Getting Started on Something New, Working to Create a Graphic Narrative While Clueless

 

As I write this post up, I should be doing about ten other things, most importantly working on my first draft/storyboard for my Narratively submission. This is due on Sunday so I can have a great peer review group look over my draft and give me feedback before moving on.

So why am I not pumping out blurbs of words that I can clean up and show to others?
Well, I am going to be making a graphic narrative for this time around and there has been a learning curve. It has taken time for me to figure out the order in which I want to do things and then consider if how I want to pursue this process is actually going to get shit done.

I thought that a good way to gather my thoughts and plan out what I do have and don’t have, would be to write about it. Plus, I kinda like the idea of documenting how I am going about this new form of writing so I can look back later and analyze what worked well and what didn’t.

I have a loose (real loose) draft done in pencil with doodles of ovaries and a grinning uterus in the margins.

I have decided that I want to stick with doing my comic on paper and scanning it in for clean up, after a couple of bad experiences trying to draw in Photoshop on my iPad.

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I need more practice before I can go digital, and probably some better equipment. Equipment I don’t want to shell out money for right now when I prefer to do all hobby art the old fashioned way.

I have been reading and examining comics and graphics for research, and enjoying every minute of it, as well as reading useful articles and blogs like that of Brian Michael Bendis. Which gave me some much needed visuals and motivational advice:

I don’t have any advice on breaking into the business. If I’d known how, it wouldn’t have taken me forever to get in. I do know one thing, though: writers write! They don’t sit around wishing they were writing or talking about what they’re thinking of writing. They write! Because while you’re sitting around and talking about it, someone is out there writing their fucking asses off. Someone is out there kicking your ass and stealing your dream job.

So read this while you’re on the toilet, but when you’re done, write something.

I have explored Narratively’s comics and found:

Some have a lot of words, 

Some have few words, 

Some have full page scenes and moving elements, 

Others follow a standard side by side strip, 

Yay! I have options, beautiful wonderful options.

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Three Panel Comic Template

What still needs to be done?

I was planning on typing up my story and then dividing it, putting the chunks into a storyboard, but I don’t feel like this is the most productive approach.

Instead, I think I am going to look at what I have and immediately start putting it into a script and a storyboard. There may be color coding. I bough a set of nice highlighters in the rainbow ROY G. BIV color scheme and have used them for coding levels of edit ever since. They could be useful for mapping out the story into what can be translated to an image, script, actions, etc.

I’m going to be saving my drawing for last, so I may not get more than doodles in the storyboard done in time for peer review, but I’ve accepted this. In fact, I would much rather have others look over my narrative and tell me what is working for them and what isn’t. That way any changes can be made with ease and there is no wasted time creating panels that may not work.

Right now, it is all about writing.

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Comics and Storytelling: Brainstorming for Narratively Submission

{Fun Fact No. 2: Comics in the 1950s were the video games of today. Panic was incited in parents with the idea that comics inspired violence and were harmful for kids. This panic lead to the policing of comics via the Comic Code Authority}

It is no secret that I love comics and graphic novels. Any chance I get to mix and mesh medias together, I am going to take it and run with it. I love creating and experimenting with multimodal works and experiencing other’s multimodal works of various forms and genres.

Unlike many comic fans, I can not say that I grew up reading comics because I didn’t. I didn’t become interested in comics until I was going into my 20s and then I found out how much I love them and the way they can be used for storytelling.

My class is still working with Narratively and of course I gravitated towards their comic section (in fact, I was delighted to learn that there was a comic section). While in this section, several comics jumped out at me with their interesting titles and blurbs and I read them all. One however stayed with me for its ability to talk about a difficult subject with wonderful compassion and just the amount of feeling packed into a few words and pictures.

I really encourage you to go check it out, regardless of your stance on abortions, this is a beautiful take on the work and experiences of a doula, in this case an abortion doula, though you can have one for labor or postpartum. The American Pregnancy Association says,

A doula is a professional trained in childbirth who provides emotional, physical, and educational support to a mother who is expecting, is experiencing labor, or has recently given birth.

I just really like this comic and the way it is so considerate to the different emotions woman who go through this process. Plus the simple doodle type artwork is inspires me and gives me confidence that I can make my own comic series.

Which is one thing I am considering for my Narratively submission piece. I have a topic picked out and would love to make a comic (or maybe a comic series) with it.

My topic will also work with the object focus that we studied in specific Narratively pieces so that is exciting.

What I am thinking right now is writing a piece about life with PCOS. I need to think of a creative title like:

Dreading Periods Until They Stop Coming: A Story of Living with PCOS

Tampons, Always Needed and Always Collecting Dust 

And for subtitles things like:

When Your Body Makes You Feel Like a Failure

Chatting with Trans Guys Made Helped Me Understand and Accept My Body

I feel like “Tampons, Always Needed and Always Collecting Dust” may be giving to much of the story away but it may help draw in readers. That is if I write a story instead of make a comic. I think maybe writing the story out and then making a comic will probably give me something more cohesive.

For this story/possible comic I want to focus on tampons and their impact on me through my life.

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Welcome Banner by Maegan Hendricks

From the weird things put in a bathroom cabinet by my dad for when I got ready, and the mishaps of looking at the baaadddd instructions on the box and trying to figure out how to use them with no woman present to ask.

Summers of freedom and swimming in the lake because I used tampons instead of pads so I didn’t have to sit at home for a week and my mom’s reaction when she found out I was using them and freaked out that I was no longer, “a virgin”.

Being a teen and refusing to put them in a drawer in the bathroom like I was ashamed to using less and less because I was on a certain birth control.

Being 19 and having my periods become lighter and lighter until they just stop coming.

Tampon boxes collecting dust, unopened and unused. Hormone treatment and going through two boxes in a week. The boxes gathering dust again.

Notes on Narratively, the Fine Line Between Getting Lost in a Story and Losing Interest in a Story

For class this week, I got to explore the website Narratively and read countless stories from people of all walks of life in narratives that varied and included some of everything. My favorite section ended up being the “Sex” section for the rawness of the stories there.

One author did an amazing job writing an interview and giving her readers a look into the life of a professional Dom in Den of a DominatrixThe author grabs the reader’s attention and paints them a picture through this interview, turning the process into more than the expected Q&A session.

“The waitress, the busboy, the wiry haired woman at the table next to us – all at some point pause to stare. If Josie notices, she does not let on or she does not care.”

At the very beginning the interviewee is painted as someone who is powerful in her own way, walks into a room and takes it, which goes well with what we learn very quickly about Josie.

My goal as a writer is to be able to write an interview like this and since this was one of the first things I read for this week, the bar was set high and stories with interviews stuck out to me more.

I found myself comparing two pieces from the “Animals” section, both told with information from wildlife biologists and ecologists. I felt one story worked for me more than the other.

Saving the Snow Leopard, by Learning to Love it took us on a journey to save snow leopards in India. We are immediately thrust into a scene with compelling photos and the words:

“On a bright and sunny summer Thursday, Tsewang Namgail drives his run-down white Jeep through the rough desert terrain of the Indian Himalayas. The Buddhist hymn, “Om Mani Padme Hum…” plays on loop from the CD player as he speeds through the winding, dusty roads. A stuffed toy, with a snow leopard’s head and a long, snake-like body, dangles from Namgail’s rear-view mirror.”

Our scene is set and from here on we go through Namgail describing the way the people in the area live giving an understanding to why they hate snow leopards, making his conservation efforts hard. Through out the piece we also hear from a villager who works to protect snow leopards by recording when livestock is attacked by snow leopards so that government conservations groups can compensate the people for their loss of income, making them feel more secure.

This is a story being told with science and conservation project information being fitted in around the lives of the people and around the words of the story. The flow works well and the reader is never overwhelmed with facts and the facts never take away from the picture painted by the narrative, but instead they add to it.

The same can not be said for Tracking the Great Coyote Invasion of NYC , an article like story that I think is good, but I think it could have been better and its interview and flow did not quite compare to others, specifically Saving the Snow Leopard, by Learning to Love it.

The narrative about coyotes moving themselves into the densely populated New York City and surrounding areas was full of information that was not delivered in a reader friendly way. Large blocks of text read like a text book on ecology and the city’s relationship with coyotes. Interactions between the author and the team of ecologists while they worked together to in the field, where lost in the mass of factual information. The ecologist’s field work, which had enough detail to paint a picture, seemed clinical.

A little rearranging would make the piece more reader friendly as well. One specific area seemed odd, divided by a picture of a mother coyote and her pups a line tucked into the beginning,

“Eventually Toomey left to work in the United Kingdom, leaving the coyotes behind.”

This would have worked well several sentences or a paragraph before when the author was talking about Toomey’s involvement with the coyote project but it is instead tucked into a mass of information about the other ecologists studying the coyotes.

I think there is a certain something to being able to write an interview and build a person’s character and profile up in a way other than a series of questions. I love the way that research can be put into a piece to supplement it instead of being the focus and this is something I would like to work on as a writer.

Reading Like a Writer

I am obsessed with how other writers show time in a piece of writing. There are so many different ways to do it and every piece that you write calls for the writer to pick what will work and how it will work.
Brevity is a great place to go and check out all kinds of writing and there are tons of works that caught my eye, but these three stayed with me this week, mostly for how they used time and the way the author’s were blunt but still painted a picture, a use of language I admire.


My favorite this week is Tyrese L. Coleman’s Why I Let Him Touch My Hair.

In this story, we are taken on a journey using a series of flashbacks. We start out with our author feeling strong as she sits with a man of a different race in an empty bar.

He spoke anxiously. An awkward laugh followed every statement, every eyeball-dash at my cleavage, each concerned glance upward at the wild black kinks springing from my head, and then, each nervous scan behind him, around the room. His fear empowered me.

We jump quickly from being empowered to being powerless, as the author takes us on a journey using several flashbacks interwoven with her current conversation with the white guy at a bar.

These flashbacks counteract to the opening statement of her empowerment as she details times that she has felt powerless against white boys and men.

The further in she takes us using these experiences as a young child at first, and then later as a college student, we realize that there isn’t much of a contradiction between her powerless past and her empowered present. This leads us to the reveal, “My power disappeared. If it had ever existed to begin with.”


Beauty and Youth by Elizabeth K. Brown writes the passing of time in a different way than Coleman. Brown tells the passing of time in chronological order, but writes in a fast paced way that reflects what is going on in her life at the time of her story.

Brown uses a clear beginning and outlines the events leading up to her end,”It begins with a man, an older man, and he is nothing like your father.”

Time passes quickly, “Years pass. You are 17, 19, 23.” Brown outlines what “he” is doing her life during this time. Taking her on vacations, buying her gas, going to art galleries, being jealous. They push away from each other and then gravitate back to one another and Brown ends the story bluntly, making clear to the reader that he is the one with romantic notions, but not her. She knows what the reality is and has alluded the reader to her feelings from the beginning, contrasting sharp words with romantic scenes.


The last story I read was the most interesting. How to Discuss Race as a White Person by Samuel Stokley, uses the concept of space in a very literal sense. The essay is a series of numbers placed sporadically on the page. The numbers work like traditional footnotes and correspond with tips.

Some of the tips seem random.

8 Approx. 240 minutes, or 14400 seconds.

9 See: Strange Fruit.

10 You have access to Google(dot)com.

A lot of them don’t, they fill up all of the empty space on the essay page plus so much more.

15 What if you’d called those cops?

16 What if you hadn’t?

17 “2015 may be one of the safest years for law enforcement in a quarter century.” The Guardian.

18 The number of people killed by cops this year will surpass the number of American soldiers killed in any single year since 2003. This is also true of last year.

Stokley delivers so much impact with his use of white space on a page. A guide full of white space written for white people.


These are just a couple of examples of how space and time can be used very successfully and I can’t wait to incorporate some (or all) of these techniques in with my personal writing.

The Raccoon Club

{fun fact no. 1: a group of raccoons is called a gaze.}

Arkansas State Act 1352 of 1995 changed the state’s nickname on the grounds of,

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Art by Angie Freese

“our unsurpassed scenery, clear lakes, free flowing streams, 20 magnificent rivers, meandering bayous, delta bottomlands, forested mountains, 21 and abundant fish and wildlife.”

From 1995 on, Arkansas became known as The Natural State. The name fits, there is a lot of natural beauty to be found in this fair state.

There is also a lot of wildlife to be found. Everywhere.

Including the metropolitan campus of University of Arkansas at Little Rock (UALR) where we have a very real raccoon problem. If you are a lucky soul who doesn’t know about city wildlife, let me inform you that the adage, “they are more scared of you than you are of them” does not apply.

City wildlife creatures are fearless, arrogant, angry, and ready to steal food from your garbage and your hand if you aren’t careful.

On campus I have heard students talk about raccoons approaching them because they had food. My old boss on campus told me about her grad school years and how a raccoon tried to climb on her for pizza. It may sound cute, but they are still wild animals that have no intentions on becoming domesticated.

Students take pictures of the raccoons, some brave enough to get close enough to try for selfies, others send videos on SnapChat of raccoons chasing people who got too close to their trashcan.

The raccoons don’t care if you are a student, faculty member, or the Chancellor. At this point, when the sun goes down, campus is theirs.

You may be wondering why no one has done anything about this issue. Campus isn’t safe for students and the raccoons would be safer somewhere without round the clock traffic.

Facilities has been trying to use live traps and catch and relocate the animals but they only manage a few here and there and there are as many as one hundred raccoons on campus. Calling in professionals would be the next choice, but estimates are that it will take $150 per raccoon which adds up really fast and is not an expense any department’s budget can take.

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Raccoon at UALR taken by Tanner Sullivan

Taking initiative, Ross Bradley, a Graduate student and Communications and Special Projects Coordinator for the Provost called up his friends (including me) and asked if we wanted to start a club.

Strings were pulled, a constitution was drafted, and I am now happy to inform you that UALR will be starting The Raccoon Club (name subject to change). Our hopes are to raise money in order to have specialists catch and relocate the animals on campus.

In Arkansas raccoons are considered ‘nuisance wildlife’ and may be trapped and relocated at any time as long as the traps have the trappers information on them, are not a danger to dogs or other animals, and the raccoons caught must be relocated and released within 24 hours of capture.

I am aware that relocating raccoons can be risky and many frown on it. Raccoons that have adapted to the city may not do well in the wild and sometimes babies are left behind with no mother. However, raccoons carry infectious diseases that are transmittable to humans and pets including: distemper, roundworms, salmonella, leptospirosis, and rabies. Our group is going to work with Arkansas Game and Fish and the best group we can find to help us relocate the raccoons.

We are hoping to make campus safer for those living there and while we know that we will never be able to eliminate the problem, it is our hope that with the funds for a caring specialist who has success for locating raccoon families and relocating them, we can make UALR a little safer for humans and critters alike.

If you are a UALR student interested in joining, feel free to comment and I will send you an email with me more information. Or you can contact me on Twitter @mdhendricks12