Look at this stuff, isn’t it neat?

Wouldn’t you think my degree is complete?

Wouldn’t you think I’m the girl –

the girl has… a career?

Look at my bank, no treasures told.

How many loans can one girl hold?

Lookin’ around here you’d think –

sure, she’s got nothing.

 

I’ve got textbooks and debt aplenty.

I’ve got pencils and notebooks I won’t use.

You want finished papers?

That’s plagiarism.

But who cares?

I’m done now.

Fuck this shit.

 

I want to be

where the people are….

employed. I want to see,

wanna see ‘em working.

Walking around on those –

whadd’ya call ‘em? Oh, office floors.

Flipping through your books you don’t get too far.

Professors never use them anyways.

Strolling along down to –

What’s that word again? Bar.

 

Up where they work.

Up where they play.

Up where they try to get through the day.

Finally free.

Wish I could be.

Out of college.

 

What would I give

if I could live

away from my parents?

What would I pay

to find a nerd

to do my homework?

Betcha in dreams,

they understand

bet they don’t reprimand their students.

Bright young people,

sick of studying,

ready to graduate.

 

And I’m ready to know what the alumni know.

Ask ‘em my questions

and get no answers.

What’s a job and why does it –

what’s the word? Suck?

 

When’s it my turn?

Wouldn’t I love –

love to explore my new found freedom?

Too bad I’m broke.

Wish I could be

out of college.

Too bad I’m broke.

Wish I could be

out of college.

– Brittney Diesbourg

I have been in college….a long time. My college career has been a long and arduous seven years and I am so ready to be graduated. I feel like the day will never come. I am (finally) graduating though so I am going to share some of the secrets that I have learned along the way.

1. Talk in all of your classes.

This is college. You’re an adult now. Grab your lady balls and man balls and make sure you pack them in your backpack. Many students regardless of their age refuse to talk during class. They do not answer questions, they do not ask questions, they do not partake in discussions.

Listen. I’ve already made a good impression on my professors. Now is your time to shine. Many times I have been in class and the silence has been so painfully awkward but I don’t want to look like the kiss ass in here that did the homework. So be smart with me. Let’s all do the reading and be smart, brown nosers together. I know that talking in front of everyone, especially when you are learning the material, can be terrifying, but do it anyways. Never feel embarrassed to say the wrong thing; do not be scared, do not be embarrassed, speak your mind.

2. Talk to your professors, utilize office hours and advisors.

Professors really do make or break the class. Some professors are dicks and others are amazing. If you get a bad grade, do not get angry and instantly blame the professor – think about what you did, how hard you worked. If you did not work as hard as you could have, then you deserve the shitty grade – own it, do not blame others for it; but if you actually worked hard and thought you deserve a different grade, then talk to your professor about it. For the most part, most professors are more than willing and happy to help the students that ask for help and show them that they are able to put forth the effort. You pay to have them teach you and they are there to help you and to try to make your life and education easier; some can suck but when you find a good one they are amazing.

3. Do not drop a course without telling anyone.

You are capable of passing any class that you want to or have to take. Conflicts with work, family/health issues, or life can get in the way, but dropping a difficult course without talking to professor is a mistake. Ask your professor about the future workload, tips for helping you study the material more effectively, tips for helping you write better, and resources in general. If you really, truly feel like you need to drop a class, make sure you drop it so you can get your 100% refund and so you get a “withdrawal” and not an “incomplete” – it is not worth it in the end if it will reflect negatively on your GPA.

4. Do not take a major that does not suit you; Start job searching before your senior year.

Do not simply take a “practical” major. Do not live with the assumption that your choices are limited. You likely will have many jobs throughout your life. Show how smart and capable you are by building a great GPA in a topic where you are passionate. Talk to alumni about what they have done with their majors; alumni, professors, other faculty and staff, and students with internships are a fabulous resource for you to utilize. The information can be surprising. Find where you can be successful in your courses. Constantly thinking about what you may want to do in the future is always a good practice. Start intensely researching job opportunities your junior year – you need to make sure that you know what you are interested in and would want to do for the rest of your life. Get out there and conquer the world, cupcake.

5. Do not cut class, over procrastinate, or spend too much time on social media, watching Netflix, and playing video games.

College offers many new opportunities and experiences that were not available before. Don’t fuck it up. Everybody procrastinates, that’s fine. Everybody needs some time to relax so they don’t go insane while studying and writing papers, that’s cool. But procrastinating too much will only lead to your demise in the end. Muscle up, buttercup. Let’s get moving.

6. Do not overload yourself and take on too much.

As corny as it sounds, and as often as it’s said, balance is the key to everything. You need to take your classes and studying, work, personal life, and social life all in stride. It is okay to say “no” to things. Tell them fuckers, “No. No, thank you. I have to get my life together.” Then get your life together, do all of the shit you have to, and then have fun.

7. Talk to all of your professors and/or advisors.

Your professors are there to help you. Some professors suck and are egotistical masochists who love nothing more than to put their students through all of the pain and torture that their professors put them through. But you know what? Fuck ‘em. You learn what they can teach you, you study more and learn things that they don’t teach you, and you do amazing work in spite of them. Remember how in Howl’s Moving Castle Sophie is still a genuine, nice human being who goes out of her way to be kind to others and help them? How Sophie literally gives all she has to help others even though she isn’t getting the same consideration from others and was cursed by the Witch of the Waste? Be like that. Wait – you don’t watch Miyazaki films? Well….you should. Immediately. I’ll wait. But a different example would be Harry Potter: he aspired to greatness with the help of many friends and mentors [your amazing professors] and in spite of Voldemort (that’s right, I’ll say the douchebag’s name) [your atrocious professors]. Make it happen. Be amazing.

8. Do not hide in your dorm, apartment, or your house all of the time.

Take it from an introvert. I completely understand the importance of alone time and down time where you can be alone, do whatever you want, and not worry at all what other people are doing or thinking and expecting you to do. Alone time is good, and extremely important for many people to stay sane, but human interaction is also important. Go out there and be a lovely social creature sometimes, my little butterfly. Puppy. Rhino. Elephant. Social being of your choosing. Do you and be proud.

9. Do not pull frequent all-nighters, overindulge in unhealthy food, and party too hard/often.

Sometimes all-nighters are necessary – you have to finish a paper or a project before your class the next day or cram for an exam – these are not the best way to study, but are sometimes required. Pulling an all-nighter cramming session before an exam is the worst way to study – you will be tired while studying, while taking the test, and you make yourself lose the benefits of REM sleep. Your body needs the time when you sleep to process the information that you’ve learned that day and to file it away for later recall. For this reason, studying before bed is often the best time to study, as long as it is within your normal waking hours. Getting plenty of sleep and eating a good breakfast is the best way to get ready for an exam. Sometimes you pull an all-nighter for much more fun reasons, but don’t do it too often; you do need sleep so make sure you get it. Eating unhealthy foods is delicious and good for the soul, just make sure it’s not too often so it ends up being bad for the body. Same with alcohol. Drink lots of water. Throw in a salad every now and then. Have one of those green juices or smoothies every now and then for get more vitamins and minerals and shit. Have a wheatgrass shot if you’re feeling adventurous. Go ahead and do the shit you make fun of. It’s good to get out of your routine every now and then.

10. Do not solely live off of credit cards and/or loans.

Sometimes you have no other option but to use your loan money for random living expenses – it happens. But make sure that you are not living outside of your means. It is terrifyingly normal for students to accrue mass debt throughout their college years and a little after, but do everything you can to use the least amount of loan money possible. Trying to pay off your debt is like being Sisyphus and rolling an immense boulder uphill every goddamned day only to watch it roll back downhill and have to do it all over again. Try to have as little debt as possible throughout your entire life.

Many newcomers, youngsters, shy people, and uncertain and modest people frequently make the mistake of staying silent. Ask questions, speak your mind, have conversations with strangers and classmates and friends and professors and your family. Here’s a bonus tip: keep in touch and do things with your family no matter what. Having a family who loves you and who you can spend time with is an amazing thing that nobody should take for granted. And don’t forget to balance everything — the key to life is moderation and balance.

Be free my little bugs! Go and have an adventure, conquer the world, and make a difference.

– Brittney Diesbourg

Joëlle Jones, an Eisner-nominated comic artist whose work has recently been featured by the “Big Two” publishers, DC Comics and Marvel, was one of several creators featured in last year’s New Talent Showcase #1. Showcase featured work from creators new to DC, who had passed through their Talent Development Program, workshops taught by established writers and artists at DC such as Scott Snyder (writer of Batman from 2011-2016), and Jim Lee (artist and co-publisher for DC Comics). The special issue features short stories with spotlighting characters such as Wonder Woman, Superman, and Harley Quinn, who features in Jones’ contribution “Good Morning, Gotham!”

I had the opportunity to speak with Jones via e-mail about her creative influences, writing comics, the DC Writers’ Workshop, and advice she has for aspiring creators.   

Levi Raab: What are some of your creative influences? 

Joëlle Jones: For me it changes all the time. I can get really into an artist one month and then discover someone new right after and get obsessed with their artwork.  Right now maybe Pete Hawley and Jorge Zaffino.

Levi RaabLR: Was this your first time writing comics? What was the transition from drawing to writing like?

JJ: No, I have been writing and drawing a series called Lady Killer published by Dark Horse for the last couple of years. It was tricky at first but I tend to write and draw at the same time so after a while it became very fluid. I think writing for other people is much more difficult. 

LR: What were the workshop classes like/what were some of the topics covered?

JJ: We would all video ourselves into the same meeting and usually just jump right in. Discussing scripts turned in and covering that week’s topic. We went over many subjects and it really gave me an insight into writing superheroes. I found it invaluable. 

LR: What was the most important thing you learned from the workshop?

JJ: I still don’t really think of myself as a writer but I felt I was somehow given permission to go big and be bold. I tend to be timid since I am so new to it but just to be given the tools and the confidence made me feel more capable. 

LR: Is there any advice (whether for art or writing) that you’d like to pass on to the readers of this blog?

JJ: Just the clichéd stuff you hear all the time. Work every day; if it’s writing just write, and if it’s art just draw. There really is no work around for it and nothing will improve you faster. 

– Levi Raab

For the better part of my life, I have struggled when people ask me what I intended to be when I got older. Sometimes I answered “writer”, and I’ve already achieved that. Other times I answered “artist”, which I’ve also tucked into my cap. For the longest time reconciling these two strong skills has been a challenge but as I approach the end of my undergraduate career, one thing has become obvious: the two are not mutually exclusive.

Both studio art and writing have their own separate skillsets, but there are tools of the trade that can help either the aspiring painter or upcoming poet improve their work, or lessen their struggle.

Practice and study often.

No good work comes for free, and this includes our own. I say this at risk of sounding like a broken record, but I cannot stress this advice enough. Writing and art are both skills that will improve more and more as you continue to practice them- so make it an active habit!

Write as often as you can. Read to find your inspiration. Even if it isn’t your best work, every little bit of experience is helping you to find your flaws and learn from old mistakes. I have spent the past two months learning to track my daily writing, and I’ve already started to see improvements. Find a schedule that works best for you, or lack thereof, perhaps.

The same goes for art. Every piece you create will be a new lesson, or an example to look back on and learn from. Keep track of all of your work- either with a running sketchbook, a collection of drawings and paintings, or storing dozens of Photoshop documents. Just make sure that you keep it. It will be there to show you how far you’ve come and what you still have to learn.

Be as precise as possible.

In my experience with both writing and art, you can never be specific enough. Details will always be misinterpreted by someone- it’s a fact of life with creative fields. But, the more specific you attempt to be in the creation process, the better your chances for those details and emotions to come across to your audience.

For writing, drafts and notes are your best friends. Keep notes on all of the pieces you work on, and know what story you intend to write before you even take to the typewriter. The more you know about the characters, the world, and the events, the more will come across to your audience as you write. Even with short pieces it doesn’t do any harm to know more than you need too. Just also be careful to only include those details which become necessary.

The same can easily apply to art, in more than one way. Knowing how precise, or imprecise you intend to be can make or break the piece you’re working on. If you study the basis of anatomy, color, line, shape- art theory in general- you can know precisely what you need and don’t need in your pieces to convey the emotions you want. Inspiration never hurts either, and multiple drafts can help you fine tune the finished product more than if it were done in one sitting.

Have patience.

Many creative individuals I know, myself included, are all known to be easily discouraged. Sometimes we don’t see ourselves progressing as quickly as we want to. We see something in our work that we aren’t happy with but all the practice in the world doesn’t seem to make any improvements.

With all creative projects, like I said before, nothing ever turns out the way we really intend for it to go on the first try. Sometimes you will write something or start a drawing that just doesn’t click. Take the time to look at that piece and pick it apart slowly- find out what makes it tick, scrap the things that get in the way, and salvage what makes it worth saving. It is a long and laborious process, but it will always improve the final product. Even if it takes two, or three, or thirteen edits, it will be worth it.

Remind yourself that these skills both take time to perfect. They take dozens of years to master. As long as you keep improving you will see your changes- you just need to be patient and do what you do.

Melissa KleinLast but not least… confidence is key.

Whether you are trying to create your own series of paintings, or find the courage to finally submit to a journal like OAR, confidence is everything. If you do all of these tips above, and put every bit of your heart into something (sometimes until it makes you physically ill to look at), you should remember that you have something to be proud of. Regardless of where you are be confident in your work and do your absolute best.

If you enjoyed some of this advice from a fellow learning-creator, I also recommend the older posts about writing and patience and the Jumping In series (part one, and part two) from past editors.

– Melissa Klein

There comes a time in every writer’s life when you’re ready to write – you have your music playlist raring to go and a fresh mug of coffee sitting next to you – but try as you might, you still find yourself staring at a blank page. To remedy the situation, you begin to scour pinterest for inspiration or even type the phrase “writing prompts” into Google, hoping you’ll come across something to finally launch yourself into writing. But nothing pops out at you and you’re just wasting more time.

If you’re looking for some techniques that might challenge you to overcome your writer’s block once and for all, perhaps these ideas might help:

Shake It Up. Step outside of your usual comfort zone when it comes to your creative endeavors. Always leaning toward fantasy stories? Try writing a horror. Prefer to write in first person POV? Attempt the same story, but in third person. I’m always amazed at what I can unlock from a story whenever I switch the perspective.

This strategy works well for the poets out there, too. Can’t get away from free-verse poems? Try something more structured, like end-rhymes or pentameter.

Comb The Archives. We all have work that is hidden away in our computer folders. Stories that have been completed for years and haven’t been looked at since. Your writing skills should have improved during the time span that it was originally written, so perhaps it’s worth taking a glance at it again. Maybe you’d take the story into a new direction now? Or add onto it? Maybe you’d like to explore the backstory of one of the side characters?

Or you can just heed my previous advice and take that story into a whole new genre to see how the group of characters would fare in their new environment. The possibilities!

Recall a Memory. Memories of your own life can be great jumping off points for something fictional. I mean, all of your writing has elements of yourself within it. Might as well embrace the idea. And if you can’t think of some kind of “interesting” memory, you can always write about the seemingly mundane routine to your job/school this morning. What would the route look like through someone else’s eyes? Or if something crazy actually happened instead that prevented you from reaching your destination? If that doesn’t work, then there are always other people’s exciting personal memories that you can borrow from – provided that you don’t use their names in your stories.

Don’t Overthink It. This can be difficult for some writers (myself included). But overthinking about what to write or where the plot should be going or what kind of diction should be used can be paralyzing. So just pick an idea and run with it. Write until the idea tampers off. It may be only 400 words on the page, but it’s still considered a success because you actually wrote something. Which was the goal all along! And who knows? It might be the inspiration for that next big idea.

Need more ideas? Check out our past blog posts about the subject! For example, how Camera works through her own writer’s block. Want to take a look at writing prompts after all? See Sharnita’s favorite types of prompts or actual prompts suggested by Bethany.

Did any of these strategies prove useful to you? Got any other tips on how to escape the dreaded writer’s block? We’d love to read about it in the comments!

– Amanda Matkowski

In the first half of my interview with comics artist Yale Stewart (JL8), we discussed how he got into comics, his creative influences, and the difference between web and print comics. Here we talk about JL8 itself, his process, Stewart’s professional work, and end on his advice for aspiring creators.

Levi Raab: Why set JL8 elementary school?

Yale Stewart: […] When I originally had the concept–the original concept very much was young superheroes but then I was like well if they’re young instead of being a team of superheroes […], wouldn’t the youthful equivalent be them being classmates.

And I felt that–I mean school is just–especially an elementary school, is just kind of like a universally shared experience for like 99 percent of people who would read anything. Which I think is the same reason that things about childhood do as well as they do. Because not everyone has gone to college or has a successful career so on and so forth but there’s a good chance that you at least went to elementary school and can probably relate to that. I mean there’s, it’s a factuality that you were young at one point and can relate to that. […]

And also, I mean there’s just such a wealth of material to draw from about being in, being a young person in school. […] It also gives like an easy gathering place for all of them you know so it’s not like they all happen to live on the same block or whatever so that they can all just walk over to each other’s house. […] It’s just like oh well it’s convenient and makes for good story ideas, so.

LR: Can you talk through your process for creating a strip/storyline?

YS: Oh man. Well I hate to say it but probably not. And the only reason I say that is because it can be a really amorphous thing. Like I know that there is sort of like an individual process that I have, I’m just not really sure how to describe it. Primarily because I am doing both the writing and the drawing, right? I’m kind of like one man Marvel-methoding it. I guess the best way for me to describe it is, at least when it comes to doing an individual update like an individual strip, I’ll kind of have like a broad idea of what I want the strip to be about and I’ll kind of then do like a very, very loose script which is basically just dialogue where I’ll literally just write out all the dialogue as it goes through my head or whatever and then I’ll look at that and then I’ll start thumbnailing it out. But I just thumbnail it out as I feel it should be, like I don’t do like, panel one these things happen, and panel two these things. I mean a lot of time when I’m writing it I have that in mind, but then sometimes it’s like maybe it would be better if both of these characters spoke in this panel instead of it being this character speaks in this panel and this character speaks in the next panel and stuff like that.

So yeah, it’ll be like broad idea, loose script, loose thumbnails and then I’ll kinda like go back in and sort of try to almost balance the checkbook as it were. I mean sometimes it’s not necessary but If I’m having a little bit of trouble, like maybe the way I thumbnailed it out there’re just too many panels and it’s like how can I save some space? And then I’ll go back into the script and that’s when I’ll […] break it down by panel. Like what if I have all this in panel one, this in panel two, this in panel three and then you just kind like keep trying to find that perfect balance until you eventually come to some kind of equilibrium. And then yeah, it’s just kinda of sitting down at the drawing table and just banging the thing out. […]

LR:  Have you done any “professional” comics work?

YS: Oh yeah, yeah, I’ve done a decent number of it. I did that little backup thing for Marvel in Nova a couple years ago, I’ve done some work with Image, the Luther Strode books. I recently did those Smosh issues for Dynamite [Entertainment]. I did those not, this isn’t comic works, but you know like professionally writer/illustrator work those Superman children’s books, The Amazing Adventures of Superman, those officially licensed ones through DC and Capstone. I’ve done a couple covers for Boom[! Studios], like one Adventure Time one […].

So yeah, I mean it’s not as much as some of my other more strictly published comics friends […]  but I do pick up some freelance work here and there.

LR: Do you have any advice for aspiring creators?

YS: I would probably say, I think the biggest [thing] I could say is find something that you really, really care about and do that. […] It’s kinda tricky for me because JL8, I mean it is fanart. You know I would never pretend that it’s not. But it is very much something that I did initially as a labor of love and continue to do generally as a labor of love. When I started JL8 back in 2011 it was really just meant to be something that passed around to my personal friends for us to just kinda like chuckle about. And you know I did the first one they all really liked it so I did a few more they all really liked those. So, it wasn’t until some of my buddies were like you should really put these online that I even entertained the thought of just sharing them with the general public and I mean obviously, it’s done pretty well.

But yeah like for me I just think that people can […] tell if you’re just trying to attract a readership or, and I think that’s a very flakey thing whereas people who work on passion projects like I’ll be honest you might not see overnight success but I think that the people who you do attract will respond to the fact that it is something that you’re being artistically honest about and they will be much, much more invested in both your work and you as an artist. […] So, I think when people see something like Hark! a Vagrant, or Lackadaisy, or Penny Arcade, or XKCD, or a lot of most of these things are kind of like huge juggernauts of the webcomics field at this point but they weren’t always that way. You know there was a time when Penny Arcade was just being read by like a couple thousand people or whatever, same thing with Hark! a Vagrant, XKCD, what have you, but people read it and they do it to resonate with them and I think that they see a degree of artistic honesty there.

But this wasn’t just kind of attention-grabbing work or anything like that—attention-grabbing for the sake of being attention grabbing. Obviously, it grabbed attention because it was very, very good. But it wasn’t, you know it was just like these people are making comics that they want to make and if they become successful with it more power to them. […]

Levi RaabThen if we wanna get into like the nitty-gritty technical stuff, and I feel kinda like a hypocrite saying this because I need to work on it as much as anybody, but try to be disciplined. That will go a very, very long way in a lot of respects because when you’re an artist, even when you are working for Marvel, or DC, or Dark Horse, or whatever you’re still very much your own boss. You don’t have a place to go to punch into you’re gonna get chewed out if you’re late to work or whatever. […] So, it can get really, really easy to be like oh you know I’m not really feeling it today, I’ll just work harder tomorrow, and you know there are a thousand more examples of something similar. And then you end up [… missing] deadlines and all that kind of stuff. […] It’s not like working at Target where you can just call in sick one day and the work still gets done by other employees covering you, that just doesn’t happen.

So yeah, I think those are like the big two pieces of advice I could give up-and-coming people. Just find something that you really, really care about and work on that and be disciplined about it and have a disciplined work ethic. It’ll take you far. It will take you very, very far.

– Levi Raab

Artist Yale Stewart has published his webcomic JL8 since 2011. The all-ages comic tells the story of a group of DC Comics superheroes reimagined as students at an elementary school. I had the opportunity to speak with Stewart about JL8 and his relationship with comics. In part one of this interview we discuss how he first got into comics, his creative influences, and the difference between webcomics and more traditional print comics.

Levi Raab: What got you into comics?

Yale Stewart: Honestly I think that’s actually a pretty easy thing to answer. Probably Batman: The Animated Series, really. Just because for people of my generation, probably more even a little bit older ones, it’s just objectively true that you are going to access more quickly a television set than you would a comic book shop. And unfortunately, and I do think this is unfortunate, at our current day–and this was even true back then, you know, comics are just purely a direct market thing now. You don’t really see them at the grocery store, or at Target, or whatever. So your odds of coming across them outside of a comic shop are increasingly slim.

So yeah, one day I just remember… I think I was in my basement, and you know, I was like four-years-old or five-years-old, and I think my mom actually came and got me and was like hey, I think you might wanna come see this. […] So I went up into my parents’ bedroom and on this little black-and-white TV all I remember is the–and you know, this could be an entirely faulty memory–but all I remember is that shot of Batman, you know at the very end of the opening credits where he’s on top of the roof with the lightning strikes. And I watched the rest of the episode and I guess the rest of the story is history.

Actually, I didn’t start reading comics until a little bit later. It wasn’t until I wanna say like first grade, I had a friend named Shaun, and he had two older brothers who were big into comics; so he kinda got grandfathered into it. He would bring hand-me-down comics from his brothers to school and stuff.

Ironically it was Marvel stuff that got me truly into it. Like watching Batman: The Animated Series sparked my interest in superheroes and whatnot, but I do remember my mom bringing home a Batman comic at one point and I just I remember not really liking it. I didn’t really think it was as good as the show was. And you know there was an X-Men show and a Spider-Man show on at the same time, but my buddy John had Marvel comics and I remember thinking that they were better than the shows. As much as I like the shows, ‘cause I did like the shows a lot, I read the comics and was like, oh man this is just as good as the shows are, if not better in some cases.

So yeah, Batman: The Animated Series kinda piqued the interest in the genre and then my buddy John just bringing comics to school is what really kinda solidified oh this is what comics are, I am into these now, this is really cool, so on and so forth.

LR: What are some of your creative influences, for both art and writing?

YS: Writing is probably a lot easier to answer just because I find it very flattering that people consider me a writer; I don’t really consider myself a writer. The only reason I write JL8 is because I have to write JL8. I’d probably say, I mean it’s tough because I’m a pretty firm believer that you’re kind of influenced by everything that you come across, whether positively or negatively. I think, and this is probably going to sound kinda silly, one of my most conscious influences has probably been Brian Azzarello, of 100 Bullets, just because–obviously I’m not writing some hard-boiled, violent noir thing, but I’m a huge sucker for slow burn kind of long payoff kind of story telling where there’ll be kind of like an Easter-eggy thing in issue four that doesn’t pay off until issue 39, kind of a thing. Like to me when I was reading 100 Bullets, which is one of my all-time favorite comics, I thought that that was like the coolest thing. That there would be kind of like [seeds planted], and you wouldn’t even really know that it was something you had to pay attention to but you know, you picked up on it when you go back and reread the series and it’s like oh my god, this was this thing that happens in issue 75 was foreshadowed as early as like issue seven or whatever and I think that that’s really cool.

It’s not a specific writer, but just the Arthur PBS television show has been a huge influence in just kind of how to tell all-ages stories about kids of that age, especially in kind of an ensemble cast. […]  I’ve been a big fan of that show ever since I was little. Like I’m still a fan of the show, I can still watch it and enjoy it because it is very much an all-ages show. Which is very different to me than a–not that there’s anything wrong with kids’ shows–but kids’ shows to me is [sic] like Barney and Teletubbies where it’s very explicitly meant to be for a very, very young audience. Whereas an all-ages show to me is something that can literally be enjoyed by people of all ages. It might be geared towards a younger audience but even adults, like there’s enough complexity and layers to it that even an older viewer when they’re watching it with their kid isn’t just bored to death. […] So yeah, Arthur and Azzarello are probably the two biggest writing influences.

And then when it comes to art and stuff like where do you even really start? You consume so much visual media that it’s real hard to pare it down. I’d say [John] Romita Jr. is pretty high up there just because Romita Jr. is the artist that I’ve probably tried to emulate most throughout my life. Being a big Spider-Man fan who grew up in the 90s he’s, he was just my guy, and […] I think a lot of just like how he goes about visual storytelling and stuff is probably into my DNA.

Akira Toriyama of Dragon Ball Z is a huge influence, mainly because I remember specifically kind of looking at how he drew kids, […] because I just sort of liked the way that he handles them. So I tried to kind of, you know, look at it and learn what I could from it and how I designed the JL8 characters and whatnot.

But yeah, Romita Jr. and Toriyama are sort of like the big two and then everything in-between from guys like Jeff Smith, and Bill Waterson and Charles Schultz, to you know, Moebius and [unclear] and Eiichiro Oda and all kinds of stuff. I think most people are like that, where we’re all just reading so many comics, watching so many cartoons and anime or whatever that it kind of a buffet, you’re sort of just taking a little bit from here and a little bit from there. Every once and a while you’ll have… this is my favorite thing on this buffet so I’m gonna get a whole bunch of it on my plate. But you know you’re kind of just taking a little bit from everywhere, mixing it all together, and hopefully coming up with something fresh and unique and different.

LR: Can you say anything about the difference between doing a webcomic and a more traditional comic?

YS: Oh yeah, they’re quite a bit different. I mean for starters, with a […] very update-centric webcomic, because there are webcomics that just dump […] a whole chapter of something at a time but they do it once like every so many months. But with mine being kind of like an ongoing update-centric comic it’s the same stuff as doing a newspaper strip. Every time you do one you never know if somebody has missed stuff before. So at the very least you kind of have to […] do sort of like a recap panel, even like an ever so slight one. […]

I was actually talking to my girlfriend about this just the other day, that I sort of wonder how many pages a week I could do in traditional comics just because in traditional comics, and this isn’t always the case when you’re working with a writer or working […] on a book that has like a very specific page count there, if left to my own devices you know, I could be a little bit more generous or stingy with how many panels go on each page of a JL8 update. Because sometime there’ll be like 13 or 14 panels on a single page, which in traditional comics is not particularly common. But because I’m trying to–because I need to tell the joke but I need this many panels to make the joke funny, and it’s only funny if it’s all on the same page. It kinda becomes tricky. Whereas if it were a traditional comic, it first of all wouldn’t need to be all on the same page because I know that you’re going to continue reading the next one; you know there is no time gap. Whereas with JL8 either I do it all on one page and post it today, or I do a multi-page update which kinda throws off my weekly work schedule, or I break it up into the two pages but I do one page this week and another page next week and then you know the joke falls apart because there’s this weird gap in-between. […]

I mean the other thing is just the immediacy of fan reaction and stuff like that. You know, I post it and I immediately know whether people are enjoying it or not. You know there is no oh I drew this three months ago but it’s just now getting printed and hitting comic stores and now I have to wait first of all choose whether or not I even want to go on […] whatever comic book forum or website or what have you to kind of get a lay of the land of how people are enjoying what I’ve done. […]

Levi RaabFinally, and this one is like the biggest one of all: you are a one-man operation. […] Pretty much if you are a comic artist you are a one-man or one-woman show. So yeah, it can be very stressful and I do sometimes wish that I didn’t have to worry about also marketing and shipping all my orders and all these things. I wish I kind of could write, draw, get paid, whatever without having to like write, draw, pay a bunch of merchandise, and you know be kind of like a salesman and all this stuff and then eventually at the end of all that get paid. […]

It’s not wildly, wildly different you know, print guys still have to generally do a lot of conventions just to maximize their earning potential just like we do. […] I mean obviously on the bright side you can kind of make your own schedule. It’s important to have a schedule and stick to it but when push really comes to shove you know if there is like some kind of an emergency or whatever you know you’re not letting down all of Marvel by not getting those pages of Spider-Man done on time. Whereas with a webcomic it’s just like hey guys I’m really, really sorry but here’s kinda what’s going on. Most of the time your readership will be very understanding as long as you’re transparent about it, something that I’m trying to work on. […]

– Levi Raab

As a writer needless to say, I love journals almost to the same capacity as Fahrenheit 451’s Faber’s love of books. Whether they are composition notebooks, faux leather covered journals, just anything I can write my unending ideas into is amazing to me. Sometimes, I need a little more than what a nice journal from Barnes and Noble can offer. I needed something to help me take notes on a fantasy novel that I want to write. So why not try making my own? This is my journey in learning bookbinding.

First things first: supplies and tools. Reading all the books and crafty blogs I could find, I had a general gist of what I needed for my dream fantasy journal:

  • Large mixed media paper
  • Waxed linen cord
  • Sewing awl
  • Pleather
  • Lots of cardboard
  • Paper cutter
  • Cutting mat
  • PVA glue
  • Book linen tape; if you can’t find linen tape, blanket binding and duck cloth are some of the alternatives you can use (optional, but good for reinforcing book seams)
  • Bone folder (optional, but helps the folds be more even)
  • Repair needles
  • Scissors
  • Exacto knives and utility knives

In most scenarios, I would have needed to cut the paper to the size I wanted the page to be. Fortunately for me, it was the perfect size.

Fold each paper in half and group them in sets—these are called folios. Most sites recommended doing folios in sets of 6-8 pages. I wanted to make the most of my mixed media paper so I did 9 folios that way I would have 72 pages to work with when I started writing. Once finished, they needed to be pressed flat by either a heavy object or a book press. Being the poor college student, what could I use? I know textbooks!

Next I had to think where to stab holes into these folios. I needed enough for the linen cord to go through and secure it. So I measured and made 8 holes equidistant to each other before sewing them together. Then I added some PVA glue to secure it. That was when a minor disaster struck. I had no way of stopping the glue drippage or preventing it from sticking to the pages.

Mistake #1: Dry folios on a nonstick surface and in a position where glue won’t run.

Now the hard part: planning the journal’s set-up. I knew I wanted to have within the front cover something to unroll, so I could draw a map for my fantasy land. But with the limited cardboard that I had, there were only so many ways I could make the cover unfurl. It became a mess of me laying it out, drawing diagrams, researching different folds and journal making techniques. Oh my gosh, so much geometry! After a month and a half of planning, I figured it out, and it was time to sew it and glue it together.

Of course, geometry is needed or just plain measurements. Only problem is that it is a lot of geometry and planning. Fortunately, I recently took a quilting class, so my math knowledge wasn’t lost to high school memories.

Then came the hard part, which was assembling everything: the folio, the journal, and sewing the pleather onto it. This was so hard, especially since I haven’t used the sewing awl that much and kept constantly pricking myself on it.

Pro tip: Do not use pins for thick materials, clips work way better and are a lot less prickly even if you are only hemming. In my case, binder clips work and are lot cheaper than if you bought professional quilting binder clips.

Even though I hemmed, I still used the awl again to fix the pleather to the base board for my outer portfolio.

This took a few more hours to do. But it was well worth my time in securing the fabric.

Once I had finished the outer folder, I thought I should move on to cover the inner journal. However, I realized something. I want the map to be removable, so that I may openly reference it. How could I do that? I didn’t know. And as of now, I still don’t know. Once again, I will return to my planning. Hopefully soon, I can finish this journal. Still I hope this gives a general idea for all you aspiring journal makers out there. Remember, most things are trial and error. Even if you do make some mistakes like I did, the process in making it and those mistakes add a little piece of yourself to your work.

– Angelica Dimson

How you tell a story can be easily overlooked, but it is easily the most important thing to consider as a writer.

A few weeks ago, I recorded an audio post with two fellow editors at OAR, talking about the effects of role-playing games and tabletops. These past few weeks since, I’ve spent hour after hour of my time playing even more games and thinking about the ones I’ve played in the past. Being keen to analysis of many things, I started to question things.

Would these games be different as novels? Would these pieces of short fiction be different if they were illustrated? What other ways could these stories be told that would make them even better than they already are?

Now, I never went into detail about my experience with the game, Dread, in the audio post. ( Warning to anyone who wants to play the game; most of the post ahead will include spoilers for the Dread scenario “13”.)

In that game of Dread, I was playing a young girl named Charlie. She was 12 years old, lived a sheltered life, and had no idea how to handle a haunted mansion with rooms that shifted locations. She couldn’t handle any of that, let alone a cat-like, ceiling-crawling monster. For the first half hour of this game, Charlie and I had both been lead to believe that this creature was out to kill the team.

Melissa KleinHad it been a short story, the audience could have been screaming the truth at me. He’s not out to kill you! Don’t stab him, but that was exactly what I did. The tension that the game created turned my paranoia into a specific action: one that ended up killing my most powerful ally in the fiction of the game.

Playing off that tension is the entire point of the game.

I thought, for a long time, how much differently that tale could have been told in a different medium. As a writer, you have to consider scenarios. How could these scenes be written more effectively? How might the audience be reading this? Could they read this a lot differently than I do?

How you tell a story can be easily overlooked, but it shouldn’t be. Keep in mind what your medium can do for you as a writer, because you have a great deal of control over what the audience will interpret. Use that to your advantage.

Bring the world to life without having to throw in a Jenga tower.

– Melissa Klein

As writers, we feel a huge amount of pressure to be original 24/7. Works derived from others are seen as being watered down, tasteless, and just plain rude. Why is this? As writers, we are constantly hyper-aware of other writers’ ideas and fearful of plagiarism – as we should be – but why do we feel equally guilty for taking writing pointers from the authors we love most?

When you think about it, it’s impossible to grow without mimicking someone else. The only reason we ever learned language is because we repeated whatever came out of our parents’ mouths. We decided whatever genre of music was the “coolest” based on what our older siblings played for us. We learned how to do our makeup by copying our mothers and sisters. If this is how we learn everything else, why can’t it be applied to writing?

This semester was the first time I ever took an English class in which I never had to write an analytical paper. Instead, my professor urged us to engage with each text in a creative way and put ourselves into the shoes of the writers (and even the characters!) themselves. This was an eye opener for me! It was so much fun to think about how Daisy Buchanan (The Great Gatsby) would fare if she were plopped into the prize fighter’s campsite (In Our Time, “The Battler”) or how differently Their Eyes Were Watching God would unfold had it been written from Janie’s first-person point of view. I had the chance to adopt the voice of Lorelei (Gentemen Prefer Blondes) and stage a scene in the town of North Dormer (Summer). Engaging with the works we’ve studied in this way allows us not only to gain a better understanding of the author’s intentions but also to expand our own writing techniques in ways we never imagined.

While I’m not encouraging you to republish the entire Game of Thrones series under different character names or to write about a cult of stay-at-home-moms who use all the same spells as Harry Potter, please don’t ever be shy to look at your work from another angle or borrow the techniques of others. If you’re stuck in a rut, try rewriting a scene in third person. Change your main character’s gender. Introduce the protagonist of one story to the antagonist of your favorite novel. Give one of your characters a thick southern accent. As long as these classics are on our reading lists, we might as well learn a thing or two from them!

Good luck and happy experimenting!

– Mary Wilson