My life in comics – Raina Telgemeier
Raina Telgemeier’s session kicked off day two of Reading Matters and it was the perfect way to get everyone in the mood for another day of bookish delights. Raina started by talking about her influences, which include cartoons from her childhood (Smurfs, Strawberry Shortcake and Scooby Doo), books by Roald Dahl and her favourite book, Mrs Frisby and the Rats of Nimh by Robert C. O’Brien. As a graphic storyteller there are quite a few graphic novels that have influenced her, including Calvin and Hobbs, For Better or Worse by Lynn Johnston, the Bones graphic novels by Jeff Smith, and Barefoot Gen, a cartoon story of Hiroshima which made her realise that comics could tell powerful stories.
Raina’s first graphic novel, Smile, is a love letter to her home town San Francisco and ’90s fashion. She says that she ‘wrote this story just to get the memories out if my head.’ Her family members became a huge part of the story (it’s autobiographical) and they love being cartoon characters. Every character in the story has a route in a real person. It seems to have really struck a chord with her readers as she has heard from lots of boys and girls who have been with something very similar. Raina wishes that she could ‘go back in time and tell her 12 year old self that it would be OK.’
Drama was inspired by her time as a theatre nut. It includes ‘stage fright, annoying brothers, mean girls, cute boys, school dances and bubble tea.’
Raina took us through the different stages of putting a graphic novel together. First, she creates thumbnail sketches of each page, in which she decides where characters will stand and where the action will take place. Next, she does the penciling (where she spends more time on the artwork), inking (using a watercolour brush and ink), digitization, colouring, cover design, and the mock-up of the final jacket.
I loved Raina’s explanation of why she creates graphic novels, ‘I wanted to see myself, my friends and family, in comics.’ She believes that ‘kids need role models of kids who are just good people.’ I wholeheartedly agree with this!
Raina’s next book is a companion to Smile, called Sisters (coming in 2014), which will be stories about Raina and her sister.
Check out some photos of Raina’s live drawing that she did while answering questions from the audience. So cool!