In a mere 3-ish months school will be out, and I’d like to keep a record of these 3-ish months as best as possible. Eventually I’ll go back and highlight past lesson plans that were particularly successful, and I’ll keep posting about my ongoing comics work as well.
In any case, here’s where I am now:
Last year I began to wonder if the life of an itinerant comics instructor was for me–I felt physically worn down and full of doubt. But from the first session of my Writers In The Schools residency back in October, where I had my students create a comic based on a cat video (everybody loves cat videos, right?!), I felt something flip–the lesson went over well and I was enjoying being in the classroom. “Maybe I do still know how to teach, after all!” I thought. Then my supervisor made the same point I’ve heard a million times–don’t worry so much, essentially–and for some reason it stuck this time. Who knows what the magical number is that you have to hear one piece of advice before you believe it? In any case, I’m much more present in the classroom and enjoying my work a whole lot more.
My teaching calendar filled up quickly. I’ve been continuing my work as a teaching artist with Writers In The Schools and Young Audiences, and this year I am on the roster of The Right Brain Initiative as well. Here are the schools I’ve worked at so far this year, and what we’ve covered:
Cleveland High School: students worked on 1-5 page comics on a topic of their choice, and learned to read comics with a critical eye.
Parkrose Middle School: after school comics zine-making class.
Creative Science School: after school free-for-all comics class, ages 7-12.
Touchstone School: comics about the history of the 50 US States.
Currently, I’m in the midst of an all-school residency at Quatama Elementary, working with all grade levels on comics about such wide-ranging topics as energy sources, Mayan culture, and outer space. I’ve already been in the 3rd-6th grade classrooms, and I’ll be back in April to work with 2nd and 1st grade.
As for my own comics, I’m just coming out of a whirlwind of deadlines and comics shows which was overwhelming but the good kind of overwhelming where I feel invigorated instead of deadened.
I was an exhibitor at Short Run,L.A. Zine Fest, and the first ever BellCAF. It took some mustering of courage to get back into the swing of tabling, but I had a great time overall. Here I am with my pal and table neighbor Greg Means at L.A. Zine Fest, where we look happy/tough:
At the start of the month I finished up a 12 page story for the anthology Love In All Forms: The Big Book of Growing Up Queer. My piece is about a girl, her crush, and the queer heroes of her favorite cartoon show.
Making this comic was a revelation. I learned so much from talking to a variety of people about their feelings on the c-word, and making a journalistic comic in general felt great. It combined what I love about teaching–the emotional connection with others, the exchange of ideas and understanding–with the creative, mostly solitary process of writing and drawing and narrative building. Honestly, I’m proud of myself that I pulled it off.
These two projects meant taking a bit of a break from consistent work on Middle, but that also meant coming back felt really nice. After a day of readjusting to my characters and the story I was pleasantly surprised by the feeling of being happy to be in this world again. Next up: writing a song lyric or two, transitioning the story from the main character’s house to a dance, and even more photo reference of the New Jersey suburbs. It’s going to be great.