Week 1 // Inkslingers & Wordsmiths // Writing Graphic Memoir

I decided to do a weekly post about my current course at CU called Ink Slingers & Wordsmiths. It centers on writing the graphic memoir and I LOVE THIS CLASS SO MUCH and I want to share it with the world. I spent a long time curating the materials, readings, and assignments — and for the past couple years students have been making stunning work. So, hello world, this is what I’m up to this semester. I hope you enjoy. I’m happy to share the course syllabi and materials if you reach out.

This week, (OMG it’s week 3 of the semester!) and we are finally diving into Hyperbole and a Half by the wonderful Allie Brosh. She is one of the best, and my students always connect with her work. We spent the first two weeks of the semester thinking, discussing, and reading memoir essays by some masters of the genre (Mary Karr, Cheryl Strayed, etc.) and now we are jumping, head-first, into the wild world of graphic memoir. If you have been living under that rock, please do read her book. It will slay you while making you laugh.

There’s an amazing thing that happens when reading in order to write and I adore this stage the most when I mentor (and when I experience it as a writer). When you read as a reader, you’re so easily dumbfounded and perplexed as to how someone had the ability to make something like THAT BEAUTIFUL. When you study in order to craft your own work in a particular genre, you appreciate every single inch of the tools they are using. A lot of studying writing is narrowing the gap between yourself and the stuff you admire in the world. Sure, there are works of art in the literary world — simply stunning entities that defy decoding, etc. But for the most part, there’s a human being sitting down (standing, walking, whatever) and putting words in order for a good reason.

With graphic memoir, a triangle presents itself: the image, word, and the time that exists within that one panel. This is the relationship that makes graphic work so astounding: TIME / IMAGE / WORD. If you’re just getting into this world, Brosh’s work is fun because it’s super non-traditional (you rebel, you!). She writes chapters of loosely interlocking stories that are illustrated in whatever way she sees fit from panels, to pages, to half pages all done painstakingly carefully and simultaneously scribbly on her tablet. Her stories are so relatable about anxiety, about a kid who doesn’t fit in, about being a human being who deals with an all-encompassing depression. All I know is that this book has touched so many. In any case, it’s a stunning work.

Happy reading!

Next week: Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi.