Friday, November 14, 2008

Report on the ASA Picture Book Creators' Retreat

I was a guest speaker at the Australian Society of Authors Picture Book Creators’ Retreat held from the 7th til the 10th of November 2008 in Adelaide.

I gave a talk and workshop on the definition of comics and graphic novels which included a powerpoint presentation created by Julie and myself. The presentation introduced the medium and its expression through many forms, styles and genres. I also spent some time discussing the accompanying jargon to help solidify participants' understanding of the origins of comics.

What emerged from the discussion was that many mainstream children's publishers are seeing the buzz associated with the graphic novel and the accompanying financial success from overseas publishers so they've decided to jump in with their own graphic novels. Unfortunately, these publishers are seeing comic sequential language and the graphic novel format and presentation as just another extension of their children's book line. The same checks and balances and gatekeepers are involved.

What the presentation did was illuminate the differences between the comics medium and traditional picture books, showing the former as a vessel in its own right that can be filled with any genre, style, topic, or targeted audience. The presentation covered the various genres including horror and superhero; various styles including black/white and color; and how graphic novels can be targeted to different markets such as women, teenage, and the like. I also explained how the comics community embraced new original work that is self published outside of the editor gatekeepers usually associated with any book publishing because ultimately it is the readers who decide the success of a new work.

All this information was excitedly received by the audience. Afterwards they exclaimed that they could now write and illustrate beyond their previously preconceived children's book boundaries for the very first time, exploring ideas they could not easily fit within the traditional mainstream children's book market. Furthermore, they were excited about the idea of self publishing without the stigma of vanity press.

After the presentation and workshop many delegates thanked me personally for the presentation and the information that opened their creative minds.

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