Find Your People and Walk the Walk Together

(A thing about giving your energy to the people who get you, getting back what you give and a great network I joined this year to improve my storytelling craft and my storytelling business…)

Here’s what I’ve learned about about not knowing things. Sometimes we don’t know what we don’t know.

And that can hold us back.

I’ll tell you why I kicked this message to you in a minute. First I just want to ask, “How are you doing? Are you taking care of yourself and the ones you love?”

Oh, man, I wish you the courage and strength it takes in these crazy days. This year, in the seven years it seems we have all endured since our friends started dying in March, I was just like you – trying to help my family safely and sanely through the health crisis of our lives. Feeling fortunate to be alive and with my loved ones.

I didn’t quit my day job. In fact, I chose to channel the energy and anxiety and emotion of these wild days into creative work.

Thankfully, I was loved and tolerated by my wife and daughter, who get me. They know that if I am not writing, I’m going to go crazy, and accept that I need to be myself. I strive to do the same for them. (This is really the only way to be a family, as far as I can see…)

Once again thankfully, I also have others who get me. Collaborators in Comics, Books, TV and Film who meet me where our work catches creative fire together, intimate yet distant, challenging each other to do ourbest, believing each other even on the days when the work feels like a trudge uphill. (My collaborators are a kind of family, too…)

And starting this year, a third cohort’s got my back. I joined an informal community of creatives dedicated to kids’ graphic novels – but really including all visual storytellers – founded to provide a structure for support, practice, learning and networking.

I didn’t quit my day job. In fact, I chose to channel the energy and anxiety and emotion of these wild days into creative work.

The network’s called Kid’s Comics Insider and it was started by my friend Janna Morishima. You can delve into her bio here, but what you need to know right now is that she’s a literary agent expert in children’s graphic novels and visual storytelling. Janna knows her stuff, has tons of energy and enjoys sharing her skill and passion to empower storytellers do their most personal and powerful work and find their audience.

Janna read my manuscript and came back with sympathetic straight talk. She enjoyed my writing voice, felt the story was worth telling, but also got why I had come to her weighed down with a nagging sense that I couldn’t sell this proposal to a publisher as it was…  and I didn’t know what to change.

Remember when I said, “Here’s what I’ve learned about about not knowing things. Sometimes we don’t know what we don’t know.”

Janna said you’re writing a picture book for a pre-reader when your story wants to be a graphic novel for a young reader.

That was it. “Aha! moment,” as another story maven in our community likes to call it, editor Nevin Mays.

I didn’t know what I didn’t know…  about my own book.

And once I knew, I could get back to work, re-imagining and exploding the boundaries of the children’s picture book – a form compressed by design, spare and minimalist, like a song with pictures – into a graphic novel.

I can’t wait to share it with you, but first I have to sell it.

In addition to the good advice of my “book therapist,” I credit the Kid’s Comic Insider network along with my family and my collaborators for my progress as a writer this year. There’s something about holding yourself accountable to fellow creatives to create and share your work – and when everyone is willing to give generously of their encouragement and criticism, progress is guaranteed.

Of course I still have to sit down and write every day. After all these years, THAT’S not one of those things I don’t know that I don’t know.

“Don’t wait for inspiration,” we say. “Sit your butt down and write and that’s when inspiration comes.”

And no agent can sell a book that doesn’t sell itself on the page.

But I put a lot of energy into the group, on message chains shared with the entire network, zoom calls with the entire group and in smaller, private critique meetings. And you get what you give, right? In a summer dominated by Bad Weather…

…and by Bad weather, I mean global COVID anxiety, a country pitted against itself by cynical politics and our own failure to meet the challenge of this pandemic, and the resulting financial crisis, not to mention actual Bad Weather…

…I still got, as I said, the day job done. With key collaborators, I made progress on marketing media adaptations and published a special Non-Convention Convention Exclusive, and as a Kid Comics network writer, I produced three new proposals and upgraded my website to help me keep in touch with the readers who matter.

So, creative reader, if you do your best work when you find your people and walk the walk together, you might want to join our community for:

  • interviews with industry insiders – creators, editors, agents
  • educational content for content producers of all kinds, with a specific aim to empower kids’ graphic novelists
  • sympathetic networking and straight talk with creative peers
  • discussions that help you make better, more informed creative and business decisions

I’ve written before about how I think literacy is not about what we know. Instead, literacy is about our ability to learn. And that’s why I keep showing up for Kid’s Comics Insider.

You’re welcome to join us!

Here’s the free online professional network for storytellers

Here’s advanced “insider” subscription content of the online professional network for storytellers (referral link*)

*(referral link) As a subscriber, I may receive a discount for referring new members.

Art: Shanda McCloskey
Art: Andi Watson

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