Hi, friends. I'm so glad I get to write to you today.
It's been a hell of a month. The world is a scary-feeling place right now. I've been wanting to write this email but struggling with what to say—the tone feels all wrong. The usual fire and joy that fuel my life took a hit on Election Day. I was far away in the UK, worried and hopeful and all motivated after a really lovely weekend at Thought Bubble, and when I woke up to the news this grey weight and sickening fear took root and drove me from place to place the rest of my time abroad, drifting around museums and looking for hope.
These last few weeks I've seen friends in comics and elsewhere mobilizing
—even though everyone I've talked to took a similar hit, and we're all muzzy and slow with shock. Does what we do matter? Can it effect real, lasting change? People I meet up with over tea ask me these questions with anxiousness behind their eyes. I wonder, too.
Here's what I believe: nourishing young readers with media that encourages kindness and bravery and empathy is part of the fight. Showing our honest selves so that others can feel less alone is part of the fight. Fostering networks of supportive friends, pushing ourselves outside our comfort zones, and giving back to the communities that sustain us are all part of the fight.
I'm going to keep going
. I hope you do too.
So with all that in mind, here's what I'm working on. Here are some things friends of mine are working on. Here are some things that have made the last few weeks less bleak.
- My talk from this year's XOXO is up at last. My heart rate is skyrocketing just typing that. Back in September I opened up on stage in front of a lot of people I really admire and talked about the financial reality of being a "successful" cartoonist—and why "failing" by the standards of capitalism doesn't necessarily mean having an unfulfilling life. I'm tired of the shame and anxiety that surrounds the discussion of finances. I would like to create spaces where it's okay for people to talk about where they're at—wherever that may be—without fear of judgement. Tell me how it is for you! Reply to this email. Send me a tweet. I'm serious. I would love to hear from you. (If you're curious, here's what my talk looked like in its brainstorm Post-It phase, which came after the "Pacing around various parking lots shouting into my inline mic and waving my arms a lot" phase. And here's a video of me setting fire to all those notes in a trash can because catharsis is important.)
- Lucy Knisley is organizing a great art project to benefit Planned Parenthood, a crucial organization that provides reproductive healthcare to women of all backgrounds, but especially those in dire financial straits. If you're a cartoonist interested in drawing a rad feminist for a great cause, go sign up for a slot. Here's the portrait of Jacqui Ceballos I contributed to her print:
- My friend Evan Dahm has finally released his incredible illustrated edition of Moby-Dick on Kickstarter. Having watched him work on this project over the last couple years has been truly humbling. He's a craftsman in every sense of the word, and I'm so excited to add this volume to my shelf.
- I got to participate in a panel at Thought Bubble about making money as a cartoonist with Box Brown and Dan Berry—you can check out the recording right here.
- Speaking of recordings: I'm really enjoying the first couple episodes of We Will Fix You for my surrealist humor fix. If you'd like Sheffield's only fully-collapsible herpetologist to advise you on weight loss, tune in.
- Two lovely films I saw this week: Arrival (compassionate, slow, achingly beautiful, hopeful—don't read anything about it, just go) and Moana (independent female protagonist coming of age via learning to sail YES PLEASE also absolutely gorgeous oceanic animation). Both worth your time, both giving me hope that mainstream media doesn't always ruin everything. We've had a good couple years for women on screen. I hope that trend continues.
- If you're looking for reading recommendations, I recently finished David D. Levine's Arabella of Mars, which lands in the wonderful margin between sci-fi space exploration and Master and Commander-style naval excitement, set in a universe where Newton was struck by rising bubble in a bathtub, rather than a falling apple from a tree. I really delighted in the little twists on history, and obviously the presence of a feisty and intelligent female protagonist was a huge plus.
- Do you know about Cartozia Tales? It's a collaborative, all-ages fantasy series I've been working on with a batch of other indie comics rockstars for the last couple years, and I think the precocious children in your lives would dig it. We're currently in a push to publish our final issue, and new subscribers are our lifeblood. Here's a story snippet from Issue 9 that I had a lot of fun with:
Thank you for being here and telling your friends about my work and keeping an eye on what's new. I'm glad we get to share this odd internet space and use it to enable the creation of good things. I'm getting my fire back, and I wish the same for all of you.
Be kind out there, and I'll see you in December.
- Finally: my book is on the shelves at Powell's! This is a huge deal for me. I'm thrilled. I went down to the shop and signed every copy they had. If you'd like to give a copy for the holidays (and, honestly, nothing would make me happier), you can get hardcovers directly from me here, or grab the commercial softcover at Powell's, Amazon, or your local bookseller/comic shop of choice. I also have a host of other goodies for sale, many of which would make lovely holiday gifts.
Love and boats and comics,