Perhaps you have not heard of the Brooklyn Book Festival? It happens every year at Brooklyn's Borough Hall, and really, it is kind of awesome. There are speakers and books for sale (of both the new and old and comics and prose varieties) and the Spirit of Brooklyn is everywhere!
You should especially come to these two programs, which are full of both comics excellence and First Second-ness.
1:00 p.m. Comics Jam with Jessica Abel and Matt Madden A jam comic is an improvised collaborative comic. One person draws a single panel and then passes it on to the next person, who draws a new panel that continues the story. Get ready to draw and collaborate! For teens and adults. Participation limited to 25. Held at the Borough Hall Conference Room.
3:00 p.m. Love, War and Adventures in Babysitting…Transforming Stories into Comics. How does a comic artist take a favorite story and make it new? Three new stars in the literary comics cosmos shine the light on their process, adapting award-winning fiction, found historical materials and one of the most popular teen series of all time into graphic novels. Raina Telgemeier (The Babysitters Club graphic novel series), Danica Novgorodoff (Refresh, Refresh) and George O’Connor (Journey into Mohawk Country) in conversation with :01 Editor Calista Brill. Held at the Youth Stage.
If you are not convinced to come by the sheer awesomeness that is First Second, the full schedule of programming is here. There will be lots of extraordinary comics people there, including the folks from D&Q.
Last year my trip to the festival yielded a book entirely about accomplishing bank robberies! How is that not worth a trip to Brooklyn?
A dazzling piece of art magic, expressed in sand and time and passion...
Last week something very exciting happened to me: my book came out. Stuffed!, written by me and drawn by Nick Bertozzi, was published on September 1st, and since I’m not one of your prolific, established authors like Philip Roth or Rachael Ray, to me it was a big day. So big, in fact, that I decided to go down to my local Barnes & Noble so I could see for myself the first time someone came in to buy a copy. Naturally I took notes throughout the day – you never know what you’ll need for your memoirs – and rereading them that night, I thought: I bet my fans would love to see these. So here’s my journal of Stuffed!’s first day.
Sept. 1st, 8:50 AM. Arrive at Barnes & Noble ten minutes before it opens. Obviously I’m a little overeager, but I’m not the only one who’s here early. There’s also a gaggle of five 12-year-old girls and a man with his hand wrapped in a bloody cloth.
9:00. A Barnes & Noble staffer unlocks the door and, before they can ask, informs the girls that there’s still no new Twilight book and they should stop coming by every morning. They talk it over and decide that they might as well go to school, since it’s the first day and all. Guy with wrapped hand asks whether anyone has written a book called Finger Reattachment Surgery for Dummies, and if so, is there an audio edition? He’s having trouble turning pages. Without waiting to hear the answer, I scoot upstairs to the Graphic Novels section
9:01. There they are: two copies of Stuffed! Only two? They must not have unpacked the rest of the order yet. But anyway, these two are right there on the shelf!... the next-to-the-bottom shelf. Why so low? Then I see the little sign explaining that the books are arranged alphabetically by title. That explains why Stuffed! is next to the first entry in Frank Miller’s new series, Sin City Preschool: Corpse in the Fingerpaint.
But that shelf is so low… what if I just move one copy of Stuffed! to a higher shelf where casual browsers will see it? Maybe up at the top there between Batman: The Haunted Dark Knight and Batman: The Night of Dark Hauntings.
9:05. I realize that it probably won’t matter where Stuffed! is shelved, because I’ll be right here when buyers come in and I can just show them where it is. And since this is publication day, pent-up demand means these two copies will probably sell in the next five minutes.
10:10. Okay, no buyers have come in. One guy did stop by and thumb through a copy of Watchmen: The Annotated Guide to the non-Dolby Version of the Movie Trailer, but where are my fans? I know they’re a cultured bunch, so I can think of only two possible explanations: either 1) they’ve all gone to the opening of the new African and Oceanic sculpture exhibit at the Met, or 2) Spencer Gifts is having a sale on Beer Pong balls.
10:38. I’m now convinced that Stuffed!’s placement on a low shelf is not only keeping my readers from finding the book; somehow, it’s keeping them from finding the Graphic Novels section at all. The urge to move the two copies up to eye level grows almost overpowering. But what if one of my wheelchair-bound fans catches me and interprets it as an act of prejudice against the differently abled?
11:00. I’ve got it: I’ll leave both copies on the ‘S’ shelf where they are, but remove all the other books from that shelf and scatter them artfully on the floor to make it look like they just happened to fall.
1:10 PM. Because I have to carry out my plan when no store employee is looking, it takes me two hours to complete, but it’s worth it. Stuffed! really stands out, now that it’s on the shelf by itself. I gaze at it proudly for ten minutes, and then realize I’m starving. Lunch.
1:30. Halfway through my Triple Meat Italiano pizza (no one knows true Neapolitan cuisine like Pizza Hut), it occurs to me that my wheelchair-bound fans probably won’t love the floor full of books, either. It’s so hard to please everyone.
2:00. Back from lunch feeling queasy, and not just from the 3MI pie: someone has put all the books back on the shelf and Stuffed! is now surrounded by very menacing Spawn covers that I’m sure are causing my characters’ testicles to retract in fear. A B&N staffer walks by, eyeing me coldly, and I freeze: do they suspect me for dumping the books? I decide to do the rest of my observing from a nearby easy chair, wearing sunglasses. If anyone asks, I’ll claim pinkeye.
3:00. This has been an extraordinarily slow day for graphic novel sales. The only customers in the section in the last hour have been two college students loudly debating why Tintin won’t come to terms with his sexuality. Near my chair, a security guard looks them over. I tell him, “This morning I saw them pulling books off the ‘S’ shelf.”
3:30. I feel pretty confident that sales of Stuffed! will pick up, now that school’s out for the day. It crosses my mind that those Twilight fans from this morning may come back, and I briefly consider taking out a Sharpie and changing the title to Stuffed – With Delicious Blood From A Hottie! But if the store catches me vandalizing the book they’ll surely make me buy it, and I already have a copy.
4:30. Still no sales. On the plus side, I was here for Story Time in the children’s section. If you ask me, they should have locked up that Peter Rabbit and thrown away the key.
6:00. You know what I hate? Bookstores that don’t close at 6:00.
7:15. I am still in my easy chair, wondering how long it takes to develop bedsores, when I spot someone coming up the aisle. Her eyes radiate intelligence… maybe too much intelligence. Is she just passing through Graphic Novels on her way to Twelve-Hundred-Page Important Historic Biographies? I knew I should have pursued my idea for Gerald Ford: The LSD Years... no! She stops at the GN section… she’s looking at the ‘S’ shelf… she’s picking up Stuffed!
7:19. Is she going to put it back? No! No! Don’t do that! I fight back the strong urge to buy it myself and give it to her. I read somewhere that doing that can cut into an author’s income.
7:20. Yes! She’s taking the book downstairs to the cashiers! I have a reader! I watch joyfully as she pays. And from what I can tell she doesn’t have a Barnes & Noble card, so there’s no discount to mar my triumph.
7:21. In the flush of victory, I decide there’s no reason to stay here until the store closes at 9:00. It’s obvious that Stuffed! will be a success – hell, this store alone has already sold half its copies. I close my notebook and prepare to leave. If I hurry, I might even catch my reader in the parking lot and surprise her with an autograph. I can’t do that for every fan, of course, but this one is a special case. Besides, I forgot to send her a card on Mother’s Day.
(click for larger)
Since it's all Danica's artwork, we can guarantee that everything is going to be gorgeous.
"One should fight like the devil the temptation to think well of editors. They are all, without exception--at least some of the time--incompetent or crazy... It is useful, in short, for young writers always to think of editors as limited people ... though if possible one should treat them politely." - John Gardner, On Becoming a Novelist
"All editors are different, and even a very good editor isn't a magic bullet, because writing always comes down to you and your book." - Hope Larson, Comics Comics
Someday I will indulge myself in the pleasure of writing a nice long post about the editorial process and what precisely what goes into it and how it works, exactly, but in the meantime, I wanted to thank Hope Larson for her lovely interview on Comics Comics about working with editors. If you haven't read it, I do recommend it.
And of course, human vanity being what it is, I couldn't resist adding a brief two cents to this discussion... So, a quick run-through, from a personal perspective, on what an editor is and is not.
What an editor is: Someone who provides a second pair of eyes for your work. Think of a good editor as a mildly reactive surface for your work to reflect off of so you can see it better. Both flaws and strengths in your writing that you have been too close to it to see may be a lot clearer to someone else.
What an editor is not: A mind-reader. Although someone with some experience and skill may be able to intuit a great deal about what you're trying (whether you're succeeding or not) to say in your story, it doesn't always work out that way, especially not at first. I've found that the editorial process often involves a certain amount of groping around in the dark on the part of both editor and author.
What an editor is: a reader, talker, and listener. There are two modes I find I alternate between when I'm talking to an author about their work. First, mostly asking questions -- the more open-ended the better -- to get the author thinking and talking about the story, especially about what works and what doesn't; what's important and what isn't. Second, I give my opinion, and offer my solutions. I usually start out with the one and then move to the second, but not always.
What an editor is not: the final authority on how you write and illustrate your book. As happy as I am in certain situations to say "Such-and-such isn't working; it would be better if you did so-and-so," that's kind of the exception to the rule. I'm always aware of my own blind-spots and shortcomings, and, as Hope says, "writing always comes down to you and your book." My role is primarily that of a facilitator and asker-of-hard-questions, not "Boss." By the way, this is a more pragmatic position than you might expect, given how high-minded it sounds! Think of it this way: my two primary goals as an editor are 1) a great final book, and 2) a happy author. Strongarming someone into adopting my brilliant idea isn't going to get me either of these things.
What an editor is: someone who probably knows more about publishing, and the market for your book, than you do. Format constraints, cover design constraints, schedule constraints, content constraints -- most authors have no reason to have thought about these issues much. I spend a good part of my day thinking about them. (Not the fun part, either, so count yourself lucky.)
What an editor is not: the final authority on publishing and the market for your book. I do know a certain amount about this stuff. But the best way I can represent a book's best interests is by never assuming I know what's definitively right or wrong for it before I've given it real thought... and heard the author out. You want a purple melamine cover for your book with an embossed illustration of human genitalia? Let's talk. Chances are I'll talk you out of it, but I'll always hear what you have to say, first.
- Thanks to First Second translator Hanvey Hsiung for the terrific quote from John Gardner
- Your mileage may vary on all of this; I offer no universals or proscriptions. Or if I do, it's probably wrong anyway.
Ball Peen Hammer excerpt in PW Comics Week.
First Second signs up new projects! It is impossible not to be excited about working with awesome people like Gene Yang, Thien Pham, Dave Roman, and Lucy Knisley.
CWR really likes Kim Dong Hwa's Color trilogy. "If you’d told me before I started that reading 900 pages of a man’s take on his mother’s memoirs on growing up in rural Korea would captivate me as much as the COLOR trilogy did . . . I’d have accused you of being drunk, insane, or over-medicated."
ICv2 likes Cat Burglar Black. "The story reads like a Tintin/Oliver Twist hybrid."
Dustin Harbin's journey to love for Gus & His Gang. "When Gus came out, with its garish safety-orange cover, and its Wild-West subject matter, I looked forward to reading it but wasn’t really peeing myself or anything."
Let this image serve as a PSA for Tiny Tyrant: The Ethelbertosaurus. It has adorable artwork and mutant rats! What more could you ask for in a book?