About two months ago, G volunteered me for an illustration project. A writer in her Facebook group was looking for someone who could illustrate, and G sent her a link to my blog. I’d never done a collaboration before, what more an illustrated story, but I decided to go for it. I wrote to the writer, told her I’d never done a comic before but that I’d love to try. I saw on the forum that someone had volunteered their friend for her project too. I never knew if they were in touch, but I ended up with the project – a four-page graphic memoir.
So this week I finally finished Grand Mal, a sad and surreal account by Jane Hawley seeing her mother fall into an epileptic fit for the first time. The story is intended for Memoir Journal, a literary journal that promotes the art of memoir: that sacred act of remembering and re-telling.
This project meant a great deal of things to me. It was my first ever attempt at telling a story in an illustrative/graphic novel form, one of my favourite genres. More than that, it was the first time I was telling a true story in comic form. If J-school has done anything for me, it has been that training in journalism for two years opened me up to the art of non-fiction – a genre I’d always thought flat and un-literary before. But many books (Behind the Beautiful Forevers, A Beautiful Mind) and graphic memoirs (Maus, Persepolis, L’Ascension du Haut Mal) and one comic journalist (Joe Sacco) later, I’m recognising that quick and painful thrill in the heart. I’ve fallen in love with non-fiction.
I’m graduating in a few weeks and that heady time of self-questioning is now. Working on Grand Mal has helped pull together the threads of all these past years’ self-searching, and it feels great. Many, many thanks to G and to Jane for all their kind words of encouragement. More updates on when the complete graphic memoir will be out shortly.
[Update, 2 November 2013] Grand Mal is now out in Memoir Journal’s latest Invisible Memoirs anthology. Jane even got a personal note from the editor saying all sorts of nice things about it, encouraging us to expand it into a novel-length piece. If that intrigues you at all, get your copy of the anthology today!