Next Friday (7 March) I’m going to be in Wellington, taking part in the Writers Week Festival. Of course my main priority is to catch a glimpse of Alison Bechdel (maybe I’ll be on the same plane with her, like I was with Morrissey!) but I’ll also go to the launch of The Curioseum, which I designed and illustrated last year. Right now the Te Papa digital team are busy making animations out of some of my drawings, which is super cool.
To tell you a bit more about The Curioseum – it’s a book designed for 8-12 year olds, and some of New Zealand’s best children’s authors have written stories inspired by objects at Te Papa. I got to riff off writing by legends like Joy Cowley, Margaret Mahy, Bill Manhire and Elizabeth Knox to name a few. I’m going to be running an illustration workshop for kids at 11am on Sunday 9 March, which is free.
Another thing I’ll be doing down in Wellington is taking part in the Reading for Readers session. My role is talk about reading comics. I’m going to decode them for novices, break down the genres, and enthuse about some of my favourite graphic novels and comics.
Anyway, if any of you are there, come up and say hi! I may look stand-offish but I really do want to meet you.
It’s nearing the end of February, which means that the latest Metro is out. Which also means that I can post my comic from the January/February issue. This one was about my sister, Melissa Laing. Here is a peek at the exhibition she made the boat for. Scroll down and you’ll be able to see photos of the very beautiful boat. Actually there’ve been lots of interesting comics lately about being in Australian detention centres, the theme Melissa explores – here’s one I read that I found affecting.
Here’s a little sneak peek at my comic for this month – it’s a shameless homage to Alison Bechdel, in which I declare my devotion to her.
She’s actually coming to Auckland too, for this event. So I have two opportunities to embarrass myself in front of her.
I’ve been a little slack at posting new comics lately because I’ve been too busy and also I’ve been putting together my Let Me Be Frank #5 issue. I sent it off to print – I will let you know when it is published. But it’s all going to be in glorious techni-watercolour. Albeit messy watercolour.
This is a comic that appeared in the December issue of Metro. It came out before Lorde won two grammies, hence the out-of-date prize in her hand. I went to see Lorde perform last Wednesday and she was extraordinary – so musical,such a compelling stage presence, great stage banter – and she’s only 17. I glimpsed Eleanor Catton at the same concert – she was there with her boyfriend, not mobbed or pushed over like Lorde would’ve been, which was curious since she’s just as much a super star. I don’t think writers can become famous like pop stars. You can’t ingest their work in 3 minutes. The emotional hit isn’t so immediate – you have to read and read and feel it build up, wash over you, drag you under. Does it drag you deeper? You don’t respond to literature with your body, in a crowd, your arms in the air or draped over your friends, sweat-swapping and singing along. The girls behind me at the Lorde concert knew all the words but they couldn’t sing in tune. When I tell people I’m a writer they often ask me if I’ve read The Luminaries. Yes, I say. It was beautifully written. It got really exciting towards the end. Usually they own it but haven’t started it. We can’t have a conversation about it yet – I can urge them to read it – but they say they have to wait until they go on holiday because it’s too long.
I just finished a memoir about punk musician Richard Hell and he drew it to a close at 1985. That’s when I became a writer, he said. Writers lives are boring. In some ways I found his life before he became a musician more interesting. Then he had intense relationship with his school friend Tom Miller and they ran away to Florida and wrote poetry together. Once he became a musician it was all about drugs and the girls he laid. I kind of hate reading descent-into-addiction stories, although I read them over and over. Today Philip Seymor Hoffman died with a needle in his arm. I loved Philip Seymour Hoffman as an actor. He had that wrecked, charismatic, going-to-seed intensity about him. He was wonderful in so many movies. Happiness. Capote. The Talented Mr Ripley. Synedoche. When he appeared you knew the movie had to be great. I see that he had a girlfriend and three children, that he lived in the West Village. No, Philip! I want to say, just like I groaned as I read Richard Hell. Why did you do it? What was so bad about your life that you needed to escape from it? But it’s too late to ask now. And Richard Hell was one of the lucky ones.
Sometimes I feel like looking after small children is like being trapped in a surrealist movie. For instance, this morning Violet drew all over her legs.
Her: ‘I can’t go to kindy with tattoos!’
Me, with a flannel: ‘You’re the tattooed lady’
Her: ‘No, I’m not a lady, ladies eat mashed potatoes. I’m a man. Men eat beans and vegetables.’
Anyway, thank you for your generous response to my week of domestic comics! They have been fun to draw. I think I notice things a bit more acutely when I know I have to write/draw about them. Noticing is good.
Are you feeling bombarded by domestic comics yet? I’ll stop tomorrow, I promise, and go back to my usual slack ways. This is just my keep-sane-in-the-summer-holidays strategy. Although it’s probably driving me a bit batty – I blog in order make myself do something and also to start conversations with people, but that gets me in a hideous technology loop of checking social media to see if someone’s responded. I should probably just keep these comics in my journal – that’s how we used to do it in the old days! Why do I insist on sharing?
Talking about the weirdness of social media, I just read this article about going viral and this article about making yourself write. I like the idea of writing. I haven’t written prose since I finished my novel and I miss it. I think I might have to install Mac Freedom and start getting up at 6am to scratch that itch – the question is can I do that without my kids waking up too and demanding attention? Can I push through my nagging fear that nobody cares if I write another word or not? I think I have post-3rd-novel syndrome.
There you go. My bourgeois confession. This is what happens when you set yourself the task of writing domestic comics for a week. I didn’t actually get a cleaner until I was working with 3 children, if that makes it any better… My mum also had a cleaner when we were young. Her name was Mrs Barnett and we used to dread the day that she came. My mother would make us clean with the same threat as I now give. After she’d cleaned and ironed, she’d sit at the table with my mother drinking tea and telling stories about her Cyril and the holidays they were going to take in their caravan. I don’t drink tea with Catherine, although she does give us Christmas presents and I try and wish her happy Chinese New Year in my very bad Mandarin.