I am writing this blog in the cafe at Waterstones Piccadilly…
That beautiful book emporium. So I’m feeling slightly humbled as I see the names of great literary geniuses emblazoned everywhere. Am almost frozen with blog block… But not quite.
A couple of weeks ago I attended the immensely enjoyable Guardian Masterclass on Writing the Graphic Novel. It was a full day of lectures given by leading lights in the graphic novel world. What a treat it was.
It was quite amusing to see attendees, myself included, sitting very quiet and tense in the atrium of the Royal School of Medicine. An unusual choice of venue for a comic book course but Paul Gravett informed us that there was actually a field of study called Graphic Medicine. Patients find the exercise of comic journaling cathartic.
It was the irrepressible Mr Gravett who kicked off proceedings with an overview of the history of comics. Some of the panels he showed were so inventive and avant garde it was hard to believe they were created a hundred years ago.
The legendary Audrey Niffenegger followed with her slower paced, laid back sharing of how she writes character driven stories with a visual thrust. We each got a take home questionnaire she’d created for the purpose of interviewing your imaginary character.
Karrie Fransman gave us a spirited interactive talk. We were asked to make up instant stories with three items on our person. I think I had a parking ticket, a lipstick and a pencil case. I’m pitching the idea to Miramax next week… “Grand Theft Artist“. She was a charismatic personality and succeeded in breaking the ice and getting the audience to get the feel of graphic writing.
Lunch followed… A very good lunch. Hungry work sitting in a lecture for three hours. I met a graphic artist, a pregnant journalist and an IT manager looking to write sci-fi. And it was amazing to see the average ‘student’ age was probably mid fifties and older. It’s never too late.
The afternoon offered another variety of perspectives. Pat Mills (apparently he’s dubbed The ‘Godfather of Comics’) gave a brilliant, lucid discourse on writing for the mainstream market. It was like listening to a really cool Creative Writing teacher. When he referred to Robert McKee‘s Story lecture I knew this was the class I wanted to spend next semester in. Clear principles… Drama equals conflict, symbolism, duality. Concrete story writing matched with impressive art. He showed us some slides of his work in progress ‘Fred’s War‘ set in World War 1 with suitably period style illustration by David Hitchcock. There was also talk of how communicating with the artist is essential to a good working relationship.
Pat Mills ‘classic’ approach was offset by Andrzej Klimowski‘s expressionistic style and ideology. His approach to story telling followed the twists and turns of surreal stream of consciousness. I loved his insect lady with a rucksack. (you had to be there). He is a tutor at the Royal College of Art as well as a highly successful illustrator, with several works published by Self Made Hero, curators of this masterclass. Emma Hayley, managing director of Self Made also gave a few insights as to how to approach and pitch to editors.
Alex Fitch chaired a question and answer session at the end which gave us all a chink of hope that the gatekeepers of the publishing world might look on us kindly.
On that note I want to come right up to date with the news announced today that the Thought Bubble anthology is being published on November 6th.
Thought Bubble is a major independent comic festival held every year in Leeds. My comics ‘master’ Mark Buckingham was commissioned to create a one page strip (“Passing Thoughts”) for their anthology and in turn asked me to write the script. Not only that, he also got Steve Leialoha (Fables) to ink, Charlie Kirchoff (Dr Who) to colour and Todd Klein (every comic ever made) to letter it. What a stellar collaboration.
So my comic debut is about to happen sooner than I thought!