Linework NW in the past and VanCAF on the horizon, “Middle” and “Just A Word,” and the school year wind-down

Happy spring and greetings from my desk, where I am surrounded by lesson plans, zines, and watercolor paints.

This week I’m gearing up to attend the Vancouver Comics and Arts Festival in Vancouver, British Columbia. I’ve never been to this show or to Canada, but I hear both are lovely, so I’m looking forward to it.

I’ve been making some small watercolors to sell at the show. Even though I’ll be parting with the originals, I plan to have prints made up of these guys in the future:




I’ll also have copies of my previously online-only comic Just A Word for sale, as well as the first issue of Middle! It covers about the first third of the story.



I also had Just A Word and Middle for sale last month at Linework NW, where I tabled on day two.


(Photo credit: Caroline Smith)

Getting to a good stopping point with Middle meant I was in serious crunch mode before the show, but I think the time constraint lead to some good editing decisions. And Linework was great! Browsing on the first day made me even more excited to sell on the second.

With a month of the school year left to go, many of my comics teaching residencies are finished or winding down.

At Metropolitan Learning Center, my 7th and 8th grade classes are wrapping up work on their comic zines. They have been creating memoir comics, using their study of The Diary of Anne Frank as a lens. This residency has been equal parts challenging and inspiring. I love working with middle grades but don’t often get the opportunity to do so. I also love The Diary of Anne Frank; it was a book I connected with strongly as a kid, and re-reading it as an adult gave me a new perspective. And although I have created my own autobiographical comics, I haven’t had many opportunities to teach them. In fact, this was the first time I taught a class where students told personal stories without a constraint–where the focus could be on whatever they wanted.

Those were the inspiring parts. The challenging parts: having students make clear connections between their own experiences and Anne Frank’s. Prompting students to see the ways that their own daily lives could become interesting stories, although we read a number of autobiographical comics that demonstrated this. If I do an autobiographical comics class again, I would like to focus on themes with my students. As in, let’s recount an event that happened to us, whether significant or mundane. What was the theme of that event? What makes it compelling? What will the reader see and relate to in this story?

I’m halfway through my residency at Laurel Ridge Middle School, where students are also working on comic zines. These are somewhat autobiographical in that students will feature themselves in their stories. However, the comics are also tied to a unit on the Renaissance, so in their comics students go back in time to experience Renaissance Europe. Some time travel methods featured: worm hole in the form of a toilet, magic burrito. So far, so good.

The past two weeks were my last at Quatama Elementary. I worked with 1st and 2nd graders to create comics about animals and the ecosystems in which they live. At Quatama I’ve done comics classes at every grade level except kindergarten, and I was most nervous about teaching 1st and 2nd grade because I have the least amount of experience with students that age. But the classes were so much fun! The kids were enthusiastic about the comics we read together and were eager to create their own. Here are some pieces from my final 2nd grade class. They are all single pages from longer stories:


…except this one. I love the ending.


This is the first page of the story. She thought a lot about where her characters would be in space, and how to show that in her panels.


That first big word bubble under “Dogs Team” is a bit hard to read, but it says: “Sir, they are on the other panel,” referring to the “Cats Team.” The student who drew this told me: “That way when kids are reading the comic, they can learn what a panel is!”


The final page of a story about elephants arguing over food. She inserted a fraction lesson all on her own.

Next week I’ll be starting a new residency with 4th graders at Ardenwald Elementary, creating comics about Native American myths–and then another school year is done.

Here are some of the comics I brought into the classroom during these residencies (in addition to my own work):

7th/8th grade:
“Persepolis” by Marjane Satrapi
“Whirlwind Wonderland” by Rina Ayuyang
“Clutch” by Clutch McBastard
“I Want Everything To Be Okay” by Carrie McNinch
“Alone Forever” by Liz Prince
“My Alaskan Summer” by Corinne Mucha

1st/2nd grade:
“Astronaut Academy” by Dave Roman
“The Super Crazy Cat Dance” by Aron Nels Steinke
“What Is This?” by Neil Brideau
“The Littlest Littles” by Jonathan Hill

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