It feels like we have only had a few days of summer in Chicago so far, and yet with the Solstice on June 21st, the hours of daylight have already begun to decrease as we move slowly toward Fall.
The kids are out of school. We’ve been on one camping trip with friends and family, and there’s more travel in the works. The rest of the summer is mostly unscheduled, allowing us to follow our rhythms: stay up a little later, sleep in a little longer, have a pajama day here and there, lounge in the backyard, read in the shade.
I’m not a fan of overscheduling the kids with camps and activities, and while I may grumble about battles and complaints caused by too much time together, I think we’re usually able to come up with creative ways to spend the day.
I have signed them up for an hour-long art class, and I really savor that time to myself in the middle of the day, ice coffee in hand, sitting outside the cafe under a shaded umbrella with my book and notebook.
Plus I have been writing! So many stories this summer, and even as I gear up to start the next novel in the Fall, I have been immersed in short stories: reading them, listening to them, writing them. I love the form. There is so much to be learned from it, and I’m enjoying the process. I hope to have some solid pieces to shop around this Fall.
Exciting news also in the works about the comic book/graphic novel (to be announced soon), fingers crossed for agent news with the The Supper Club. More on that as soon as I am able.
So that’s the quick recap. I’m going to make an effort to write more, perhaps during that lovely little hour break in the day. Perhaps not. I may just sip coffee and soak in the glorious quiet.
Until then, I hope that you are also finding moments of happiness in unexpected places.
You’ve heard it haven’t you? The sigh under your bed just as you lie down. The scratching on the window that stirs you from sleep?
Come closer to the computer. Lower your voice and look over your shoulder.
You know those bumps in the night? Those creaks on the stairs when you’re in bed with the dog and no one else is home? Those misplaced keys and glasses, or randomly spilled milk on the counter? The flash in the shadows that looks like cat eyes, but you don’t have a cat? Something brushes against your foot when you step down onto the rug to get a drink of water in the middle of the night. Something tugs at your sweater when you sit down to watch the television.
You wonder for a moment, then shake it off to dreams that linger, or spicy food before bed, or dust in your eyes, or maybe the wind.
But that’s not it, and you secretly know that there’s more to life and to your home than what you see.
You have a house spirit, and he or she wants your attention.
You can choose to ignore the signs, but they seldom stop. In fact, they get louder, stronger, and more persistent.
So, what can you do?
The house spirit, like a neglected friend, wants a little communication, a little whimsy, a little sacrifice.
Of course, there are traditional ways: leaving out a small offering of milk, meade, or vodka (depending on your ancestry), singing folksongs, keeping a clean kitchen, leaving a special broom beside the hearth, sharing books for All Hallow’s Read. But be forewarned, modern house spirits can be more demanding.
Lucky for you, the kind folks at the Night Garden have provided you with a way to do all three!
They have created the October Challenge to encourage you to create Art inspired by a house spirit. This can be a drawing, a doll, a story, a poem, a recipe, a blanket, any creative response that you can imagine! (Need more ideas, see this blog entry.)
And the sacrifice? Well, you can definitely submit Art without making any donation, but perhaps you can spare a little money to help the Bengals? This special breed is often adopted by overzealous owners, then given up when they realize that you get a lot of cat and quite a bit of tiger-attitude in these darlings. Have I mentioned that house spirits LOVE Bengals? They do.
To recap, participate in the Night Garden challenge and you:
1. VERY LIKELY APPEASE YOUR HOUSE SPIRIT
2.) Become a part of an online community of awesome artists
3.) Get published online, on thenightgarden.net site, alongside professional writers and artists like Christopher Lincoln and Nathalie Boisard-Beudin! That’s some mighty fine company.
4.) Help Bengals: a breed of cat formed by the cross of a domestic feline and an Asian Leopard Cat. These cats are often adopted by overzealous owners, then given up when they realize that you get a lot of cat and quite a bit of tiger-attitude in these darlings.
I began this post when a Kickstarter backer asked if Sticks and Bones was a comic or a graphic novel. It was a good question, and I set off to discuss the differences between the two.
Both comics and graphic novels are sequential art. In Comics and Sequential Art (1985) Will Eisner describes sequential art as “the arrangement of pictures or images and words to narrate a story or dramatize an idea.”
As a lover of the form, but someone just beginning to dip her toes in the process of creating comics, I turned to books and the internet for definitions of “comic books” and “graphic novels.” Who better to consult than those creators and artists who have shaped and redefined the industry?
While doing research, I discovered an interested phenomenon. The distinction between comics and graphic novels seems to be most often made by those outside the industry. Many comic creators and artists seem comfortable to classify all sequential art under the category of comics.
“It’s a marketing term… that I never had any sympathy with. The term ‘comic’ does just as well for me… The problem is that ‘graphic novel’ just came to mean ‘expensive comic book’ and so what you’d get is people like DC Comics or Marvel Comics—because ‘graphic novels’ were getting some attention, they’d stick six issues of whatever worthless piece of crap they happened to be publishing lately under a glossy cover and call it The She-Hulk Graphic Novel….” (Alan Moore, “The Alan Moore Interview: Northampton / Graphic novel”. Blather.net. October 17, 2000).
If I had to try and explain the difference, I would say that a graphic novel is a longer narrative work (like a novel) revealed by sequential art instead of words alone. It has a beginning, middle, and end crafted with a story arc that is the convention in most novels or plays (exposition, rising action, climax, falling action, and resolution). Its length seems to average between 60 and 120 pages.
A comic is usually smaller in scale, 20-24 pages bound with saddle-stitching. Within those pages, most comics also have that same narrative structure. Serial in nature, the story also continues from comic to comic. Collections of comics are sometimes grouped together and published as graphic novels.
Again, the distinction is subjective, it seems to be a matter of perspective and preference. I kept thinking of the Robert Graves poem, “The Naked And The Nude,” where the narrator contrasts the two words (naked and nude), coyly commenting on semantics and playing with the connotations of two synonyms.
Is “comic” a dirty word in literary circles?
Comic books and graphic novels are earning more respect and critical academic consideration than ever before, but for decades they were considered “low art,” in contrast to “higher art” forms like literature or the fine arts. Essays and dissertations have been written on this evolution and distinction by scholars (you can google it, there is so much out there). There is also an International Comic Arts Forum, a Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, and some universities have added Comic Arts or Comic Studies to their curriculum.
Attitudes seems to be changing, and yet when I mentioned that I was writing a comic, the response was tepid to negative from some of my more literary associates: Why would I want to do that? How would it reflect on me as a writer? Wouldn’t it be a waste of my time?
I believe that the story dictates the form. As a writer, one of my tasks is to choose the right one: some stories work best as novels, some as flash fiction, some as plays, others as comics.
With Sticks and Bones, Madeline and I hope to create four comics that can someday be collected and published together. In the meantime, the first issue: Home Is Where the Hearth Is, will stand alone. It’s a short story told using sequential arts. It’s a comic book.
I’m proud of the story, and I’m thrilled by the depth that artist Madeline C. Matz brings to it with her beautiful art. I’m also excited to slip into the back of a continuum of writers whom I respect that tell poignant stories using the comic book form.