About Raina

Photo by Marion Vitus

Raina Telgemeier is the author and illustrator of the graphic novels Smile and Drama, both #1 New York Times bestsellers. She also adapted and illustrated four graphic novel versions of Ann M. Martin's Baby-sitters Club series, and has contributed short stories to many anthologies. Raina's accolades include an Eisner Award, a Boston Globe-Horn Book Honor, a Stonewall Honor, and many Best Of and Notable lists. Raina lives and works in Queens, NY, with her cartoonist husband, Dave Roman.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do you say your name?

You can listen to me say my name here.

When did you start reading comics? Did you always want to make them?

I started reading the funnies in my local newspaper, The San Francisco Chronicle, when I was nine. My favorites were Calvin and Hobbes and For Better or For Worse. I started making my own comic strips around the same time, and realized I liked putting pictures and words together to tell stories.

How'd you get a job drawing Baby-sitters Club comics for Scholastic? Was it your idea?

Kind of. I met the editors at Scholastic when they were starting up the Graphix imprint, and they were looking for new artists to do projects. I brought a few original ideas to them, but nothing that was really "ready to go." So they asked what I read when I was young, and when I said I'd been a BSC fan, their eyes lit up and they said, "THAT might make a good graphic novel! Want to do some sketches?" And that was that.

What about SMILE - did you really knock your two front teeth out? Is this a true story? What inspired you to write this book?

It's all true. I was in sixth grade when I fell and knocked out my teeth, and I have been dealing with the consequences ever since. I had braces, a lot of surgery, and a lot of awkward smiles as a result. The comic SMILE was born out of a need to get the whole experience down on paper, since I spent so much time telling people about it.

How about the other stuff? The earthquake, the incident with your skirt in high school...is it all true?

I couldn't make this stuff up if I tried. Earthquakes happen pretty frequently in San Francisco, and I happened to live there during the last big one, in October of 1989. As for my friends doing mean things to me...let's just say, I'm not friends with those people anymore. One incident involving my skirt was enough!

Is DRAMA a true story?

Nope. I did participate in my school theater programs in middle school and high school, and I channeled some of my experiences into Drama, but the story itself is fiction. Some of the characters in the story are inspired by real people in my life--for example, two of my best friends are gay twin brothers (really!), and our real-life friendship has some things in common with Callie, Jesse, and Justin's friendship! But I was never on stage crew, I have never had purple or pink hair, and I am terrible at building things. They always come out crooked.

You should make a Smile movie! Are they making a Smile movie? What about a Drama movie?

Ha ha, I have absolutely no control over that. If a film or television studio wants to purchase the rights to make Smile or Drama into a TV show or a movie, they are welcome to do so, but that means entering a crazy Hollywood process that I would have very little to do with. If there is ever news on this front, you can bet I'll announce it here on my site!

Can I see some pictures of you when you were a kid?

I've got a few photos posted over here.

How about a picture of your desk?

Sure! Here's a tour of my workspace.

Can you give me some advice on a personal issue?

No, I'm really not in a position to do that. If you're being bullied by kids at school, or you're worried about a friend's behavior, or something is really bothering you...it's best to talk to an adult you know and trust.

I'm getting braces soon. Can you tell me what it's like?

I tried to convey what braces were like, for me, as accurately as possible in Smile. This is how I remember it. Chances are, your experience won't be so bad, unless you also knocked out your two front teeth and need to get your whole mouth reconstructed!

I'd like to be an author/cartoonist/illustrator. Can you give me any advice?

Sure! Here is my advice for budding cartoonists.

Would you be willing to read my story/comic/essay/novel?

I'm sorry, but I can't. I've only got so many hours in a day, and I devote most of them to working on my own books and projects. You can join a writers' community online, or at your school or library, though!

When will X-Men: Misfits 2 be out?

Sadly, it won't. The publisher decided not to release the second volume. Quite a few other titles they were in the process of publishing got canceled, too. I'm sad about it! Volume 2 was going to pay a lot of story points off. And Rogue and Jubilee were going to join the cast...Maybe someday it will be published, but since I don't own the characters or the story, there's not much I can do about it.

What do you use to make your comics?

I sketch out all my pages on plain 8.5 x 11 paper, and then create a full-sized version of those sketches on Bristol board, using a Col-erase light blue colored pencil. Over that, I pencil each panel pretty tightly with an F graphite pencil. Finally, I ink over the penciled drawings with Dr. Martin's waterproof India ink and a no. 2 Windsor & Newton sable brush, and erase the pencil lines with a Staedtler Mars plastic eraser. My finished pages are scanned into a computer, and panel borders, lettering, and colors are all added digitally. I wrote all about the tools I use in this essay--contains lots of pictures and examples!

Are you still making mini-comics? Where can I buy them?

I still draw short story comics, but I don't really have the time to make mini-comics anymore. My old mini-comic series, Take-Out, will hopefully be collected into a book someday! Most of the short comics I make now are posted right here on my website, and are free to read.

What's your next book about?

My next graphic novel will be called SISTERS. It's a companion book to Smile, although it isn't a sequel. This book will focus on my relationship with my younger sister, specifically a road trip we took one summer. The book will be released on September 1, 2014. You can find out some more info here!

Will you be drawing more Baby-sitters Club comics?

There are no plans for more BSC graphic novels. If you enjoyed the BSC Graphix, the original BSC prose novels are available as both print and eBooks, and you can read more about the characters in those!

I've read all of your books! Can you recommend some other graphic novels?

Here's a list of graphic novels I recommend. There are tons of great books out there!

Didn't you get engaged in an interesting way? I think I read about it on the internet or something.

Yeah, Dave came up with a really amazing way to ask me to marry him. He drew this comic, and gave it to me while we were on a plane. Later, I drew the rest of the comic, and we put it online. A lot of people were able to read it that way, including many, many people we had never met, but who were excited for us anyway!

Are you interested in collaborating on graphic novels in the future?

I'm pretty solidly busy until at least 2015, but maybe someday. Serious queries should go through my agent, Judy Hansen.

Will you come speak at my school/library/conference/convention/company picnic?

Maybe! Please see my Author Visits Page for more information.




HOMEWORK HELP SECTION!

What year were you born?

1977.

Where do you get your inspiration/ideas?

Most of the stories I write are inspired by my own life. Here's a blog post I wrote about inspiration, and here's another one about using my own life as a template for stories. And one more about the things that inspired my drawing style.

How do you make a graphic novel?

Here's one of my most popular essays: How A Graphic Novel is Born (and Raised). (This may also answer the question, 'Why does it take so LONG to make a graphic novel?!')

What genre are your books?

Please note that graphic novels are a format and a medium, but not a genre. There are many genres WITHIN graphic novels! Smile is considered autobiography and memoir, and sometimes non-fiction. Drama and the BSC graphic novels are considered realistic fiction and slice of life.

Do you have any pets?

When I was growing up my family had goldfish, hamsters, a chameleon, a parakeet, a cockatiel, and eventually a cat. I don't have any pets right now.

Do you have any siblings?

If you read my book SMILE, it will give you a clue!

Do you have any hobbies?

My hobby was always drawing, but now that I draw professionally for a living, I like to spend my spare time cooking, and reading about food. I also like to swim, watch cooking shows, read novels, and travel!

What is your favorite color?

Yellow.

What is your favorite book?

Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH by Robert C. O'Brien.

Who is your favorite author?

I don't have one favorite author. Some authors I love include Ann M. Martin, Judy Blume, Beverly Cleary, and Margaret Atwood. My favorite cartoonists include Bill Watterson, Lynn Johnston, Bill Amend, Greg Evans, Lynda Barry, Keiji Nakazawa, Kiyohiko Azuma, and Jeff Smith. Look them up!

What is your favorite movie?

Pee-wee's Big Adventure.

What is your favorite food?

Probably a tie between San Francisco burritos and New York pizza!

You didn't answer my questions here! Where can I find out more?

Check out my media page! There are links to online interviews, videos, and podcasts I've been on.

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