Hourly Comic Day 2015 + ALAYMAs!

February 2nd, 2015

My 2015 Hourly Comic Day comics. Some of these were done in a moving car. All were done straight-to-Sharpie in a notebook given to me by a Naperville middle school last fall with a parade of elephants along the bottom page trim.

Yesterday I was anticipating this morning’s ALA Youth Media Awards announcements, and while I was sure that SISTERS wasn’t going to win anything, I was holding out hope for some of my friends’ books, specifically EL DEAFO by Cece Bell. And we woke up today to learn that it did indeed receive a Newbery Honor Award — the most distinguished award in the children’s book industry, and the first time a graphic novel has ever done so. I didn’t want to name-drop in the hourly comic for fear of jinxing it, but that’s the book I was thinking about at 9:50pm last night. El Deafo is one of the most important books to come along in a long time, graphic novel or otherwise, and Cece deserves every ounce of recognition she is getting.

Today also happens to be the 5-year anniversary of SMILE in print. I was too busy making noise about El Deafo on Twitter to give it much thought, but Cece herself has told me that it was only after she read Smile that she decided to tell her story in graphic novel format. I could not be more proud or happy for her, and if I have contributed in some small way to moving both the worlds of comics and children’s literature forward, that’s all the honor I need.

Many congrats to my other friends who were bestowed with medals today, but especially Dan Santat, who took home Caldecott gold for Beekle, and Jillian Tamaki and Mariko Tamaki, who collected both a Caldecott Honor and a Printz Honor for their graphic novel This One Summer.

Happy Anniversary, Graphix! + News!

January 30th, 2015

Hey, guys! Yesterday was Graphix’s Tenth Anniversary! My publisher (an imprint of Scholastic) is one decade old, and I’m pleased to say I’ve been working with them since the beginning! I signed my first contract in 2004, and my first Baby-sitters Club graphic novel was published in 2006. It has been a wild and wonderful ride, and we’re all looking forward to more great stuff in the future.

A few comics news sites broke the story about several upcoming Graphix books yesterday, and included among the news was the fact that…I’ve signed up to do three more books! That, plus the one I’m currently working on, means I’ll be publishing FOUR graphic novels between now and 2022.

While I can’t tell you any of the specifics yet, the press release teases that I’ll be doing (another) nonfiction family story (along the lines of Smile and Sisters), a collection of short stories, and a fictional graphic novel. I have lots of ideas and I’m looking forward to getting them out of my head and onto paper!

But for now, it’s back to work on my current project, which is a fiction story with a fantastic setting, slated for 2016. I hope to be able to share more details soon.

That’s all for the moment!

#iDrawThisBig

January 19th, 2015

My friends over at the Nerdy Book Club asked illustrators to post a sample of the size they create their original work at, and use the hashtag #iDrawThisBig. The quarter is there for reference, but I think the better reference is the books themselves — all of my books have the same trim size, so you can easily see the paper size in contrast to the books in the photos. I posted my results on Instagram along with some annotations, but thought you guys might like to see them too, and putting everything in one post seemed like a good idea.

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First up: SMILE! Smile and Sisters were both drawn on 9×12 Bristol board. When I began Smile as a weekly webcomic back in 2004, my goal was to spend as little time as possible on each page, and working small kept me in line. It also lent a sense of intimacy to such a personal project. I repeated this technique with Sisters, as you will see! Drama and the four Baby-sitters Club graphic novels were all drawn larger. Also, for those interested, Smile is my only published book to date with hand-lettering. All of the others were lettered with a font based on my handwriting.

Fun fact…I chose to show this page because it takes place on my first day as a student at Lowell High School in San Francisco…and my 20-year reunion is this fall!! Time truly flies when you’re having fun.

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Next : DRAMA! Drama pages were drawn on 11×14 Bristol board. The four Baby-sitters Club graphic novels were also drawn at this paper size. Drama is the project where I began adding panel borders digitally. It saves some time and ensures the margins are straight, which pleases the design team at the publisher! I chose this page because I love bookstores.

Fun fact…The store in this scene is called Longacre’s…Mrs. Longacre was a frequent substitute teacher at my elementary school, and she subbed long-term in my third grade class while my regular teacher had surgery or something. Mrs. L was kind and caring, in stark contrast to our regular teacher, who was an angry, tough lady, and I remember that being a wonderful month within a really difficult year. However, both teachers left a mark, and I learned SO much from both of them.

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Finally, SISTERS! It was actually quite challenging to go back to this smaller paper size after Drama, but I felt that it was important to work similarly to the way I created Smile, because this was a companion book. My working methods changed a lot between Smile and Sisters, though…I no longer hand-letter the dialog (although I still create sound effects by hand) and panel borders are digital. I have also worked with a different colorist on each project, although I have had the same editor, book designer, and letterer since Smile. It’s nice to have a team that’s comfortable working together!

Fun fact…We really did hit this huge storm while driving across Nevada, and Lovelock, NV was the town we stopped in to wait it out for the night. We had planned to go further, but traveling requires thinking on your feet sometimes. To this day, when my sister and I joke about the worst places we’ve ever been in our lives, that town always tops the list! I’m sure it’s totally fine now, but in 1991 (when Sisters takes place) it was pretty sad. Especially in a torrential storm.

Hope you enjoyed this peek into my studio!

Comics!!

January 5th, 2015

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Whoa, so…every year, The Beat, which has long been my favorite comics news source, asks folks across the industry to cast their vote for the Person of the Year, defined as “the most important person, someone who had the biggest impact, an innovator, someone who set the pace, or had a banner year creatively” in comics.

This year, I won.

I can certainly concede that my 2014 was incredible, and felt like it built in intensity with each passing month. But to round it out with this honor is astounding…my career feels like it’s pretty swell to me personally, but being recognized by my peers is on a whole other level of awesome.

I’ve loved comics for a long time. From the day I discovered them as a kid, there’s been little else I’ve been so passionate about, and nothing else I wanted to do more. I’ve been fortunate to be able to make work I care about, and to have such great readers along the way, as well as a community of people that supports me and cheers me on.

So, thank you!

Congratulations to all the other people nominated for the PotY, too — smart, talented, hard-working people who deserve just as much (if not more) credit as I do.

Happy New Year!

December 31st, 2014

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I’m ending the year on a sweet note — the Wall Street Journal has published an article called The New Wave of Graphic Novels, which talks about the last ten years and how things have shifted and changed in my industry, and heavily features me and my work. I couldn’t be prouder.

2014 has been a banner year for me. It had its ups and downs, but overall, it has been an overwhelming success. The debut of SISTERS surpassed my (and my publisher’s) wildest expectations, and it was a real treat to meet so many of my incredible readers on my book tour.

Then, I came home and finished the first draft of the script for my next graphic novel — the article hints at some of the themes in the story towards the end. I’ll spend most of 2015 at my desk (pictured!) creating the art, and in 2016, I’ll have another book to share with all of you!

So, thank you.
Without you guys, none of this would be possible. Thanks for letting me share my stories, and for sharing so many of your own in return. I’m looking forward to even bigger and better things in 2015, and beyond!

photo by Sasha Maslov for the Wall Street Journal