay was one of the first to send me anything other than a standard rejection letter. Later, when I submitted an idea he kind of liked, he spent quite a bit of time providing detailed feedback about what worked, what didn't, what he wanted to see more of, etc. That idea eventually died but ever since I've hoped to have the opportunity to thank him in person for his encouragement and unique approach to new talent. So I was stunned and frankly incredulous when Jay looked at my name tag, said he thought Mom's Cancer was great, and added that he remembered my work and liked it very much.

I can't stress too strongly that I'm not being falsely modest or disingenuous when I say I'm surprised that people like Mark Evanier and Jay Kennedy know my work. I had absolutely no expectation that they would. Zero. It never entered my mind. Which is why I froze, stammered, and said stupid things when they informed me otherwise. Now they'll remember me as that babbling idiot who drooled on their shoes.

And now....

Pictures of People I Didn't Meet But Got Close Enough to to Take Their Picture

John DeLancie, "Q" on Star Trek. I actually had a brief conversation with him but he lost interest quickly. I could tell we were done when his gaze moved past me...not onto anyone else in line (there was no line), but at a molecule of air five feet beyond me that was apparently more fascinating than I was.

Erin Gray (from Buck Rogers) and Nichelle Nichols (if I need to explain, get off of my blog). Ms. Nichols looked quite wonderful, while Ms. Gray very much reminded me why I would have killed a hobo for her if she'd asked me to back in 1980 or so.

Also seen up close and personal: Richard Hatch (from the real Battlestar Galactica), who should be gently told that gym shorts and a sleeveless sweatshirt stopped being a good look for him a while ago. Greg Evans (Luann), still sporting the best head of hair in cartooning. Richard Anderson, the Six-Million-Dollar Man's Oscar Goldman, looking very distinguished and dapper but hot and bored. Marc Singer, the Beastmaster, who left me with no particular impression. Plus, a gorgeous six-foot-four Supergirl who might have been a guy but at the moment I didn't care.

Plus all these people:

If that's you in there, drop me a line and let me know.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Comic-Con International 2006: Post Post 1


I survived.

I'm back home from The Big One, the San Diego Comic-Con International 2006, hotter and more hectic than I remember from 2005. The event had a different feel for me this year. Mostly, I didn't have to fret about whether I was going to win an Eisner Award, although it was still very much a working vacation for me. My three panels went well, I think, and I met some great readers during two hours of signing books at the Abrams booth. I also felt like I had a few more friends and was a little more at home.

This entry had the potential to be either the longest blog post in the storied history of blogging or not. I decided "not." This'll be a quick overview, followed soon by posts focusing on People I Met, Stuff I Got, and maybe more (when I write those entries, I'll add links from here).

Overview: Fantastic. As I was a special guest this year, Guest Coordinator Sue Lord and her staff went to great effort to smooth my path and make me feel welcome. After my wife, girls, and two of our girls' friends flew in Wednesday, we were met in the hotel lobby by Vicki (don't remember if she spells it with an "i" or "y") who helped us check in and had our Con badges waiting for us, along with a Big Bag O' Swag: Comic-Con mugs, chocolates, cookies, stationery, first-aid kit, tissues, water bottles--an enviable trove. I learned early the next day that Sue had also assigned volunteers to be at my disposal, ferrying me wherever I wanted to go, finding whatever I asked for, and fulfilling my every wish. My first request was that they take the weekend off and leave me alone because they were creeping me out. And yet they persevered, which turned out to be a good thing later. My thanks especially to Jerry, a great guy who more than once "coincidentally" emerged from a shadow or popped out from behind a pillar to appear just when I needed him. In fact, I think I hear him in my kitchen now, preparing me a mid-evening snack.

Thursday was my big work day, with a 2 p.m. book signing, 5 p.m. Spotlight Panel, and 6 p.m. Webcomics panel. I find that my signings in comics-related venues aren't big draws. Although Mom's Cancer is a comic, I don't think this is precisely my audience. However, what I lack in quantity I recoup in quality. I met at least a dozen people this weekend who reminded me exactly why I wrote Mom's Cancer and made me very glad I did. I'm grateful to them. Wolverine has more readers but I wouldn't trade.

I think my Spotlight Panel went fine. I'd never done a full dress rehearsal with my PowerPoint presentation but figured it would run long, which it did. I had to rush toward the end but managed to finish and hit all the good stuff. Nurse Sis and Kid Sis both attended, which was fantastic. My favorite moment: a Comic-Con staffer standing at the back of the room held up a "15 Minutes Left" sign. I caught the staffer's eye and unthinkingly said "Thank you" to her for the time cue. The audience must have figured I'd abruptly finished my talk in mid-thought and immediately began applauding. I felt a little apologetic explaining that I wasn't quite done yet. The other parts of my talk that I intended to be funny seemed to be, the serious parts seemed likewise well received, and I think I hit a nice balance. I took a few questions, then had to immediately excuse myself to run 50 feet down the hall to my second panel on "Developing Your Webcomic."

Me in the Spotlight, wielding a laser pointer--usually a mistake.

I think this also went well, and frankly turned out to be more focused than I expected. We talked a lot about the freedom the Web provides, the promise of Internet cartooning versus how it's actually applied, each of our worst mistakes/best advice, etc. Moderator Bill Barnes from "Unshelved" did a good job keeping things moving, and about half the panel was turned over to audience questions. I don't know what the audience got out of it but I enjoyed participating.

Webcomics 101 Panel with (L to R) Dave Kellett (Sheldon), Jon Rosenberg (Goats), me, and Phil Foglio (Girl Genius)


Friday we went to the Zoo. Then I went to the Eisner Awards. Since this was more or less a whim on my part, I was surprised to be greeted at the door by Vicki, who tut-tutted that she had a seat reserved for me at Table 23. I protested; I really just wanted to sit in the audience. I wasn't dressed for an awards show (although I had showered after the Zoo visit, thank goodness) and it's a lot easier to sneak out that way. Vicki insisted, and I was tackled by my editor, Charlie Kochman, who also insisted and sat me down next to one of his best and oldest friends, Rob Simpson, an editor for Dark Horse Comics. Charlie has good taste in friends and I really enjoyed talking with Rob. I met some people (more later) and sat five feet from Frank Miller and 10 feet from Jim Steranko (didn't meet them; just basked in the incandescence of their greatness). I was also tremendously entertained by a belligerent drunk who let his opinion be heard on every nominee and especially the winners he found undeserving. The show really did turn out to be much better from the tables.

Saturday began with a 90-minute panel on the question "What is Mainstream?" Again, I thought this moved right along and was surprisingly focused. The basic thrust of the discussion was whether comics are moving into mainstream culture, how that is happening, how we could generate more of it, etc., but there was plenty of digression. Eight panelists made for a big group, but we brought an interesting diversity of perspective and experience to the discussion. It was a pretty free-wheeling but smart conversation, I thought. More good questions. Worth everyone's time, I hope.


Moderator Chris Brandt herded (L to R) Abrams' Charles Kochman (that's right, my Editor Charlie), Bryce Coleman (Tokyopop), me, Landry Walker and Eric Jones (Kid Gravity, Super Scary Monster Show, Disney digests), Linda Medley (Castle Waiting; I also did a panel with her at San Francisco's Alternative Press Expo), Andy Runton (Owly, which won an Eisner Award the previous day), and Batton Lash (Supernatural Law).

Another signing Saturday afternoon, with plenty of free time Thursday through Saturday for my own fannish ogling and shopping. I attended several panels I was interested in, among the best a panel put on by the National Cartoonists Society (NCS) about syndicated comic strips. I met some people (more later, I said!). It was a very good talk, little I hadn't really heard before, no big spoilers, but it carried a lot of weight coming from the mouths of pros. They talked a bit about their different approaches to the job and how their individual problem-solving process works. And some of these guys are pretty quick and funny.

Moderator Fred Bronson with NCS panelists Brian Walker (Beetle Bailey), Vic Lee (Pardon My Planet), Michael Jantze (The Norm), Dan Piraro (Bizarro), Jeff "Not Little Jeffy Anymore" Keane (Family Circus), and Andrew Feinstein (Girls and Sports).

That photo's mostly for my friends on the newsgroup rec.arts.comics.strips. They actually wanted a picture of the NCS booth at the Con, which I visited but didn't photograph. This is the best I can do, gang. Apologies for the quality of the photos in general, but they keep those rooms surprisingly dark to help out the video projectors.

More later.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Spotlight on San Diego

Packing now to fly to Comic-Con International tomorrow. Meanwhile, the above is a little preview of my Spotlight Panel talk on Thursday. I'd love to see you there. I'd love to see anyone there.

I'm approaching the con with the same mix of anticipation and dread you might have when planning a trip to DisneyWorld. You know you're going to have fun, but you also know it's going to be hot, crowded, hard to park, expensive to eat, and full of minor hassles. There are a thousand opportunities to be frustrated and miserable. And it's going to be great anyway.

For the last time, here's where I'm planning to be:
- Thursday, July 20, 5 p.m., Room 1B: Spotlight on Brian Fies.
- Thursday, July 20, 6 p.m., Room 3: Developing Your Webcomic panel discussion.
- Saturday, July 22, 10:30 a.m., Room 2: What Is Mainstream? Another panel discussion.

I'm also scheduled to sign books at the Harry N. Abrams booth (#5455, right up near the front doors) Thursday from 2 to 3 p.m. and Saturday from 2 to 3 p.m. I'm going to see if I can sneak in something late Friday as well.

Don't know if I'll have any opportunities to blog from San Diego, but I'm sure I'll be back with pictures and stories afterward.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Back Home, Back on Deadline

We're back from the "family business" I mentioned last time, which involved taking my twin daughters to a three-day summer advising session at the university they'll be attending in the fall. My last post wasn't meant to be coy; I just saw no real upside to telling every Internet-saavy burglar that my house would be empty and waiting for them. Anyway, we're back, so you burglars missed your opportunity. Just as well. You wouldn't have wanted to cross my attack cat.

Dire fate awaits on tiny padded paws

Getting ready to send half our family into the world--and the most innocent, least worldly half, at that--is tough. The girls' future college put on good programs for both students and parents, advising the students on navigating the system and choosing classes while advising the parents on letting go gracefully and writing large checks. Compared to some of the half-wit parents whose questions we could only roll our eyes at, we're doing fine. One woman asked about her daughter's prospects for finding a husband. Another asked how she should handle her kid's disappointment at not getting into the really good school they wanted. Way too many got bogged down in details their kids will figure out their first day in the dorms. People in my generation are sometimes called "Helicopter Parents" because they hover over their children trying to micromanage all their problems for them. I saw a lot of that. I'll always try to protect my babies from real harm or errors, but beyond that I think "figure it out for yourself" is a perfectly fine parenting philosophy.

Yeah, I talk tough. When the chips are down, I'll crumble quicker than a Batman made of chalk:

I'm working very hard the rest of the month. Next week's Comic-Con International will take a big chunk of time. After that, I'm planning to fly to Tucson, Arizona for a book-related event I'll say more about later. Lots of deadlines in between. Just because I may not write often doesn't mean I don't love you.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Down Time

It's going to be quiet here for a few days as I take care of some family business. Nothing serious; in fact, I expect it to be kind of fun.

I'm starting to gear up for Comic-Con International in a week and a half, especially my Spotlight Panel. I'm taking the advice of a syndicated cartoonist who met me for coffee a while ago and gave me a couple of insights. One: especially at an event like Comic-Con, most of the people who come to my panel are going to be less interested in me than in learning how they can take my place. Two: no one wants to hear anyone drone on about themselves for an hour, especially in the warmth and humidity of San Diego in July, so you'd better bring along some visuals to interest and/or distract them.

To those ends, I'm putting together a talk and PowerPoint program that I expect will do the job. I'm working hard on it--probably a little too hard, knowing how fast 45 minutes (leaving some time for Q&A, etc.) will fly by--but I'm hoping to give a good, snappy, occasionally funny presentation about how I got to be in a position to get Mom's Cancer published, how that process worked and what it was like, and my impressions of life since. I expect this audience to be more interested in the "Publishing a Graphic Novel" story than in the "Family Facing a Health Crisis" story, but I should be able to adjust as needed.

Quick Preview: Me at age 14, showing off a gouache piece I did for a little gallery exhibition of student work, featuring Dr. Strange and the dread Dormammu....


That punk needs a haircut....

Saturday, July 08, 2006

3.5 Days

That's about how long it takes everything to get back to normal after you've been interviewed on NPR. In case you were curious.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

The Complete Tart (& random related thoughts)

The Web wizards at Sequential Tart have at last posted the final several paragraphs of the interview I mentioned on June 30. If you're interested in reading it, it's all there now and I still think it's a very good one. More thanks to writer MK Czerwiec.

The two or three people who've seen other interviews I've done may notice some repetition in my responses here. Although MK asked some great original questions and definitely had her own angle on Mom's Cancer, there are some questions everyone asks. When I stumble across an answer I like, some combination of words that captures exactly what I want to say, I slip it into my mental filing cabinet for later. If someone were to sit down and read every word of every interview I've done in the past year (and there haven't been that many), they'd probably discover that I tried out half of these answers elsewhere. I don't know how to get around that.

Fortunately, I realize that no one but me cares. The best I can do is treat every interview like it's the first and only one anybody will ever read--which is almost certainly the case--and give the best answers I can. I do put a lot of thought into these and appreciate it very much when I sense a thoughtful mind working on the other side of the notepad.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Mom's Afterword

A couple of people have asked for the text of the afterword my mother wrote for Mom's Cancer, part of which I read on "All Things Considered." The whole thing runs nearly three pages and, as I said on the air, Mom really did write it herself. That's her voice; I think it's worth the price of my book by itself. Here's the excerpt I read:

It's too soon to know what I've learned from all this. I know the most important person for me to take care of now is me, so that I will be around to help others later.... Cherish rest, laughter, friends, and prayers. Trust in yourself and make a peace treaty with your Higher Power. Have a Hero to never let go of and help you make it through the terrifying nights. Take frequent baths to get rid of the scent of toxins. Watch a lot of comedies. Keep your mind and hands busy. Then just breathe for as long as you can, knowing that others are helping to hold you up.