The Greg Hill Reading List

Mouseguard

Mouseguard

Hello, internet folk! Welcome to our regularly scheduled tomfoolery!

You may recall that a couple months ago I started teaching a graphic novels class at the elementary school. One of the bazillion things that I did in preparation was to interview local graphic novels guru Greg Hill. Mr Hill is The Guy for graphic novels at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, and has given several talks and workshops throughout the state. (In fact, I met up with him through the school librarian, who had gone to one of his classes at the Alaska Library Association’s conference last year.)

In addition to knowing just boatloads about the structure and design of graphic novels, Mr Hill also lays out a pretty gorgeous recommended reading list. Take a gander at the following list, and maybe find a new favorite. (And for anybody interested in the history of comics, designing their own graphic novel, or listening to background baby destroy everything, be sure to catch Mr Hill and I’s full interview [at an hour long! whew!] that I’ll be posting next Monday!)

Happy reading!

Little Nemo in Slumberland

Little Nemo in Slumberland

Greg Hill’s Graphic Novels Recommended Reading List

Marguarite Abouet- Aya

Carl Barks- Donald Duck, Uncle Scrooge

Alison Bechdel- The Fun Home

Ernie Bushmiller- Nancy

Will Eisner- A Contract with God; The Spirit

George Harriman- Krazy Kat

Takehiko Inoue- Vagabond

Winsor McCay- Little Nemo in Slumberland

Mori Kaoru- A Bride’s Story

Grant Morrison- anything

David Petersen- Mouseguard

Alex Raymond- early Flash Gordon; Rip Kirby

Gabriel Rodriquez; Eric Shanower- Little Nemo: Return to Slumberland

Art Speigelman- Maus

Chris Ware- Jimmy Corrigan, the Smartest Kid on Earth

A Bride's Story

A Bride’s Story

Dealing with Depression

Heads up, y’all!  Today, I’ll be discussing my own dealings with depression and how this affects me as a writer and a human.  If you’re not feeling up to reading about depression, including references to self mutilation and suicidal ideation, maybe go check out this cool video about biodiversity instead.  Or, you know, do both! Cheers!

It’s very tempting to start a post like this with statistics and definitions.  I want to talk prevalence and symptoms and stuff like that, because it’s so clinical, so quantifiable.  It’s concrete and factual, about a thing that can so often feel hidden and only quasi-real.

But in the interest of keeping things brief, I’ll skip all that.  I’m not a psychologist, I’m a patient, and I can only write what I know.  Here’s what I know about depression.

I get down sometimes.  I can’t always predict when it’s going to happen, or how bad it’s going to be.  Sometimes it’s just several days of being glum and unfocused and listless.  Sometimes it’s weeks and weeks of hopelessly wishing there was some graceful and acceptable and not-sucky-for-the-people-who-love-me way to just not be alive anymore.  And then eventually I slog my way back out of the tarry hole I’m in and things are better.  Often, things are great, and stay that way for weeks at a time.  But then I peak somewhere and start my decline again.  I go through this cycle maybe four times a year, although I’ve never really counted, but it’s always hardest in winter and easiest in summer.  I’ve been like this for as long as I can remember, well before I moved to Alaska with its pronounced seasonal shifts.  The first time I specifically remember thinking about suicide, I was somewhere around eight years old, and I’ve been fantasizing about it off and on ever since.

Depression reminds me of the time I was still figuring out my intestinal disorder, became severely malnourished, and lost the ability to properly taste food; everything took on a strange metallic taste that just made it that much harder to force myself to eat.  Likewise, depression affects everything, tinting the taste of my every thought, my every reaction, my every emotion.  It takes the bad things and places the blame on me, no matter what.  It takes the good things and tells me I don’t deserve them.  It makes it harder and harder for me to engage healthfully and happily with those around me, because I don’t deserve them and they would be better off without me.

This is especially devastating pertaining to my children.  A parent constantly works hard to do right by their kids; depression strangles the joy and amplifies the pain.

For me, there is a terrible guilt to depression.  How can somehow who is so blessed be so sad?  It’s not my darling husband making me sad, who works so hard and loves so completely.  It’s not my sweet sons making me sad, those cheerful boys who always get good grades and never ever get in trouble at school or at church.  So what’s wrong with me?

The answer is probably a bit chemical, probably a bit learned.  I don’t know the exact nature of it, and I don’t think knowing would make one lick of difference.

It’s hard for me to tell exactly how far it extends, too.  I know that it changes my perception, but I don’t know if it changes others’ perceptions of me.  Can they tell?  I know they can sometimes, when it’s really bad, and those are the times when it’s hardest to make myself keep going out.  But those are the very times when I need to keep working at the school, keep going to church, keep talking with my friends.  When I drift away from those things because I don’t want people to know, I sink deeper and deeper and deeper.  That’s when things start to get out of control and I begin hurting myself.  Sometimes the pain helps me to feel a little more control.  Sometimes it stands in as a small punishment in place of the larger one I think I deserve.  Sometimes I don’t know why I’m doing it, or even that I am until I see the damage.

How does it affect me as a writer? As a volunteer at my kids’ school?  As a teacher at church?  As a wife and parent?  In every aspect of my life, depression settles first like a shroud, just a gray veil that I see the world through.  But as it gets thicker around me, it’s hard to stay connected.  I forget things: birthdays, appointments, walking the dog, eating.  I find it harder and harder to connect with the people around me, whether they’re family or strangers, on the internet or in real life.  It’s difficult to write because anything that feels genuine sounds melodramatic and whiney, but anything else feels incredibly false.  It’s difficult to work and volunteer because I feel so useless.  It’s difficult to love because I feel so unlovable.

Not everything about depression is terrible, at least not for me.  There are a few things that this struggle has granted me that I don’t know if I would have been able to learn otherwise.  Greater depth of emotion.  Stronger sympathy for any kind of suffering.   The desire to comfort people going through struggles.  An incredible love and loyalty for those who help me through.  I don’t know if I would have these qualities any other way.  These are deeply personal things and vary person to person, but this holds true for me.  Besides this, I worry that if I were to blunt my ability to feel the very deepest of my depression, I would similarly be shaving off my ability to feel the pure joy and true elation I so often do between those bouts of sadness.  I’ve never been any other way, so I don’t know.

This in no way means that I don’t fully support the use of medication under the advice of a doctor.  My illness is such that I respond well to cognitive behavioral therapy, but requiring medicine is a reality for many people struggling with mental illness.  This does not make them weak or a failure any more than a cancer patient requiring chemotherapy is weak or a failure.

I’m not sure why I’m posting this here.  This is, after all, a writing blog, and depression is certainly not just for writers.  Besides that, I feel least like a writer in my deepest bouts of depression.  But I felt like it should be said.  There is an awful loneliness to depression, in that it feels like nobody understands how deeply it aches.  Maybe one of you readers feels that ache right now.  If it’s any comfort, you’re not alone, even when it feels that way.  I wish I had heard that message more when I was younger and at my most fragile.

 

Things that help me:

Give someone close a heads up when things are getting bad. I always tell my husband at the start of a bad spell, and he helps me get through. A relative, a friend, a spiritual leader, a trusted teacher: anyone who loves you would be honored to stand with you.

I keep the national suicide hotline programmed into my phone, and those wonderful folks are glad to chat for as long as they are needed.  They are so kind.  If you feel like things are starting to get out of control, look up your region’s hotline and give yourself easy access.

When I begin to sink, it’s so so important that I stay busy.  The distraction is nice, but more important are the connections to other humans.  Staying busy, whether with work or with volunteerism or just playing cards with my family, makes me feel more valued.

Exercise.  This one is so hard to hold on to when I’m in the pits, but it makes a huge difference. Whether I’m exercising by myself or with a sports team, it helps me to feel more alive at a time when I otherwise feel numb and exhausted all the time.

Bumps and Bruises: My Twin Careers in Rugby and Writing

Nick Kennedy, Gonzalo GarciaThe day my new husband and I moved into our first apartment, he viciously provoked a water fight over the meager boxes of our possessions.  In the interest of saving the defenseless computer, I fled out the door and across the field at the back of the building, snarling about an annulment.  The school’s women’s rugby team happened to be practicing in that same field and, impressed by my rage and my sprints, invited me to join them.  Robert went back to the apartment.  I hared off to play rugby.

Thus began my love affair with the greatest sport on earth.

Rugby hasn’t always been kind to me.  I’ve broken fingers and ruptured a bursa.  I’ve torn my quad and sprained just about every joint in my body.  I’ve dislocated my shoulder repeatedly and been so bruised and battered that coworkers started gently offering me safe havens.  I love, love, love ruby, but I can’t even say I’m all that good at it.  I’m not particularly fast and I have a hard time memorizing plays and my kicks always seem to go awry.  I’m skinny and fragile and can’t seem to reliably throw and run at the same time, which is kind of an important skill in a game that involves a lot of running and throwing.

But still I love it.  I play whenever I can and I watch hours of tourneys online and I delight in teaching my boys how to take me out at the ankles while I run in slow motion.  Rugby pleases me in a way that is both deeply satisfying and wildly thrilling in the same instant.

I feel much the same way about writing.  Writing intoxicates me.  I write whenever I can and I read and research a lot about writing and the specifics of my stories and I always squee for joy when my children tell wonderful stories about rock climbing adventures and zombie attacks and magical foxes at wishing wells.

There is, however, one large difference between the way I think about rugby and the way I think about writing.  With rugby, I’ll never be anything close to pro, and I am totally okay with that.  I want to play my best game and I have a great time doing it.  I get some bumps and bruises and I go home happy.  Knowing I’ll never be pro does nothing to diminish my enjoyment of the game.  With writing, however, I have a hard time letting myself be so carefree.

Maybe it’s a matter of focus.  When playing rugby, I have a laser focus on the ball.  I know where it is and I itch to get my hands on it and nothing outside the boundary lines matters.  When drafting, I can often find that nothing-matters-but-this focus, but the minute I start editing, something changes.  The story becomes not just what pleases me, but something that could potentially please others as well.  And just as surely as it could please others, it could displease them too.  What if nobody likes it?

What if nobody likes me?

I was thinking about this after practice last week, during which I let some sneaky Samoan guy blitz right past me to score the winning try of the scrimmage.  It didn’t occur to me at the time to wonder if my teammates were mad at me, whether they liked me or not.  I’m sure some of them were disappointed, maybe even annoyed, but I’m just as sure that they knew I was doing my best with some serious disadvantages.

Maybe I should give myself the same accolades while writing.  Nobody can deny that I’m giving it my best.  Thing go awry and I mess things up, but any time you put your heart into something, there will be injuries along the way.  If I don’t get a few bruises, I’m probably not trying hard enough.

In this vein, though, I’m doing a lot better with the rejections goal than I thought I would be at this point- I’m only slightly behind.  But more importantly, I’m learning to take them better.  I think choosing to look at rejections as the goals themselves has made them a lot easier to swallow.  (Because you all know how I am with check boxes.)  Maybe this is a good first step in growing that thick skin professional writers are always talking about!

I’m getting better at this game.  (Not at rugby.  At that one, I’m just getting older, haha.)  I can usually spot my weak points.  Self-editing, although not exactly what I’d call fun, is less excruciating than it used to be.  I’m getting better and better at using feedback.  These are all signs of improvement.

I want to be the best writer I can be, but I always want to enjoy the process.  After all, the thrill of telling a good story is what got me into this addiction hobby in the first place.  Even if I never go pro (although I hope I do some day!), I will always love to tell stories.

And I will always love rugby, too, even when it beats me up.

Happy writing!

PS- Watch some rugby! Go, Eagles!

April Recap

*whimpers*

So April was… rough.  Last month was the kind of perfect storm that I’ve not seen since Sept 2015, when I ran out of blog buffer at the start of NaNo right after pooping out a new human.  Thank goodness that, in my infinite mercy, I scheduled myself a recap for this week, because boy howdy, that buffer is long gone.

In addition to some personal issues, I had Camp NaNo, with its super low word count goal that I still just barely squeaked out-

NaNo Graph

-as well as the near doubling of my hours at the library I work at (soooo much shelving)-

Books to Shelve

-and the seven hundred mile round trip with all babies in tow-

Screaming Mom

-and all the normal requirements of a household trying to appease the relentless gods of entropy.

Messy House

It was rough.  And so I’m happy to give myself a pass on a thoughtful blog post this week.  Instead, go learn about crazy math!

*passes out*

Trope Fail: A Competent Adult

You know how in all horror movies involving teenagers, they don’t have guardians?  It’s always like a pack of teenagers just getting mowed down left and right, and the parents and the teachers and the neighbors either A) don’t notice or B) don’t believe or C) don’t function.  It’s like all adults in the horror movie universe have the IQ of an eggplant.

Yeah. That trope. Urg.

Competant Adult

This comic was A PAIN. Not because it’s in and of itself particularly difficult. (Although there were a few rather annoying technofails setting me back, and I finally just gave up on those purple dialog bubbles.) But just because this whole month has been a pain. (Thank goodness it’s nearly over. I could use a couple fewer commitments in my life right now.)

The first day late with the post, I was like, ‘It’s okay, I’ll just put it up late.’ And the second day, I was like, ‘Ah, geez, I should do some kind of apology bonus. Like a funny extra panel!’ And the third day, I was like, ‘Man, this is really late, I should color it or something.’ And the fourth day, I was like, ‘Maaaaybe I should just concentrate on posting it at all.’

By the end of the whole affair, I was about as annoyed as Nurse Linda. But I did manage a lame bonus doodle. Nurse Linda is so over this.

img060

She keeps telling the principle to seal off the crypts. But nooobody listens to the nurse.

Reblog: On Author Responsibility

This month of madness slogs on, now with a new achievement unlocked: Plague! (Oh, wait, haha, this is ME and I unlocked plague a loooong time ago. *weeps*)  But in the light of this month’s craziness, I’ve scheduled a reblog- and lucky you! It’s from Madison Dusome, who is in every way fantastic!  Enjoy!

On Author Responsibility

Months ago now, a reasonably successful fantasy author was accused of (and apologised for) some instances of abuse/manipulation/other bad behaviour.  As a result, he lost readers/followers, sales and other opportunities (some publishers dropped him, some retailers stopped selling his works, etc).

This is something that seems to be happening more and more frequently, possibly because people are more aware of/active against abuse, and/or because authors are increasingly more in the public eye.  Simply put: authors’ behaviour affects the reception of their work, and to become an author is now akin to becoming a celebrity or a politician: people care about what you say, what you do and especially about your scandals.

Why and how much?  Is it right or fair?  Is it possible to avoid?  Let’s discuss!

Want to read more?  Go to Madison’s beautiful blog with this elegantly crafted link!

Camp and Class Updates

Chore BearWhew! This month is seriously kicking my butt!  I’m slogging through Camp NaNo- waaaay behind schedule- and barely keeping up with this class I’m teaching at the school and I’ve upped my (admittedly small amount of) hours at work by 50%. Yikes!

Still, it’s been a good month. I feel like I’m doing reasonably well, and I hope to play a little more catch up later in the month.  I’ve put my submissions stuff on the back burner until May, and I haven’t been able to do as much reading as I’d like, but I’m actually keeping up in all my other regular chores.  (For example, not every pan in the house is dirty.) For now, that’s gonna have to do.

Next week, we’ll have a reblog from the ever amazing Madison Dusome, but for now, enjoy a super unedited bit of weirdness that I thought was kind of fun regarding the plight of a low-tier camp counselor. Enjoy!

 

Bear Attacks: How Not to Die

Alright kids, you have so far done an excellent job of not dying. And in the interest of not getting sued by your parents, we’re gonna talk about how to keep that winning streak going.

Atticus! Put that down and get over here. Pay attention.

Now. Who here’s seen a bear? Wow, all of you? Wait, no, Zoo Boise doesn’t count. I mean, like, you and some big ball of teeth and fur, and nothing between you but like a few thorn bushes and an outhouse. Okay, that’s what I thought.

Me? No, I’ve never seen one either. But we’re gonna learn about it today anyway because this is a summer camp and Smokey doesn’t care if you’re a moose or a third grader.

So who can tell me the two kinds of bears they have here in the Alaskan Interior?

That’s right! Brown bears. What else?

Gummy bears will not kill you in your tent for a granola bar, so no, Sophie, not gummy bears. Try to take this seriously.

Come on, Alex, do you really think they have panda bears here?

Seriously, guys? It’s the same two we have back in Idaho.  Didn’t your parents ever take you camping?

Thank you! Black bears!

Okay, yes, Alaska does have polar bears, but they don’t come this far south and if one of those starts hunting you, you’re pretty screwed anyway.

Okay, so black bears and brown bears. If you-

No, grizzlies are just another name for brown bears.

I don’t know; they just call them that.

No, those are just-

No.

N-

Sun bears? Where do you think we are?

Atticus, sit down.

Okay, guys, we’ve got black bears and brown bears, also known as grizzly bears. Who knows how to tell them apart?

Well, because you have to do different things when you encounter different bears.

Just don’t get them mixed up, okay? Now pay attention.

Sophie, put your gummy bears away.

Okay, how do you tell brown bears and black bears apart?

Okay, good! Color. What else can you look for?

No, Alex, don’t be silly.

Come on, guys.

Okay, which one’s smaller?

And one more guess.

Yes! Black bears are smaller. So brown bears are…

Yes. Thank you.

Black bears are only like five feet tall standing up, but brown bears are like eight feet tall.

Well, yeah, they’re both taller than you kids. But brown bears are a lot taller. Black bears also have a kind of straighter face and curvier claws.

Alex, come one. Would you seriously walk up and check its claws?

Well don’t, okay?

Yes, I’m checking the paper, I don’t want to mix this up.

Of course I know what I’m talking about. I’m just making sure.

Atticus- Sit. Down.

Okay. So say you want to go down to the waterfront, but you want to be bear safe. What do you do?

Okay, sure, but you’re not riding in a car, you’re walking.

Sophie. Leave her alone.

Sophie, you! You’re going to the waterfront. How should you get down there?

Um. Alright. But would you go alone?

Okay, but don’t, okay? If you walk in groups, it’s a lot safer. And if you make a lot of…

Make a lot of…

Come on, guys, you’re doing it right now.

Noise! Yes! Make a lot of noise. Bears don’t like to be surprised.

So you’re heading down to the waterfront and you’re in a group and you’re making noise, but there’s a bear on the trail ahead of you.

Well, okay, for this part it doesn’t matter. Black or brown, there’s a bear. What should you do?

That’s a good idea. Just heading back the way you came can’t hurt. Slowly back up, and don’t put your back to it. Always give bears a lot of space, and never-

Atticus! Do you want to spend the afternoon cleaning outhouses?

Thank you.

Alright, guys, let’s just get through this so we can go make bead necklaces or something. Give bears space. Never run. If you run, it’ll chase you and it’ll be a heck of a lot faster. What else?

No, please don’t try to climb a tree. Bears can climb, and they’re way better at it than you.

Yes, you too, Lily.

Lily, seriously, you cannot outclimb a bear.

I don’t care if your cousin is Tom Brady; beating some punk cousin in a tree climbing race doesn’t qualify you to escape a bear up a tree. And even if you did beat it to the top, it can just keep climbing up after you.

No climbing.

Okay, so say you haven’t been listening to anything I’ve said and you snuck up on a bear and now you’re in for it. So it decides to attack and it’s a black bear. What should you do?

Eh, screaming won’t help.

Okay, someone might come help you, but mostly you’re just telling the bear, ‘Sure, I’m prey! Easy pickin’s!’ Screaming isn’t gonna help.

No, it’s a black bear. You play dead for a brown bear. For black bears, you…

Yes. You fight back. Beat it around the nose as much as possible, they have sensitive noses.

And what if it’s a brown bear?

Come on, guys, I just said it.

Play dead. Thank you. Lay on your belly like this…

And then cover your neck with yours hands like this…

And spread your feet like this.

So you’re harder to flip over.

Well, I guess your back’s got more bones to protect you if it starts clawing you open.

No, I mean, it won’t. Probably.

No, no, seriously, the odds of a bear actually attacking are like really really small.

No, honestly. Look, it says right here.

Oh, Alex, don’t cry, honey. This’ll seriously never happen.

Well, because there’s a really really small chance that it might happen so you should know what to do just in-

I don’t know. It just says ‘rare’.

I really don’t know.

Because whoever wrote this pamphlet didn’t think percentages were important. It’s just rare, okay?

Oh, Alex. Nobody’s gonna eat you.

Atticus, sit down!

You know what? Let’s just… review this later. Who wants to run up to the obstacle course?

Yeah. Me too.