Thursday Writing: The biggest project yet

Lately I have been working on my most important writing and art project, a graphic novel of my family’s history. I started collecting photos and relatives’ stories some time ago, but it wasn’t until the Hedgebrook app (which I finally mailed today!) that I took a stab at doing some actual pages: a four-page scene illustrating a pivotal moment in the family history. I can’t share it here, as it’s extremely personal and I don’t yet have my family’s approval to make it public. But here’s a tiny teaser scan with the text blurred out, just to give a sense of what it looks like.

Graphic novel thumbnail

Page 2 of my 4-page scene

I’m so, so proud of how these pages came out. They will need to revised heavily (if not thrown out altogether) for the book itself, but after I drew them and looked back at what I’d done, I felt so excited I couldn’t sleep. They convey the power and emotion I wanted to convey, and they are much better than I ever anticipated my first attempts would be. I feel confident in saying that this book — whenever it’s completed — will be GOOD! And an accomplishment! I’m eager to keep going, though I need to get my family’s permission first, which I’ll do this weekend. Fingers crossed. They know (and are happy that) I want to write a book about them, but I haven’t told them yet that it will be in this graphic form.

I’ve been thinking about this project abstractly for so long, but now that I’ve actually worked on some of it more concretely, I’m struck with how really huge a project it is. Of course it has an ambitious scope and will take a long time; that’s a given. But that’s no different than whatever I’d have been working on if I’d stayed in grad school. No, the challenge here is that this project will use most of the critical faculties in which I’ve just begun to train. It will require all that I’m capable of, as a writer and as an artist and as a sequential (comics) artist — in fact, it probably requires more than I’m currently capable of! It will be as demanding an intellectual undertaking as the history dissertation I once thought I would write — though thankfully I feel no obligation to do a historiography! And it will summon the best of me as a family member, and will place upon me the burden of representing myself, my family, my culture, and several eras of history to the rest of the world. In other words, this project will not only take time and energy, it will call on my utmost capacity for care, integrity, generosity, skill, and creativity. A project for the ages!

Moreover, as such, this project will need my almost-full attention for an extended period of time. That will be foreign for me. As you know, my current creative life is geared toward diversity and breadth. But this project will leave no room for any of my other creative pursuits, except as the merest hobbies. I’m okay with that, but it will be different… very different.

I believe I’m ready to take this on. The plan is as follows: the FabMo show in October, Saraya’s story for NaNoWriMo in November, and then, having tied up those significant “loose ends,” in December I will get going on this book. I’ve resolved to dedicate 2011 to this project, and we’ll see how far I can get in a year… it’s a good thing I’ve begun incorporating more “me time” into my life because I am going to need it!

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