This June I’ll be teaching an intensive comics workshop at the Yale Writers Conference

I’m proud to announce that this June 15-18 I’ll be teaching an intensive, immersive comics-making workshop at the Yale Writers Conference (part of the Yale Summer Session), held in New Haven, Connecticut.

This marks the first time I’ll be doing a comics workshop with YWC—it’s the first time they’ve done one—but it’ll be closely modeled on programs I’ve run a number of previous summers with the Fine Arts Work Center. Those workshops have always been a rewarding experience, both for me and my students.

Here’s the course description for my workshop Comics: Stories in Graphic Form:

Comics use words and pictures together to form powerful narratives. In this workshop, you will use fictional material, or material from your own life to create original comics. We’ll examine the basic principles of visual storytelling, and complete writing, brainstorming, and collaborative exercises that are useful in producing strong comics. We’ll generate ideas for solving storytelling problems—and look at how other cartoonists have grappled with them. We’ll use group feedback to hone our stories and find the narrative beats. You’ll emerge from this workshop with a toolset for taking your work to another level. In lieu of a writing sample, submit a 250-word description of your comics project and two character drawings with your application.

So, whether you’re interested in fiction, memoir, journalism, informed essay, or anything in between, this comics workshop is for you! The workshop is part of Session II of the YWC. Over four days, participants will meet in a seminar with eleven fellow cartoonists, led by yours truly. We’ll learn constructive criticism techniques that support productive feedback, followed by intensive group writing workshops, with the chance for each participant to showcase his or her writing and receive feedback/critique. (Participants will receive copies of their peers’ work in advance.) I will provide instruction on writing and drawing techniques, revision, and other “tricks of the trade.” And, during the conference I will hold half-hour, one-to-one meetings with each participant. Sounds great, right?

Click this link to find out more about the program and how to register. Please spread the word about the workshop, and encourage people to sign up soon. The deadline is April 30. Classes fill up quickly…

The Solstice Program and getting your MFA in comics

Solstice-banner-adThe Solstice Low-Residency MFA in Creative Writing Program at Pine Manor College is starting a graphic narratives concentration—and I’ve been hired as the first faculty member/mentor. I officially start this July.

Comics are now being taught at almost every college and university in the country, and there are even a few other MFA programs out there. But Solstice is one of the first low-residency programs to offer an MFA in—pick your favorite term—cartooning/comics/graphic narratives/sequential art.

Here’s how Solstice describes the low-residency component:

Students are in residence on campus for ten days, twice a year, for a total of five residencies over two years. During the 10-day residencies, students and faculty gather on Pine Manor College’s lovely, wooded campus—a mere five miles from downtown Boston—and attend workshops, classes, panel discussions, and readings. At the end of the residency, each student is matched with a faculty mentor with whom he or she will work individually during the six-month semester to follow.

During that six-month semester, students study independently, sending “packets” of work to their mentor every month. The Pine Manor campus really is beautiful, and the program—run by Meg Kearney and Tanya Whiton—is both serious and welcoming. And the other faculty members are an impressive group.

I’m excited to help craft Solstice’s graphic narratives concentration. It’s ironic, because I personally have no degrees in comics or cartooning—only 25+ years of professional experience. When I was becoming a cartoonist there were no programs out there to guide me; my own development was intuitive, and heavily influenced by my favorite comics: Hergé’s Tintin and American superhero comics. Eventually, I came across a copy of Will Eisner’s Comics & Sequential Art, which was the first text I encountered that discussed the form of comics as a subject worthy of study. Later, I was heavily inspired by Scott McCloud’s seminal work, Understanding Comics. But as I evolved, a lot of what I had to do was un-learn a lot of bad habits I had picked up during my youth as an aspiring superhero artist: melodramatic facial expressions, distracting page layouts, and the like.

The most important skill I have developed in my adult years is writing for comics. Growing up, in my mind I artificially segmented the practice of comics into different jobs: writer, penciler, inker, letterer, etc.—because this assembly line system had been institutionalized by the big publishers to meet their monthly deadlines. Discovering the world of “alternative” and literary comics made me appreciate the role of CARTOONIST—a jack-of-all trades in the comics world. This is what I aspired to be as I learned to write—first with memoir and auto-bio comics and now with journalistic stories. (I continue to collaborate with writers on occasion, but that’s because I really enjoy the back-and-forth “mind-meld” that a good comics collaboration produces.) Yes, comics are an amalgam of words & pictures, but I firmly believe a good comic/graphic novel starts with a good story. In the end, the art serves the story.

So as developer of the Solstice graphic narratives concentration, and chief mentor to the students, I will stress writing as the foundation of our practice.

And at this point, my own teaching experience is fairly extensive. I was an Atlantic Center for the Arts Master Artist, where I worked with eight mid-career cartoonists on their nonfiction graphic novel projects. For a number of years I’ve taught week-long comics workshops at the Fine Arts Work Center summer program. And I’ve taught day-long comics workshops at universities, and for students in the U.S. and abroad (including my many foreign trips as a “comics cultural ambassador” for the U.S. State Dept.’s Speaker/Specialist program). I’ve taught comics workshops at the Society of Illustrators, and I’ve served as a thesis advisor for students at the Center for Cartoon Studies and Hunter College.

As part of the first residency, I’ll teach a single two-hour CCT (Craft, Criticism, and Theory) class, as well as lead daily three-hour workshops. As a teacher/mentor, what I most enjoy is helping cartoonists find their voice, identifying their strengths as writer/artists. Over the course of the two-year program, I’ll work closely with my students on their individual projects: a complete comics manuscript—and, of course, an MFA!

These will be the foundational texts of the graphic narratives concentration:

  • Scott McCloud, Making Comics: Storytelling Secrets of Comics, Manga and Graphic Novels (William Morrow, 2006)
  • Scott McCloud, Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art (William Morrow, 1994)
  • Jessica Abel & Matt Madden, Drawing Words & Writing Pictures (First Second, 2008)
  • Will Eisner, Comics & Sequential Art (Poorhouse Press, 1985)
  • Ivan Brunetti, Cartooning: Philosophy & Practice (Yale University Press, 2011)

I’m really looking forward to getting this exciting new degree program off the ground. The growth I’ve seen—just over the course of my own career—in the appreciation of the comics form is truly astounding, and I’m excited to support the next great group of cartoonists in reaching their goals. The low-residency format is a great option for motivated, independent creators who can devote a few weeks a year to gathering together in bucolic Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts.

Check out the Solstice website for further details, including an interview with me about what’s in store. (Here’s an article about my coming on board with Solstice.)

If you’re a cartoonist aspiring to take your work to the next level, or know someone who would be interested, please think about applying. The application deadline for the summer 2016 residency/fall semester is April 15, 2016. I welcome cartoonists working in the realm of fiction or nonfiction—and everything in-between.

This Summer in P-town: Josh & Sari Week-long Memoir Comics Workshop

SariFAWX Summer Workshops 2016 and I are proud to announce that this summer we’ll be co-teaching a week-long comics-making memoir workshop at the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, MA.

This marks the third time we’ll be doing a comics workshop with FAWC and it’s always been a really rewarding experience—for us and for our students. We learned that nothing makes a better combination than writing and art… or summer and beautiful P-town… or Sari and Josh! (*wink*) So that’s why we’ll be teaching the class again this summer, during the week of July 31–August 5.

Here’s the course description for our Memoir Comics Workshop:

Comics use words and pictures together to form powerful narratives. In this workshop, you will use material from your own life to create an original minicomic. It can be about last night’s dinner, or a moment that changed you forever—as long as it fits into a booklet of 8-12 pages. At the end of the week, we’ll reproduce and swap our minis, and set up an open studio to share our work.

We’ll examine some basic principles of visual storytelling. We’ll also do writing, brainstorming, and collaborative exercises we’ve found useful in producing strong comics work. There will be group feedback to hone our stories, find the narrative “beats,” and help each other discover our “true” story. We’ll generate ideas for solving storytelling problems—and look at how other cartoonists have grappled with them.

You’ll have time to work on your projects in class each day, but you will also probably do some drawing on your own. One of the key features of comics is that they are printed and reproduced. You’ll also design and produce a small edition of your minicomic to share with the other workshop members and for open studio. You’ll come out of this workshop with a tool set for taking your work to another level.

Please email a short description of the autobiographical story you’re going to work on and two character sketches (yourself and another character) to workshops@fawc.org by July 10. This prior work will help you—and us—jump into this intensive project.

Click this link to find out more about the program and how to register. And please spread the word about the week-long workshop, and encourage people to sign up soon. Classes fill up quickly.

My intro to CREATING COMICS as Journalism, Memoir & Nonfiction

CreatingComicsThere’s a new book out, by three college professors, called CREATING COMICS as Journalism, Memoir & Nonfiction (Routledge), and I wrote the foreword. I’ve known authors  Randy Duncan, Michael Ray Taylor, and David Stoddard for some years now; I’ve even made guest appearances at their annual workshops for the College Media Association; but I was still extremely surprised and flattered when they asked me to write the foreword to their forthcoming book.

The book is chock-full of useful info: the history of the genre, approaches to finding stories, tips on tools & techniques, getting published, and a discussion of legal and ethical considerations. As far as I know, this is the first “instructional manual” on comics journalism, so I am very excited for it to come out, for my own use as well as others. After all, I’m no expert on the field—I’m just a practitioner.

When it came to the intro, I wasn’t sure what I had to offer to the discussion. In the end, I decided maybe the best thing would be to recap how I got here: the signposts along the way that led me to this very moment—not only in my own career, but to this extremely vibrant period of comics journalism. So, without further ado, here’s what I wrote. (And look for the book in all the usual outlets…) Read more of this post

AD10K

AD10K-charactersI often get asked by readers of A.D.: New Orleans After the Deluge (both its web and print incarnations) about its real-life subjects: Denise, Leo & Michelle, Abbas (Hamid) & Darnell (Mansell), Kwame (Kevin), and The Doctor (Brobson). The answer is I’ve been in touch with all of them, to varying degrees, over the years, and for the most part they’re doing well.

So, with Hurricane Katrina’s tenth anniversary coming up (officially tomorrow), I thought folks might be interested in a little update. Over the last month I’ve reconnected with Leo, Hamid, Kwame, and Dr. Lutz, asking them about how they’re doing, the state of New Orleans, Katrina’s legacy, and their feelings about the 10th anniversary. (Denise, sadly, chose not to be interviewed for this update.) I’ve structured the piece as a sort of conversation among the characters. As you might expect, A.D.s characters harbor a multitude of feelings around these issues, some in alignment and some in conflict. I wouldn’t have it any other way!

After a marathon editing and drawing session, the piece is done, and it’s now up on Fusion.net’s “Graphic Culture” section. (I also want to thank the Economic Hardship Reporting Project for their assistance on this piece. EHRP has created a nice process page about creating the story…)

The new comics story is called “Where are they now? Revisiting 4 Katrina survivors 10 years later,” and I hope you find it food for thought.

Defend New Orleans!

My Atlantic Center for the Arts Residency Starts Monday; Presenting My Associate Artists!

I leave Sunday for New Smyrna Beach, Florida, to start on Monday my three-week “Master Artist” comics residency with the Atlantic Center for the Arts. It’s been three years since I was first tapped for the ACA residency (giving up my spot in 2012 in deference to the Knight-Wallace Fellowship), and I’m psyched for it to finally be happening. (I’m also going to miss Sari & Phoebe! Happily, however, I won’t be without them for the whole time—they’re coming down the very first weekend after the residency starts for a three-day visit, occurring over Sari’s birthday! Do I hear a beach birthday?!)

My residency is focused around nonfiction comics, and I’m really excited about the Associate Artists with whom I’ll be working, who hail from all over the States and beyond, including South Korea, Australia, and Ireland. (It was quite a task whittling down the initial group of talented and deserving applicants for the residency, and I went through quite a bit of heartache selecting these eight exceptional cartoonists.)

My plan for the residency is fairly open-ended and in many ways will depend on the needs and desires of the group. I plan to spend good chunks of each day with them in a studio environment, and we’ll do the occasional group exercise and critique. Maybe some form of collaborative project will emerge? The main thing  I want for each Associate—and myself—is to come out of the residency with a clearer idea of their personal project, and renewed enthusiasm for finishing it.

So without further ado, here are the Associate Artists of ACA Residency 155:

Robin Ha—born in Seoul, Korea, and moved to the United States when she was 14. Since graduating from RISD with BFA in Illustration, she has been working in New York. Her work has been published in independent comics anthologies, as well as Marvel comics and Heavy Metal Magazine. Her plan is to continue working on a graphic memoir about her immigrant experience as a teenager in Alabama.

Sarah Howell—an Australian cartoonist who has worked extensively in festival and youth arts. Sarah’s project is a graphic novel (with support from the Australian Prime Ministers’ Centre) about the final days of the three P.M.s who died in office, all as witnessed by Dame Enid Lyons, the first female federal Member of Parliament.

James Kettner—“Kett” grew up in Westchester and studied Illustration at the School of Visual Arts in NYC. After a decade of misadventures he made it to the West Coast (now Oakland, CA) where he received his MFA in Writing from California College of the Arts. Kett’s comix have appeared in print and on the web in publications like SF Weekly, and he’s a regular contributor to the punk comix anthology As You Were. Kett’s project is Full Moon, a graphic memoir about his time working at an adult escort agency.

David Kiersh—an associate artist in residence at ACA in 2010, when he worked on his self-published book After School Special. He also received a 2008 Xeric Grant for his book Dirtbags, Mallchicks, and Motorbikes. Dave’s project will be his new book, Love is Strange.

Joseph Luby—a Savannah College of Art and Design honors alumni, where he majored in Sequential Art and Illustration. Joe says he “only ever wanted to do three things in life: be a teacher, be a good father, and draw comics.” Joe’s project is an illustrated history of earth-space science and the scientific method as taught and understood at the middle grade level.

Cliodhna Lyons—Irish illustrator and animator. She studied animation at Ballyfermot College in Dublin and comics at the School of Visual Arts in New York. She has contributed to several comic book anthologies and has self-published a number of minicomics and hand-bound books. In 2013 she became a comic book tourist and spent seven months traveling around the world meeting other comic book artists and creativites in over 30 locations. She currently lives and works in London. Cliodhna’s project is the tale of the ocean-going royal mail ship RMS St Helena, her  crew, and the tiny island of St. Helena which she faithfully serves.

Neil O’Driscoll—Irish illustrator and filmmaker who was born in the southeast of Ireland and is currently based on a cliff just outside of Dublin. Having trained in animation, design, and crafts before completing a degree in film at Edinburgh College of Art, he now works freelance while illustrating the independent comic Big Bastard. Neil’s project is a graphic novel about human rights pioneer Roger Casement.

Sara Woolley—illustrator and graphic novelist living and working in Brooklyn, NY. Sara’s project is a fictionalized graphic memoir written with her mother and art partner Leila Gómez Woolley about a young girl’s upbringing in, and exile from, 1950s Colombia.

Atlantic Center for the Arts “Master Cartoonist”: Take Two

Back in 2012 I was forced to give up my ACA Master Artist gig due to my receiving the Knight-Wallace Fellowship and moving temporarily to Ann Arbor, Michigan.

Well, ACA program director Nick Conroy was nice enough to invite me again, so this fall (October 13–November 2, to be precise) I will be leading a three-week residency focusing on the nonfiction graphic novel.

I still find it a bit intimidating to be called a “Master Artist,” but at least since 2012 I’ve also done a lot more teaching—including two consecutive years conducting week-long courses with the Fine Arts Works Center Summer Program, and more Speaker/Specialist programs (like the one I did last fall in Mexico). So I’m probably more “prepared” for the experience this time around.

The Atlantic Center for the Arts, located in New Smyrna Beach, Florida, is a nonprofit, interdisciplinary artists’ community and arts education facility. Their mission is to “promote artistic excellence by providing talented artists an opportunity to work and collaborate with some of the world’s most distinguished contemporary artists in the fields of music composition, and the visual, literary, and performing arts.”

During the three-week residency I will be working with eight “associate artists” on their long-form nonfiction comics projects. As part of the residency, we will be spending (at least) two hours a day together, conducting workshops, talking about the challenges we face, and working in a studio setting. I look forward to helping my associate cartoonists explore the best ways to make their ideas come to life.

By the way, my buddy Dean Haspiel took over my residency back in 2012—making it very much is own—and his group had a great time. They dubbed themselves Studio Yolo (“You only live once”), engaged in various team-building activities, and even produced an anthology. Read more about the experience here…

If you’re interested in applying to be an associate artist in my residency, or know someone who would, please check out the ACA website for further details. There are descriptions of the residency requirements, a FAQ, and lots more information. The application deadline is May 18, 2014.

A.D.: New Orleans After the Deluge academic links

[cross-posted from A.D. on Smith]

I just stumbled upon a long essay about A.D.: New Orleans After the Deluge in the new book Comics and the U.S. South, edited by Brannon Costello and Qiana J. Whitted (University Press of Mississippi, 2012). The essay, “A Re-Vision of the Record: The Demands of Reading Josh Neufeld’s A.D.: New Orleans After the Deluge,” is by Anthony Dyer Hoefer, a professor at George Mason University. And a PDF of the essay is available as a free download right here.

Leaving aside the fact that I was stunned to see 30 pages of academic writing devoted to A.D., I was excited to see how much Dr. Hoefer gets from the project—particularly its online component, which debuted on Smith Magazine. He focuses on A.D.‘s “pedagogical impulse” and how it uses the comics form to expose the highly mediated way in which we were informed about Hurricane Katrina. In this context, Hoefer quotes the great Scott McCloud from Understanding Comics, “No other artform gives so much to its audience while asking so much from them as well.”

As with many other reviews and discussions of A.D., I learned a lot from Hoefer’s essay: it’s always fascinating to see the things that readers pick up from my work that I didn’t consciously intend to put there—and are really just an accidental result of the never-ending attempt to simply make “good comics.”

Hoefer’s essay is the latest (and greatest) in a number of academic resources related to A.D. that are available online. Since A.D.‘s book publication, it has been used as a common read text for a number of colleges & universities, including the the University of Wisconsin, the University of Alabama, and SUNY Brockport. My wonderful and talented wife Sari Wilson wrote an extensive teacher’s guide to A.D., and there are other online resources, bibliographies, and so on for both high school and college students. Since Hurricane Katrina is clearly a historical event which we will be studying for generations to come, I figured this would be a good opportunity to list all A.D.‘s academic resources in one place:

Let me know of other useful links out there!

Back my Illustrated Field Guide to Preventing Human-Elephant Conflict KickStarter!

Trans Africa-Asia Human Elephant Conflict Education ProjectI wanted to let you know about a new project I’m involved with: The Pictorial Guide to Human-Elephant Conflict Education and Resolution.

Human elephant conflict is a serious threat to elephants in both Africa and Asia. You’re no doubt aware of the horrors of the ivory trade and poaching (36,000 elephants slaughtered every year!), but elephants in both continents are also in danger from the encroachment of humans into the animals’ habitats and other factors.

The Sri Lanka Wildlife Conservation Society (SLWCS) is spearheading an education and awareness campaign to combat these issues. The biggest challenge is the vastness of the area, and the scale and magnitude of the problem. The other challenges are that even though human elephant conflict is common to both Africa and Asia, there are regional, geographical, and cultural variables that have to be given consideration. Through its partnerships with local stakeholder organizations, the SLWCS is working with local communities that are the worst affected by human elephant conflicts. Developing the project from a bottom-to-top process through discussion with all stakeholders will ensure that the project surmounts these challenges effectively and delivers the final project product: The Pictorial Guide to Human-Elephant Conflict Education and Resolution.

I’ll be illustrating the field guide, which will be translated into regional languages, and laminated to withstand the rigors of remote wilderness application. It will be distributed in areas throughout Sri Lanka, Botswana, Namibia, and Zimbabwe. It’s exciting to imagine that my drawings might help educate local communities and help to save elephants from threat!

The SLWCS has launched a KickStarter campaign with a goal of raising $20,000. Two weeks into the campaign, they’ve raised nearly $2,000—but that leaves only two weeks to raise over $18,000. (As with all KickStarter campaigns, the project won’t be funded—and you won’t be charged—if we don’t reach our goal.)

Take a look at the KickStarter page: watch the detailed explanatory video, read the FAQ, and check out some of the thank-you gifts. Please help if you can—and spread the word about this very worthy project.

This Summer in Provincetown: Josh and Sari Comics Workshop Take II

FAWC Summer Program

Sari and I co-taught a comics-making workshop last summer in at the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, Massachusetts, and it was a really rewarding experience—for us and for our students. We had a great mix of “serious” comics-makers and those trying out the form for the first time. (In fact, one of last year’s students was recently accepted to the Master’s program at the Center for Cartoon Studies, so we feel pretty proud of that!)

We learned that nothing makes a better combination than writing and art… or summer and beautiful P-town… or Sari and Josh! (*wink*) So that’s why we’ll be teaching the class again this summer, during the week of July 21–26.

Our workshop is called The Graphic Novel: At the Intersection of Writing and Drawing, and here’s the class description:

In his seminal work Understanding Comics, cartoonist Scott McCloud writes, “The art form—the medium—known as comics is a vessel which can hold any number of ideas and images.” This class will explore the dynamic realm of sequential art, and the ways that graphic novels/comics can produce powerful moments of frisson between words and images. Some find their way to the form through their writing and others through their art—comics allows for both options. To that end, we as workshop leaders offer two perspectives: that of a cartoonist and that of a writer. We welcome confident storytellers in either, or ideally both, arenas. If you’re “just” a writer, we believe that you can learn to draw in a way that will serve your words.

Participants should have an idea for a sequential narrative and preferably some existing notes, scripts, and/or art. We’ll unpack how comics are constructed: from scripting to page layouts to thumbnailing to creating finished art. We’ll explore the ideas and images you bring to the table, and through group feedback generate ways you can hone your vision. We’ll also spend some class time on various collaborative exercises we’ve found useful in producing strong comics work.

Although this class focuses on the comics form, experience shows that the skills we develop translate to many other visual storytelling modes—including storyboards, video games, and even PowerPoint presentations.

Please email a one-paragraph description of your project and what you hope to get out of the workshop to workshops@fawc.org by July 1. In addition, please bring writing and drawing materials.

Click this link to find out more about the program and how to register. Please spread the word about the class, and encourage people to sign up soon. Classes fill up quickly.