Raina Telgemeier: 2019 National Book Festival


>>Hello everybody. Welcome to the main stage here
at the National Book Festival, where everyone is
going to go ahead and see the Great Raina
Telgemeier [applause], we’ve got one or two
housekeeping duties. Welcome to the 19th Annual
National Book Festival, brought to you by the
Library of Congress. This festival is free of
charge, thanks to the generosity of donors large and small. If you wish to make a donation,
please do so on the festival app under the word Donate
on the apps home page. We appreciate your support for this great celebration
of books and reading. One of the things that we would
like to do is also get people to actually come to the Library
of Congress, see the books, and also see the great temple
that was built to the library. The Jefferson building is
one of the great pieces of Beaux-Arts Architecture, and
it is indeed a temple to books, and everyone should visit it. The National Book
Festival is going to start being a
year-round festival. So stay tuned to the web page. Sign up for emails, and
there are going to be more and more events over the course
of the year that will go ahead and fill in the entire
12-month calendar. We welcome questions at the
end for Rayna, but I ask you to keep your questions
brief and to the point. You are giving us permission
to use it for the webcast, so anybody who comes
up and asks a question, you are going to be recorded. So my name is Warren Bernard,
and I am the Executive Director of the small press expo, and
we are one of the sponsors of the National Book Festival. And it is especially
exciting for me to be up here, because Raina got part of
her start, coming to shows like Small Press Expo, and
selling her mini comics. She would make her own
mini comics, and sell them for the outrageous
price of 50 cents each. And back then, you know, you
could go walk up, talk to Raina and stuff like that,
and then she got into the babysitter’s club, and the lines got a
little bit longer. And then when Smile cameo
out, the lines got really, really long to see Raina
at any of the festivals. And it is totally
mind-boggling for me to see this amazing
crowd welcome Raina here to the National Book Festival. Anyway, here’s Raina. You are definitely
going to enjoy it. [ Applause and Cheering ]>>Hi! Wow, this
is a lot of people! Before I do my talk, is it okay
if we take a selfie together? Okay, cool. The best way to take a selfie
together is for all of you guys that are holding books in
your hands to hold them up, and if you don’t have
a book, then just like, make yourself look as
excited and cool as possible. And this is going to take
like three photographs, because there’s so
many of you here. So, are you ready? Okay, on the count of three… [laughs], 1, 2, 3! [ Applause ]>>I am just like,
so washed out! Yeah! Okay, one more. Oh my gosh, yeah! Thank you! [ Applause, Cheering ]>>Thank you National
Book Festival! Thank you Warren, thank you
everybody for coming today. This is so lovely. We are going to start
my slide show. So as soon as I can tell where it’s being projected,
I will start talking. There it is! Awesome! Okay, and
I have a clicker. You can tell I’ve done
this a few times, right? Because I’m like,
“What’s happening!” Okay. So my name is Raina. And I’m going to give you
the pronunciation guide for my last name. It’s Telgemeier, which rhymes
with the name Helga, and tire, so Helga-tire, Telge-meier. Yeah. It’s tricky. It’s German! So [laughs]. Those are some of
my books [laughs]. I am a graphic novelist
[cheering, applause] which is awesome, it’s
the coolest job in the world. And today I have three pieces
of advice for all of you. And those pieces of
advice are: read books, talk to people, and
share your story. So let’s start with
the first one. Read books. Pretty simple, right? Books are something
that I’ve liked to read since I was pretty young. This is a picture of
me in fourth grade. And I am smiling
in this picture, but I was kind of a shy kid. I didn’t tend to raise my hand
in class or put myself out there when something cool
was going on. I was kind of just
like hm, in the corner. But I really did
like to read books. And I got a lot of my books
from the Scholastic Book Clubs, and the Scholastic book fair. You can see in this
slide, there’s like, a Babysitter’s Club book, and I
got my Babysitter’s Club books through the book fairs and book
clubs, and then in the middle, there is a Calvin
and Hobbs collection, and that was another thing that
I loved to get from Scholastic, was the comic book collections of newspaper strips
that I used to read. So one of my favorite comic
strips is Calvin and Hobbs by Bill Waterson, and if you
haven’t read Calvin and Hobbs, it’s about a boy named
Calvin and his tiger, Hobbs. And these two have big
imaginations and big adventures, and most of the adventures
are in Calvin’s imagination. So they go back in time. They hang out with dinosaurs. They go into space,
or the future. And so it’s a lot
of fun to read. It’s really well-drawn. So it’s fun to look at,
and the thing about Calvin, and the thing about
a lot of kids, is that with a big imagination
comes sometimes the idea to imagine that something
is wrong with yourself. So Calvin would sometimes
experience anxiety. And in this comic strip, he
is imagining that one night when he is very sick that
something might be really wrong with him and that maybe he
is going to die of his, like, illness that he’s
suffering from. And then in the morning
he feels better. But that’s not unlike what
I experienced as a kid. That every time I didn’t feel
well I would sometimes panic. And I would say that it made
me feel less alone to see it in a comic strip and to read
about a kid like Calvin, who felt the same way. Yeah, this is the reality of
my life, that happy thought– you know, smiling, class
portrait was part of it, but I also was subject to
panic attacks, and worrying that something was
really wrong with me. I was also a big fan of the
Babysitter’s Club books, and these were just the novels,
these were just words on paper, back before they existed
as graphic novels, and what a cool thing that 20
years later, I got to adopt and illustrate these
books into comics. But back in those days,
I was just interested in the characters
and their stories. So, this is one of the books in
the early part of the series, The Truth About Stacy, and
the truth about Stacy is that she has got diabetes. And that is an invisible
illness. It’s not something people can
see when they look at her, but it does affect
everything about her life. It affects the way she eats,
it affects the way she talks to her friends and the way
she handles her own life. So seeing that in a book also
gave me a lot of courage, because even though I
didn’t have diabetes, I did have another
invisible illness, called irritable bowel
syndrome [laughs], or IBS. And what that means is you
have a lot of stomach aches, and you don’t know why. And there is no medical
reason for it. And this is something I started
suffering from when I was in elementary school and I still
suffer from it to this day. And I am proud to tell you
that at this present moment, I do not have a stomach
ache, so knock on wood that is not the case, but it’s
something that I deal with. And it’s something that is
really hard to talk about. It is hard to say to
somebody, you know what? I have got to get off stage
right now, because I’ve got to go to the bathroom. Or if you’re in class, and you
know, you need to leave class. Or you need to like, get out
of the car, or off the bus. Like, how are you
supposed to handle that? And it’s something that we just
don’t talk about that much. It’s like a reason
to feel embarrassed. But reading about another
character that had something about themselves that they
weren’t sure how to talk about was super helpful for me. Speaking of comic
strips, I’ve been a huge, huge fan of Lyn Johnston’s,
For Better Or For Worse, since I was a little kid. And the coolest thing about For
Better or For Worse is that all of the characters
started out young. I was about the same age
as the kids in the strip, and then they aged in real time. So, over the years, it is kind
of like we grew up together. I felt like I had been
friends with the Pattersons, and their friends, and their
family for most of my life. So in this particular strip,
Elizabeth who is the daughter in the Patterson family is
getting teased by a classmate, because her classmate
got her ears pierced, and Lizzy really wants to
get her ears pierced took, but she won’t– her
parents won’t let her. So, she is feeling teased. She is feeling, you
know, belittled, and I could totally relate to
that, because I also had friends who gave me a hard time, and it’s unclear why kids give
each other a hard time so much, but you know, we are all
kind of reflecting what goes on in our minds, and
in our personal lives, and sometimes we take
it out on each other. But I didn’t understand it. All I know is that seeing it
in media really helped me. And so after all of this,
I was about 10 years old. I was a fan of comic strips. My dad noticed that I was
reading a lot of comics, and he handed me this book, which is called Barefoot
Gen. Subtitle, A Cartoon History of Hiroshima. Cool [laughs], so
parents probably know, and some of the kids might know, that Hiroshima is
the very first city to ever have an atomic
bomb dropped on it. And this is a true life story
of the survivor of the bomb. So you get to know
the characters. Gen is the middle brother in the
family, and you get to know him and his younger brother, and
his family, and his friends, and his neighbors,
and it’s hard to read, but you still feel a lot of
sympathy for these characters, in this war-time setting. So I’m reading a comic
book, and I’m thinking, well it’s definitely going
to have a happy ending in the last chapter
of this volume. The bomb falls and
half of the characters in this story die,
and I was shocked. Because I thought that
comics were supposed to make you feel good. And it turns out, comics
can make you feel a lot of different things, so I was
mad at my dad because I felt like he had tricked me by giving
me a comic about something so serious, but I was also
just really mad at the world for being such a
difficult place. But kind of turned me into a little peace
activist, I would say. And it is part of why I’ve
realized the power of comics, and that they could tell
just about any kind of story. So I also experienced a ton of
empathy for these characters, even though I’ve never lived through an atomic
bombing, thank goodness. I hope none of us ever
have to see that world, but it made me think of how awful it would have
been to be in Gen’s shoes. And so that also is the power
of books, the power of reading, the power of putting yourself
into somebody else’s world and experiencing it
through their eyes. So it’s super important
to read books, because it can help
you feel less alone. So, the next thing
is talk to people. Which sounds about as simple
as reading books, right? Talk to people. Yeah, talk to anybody
who is around you. Talk to your friends,
talk to your family. My Siri is asking me what
I’m talking about right now, so I’m just going to turn
my phone off [laughs]. It asked me something about
what song I was listening to, and I was like, what did I
just say that triggered it? Talk to Siri, that’s
my advice [laughs]. No, talk to people, talk to your
friends, talk to your family. Talk to your teachers,
talk to everybody. Maybe it’s just about comics. That’s what I used to do. I used to talk about
my favorite comics, and my favorite cartoon
shows, and I was not that big of a talker as a kid. I was kind of shy, like I said, and kind of nervous all
the time, but when it came to talking about stuff
I was passionate about, you couldn’t shut me up. So that was good. But I had a really
hard time talking about what was really
going on inside. So my mom started to notice
my anxiety, and the tendency to kind of shut down when
things were bothering me. What is it that you’re
so afraid of? Well, I had trouble
in school, you know, I had bad grades sometimes,
and a lot of times, when I would feel
anxious about something, my stomach would hurt, but
that’s not what it was. What are you so afraid of? You know, I also got
bullied in school, I had a lot of classmates
who I didn’t get along with for whatever reason, and it
made my days pretty stressful. But that wasn’t the thing. What is it you’re so afraid of? So now I’m going to talk about
the thing that scares me most in life, in front
of 4,000 people, because that’s a
cool thing to do. I’m afraid of throwing
up [laughs]. That is my biggest fear. It’s not snakes, even though
I’ve talked about being afraid of snakes in my previous work. It’s not even going
to the orthodontist, which is another
thing I’ve talked about in my previous work. It’s being sick. For some reason, the idea
of being sick scares me more than the thing itself. So the idea of throwing up
is probably the worst thing that you could possibly
do to me. So you know, like, you know
how sometimes you’re in class, and somebody goes [grunts]
and like, makes a noise? Like that would freak me out. And if somebody in my family
was sick, I would freak out and leave the house,
so that’s it [laughs], that’s my biggest fear. And somehow just talking about it makes the fear
seem a little bit smaller, and a little bit
less scary to me, and that’s exactly
what guts is about. And it’s another
cool double entendre, because guts is literally what
is going on inside your belly, but it’s also about finding the
strength to face those fears, and to face those
anxieties and insecurities. So I do talk a lot about
that stuff in my book. It’s not too graphic, I
don’t think, but it does kind of put you into the experience of another person’s
panic attack. And it’s not easy to
depict what it feels like through words alone, but I
had the value of, you know, art, and color, and words,
and sound effects to try and convey how it
feels to be so scared. And one of the things you
feel is extremely isolated. You feel so alone. You feel like nobody else
could possibly understand this feeling. So yeah, I was…I was
trying really hard just to convey that through my work. And part of what happened when
I was younger was that I started to get really scared
of eating food. So I was afraid that if
I ate the wrong food, it would make me very ill. So I used to love going to salad
bars and buffets, but suddenly, I was like ooh, this thing
might have bacteria in it. Ooh, I don’t know if I want to
touch that spoon, because what if the wrong person touched
that spoon before me? And it’s like, it magnifies. It gets bigger. It spirals into something huge,
and then I just wouldn’t eat. And so my parents
were worried about me. And that was about the time when
my parents took me to therapy. So, I was in fifth grade when I started going
to see a therapist. And her name was Lauren. And she is a character in Guts. And this is one of the
relationships that I had to, you know, come to terms with. I was not into the idea of
going to see a therapist, because it seemed scary. It seemed like something
I should be ashamed of. But was it? I don’t think it was. This was also like the late 80s, and so I think the stigmas
have changed just a little bit between then and now. And now something, I think more
people do talk about anxiety, and sometimes being in
treatment for anxiety as well. So I’m glad to see that things
have changed a little bit, but Lauren helped me a lot. We talked about all
sorts of stuff. Just, you know, about– like,
the fact that I had a big family and had to share bedrooms
with multiple people, and we only had one bathroom
and that was not good [laughs]. And we talked about the
fear itself, and how, like I just had this sense that
I was like falling through space and could not feel my
feet underneath my body, and so one of the things
we learned about kind of grounding yourself? And thinking about
your feet on the floor, and then different
breathing exercises, and it was really,
really helpful. So if my clicker would
work, there we go. So eventually, I did admit to
my friends what was going on, and it was usually in smaller
groups, not like getting up in front of the whole
class or 4,000 people in the, you know, big, main room of
the National Book Festival, and saying “I have anxiety! I’m afraid of throwing up!” I see a therapist. I can do it now. Thirty years does a lot
for one’s confidence. But yeah, once I actually
started talking to my friends about it, it turned out that
we were not all so different. Some of them were
seeing therapists too. Some of them had things that
they were anxious about, too. So just being able to talk
broke down those walls, and it was so helpful
and powerful. So please, talk to people. Be brave. It will
probably help you. Finally, my third piece of
advice is to share your story. And this is what I’ve
sort of made a career of; sharing my different stories
with people, and by virtue of talking about these things,
I’ve managed to feel less alone. So, when I was a kid
[laughs], I liked to draw. These are some of
my masterpieces from when I was small,
and the one on the left is from just before
my second birthday. I was a kid who liked
to scribble. My parents gave me paper,
and crayons, and markers, and I just made marks on
paper because I enjoyed it. And I think a lot
of kids enjoy it. And I am a kid who
never stopped. I still like making
marks on paper. The one on the right is from
closer to my fourth birthday. And you can tell that
I was really looking, and paying attention, and
trying to capture figures, and humanoid characters with
pizzas for faces, I guess. I don’t know what is about, but
it is cool that my mom kept all of these drawings, because
it’s very fun to look back over the whole course of my
life and see my progression. These are some of the first
comics that I ever made. So I started reading
comics when I was about 9, and by the time I was 10, I
couldn’t stop drawing my own. And I would just look
at what I had read. I would try and capture
that same sense of energy. The types of– it’s like a
setup, and then a punch line, you’re creating characters,
you’re creating dialogue, and there was a lot to learn. For example, I don’t know
where the word balloons are, and where the boxes
are and stuff. I would just start drawing,
and then I’d try to like– fit the box around the
[laughing] drawing. It’s easier to start
with the box, then draw the pictures
in the box. It’s easier to write the words,
then draw the word balloon around the word, so that you
make sure everything fits. And sometimes that
helps you go wait, this is way too many words. I need to cut a few words. So it’s a process. But I think it’s a process that
you learn best by simply doing. So over the years, my
comics have improved, and this is a comic that I
drew when I was in college. It was a very short
story called Beginnings. And it’s actually one
of the many comics that Warren was talking
about earlier. I wrote this story for a class. It was three pages long. It was called Beginnings. And it was actually
about my experience of reading Barefoot Gen when I
was 9 years old, and how deeply that comic impacted me. And I feel like it has continued
to impact me throughout my life. But I’m having a conversation
here with my mom, where my mom– I say to my mom, I think
that book ruined my life. And she says, “I think it
actually made your life better. You just haven’t
realized it yet. And I think she was
totally right. A book that you read
at any point in your life can
change the course of your entire life
for the better. This short comic has sort of
taken me in a lot of places. It’s part of why I met
my editors at scholastic. They read that mini comic. And they’re like, we really
like this short story. We’d like to work with
you, and that was what led to beginning the
Babysitter’s Club, which is like a strange jump. Like, I made a comic about World
War II, and they’re like, okay, let’s [laughs] do Anna
Martin’s The Babysitter’s Club. But you know, there
was a spirit there, and they saw it,
and they liked it. But it was re-published
in Japanese by somebody who translated it just for fun, because the book Barefoot Gen
had been banned by a library in Japan, and this
pedestrian just wanted to use my short comic
as an example of why that book was important, and
why he thought that his kids, and all kids, should
have a chance to read it. And I agree with him. And then it got re-published
in a couple of newspapers, and I can’t read Japanese, but
like seeing that is really cool. So you really never know. You really never know when
sharing your story is going to connect you with others. Oh, and here’s a picture of
me when I was 11 years old, and I had this experience,
that I don’t think any of you have heard about. I had an accident,
where I knocked out my two front
permanent teeth. And then had to spend the
next four and a half years of my life getting my
face reconstructed. I should tell you
this story sometime. Actually, wait, I
already did that. I took that experience
and weaved it into a graphic novel
called Smile. And that was my first
original graphic novel. It was published in 2010, and
much like my short comics, I feel like this book has
changed my entire life for the better. It has taken me all
over the world, and before it was published,
I had a couple of people say to me no one is going to be
interested in reading a comic about braces, and you
know, no one is going to understand this comic
that takes place in 1989. That’s so weird. But what happens when
people read this story, they see themselves. They can see their own pain. They can see their own
insecurities and anxieties. A lot of them had
braces it turns out. I’ve heard kids have braces,
like it’s crazy, but yeah! It’s awesome! And it has been translated
into like, 25 languages at this point, so [laughs]
sharing your story, you never know. And then I kept doing it. So my second memoir
is called Sisters, and it is the elevator
pitches, it’s about being on a road trip with
your siblings. That’s the whole story. But you know, a lot of us
have been there before. A lot of us have siblings, or
we have families, and we’ve been on road trips, and we’ve got
relationships with people that are so interesting
that you can’t help but want to tell their story. So that’s what I
have continued to do, and it has been really lovely
to like, talk to people. And they’re like, oh my
gosh, I have a sister too! And then that’s it, and I’m like
yeah [laughs] we’re the same! It’s really– and
sometimes people are like I’ve never had a
sister, but now I know! So [laughs], that’s cool too. So I wrote a fiction
book called Ghosts, and it was published
three years ago. So I write both memoir
and fiction, but a lot of times my fictional
work has elements of my own life in it, and aspects
of my personality. So I am still reaching
pretty deep inside in order to create my characters. And when I went on tour for
this book, I talked a lot about how Cat, who is the
older sister in this family, was anxious, and she was always
worried about her little sister, and she was worried about
life, and about death, and so I would stand on
stages like this one, and I would say Cat and
I have anxiety in common, and then I would move
onto the next subject, and people were like,
wait, wait, wait, slow down [laughs], what? This is interesting. Tell us what you mean. And so sometimes those are
the signals that lead me to a project where I go,
you know, that is something that is maybe worth
investigating, and maybe that I
may want to tell. So, thank you readers for being
curious about me and my life, and about what I have in
common with my characters. So yeah, that is really
about managing that, and about examining it, and
trying to put it onto the page. And because I’ve been a
cartoonist pretty much my whole life, over 30 years, I have
had the benefit of being able to share my stories in a way
that other people can read them, and appreciate them,
and connect with them. And I feel extremely lucky
to be able to do that. And that is not to say that
if you’re not a cartoonist, you don’t have other ways
of sharing your stories. You can write poetry. You can sing songs. You can make YouTube videos. You can do so many different
things to express your point of view, and your stories. But I encourage you to do that
because sharing your story means that other people
feel less alone, and then the circle is complete. Oh, and I have another
project that I’d like to tell you
about, it turns out. It’s called Share Your Smile,
and that’s an extension of the last slide, and it’s hard
when you don’t have the slides in front of you, so
you’re not like, oh, and the next thing I
want to say is this. Hello [laughs], so sharing
your smile is actually sort of like a how-to, and sort
of an idea prompt builder. It asks a lot of questions. And I think that’s one of
the most helpful things that you can do if
you’re writing stories, is to ask yourself questions. You know, who are
these characters? What are their families like? Where are they from? Where do they live? What do they like about
the place that they live? What do they hate about
the place they live? What do they like
about their school? What do they like about
their– you know, car. There’s so many questions
that you can ask yourself. So this book asks
a lot of questions, and then it’s your job to
fill in some of the answers, and then use those answers
as jumping off points to tell your own story. And it has been so much fun to
see kids filling the book in, or writing their own comics,
and then showing them to me. I love seeing other
people be creative. And now, we get to talk
about graphic novels, which is my favorite
subject of all [laughs]. So, graphic novels
are real reading. I feel like [applause
begins] this is– thank you! This is a funny conversation
that we’ve been having over the last few years, where somebody sometimes will
say graphic novels are not real books. Just because you
read them in an hour, just because they have pictures, just because they
make you laugh. Just because they
make you, you know, want to read the next book
immediately in a series, it doesn’t mean that’s
not a real book. That’s totally what
a real book is. And it’s– you know,
they’ve got characters. They’ve got plots. They get people so excited, and
it is– it is so legitimate, and it’s really lovely
to be here, especially at a celebration
of books and reading, and to be able to talk
about graphic novels in the same space,
and on the same stage as some illuminaries
in the business. And graphic novels are
a medium, not a genre. This is the mistake that
people sometimes make. They’ll say I love the
genre of graphic novels, and I’m like wait,
that’s like saying I like the genre of movies. Movies are a format. Movies are a medium
for storytelling, and graphic novels are the same. So graphic novels
come in many flavors. You can have westerns, slice of
life, mystery, history [laughs], science fiction, and sometimes
people like to blend all of those things together. But a graphic novel is basically
anything you want it to be, as long as they are
both words and pictures. Graphic novels still
face a lot of stigma. This is from a comic strip
called Heart of the City, by Mark Tatulli who has
a book out right now, called Short and Skinny. It was a week of strips where
the mom kept pushing back and saying a graphic
novel is not a real book, I want you to check out a
real book from the library. And what her daughter
had to do was to make her read
the graphic novel. And Mark, thanks Mark! He used Smile as
the graphic novel that they were talking about,
and at the end of the week of strips, mom had been
convinced, and she’s like oh, this is actually a
really good book! And her kid goes,
“graphic novel.” [Laughs] So it’s just
important to like, spread this knowledge amongst
the gatekeepers in your lives, be they librarians,
teachers, parents, educators, we all need to sort of
be together on this one, that graphic novels are amazing. All right. I think this slide got cut off,
but it says you probably know that graphic novels are awesome
[laughs], and I think everybody in this room can probably
agree on that one, which makes me super happy. So one thing that is a burden is that graphic novels take
a long time to make. And I think part of the
problem is they can be read in like an hour,
and people are like, okay when is the
next one coming out? It took me three
years to make that, and so please read it a
second time [laughing] and maybe a third time. Some of you probably
noticed today that I was not signing
books today, and that is because my wrist is
in the process of blowing out, and when I sign books, it
actually takes a little bit away from the future of me being
able to make more books, so I have to be extremely
selective of when, where, and how many books I sign. And I am about to embark on a
two and a half month book tour for Guts, so [laughs] I just
kind of have to pace myself. So I apologize for that. But I’m glad I got
to take pictures with those of you that came. So that’s me, doing a stock
signing of 4,500 books in Texas. And I had to tape up my
arm like an Olympian. But comics can be long or
short as you want them to be. So if you’re somebody
who wants to make comics, and you’re intimidated
by the fact that graphic novels take
a long time to make, make a one-page comic. Make a two-page comic. Make a ten-page comic. It will give you a chance
to build your chops, and to give yourself the
experience of practicing, and then, at some point, if you want to write a long
form graphic novel you can. This is a single page story
that I did, around the same time as I did the story
Beginnings for my mini comics. This one is about
my first cup of tea. That’s it [laughs],
that’s the whole comic. Nothing wrong with that. Graphic novels inspire
budding creators, so one thing I’ve seen a lot
of, and this was true for me as a kid too, when I
read my first comics, I immediately wanted
to make my own comics. So if you’ve got an
inspired reader in your life, the next thing you know, they might be a writer,
an illustrator. But all of us start out reading,
and then some of us continue to want to be a part of words and pictures, and
it’s wonderful. Graphic novelist is
an actual career. Believe it or not, this is
for you guys, mom and dad. It can happen. It takes a lot of work. And you spend a lot of time. I have actual assistants now,
who help me out in the studio. I still do all of my own art
work, but I have somebody who scans my pages, somebody
who answers my email. They’re super cool people, and most of them are
also younger creators, and so it’s nice to kind of
mentor people and show them, you know, and pay them for
the work they do, honestly, because they deserve that. Okay, so now I’m going
to talk a little bit about the actual career. This is my process
talk, just because one of the things people have
asked me is like, well, how do you make a graphic novel? And it’s so much easier
to show than to tell. Again, that’s a cartoonist
thing, because we’re like,
let me just show you. Because the pictures
are part of the story. So, when I write, it’s in
a format called thumbnails. And that means that my
ideas exist in my head, and when I put them on paper,
they look just like this. They are already comics. They already have
words, and pictures, and panels and word balloons. And I’m not spending
that much time. I’m just kind of doodling
little stick figure characters, and then putting
words in their mouths, and then I do this
for the entire book. So I will do 250
pages of thumbnails. Then I basically have a
blueprint for the whole thing, and I send those to my
editor, and she is comic savvy. So she is able to look at this, and see what I’m
trying to go for. And then we edit my
project from this stage. So I’m often redrawing my
thumbnails, but you know, each page only takes
maybe five minutes. And what we’re looking
for at this stage is like, is the character relationship. Are they all working? And how is the narrative
arc feeling? And is there a part
that can be expanded, or shortened, or clarified? So I’m doing all of the things that an editor-creator
relationship would do at this stage, which
is just making the book as good as it can be. But when that stage is
finally done, like I said, the thumbnails do act
as a blueprint, so then, I’m able to move on
to final art work. And I’m using a lot of the same
tools, but I switch my paper up to something called Bristol
Board, which is just thicker, smoother, heavier, takes pencils
and erasers a little bit better. So I’m actually going
to go back one slide, just to show you the difference between the thumbnails
and the pencils. So it’s the same information. It’s pretty much the same thing, it’s just that I’m spending more
time when I’m doing the pencils, as when I did my thumbnails. So, you know, it was
comics all along. And so after the pencils are
done, I move on to inking, and I’m using all
analog tools here. I use a water color brush
dipped into a bottle of waterproof India ink, going
right over the same page. So I’m just tracing
my pencil lines, and this is where I can
add like darks, and lights, and do some cross-hatching,
and make it look as pretty as I want it to. And then, I scan my
work into a computer. And then it goes
from being a piece of physical art to
being digital art. And I open up my files in
photoshop, and then I’m able to make tiny corrections
to my work. So, instead of using
like white-out to cover up lines I’m not happy with,
I’ll just use Photo Shop, and use like, my stylus
or my mouse to do that. I just realized, is Lauren here? Okay, I just realized
that– you, hi! Can you get me my bag,
which is backstage? It has my iPencil in it, and I’m
going to need that in a minute. Thank you! So in Photo Shop, I am able
to do my digital clean-up. Like I said, this
is what prompted me to realize I have digital stuff
up on stage that I’m going to show you guys in a bit. So this is where the
coloring is done, and I actually don’t
do my own colors. I work with a colorist
named Braden Lamb. He is awesome. Thank you so much, Megan
[laughs] yay for assistance! And Braden has been coloring
my work since…Sisters? I think. He colored
Sisters, Ghosts, all four of my Babysitter’s
Club books, and Guts. And he’s super talented
and awesome. And he is also coloring Gail
Gallaghan’s Babysitter’s Club books right now, too. So I feel like the color
really adds a lot to it, and a lot of times, I’ll tell
him what I’m looking for, but then he goes crazy, like,
with Ghosts, I told him I kind of want it to look like
foggy, and beachy, and windy, and he just knocked
it out of the park, like those cool greens,
and blues, and everything that he used, I loved it. So this is also a digital
part of the process. So that happens in Photo Shop, and now we have a
program called Clip Studio that a lot of people color in. And then the rest of the
process is just something that the book designer
at Scholastic works on. They do the design, the layout,
they put all the pieces together on the page, assemble the files, and then those files get
sent off to the printer. And then cover sketches, I
mean, this is pretty important, because this is the first
impression of your work that people are going to have. What’s going to be on the cover? And I think Scholastic also
has really strong design sense, and they know what’s going
to sell, and what’s going to pop off the shelf,
and stuff like that, and I’m illustrating
those pictures. So I do a bunch of sketches. Sometimes up to 60 sketches
of a cover before we pick one that really works, and then I do
the illustration, and then Phil, the designer, puts all
of the pieces together, the typesetting, and the
words, and all of that stuff, and then again, those files
get shipped off to Asia, printed there, put onto a
boat, and then they put them on the shelf at Politics
and Prose, and people get to read them, which
is really nice. So holding the finished
book in your hands for the first time
never gets old. I don’t have any kids. I can’t say that this is
exactly like holding your baby in your arms for the first time, but it’s a pretty
good feeling [laughs]. I can confirm. So I keep doing it. Thank you. That is my slide show. [ Applause ]>>Okay, and now is the
part where I’m going to open up my other program,
and I’m going to draw. So somebody just has to
switch the cables up here, and once they do I
will draw for you. But I can start out– there
we go, I need a couple of prompts from the audience. So I need an idea for a place
and two objects, and ideally, they should not have anything
to do with each other. So you with the blonde hair,
I saw your hand go up first. So what– do you have
an idea for a place? Yeah? Hmm! The woods, I like that. Okay, now I need two objects that you would never
find in the woods. It’s very, very important. How about you with the
white T-shirt there. Yeah. A pig. Okay, I like pigs, extremely
a lot, so we’re going to go with a pig in the woods. And then how about
you with the pink and black pants in
the very front? [ Inaudible ]>>A unicorn. I mean, pigs and unicorns, you see them together
all the time, right? In the woods? Okay, why not. So I’m using a program called
Procreate, and I just have to make sure that my
settings are visible on the screen, so
let’s try this. Can you see that? Excellent. Okay. So this is going to sort
of imitate what it would be like to have a pencil and paper,
and that means I’m just going to do some super quick sketching
on my screen, and you know, when I’m doing my comics, it’s not unlike what
I’m doing right here. I’m just like, sketching
in a bunch of cool stuff. Okay. So we’ve got a pig
and a unicorn in the woods. Those are two trees. That represents the woods
pretty great, right? So let’s see, I’ve just said
I love pigs, but of course, now I’m like how on
earth do you draw a pig? I bet there is somebody
in this audience who would draw like,
the best pig ever. But I am going to draw
my version of a pig, which is a very cartoony pig. Somehow I never learned
to draw animals very well. That was always my
sister’s wheelhouse. She’s an animal drawer,
and I tried to be, but it just [laughs], I’m always
much more comfortable drawing people for some reason. Maybe if I knew that
animals had this awesome of real facial expressions as people I would draw more
animals, but anyway, you know, a unicorn, that’s
a little trickier, because I don’t remember seeing
a unicorn before [laughs]. It’s just like a horse, right? I know, I don’t draw
horses that often either. Okay, well, it’s going to be a
pretty dopey looking unicorn. All right, horn, yes, that’s
how you know it’s a unicorn. All right. So those have the same kinds of
feet as pigs, right [laughs], in my world, unicorns totally
have the same kinds of feet as pigs, too [laughs], oh no! So bad. Okay. So not much is happening here. So I’m actually going to like,
shrink the screen a little bit, and then do some
erasing, because I want to add to this scene here. I’m going to– I usually
like, figure out a way to work my character into it,
which sounds awfully a lot like centering myself
into the conversation, but that’s what you do when
you’re an autobio-cartoonist, so, you get to be the
star of the story. So I’m going to put myself here,
like reacting to the scene, and got to do that
eraser again [laughs]. You never know what
you’re going to get when you do this exercise, like what do you think
she should be saying now that she has discovered a pig
and a unicorn in the woods? No one is sure. I have an idea. I think they should be
throwing her a surprise birthday party [laughter]. Oh wait, no, no, no,
I’m going to go back, I’m going to have the
pig say…oops, surprise! Do, do do– comics! Happy birthday! I covered up the horn. That’s okay. All right, let’s put
some more trees in there, as Bob Ross would say,
happy little trees, just to set the stage,
okay, so now I have like, now I have a sketch, and so
now, this program is cool, because I can make
an extra layer, and I’ll call this layer Inks. How do you spell inks? I-N-K-S, okay, cool. And then I’m going to use
a different tool for this. I’m going to use a pen
tool, and I’m going to make the color black, so
that it shows up differently. So change my color to black. And again, this program
is called Procreate. And that’s a really weird
name, but it’s [laughter], it’s a really cool
program for sketching. So I want my brush
to be more opaque. And this is what I would
normally do with like a brush, or a pen, I would start to
go over my other drawing and make it look a
little bit more refined. So I hope, yeah, you
guys can see this okay. And this is a chance to
kind of move things around, and if things don’t really fit, I can make them bigger
or smaller. For the sake of just like,
doing a quick sketch on stage. I’m not going as crazy
with it, but like, this hand is not the way I
would normally draw a hand. I just wanted to get the space
down for that hand as quickly as I could before– oops, I made
the opacity really, really low. There we go. Computers are cool, because you
can go back and change things. So I’m going to fix this hand
to look more like a hand, and less like a weird mitten. People often ask me
like how did you learn to draw things like hands? And I’m like, I practiced. I took a lot of figure
drawing classes when I was in high school and some
people take figure drawing, which is where you’re
literally just looking at a human being
and drawing that. Sometimes they’re naked. That part is interesting. But oops, so here’s my cat
[laughs], sometimes people like, shy away from drawing
things like hands and feet, and I always saw
it as a challenge. I was like let me draw
the model’s hands, or the model’s feet,
because I think it’s one of the more interesting
things about drawing people. So yeah, with this program,
you can make things bigger. I’m going to make my
lettering look nicer. I might not finish this
whole drawing right now, because I think you guys
kind of get the idea. I will draw that pig, though. Because I love pigs. Okay, I’ll make my word
balloon look a little nicer. Do-do-do. And the nice
thing about not working with traditional tools is that you don’t spill your
ink all over the place. That is something I have done
more than once in my life. And I do have cats now. The cats are pretty new. And the cats like to do
things like come up on to my desk while I’m working
and like, sit on my pages, which is really cute, but
I’m like dude [laughs], I’m trying to work here. And they often put their noses
into my inking water [laughs] which is also really
adorable, but not good. Like, they don’t want to
drink their regular water, but if it’s inking water that I’m paying attention
to, they’re all over it. That totally looks like a pig. Yeah. Okay [laughs]. I’m from the cartooning
school where you like, just kind of approximate and
like, oh yeah, that’s a pig. It’s another reason
I love comics. I studied a lot of real drawing
and, you know, figure drawing to learn how to do
things the right way. But once you learn how
to do them the right way, then you can start
breaking all of your rules, and making it look your own
way, so pigs feet are awesome! Okay, now I’m just going to kind of sketch those trees
back in there. So yeah, so what I can do now
is I can go back into my layers and I can turn off
that bottom layer, so then it just leaves
the ink in the back. So I’m going to draw
that in there, because it looks a
little weird without it. I’ll turn the layer back on, so you can see my
sketch underneath. Right? And then you can turn
the layer off, when you’re ready for the print version,
which is just the inks. So that’s a little
drawing demo for you guys. I hope you enjoyed it. [ Applause ]>>And now, my favorite
part, which is Q&A! So if you have questions,
I’m going to ask that you guys use
the two microphones on either side of
the stage here. We have two, so you can
use two, and I will go back and forth between them. So yes, we are going
to start on this side. So you are the first
question, hello!>>Did you ask permission
from your siblings to put them in your book?>>[Laughs] We’re getting right
to the hard-hitting questions. In fact, I did. My sister was the first person
to read the script of Sisters, and I said, do you want
me to change anything? Are you comfortable with this? And her response was, our little
brother is so much more annoying than you made him, so make
him way more annoying! And so that’s what
I did [laughs]. Now I’ll go to this side. Hi!>>Uh, uh when you– when
you made the book Sisters, was all that true? Like, the whole road trip and
the– you know, those like, childhood flashbacks,
with you and your sister?>>Yeah, they were. The thing that I do with my
memoirs sometimes is I will take events that happened over the
course of like five years, and I will squish them down
into a shorter period of time. I call it compressing
the timeline. And that is just because like,
it’s kind of boring, sometimes.>>Were you also as crazy for a
sister as you were in the book?>>Absolutely. Yeah, all of the
emotions, and feelings in the books are 100% true. Hi!>>Hi, I do have a
relevant question, but I want to give a background. I work with kids in
D.C. public schools. Actually we bring mentors
and literacy to kids, and Library of Congress,
Hill Staffers and community members come and
read with our kids once a week for an hour out of their week. And my question is to you,
well first of all, to thank you for making books relevant for
kids that are important topics in their lives, that
can really resonate, even with my own daughter and
with the kids that we work with. But our challenge is how to
get kids to love reading, and how to get them
motivated to pick up a book and find it enjoyable,
and find that love. So my question is to you, how do you suggest getting
kids interested in reading?>>I mean, I think a lot
of kids are intimidated by words on a page. Maybe there’s just too many
words, and so for those kids, graphic novels really are
kind of a perfect gateway, just to getting to love stories. You can also read
out loud to kids. You know, like just share
prose, works and poetry and like I said, sometimes
reading inspires writing, so getting kids just to share
their stories with one another and with the class, you
know, is an exercise. I know that sounds
like homework, but if you ask the
right questions, writing comes naturally
to a lot of people. So there are so many
ways, and I wish you luck.>>Thank you, graphic novels
are an amazing gift for kids. Thank you.>>Hi!>>How did you get your
inspiration for your books?>>Most of my books are
inspired by my life, so I’ve had all these things
that have happened to me over the course of my life,
and as a writer, I’ve been able to look back and say what
was the weirdest thing that I experienced in middle
school, or how did I feel when this thing happened to me? And I can usually sort
of channel those feelings and those memories into stories. Not every memory is good for
a story, but I like to draw, and I like to write, and so
eventually I just usually settle on something where I’m like that’s worth spending
some time on, and yeah, it just kind of comes naturally. Thank you. Hi!>>Do you have any ideas
planned for your next book with original characters,
and do you plan to add any more LGBT characters
for your future books?>>The second answer to
your question is 100% yes. The first question,
I’m working on it. I am in the process of thinking
about what my next book is going to be, and it will be a couple
of years before I’m ready to announce it, but I’m excited. I love making books.>>Please take your time–>>Oh, thanks [laughs]–>>I can see how
much your hand hurts.>>Oh, thank you.>>That happens to
me all the time.>>Hand stretches. I’ve got a little foam roller
for my hand, so I’m going to go back to my
room and do that. Thank you.>>I hope to see you
again in the future.>>Likewise, thank you. Hi!>>When did Guts come out?>>It hasn’t come out yet, so when people say
what’s your next book, I still have an answer [laughs],
this is like the best part. It comes out on September
17th, so yes, I will be at the
Small Press Expo, right before the book comes
out, so I won’t be back in D.C. this year after the book
is published, but it will be at every book store when it is.>>Thank you.>>You’re welcome. Hi!>>Did you always have the
computer program, and if not, what did you use before it?>>So I’m super old [laughter], and my family didn’t
have a computer until I was 9 years old,
and my sister was 5, and there’s actually
this anecdote in Sisters, that as soon as my family got a
computer, she was like “mine!” and just kind of hogged it most
of the time, and she figured out how to use the art
programs on it right away, and I was like okay, okay, okay. And I kept drawing on paper, and so I didn’t even really
start using a computer until I was in college,
which again, tells you just how old
I am [laughter], yeah. So and before, I mean, I still
use the same tools, pen, paper, ink [laughs], markers. Hi!>>What do you love most
about being a cartoonist?>>Oh my gosh, there’s so
many things to love about it, and for me it’s sort of satisfies two parts
of my personality. I really like working by myself
and coming up with ideas, and for me sitting at my desk and drawing feels
like meditation. It feels like breathing deeply,
and at the end of the day, even though it’s
a very long day, I’m usually like,
that was so much fun. I listen to Podcasts, you
know, I get to kind of be in my own world, but then as
soon as I’ve created a book, I get to go out and
kind of share the joy of books with other people. So I really like this part, too.>>Thank you.>>Hi!>>Hi, I was wondering when
you were writing Smile, did you think it was just going
to be one story about your life that you were going to put out,
or where you thinking of it as like the first step
in many stories about or inspired by your life?>>I never thought that this
was going to be what it is, and as soon as I finished
Smile, I was like, “I am never doing that again.” But then people kept
asking, like well, what else happened
to you in your life? And when are you going to write
a sequel, and what, you know, we wanted to know the
continuing adventures of Raina. And I’m like, nothing else
has ever happened to me. But then on like
one of the pages of Smile there’s a single panel
that talks about a road trip that my family went
on when I was 14, and that whole panel
is an entire– or that one panel
is an entire book. So sometimes I just
have to look. And it’s like looking
at your own photo album and going oh right, that
thing that happened. Well, you know, that person was
there, and this thing happened, so my brain just works that way. I don’t know what my future
plans are, as far as memoirs. I feel like 3 is a
really good number. I probably have like one or two
more stories from my childhood that I really want to
tell, so maybe I will.>>Thank you.>>You’re welcome. Hi!>>When did Amira start loving
snakes so much [laughter]?>>Her name is pronounced
Amara, just in case that’s okay to tell you, but she has been
obsessed with snakes probably since she was like a toddler,
and she always loved animals, but she really loved like
the creepy-crawly gross ones, and I was much more interested
in like, cats [laughs], hamsters, dogs, and she was
like snakes, and spiders, and lizards and stuff. And yeah, she still
really likes snakes. And I do not [laughs]. Hi!>>Hi, so we have
a shared question.>>Okay.>>What’s your favorite
part about writing books?>>Hm! I really like when
I’m done writing a book and I can– I can be like, yay! Here’s my new book [laughs], but
then like five minutes later, people are like, I
finished reading it! Like I said, I really like
the sitting at my desk part. So that means like,
coming up with the ideas, and then writing it,
and then the drawing, I love the drawing part so much. But that’s the part that
makes my hand so tired. So, the thing I like
to do the most is one of the hardest parts,
but I don’t know. That’s a pretty good
life [laughs]. Thanks! Hi!>>So, when did you decide
to write books about, like your life, or yeah–>>Yeah, I don’t feel like
I ever really decided. What happened was
that when I was a kid, my favorite books were realistic
fiction, so they were books about kids who were my
age, and had, you know, experiences with their
classmates, and their friends. I loved reading realistic
fiction, and then when I was like 10, 11 years old, I was
drawing comics, I was writing in a diary, and then I started
doing those two things together. So I started writing my
diary in comics format, and I never showed
these to anybody, because it was very personal,
and very embarrassing, but I did it from age 11
all the way up until age 25, so that was a lot of
years of experience of writing about my life. I never thought that
would become my career, but I had a lot of practice at
it, so it kind of worked out.>>Thank you.>>Hi. Sure!>>What’s your favorite
book that you wrote? That’s so hard to answer,
because I like them all, but…I love them all
for different reasons. I think Smile is my
most personal book, because I wrote it
before I had an editor. And Ghosts is a favorite
of mine just because I put so much creativity
and feeling into it. But I also really like Guts, because it is, again,
so personal. And I feel like people are
really getting to know me, the person, when they read Guts. So I hope you guys will read it
when it comes out [chuckles]. Hi.>>Hi, when you stepped on a
snake, why were you so scared? Because it was dead.>>It was so gross! That’s why. I was wearing sandals. I had the same shoes on that
you’re wearing right now, so it was like– it wiggled. It was like, on a rock. It just like, shuddered
under my foot. And I was also in the middle
of a blackberry patch, so like, I stepped on the snake,
and I was like “Ah!” I ran away, I had to run
through the blackberry patch, so I got all scraped up. It was just not a good day. My heart was racing really fast, and everybody laughed
at me afterwards. Also I went black berry picking
like a couple of weeks ago, and I was wearing sandals that
day too and I never learn. And I got a giant scrape
on the back of my foot, so yeah, I don’t know.>>When you recently
went blackberry picking, if you already stepped on
a dead snake in sandals, why did you choose to
wear sandals again?>>You are so much wiser than
me, and if you’d been there to warn me of this, I
would have known better. And as it was happening, I
was like, “seriously Raina?” It was like, this is really– [laughs], yeah, I don’t like
snakes, but I love blackberries, so [laughs] that’s how
I’ll answer that one. Hi!>>How did you get the
inspiration to write, like, figure out the titles?>>So Smile came to me because
it was the actual opposite of how I felt in that story. The last thing I wanted to do
was smile when I had braces, and when my teeth
had been knocked out, but it’s also something
that happens in our culture, that we’re often
told, like, smile. You don’t look happy. And like, you should smile more. And sometimes you just
don’t feel like smiling. So after that, my editors
were one-word titles. That’s your thing. And so now they kind of helped
me come up with them sometimes. Sometimes my editors help out. They really wanted the
title of Drama to be Drama. I wanted it to be called like
Callie’s Stage Group Chronicles, or something like that,
and they were like, no. Drama. Really? Okay. And then ever since
then, I’ve just accepted it. Guts was also extremely
obvious to me, when I was working
on that story. It just, it’s like,
it just existed. That’s when you know
you’re onto something, when it just feel so, so right. So it’s really tough
though, like, coming up with that many one-word
titles [laughs]. We can do a couple more. We have a few more minutes. So, hi!>>What was your main
inspiration for Drama?>>It was inspired by my
high school theater days. So I spent a lot
of time backstage, playing like [chuckles]
secondary roles in my school plays. Like, I would get the
program and it would be like Aristocrat #7, Raina
Telgemeier [laughs], hobo number three,
Raina Telgemeier. Child, that was like
often what I was cast as, because I was very
short [laughs]. Yeah, so I spent a lot of time
backstage just observing my friends, and seeing the dynamics
between what was happening on stage, backstage, off stage,
and it was fascinating to me. And years later, I was like,
I really miss those days, and my friends, and so
I kind of wrote the book as an ode to all of that.>>Thank you.>>Hi.>>Are you ever going
to do a book about other people
in the stories?>>Like the secondary
characters?>>Yeah.>>I don’t want to say no. Is there a character you’d like
to see a graphic novel about?>>No it’s like– not
really, I just want to>>[Laughs] Okay–>>No [laughter].>>I don’t have plans
for one at the moment, but if I get enough fan
letters that want me to write a graphic novel all
about Jesse, maybe I will. Yeah maybe [laughs]. Hi!>>Hello. My sister
Justice and I are big fans, but we really were
wondering which book of yours took the
longest to make?>>Smile took five years to
make, from start to finish. Part of that is because
it used to be a web comic, which means that I was
publishing one page per week, and I was just putting
it up on a website, and so people could read the
story as I was working on it, and then eventually, four
years in, I got a contract from Scholastic, and I
finished the second half of the book in nine months. But start to finish, five years. The second longest was Guts. Which took me almost three. Drama took two and a half. Ghosts took two and a half. Yeah, they take– they take a
little over two years a piece. But the Babysitter’s Club
books I did in a year a piece, because I wasn’t
doing the writing, I was just doing the art. So it’s– yeah [laughs].>>Okay thank you.>>You’re welcome. Can we do two more questions? One from this side,
and one from that side? Hi–>>What advice do you
have for like drawing?>>For drawing? Like how to get better
at drawing?>>Yeah.>>I mean, just keep doing it. And also look. Like, look at photographs,
look at real people. Look at landscapes. Look at other art. Look at things that
you like, and then try and capture what you see. Practice, I don’t know if it
makes perfect, but it makes art. So you’ve made a lot of art by
the time you’ve been practicing.>>Thank you.>>And then we’re going to
do the last one on this side.>>Hello.>>Hi!>>So I enjoy writing and
stuff, but once I get deeper into the book, or like, I don’t
really write a whole book, but like, it sort of gets
boring after a while. Like, so how do you sort
of fight off that boredom?>>That’s a tough question,
because I think we all suffer from some degree of
like writer’s block, or artist’s block. I don’t usually start a story until I know it’s a story
that I want to tell. So I will often do like a
complete outline of a story, and say this is the beginning,
the middle, and the ending. So I know where I’m
going with that story. So when I’m in the middle,
and I’m kind of slumping, and going oh, gosh,
the actual work, to make this story is a lot. And it’s tough. And I need some inspiration. But if I can see where I’m
going it’s easier, and that’s– it’s part of the reason why
I say like, start small. Start writing a short story. Write just one moment. One interaction between
two characters, and then say that it’s done. And then write a second story. So there is all sorts of ways
to watch out for burnout, and one of them is just
to walk away sometimes, and say you know what? I’m going to take a break. I’m going to go like, take a
walk outside, or go swimming, or like, play with my dog, or
whatever, then just come back to the drawing board, or the
writing board, or whatever you’d like to call it, feeling
a little fresher and ready to tackle the next page.>>Thank you.>>Thank you! I think that’s it. Thank you all so, so much! [ Applause ]

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