October 8, 2007
Posted by: Mark Siegel
Categories: :01 Stop: Watch
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From the desk of Jane Yolen

Jane_yolen_as_mother_goose

I was a lover of comics as a child, though my
parents — while big encouragers of reading and writing — wouldn’t let me give them
house room. So I borrowed them from friends. Not for me the Archies or the
Marvel heroes. I went for the dark side: "Tales from the Crypt" was my favorite.
(This gives you an idea of how old I am!)

However, ballet, boys, horses,
fencing, college, work as an editor after college, then marriage and children
somehow weaned me from about thirty years of reading comics. The good stuff
(and the not-so-good stuff) got away from me.

Three things brought me
back: Neil Gaiman’s Sandman, Linda Medley’s Castle Waiting, and Art
Spiegelman’s Maus. I got to write introductions to two of the three, and that
ain’t bad!

What was it about those three that drew me? They were adult
pieces of work, with gorgeous writing and a sense of history and cosmology. They
told stories with metaphoric and psychological underpinnings. I can always be
seduced by good writing and subtext. These were not just comix, but graphic
literature. I was hooked.

So for the last ten years, I’ve wanted to try
my hand at writing a graphic novel. After all, a graphic novel would combine
those things I knew and wrote best — picture books and novels, plus an occasional
movie script.

I kept asking and asking, writing proposals and having
lunch conferences, but no one — and I mean NO ONE — wanted me to do a graphic novel.
My various editors, even those dabbling in graphic novels, all looked at me as
if I’d gone crazy. Basically I was told: leave comics to the comics people. They
seemed to be saying, why bother, since you’re already well known in the
children’s and adult lit biz. My answer sounded like a child with a tantrum:
"Because I want to."

Then, through Terri Windling, I was lucky enough to
get to know Charles Vess . He asked me to write one of the ballad stories for
his graphic anthology. (Neil Gaiman lent me a script so I could see the format, though
I ended up making up my own!) Being an overachiever, I wrote two. And I was
hooked again.

You see, with children’s picture books, the writer isn’t
allowed to talk about the pictures at all. That’s considered the artist’s
province. With novels, words have to substitute for artwork. You want a castle,
describe a castle; you want a medieval house, explain wattle and daub. And with
scripts for movies, though there is a bit more leeway suggesting the look of the
thing, in the end it’s the director who makes the final decisions. But writing
those graphic short stories, I got to combine all three. Surely — I thought, after
writing the two ballads for Charles — I can get someone to take me seriously about
a graphic novel.

No, and no, and no some more. My own editors continued
to turn me down. I wondered if I was going to find an alternative universe before
anyone would let me write one.

Then manga happened. A comics
explosion happened. Graphic novels went Big Business. And I almost literally
fell into First Second’s Mark Siegel’s arms — though I am old enough to be his
grandmother, and heavy enough to flatten him if that had actually
happened. But we met, had much in common, he plied me with his first list, and I
sent him the start of a short story about my granddaughter who is a fencer, a
story called FOILED over which the plot gods and I had previously had a falling out.

He said, "Send me a couple of pages as a comic and. . . ."

Old
dog.  New trick.

FOILED (after seven hefty revisions for Mark’s freelance Editor Tanya McKinnon) will be out sometime in the next year or so.
And I so want to write: CURSES, FOILED AGAIN. Maybe I will have to go into New
York and fall on Mark all over again.

[UP NEXT WEEK: DEREK KIRK KIM]

3 Comments on “ Old Dog, New Tricks ”

  • Kat Kan | October 13th, 2007 9:52 pm

    Oh my. Jane Yolen writing a graphic novel? I’m so going to get that! Jane is one of my favorite writers; when people were gushing over J.K. Rowling, I handed them Jane’s books to show them how it should be done. (Sorry, but I don’t like the Harry Potter books.) And it’s always nice to learn that people I admire so much also like comics. Yes! Ooh, and it’s about fencing? I am a very bad fencer, but I used to do it for several years (practiced with my husband, who started fencing in college). I still have my uniform, mask, gloves, and foil. Oh boy, I’m really looking forward to FOILED.

  • Brian | January 18th, 2008 10:02 pm

    Yeah I totally love comics, especially manga. They are always so good to read. Recently, I’ve also come to like animation and also the japanese anime series.

  • Brian | January 18th, 2008 10:03 pm

    Yeah I totally love comics, especially manga. They are always so good to read. Recently, I’ve also come to like animation and also the japanese anime series.

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