Posts Tagged ‘smile’

SMILE is Kind of Popular, Still

This boggles my mind: SMILE just hit the two-year mark on the New York Times Graphic Books Bestseller list. Two years!!! Without a movie tie-in, without being part of a series, and while competing with books like Batman and The Walking Dead. This would not have happened without the support and enthusiasm of booksellers, librarians, teachers, bloggers, and most of all, readers. So thank you, readers! You’ve made my day/week/month/year!


I had a nice time at Book Expo America and Book Con this past week and weekend. It’s exciting to see so much support for Sisters, before it’s even published. Here are a couple of photos:

The enormous, lit-up Sisters banner at the Scholastic booth!

Signing books before my Book Con panel.


So a couple of weeks ago, I got a neat surprise: Mark Tatulli, who is best known as the creator of the syndicated comic strips Lio and Heart of the City, decided to write a week’s worth of HotC basically celebrating Smile and the awesomeness of graphic novels in general. Here are the strips:

To say I was flattered was a huge understatement!!

I got a chance to meet Mark at Book Expo, and he is just as nice as can be. Thanks again to Mark for this incredible shout-out! I hope some of my readers will check out his comics in return.

Writing From Life (The Good and the Bad)

I’ve been writing about my life since age 10, when I started keeping a diary.

I’ve been making comics about my life since age 11…when I started keeping a diary in words and pictures. I put entries into that almost every day, for about fifteen years.

So when it came time to create my first full-length graphic novel, choosing to write about my own life was a natural decision.

Smile is about knocking out my two front teeth just as I was hitting puberty, as well as entering middle school. I had to go through years of orthodontic treatment: braces, headgear, false teeth, and lots of surgeries in order to have a normal-looking smile again. The experience had an enormous impact on me, and years later, I was still thinking about it. So I decided to put the whole thing down on paper.

Readers are introduced to me, my family members, and my dentists. I show my house, my family’s car, my dentist’s waiting room as best as I remember. As the story unfolds, more people and elements from my life are introduced: teachers, friends, boys, enemies.

And of course, these are all based on real people! I changed a few of their names, and in the case of a couple of my friends, changed or combined some of their appearances. (By which I mean, the physical appearance of one friend merged with the personality of another.) It was a difficult time in my life: my new dental deformities made me terribly shy and self-conscious, and my so-called friends loved to pick on me. In the end, their teasing got bad enough that I had to ditch them altogether, and find new friends to hang out with. It makes for a nice reading experience, seeing my character grow in confidence enough to finally stand up for herself…but the people in the story are still real. The girls who bullied me are real. They are still around, and in some cases, we are even still internet friends!

My readers always want to know if I’ve been contacted by any former “frienemies.” For a while, if these people realized they were the ones cast as mean girls in the story, they didn’t say anything. Recently I have been in touch with some of the people who mistreated me all those years ago, and in one case, I received an apology. Even though I’ve ‘gotten over’ most of the events in my past, it was a really amazing moment of closure. I forgave her right away. I got the sense she had been hanging on to her old baggage as well, and I hope that now the air is clear.

Another person who tracked me down is my old orthodontist, “Dr. Dragoni” (not too far off from his real name). I drew him the way he looks, and I drew his office the way it still looks to this day. He’s still in practice, and I guess his patients (who are all the perfect age to be reading my books!) discovered Smile on their own, and brought it to his attention.

He was thrilled to see himself in my story, to say the least! He remembered me well: my orthodontic case was so extreme, he actually once presented my treatment at a dental conference. I remember him as being sort of a horrible guy (part of my motivation for the name change), but when I met up with him again after Smile was published, he couldn’t have been nicer. Turns out my perception was based on the fact that he was always sticking painful metal objects in my mouth and making me look funny! He was probably very nice and caring at the time. I just don’t remember it that way.

Still, I’d argue that emotions are as true as fact. I remember exactly how I felt when I knocked out my two front teeth, and if I can relay those emotions as honestly as possible in my stories, then they are true stories. Even in fiction, stories can feel completely true!

This essay was originally posted on Inside A Dog. Copyright Raina Telgemeier.

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Where Do You Get Your Inspiration?

“Where do you get your inspiration?”

If there’s one question authors get asked over and over, it’s this one. I wish the answer were simple: “I’m inspired by sunsets!” or “I get all my inspiration from my best friend, Theresa!” or “I pull up a bucket of inspiration from my backyard well each morning!” But answer is usually more complicated.

Simply put, my life inspires my work.
But I write different kinds of books, and because I write and draw, I pull from different sources on a regular basis. Smile is a true story about my childhood dental experiences, inspired by real events—the main character is me, so I’m working with my memories. Drama was also inspired by real people in my life, as well as my love of theatre, but the story itself was made-up. The book I’m working on now, Sisters, is going back to my true life stories for inspiration.

Beyond that…I’m waiting for the next idea to hit me!

This is why writers have to constantly open their minds and their hearts. I read all kinds of books, the news, blogs, cookbooks. I watch movies. I walk around my city. I look at old photographs. I travel. I meet new people. I listen to music.

Sounds like procrastination, right? Not so! I never know when something is going to strike a chord, but I need to be ready when it does. I watch. I wait. I hope. I get glimmers of ideas, usually something visual.

Here’s an example: I see a picture of my friend’s kid on Facebook, wearing a Halloween costume, and think to myself, “Maybe I’ll work on a book about a kid wearing a skeleton costume someday.”

I might draw a few pictures, look up some reference, jot some notes down in my phone, but nothing comes together. That’s okay: I’ll file skeletons away for another day.

Another example: recently, I saw a cool news story on TV about kids from Afghanistan, who were forbidden from playing or listening to music while growing up under the Taliban regime, and are now living in America and learning to play music along with a high school orchestra. Awesome! I’d love to do a story about one of those kids, and their journey. Hmm, but I make graphic novels, and it’s really hard to convey the power and joy of music through visual art alone…I’ll shelve that idea. Maybe something will come out of it someday; maybe not.

One final example, where inspiration did lead to something real:
I was struggling with re-writing a camping scene in Sisters. I knew I had to convey certain information, and wanted the scene to be visual, funny, and a little bit epic. But what I had was a bunch of talking heads.

I’m reading a book about astronomy right now (Bill Bryson’s A Short History of Nearly Everything), so I’ve had stars on the brain…and inspiration struck! I decided to send my characters on a star-gazing excursion, watching shooting stars and gazing at the cosmos while they had their conversation. So much better than my original talking heads!

The truth is…sometimes, I’m not inspired at all. Sometimes, I can sit and stare out my studio window for a week, waiting for inspiration to strike, and nothing happens. I don’t know what to draw, and I don’t feel like writing. But writers and artists need to learn to trust themselves.

If I’m patient, I know inspiration will come eventually.

This essay was originally posted on Inside A Dog. Copyright Raina Telgemeier.

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Hello, Bay Area!

Hi, again. I’m glad to hear so many people like the cover of Drama, and are looking forward to reading it! I’m looking forward to hearing what you all think. A few people have mentioned that it’s not yet listed on sites like Amazon and Goodreads…when those sites update, I’ll be sure to post the links here on my blog.

I’m traveling to the San Francisco Bay Area soon, and I’d love to see people at my events there! I figured I’d make a big ol’ post about where I’ll be and when.


My first stop is the Charles M. Schulz Museum, in Santa Rosa, where I’ll be a Cartoonist-in-Residence! If you can make it up to the North Bay, this should be great.


SOLD OUT!! Master Class for Young Adults

Join Raina Telgemeier, creator of Smile, and Dave Roman, creator of Astronaut Academy, to explore the art of making comics and writing stories. Participants will learn about thumbnails, layouts, balloon placement, panel variation, and the mechanics of sequential art, and will have a chance to create their own 4–8 page short comic. Recommended for aspiring cartoonists ages 10 and up. Cost: $35 for members; $40 for non-members.
Advance reservations required: (707) 284-1263.

Second Saturday Cartoonists
As part of the Cartoonist-in-Residence program, visitors can meet, watch and talk to cartoonists Raina Telgemeier and Dave Roman. The meet and greet is free with Museum admission and open to the public, and advance reservations are not required.

2301 Hardies Lane
Santa Rosa, CA 95403


The next day, I’ll be in the East Bay! Come say hello, get signed copies of Smile and Astronaut Academy, and get to know a great independent local bookstore!

Bookstore Event & Signing
11:30 AM

Featuring Raina Telgemeier & Dave Roman!
6120 LaSalle Avenue
Oakland, CA


Later that week, join me for a very special event on the Peninsula!

5:00 PM

Featuring kids’ graphic novel creators Jenni Holm (Babymouse), Raina Telgemeier, and Dave Roman! Presentation, live drawing, and booksigning!
785 Laurel St
San Carlos, CA


I’ll also be speaking at schools and libraries in Oakland, San Francisco, Pleasanton, Alameda, and Berkeley, but those are all private visits, so they’re not on my official calendar of events. I tried to spread my appearances out so that no matter what part of the Bay Area you live in, something will be convenient! I hope to see you while I’m in town!

From California with Love

I’m home from my nearly 3-week tour of California…and it was amazing. Above, that’s a photo of me and my childhood orthodontist, whom some of you might recognize from SMILE! I met hundreds and hundreds of great people at my many workshops, school visits, library seminars, bookstore and comic shop signings, and the two comic conventions I went to. I wrote up a huge blog post over on Live Journal (because the template for this site’s blog only lets me post small photos), and all of my photos, and a couple of videos, are in this Flickr set. I can’t wait to do this again some day!