Tuesday, December 11, 2007

6th Graders Ask Questions, Respond

Dana Cook is a sixth grade English teacher at Bonita Springs Charter School, somewhere in Florida. She had her students read my "Crater Face" story (from the "Stuck In The Middle" anthology) and she e-mailed me their questions and comments. I e-mailed back my answers and, I guess, she's going to read them to her class.

Student Questions:

-What was your inspiration for “Crater Face?” Why did you want to write about zits? Is the story based on you? Have you written anything else about your own life?

I’ve never done a straight auto-bio comic. I did “Crater Face” right after I graduated college and I had to work as a figure-drawing model part-time to pay the bills. That’s where you stand nude in front of a class for hours and they draw you in different poses. I got very self-conscious and would pick at little things all over my body. Even if it was just a little bump I would squeeze and tear at it and I’d get scabs all over. Now I draw for a living, so I’m fine.
I never had a ton of acne. No more than the average person, I think. Originally the story was going to be a bit more auto-bio because the ending had the girl tell the boy to wear make-up to cover his zits, like she does. That happened to me. But the editor didn’t like that ending so we changed it.
Most of Middle School is a blur. I played Dungeons and Dragons once or twice a week for long stretches and spent the time in between working on quests, since I was the Dungeon Master. I don’t remember any of my teacher’s names or anything else.

-Did you always want to be a writer? How old were you when you started writing? Why did you start writing? Who inspired you to write? What was your first story?

I remember wanting to be a cartoonist or an “imagineer”- the people who design the Disney theme parks. I started cartooning when I was very young and I’ve continued since without any breaks. Making comics is a never-ending well of self-gratification. You can do anything with them and they can help you with anything. The further you get into making them the more personally rewarding it becomes.
-How do you come up with your ideas/ what’s your inspiration? What types of books do you write? Where do you write? Is it hard to think of characters? What’s your favorite thing the draw? How do you keep working when things get hard?

These are great questions. I don’t know some of the answers.
I draw in my room.
It’s entertaining for me to imagine characters and spend time with them and see what they do. I like drawing people’s faces and bodies and things like trees, water, sand, smoke (those things are just bunches of marks/dots) and maps.

-How does it feel to be a published author? How many books/stories have you written? Have you written a novel? Have you ever written something that people didn’t like? What’s your favorite book? Favorite author?

I’ve done many unpopular books and short stories, but I choose to judge the success of a comic on how much I enjoyed making it. I usually don’t get paid enough to worry about what other people think.
I really like the “His Dark Materials” trilogy by Philip Pullman. I had a drawing in a gallery opening Friday but I skipped going and went to see “The Golden Compass” movie instead, which was awful. But the books are absolutely amazing and there was a wonderful play adaptation in London that I was fortunate enough to see.

-What’s your new book about? When is it coming out? What’s its title?

It’s about a family and it comes out mid-2008. It looks like a children’s book but it’s for adults. So it has cartoony characters shopping, talking and doing boring things for hundreds of pages. Not recommended.

-What questions do you have for us?

What’s your worst fear?

-Will you come visit us to talk about writing?

No. Once you’re out of Middle School you won’t want to go back to one either.

Student Comments about “Crater Face”:
-the zits looked ugly
-please write sequel
-nice word choice
-more details would be nice
-we related to the characters
-it’s creative
-makes sense
-puss from zits too yucky
-characters seem real, everyone has problems
-seemed like it was based on a true story