Monday, October 25, 2010

PNWA 2010 Conference: Drawn to Drawn Books

(Image:  Stinz Charger: The War Stories, by Donna Barr)

I was originally planning on attending a thriller/mystery panel hosted by several authors I’m acquainted with. However, the Eyes and Hands: An Introduction to Drawn Books workshop caught my eye.


Since I’ve produced YouTube movies and posted my first graphic novel, The Bushwhackers of Kashyyyk, I thought this workshop would be right up my alley. So I walked into the assigned room and met Donna Barr, the speaker and her assistant, Hedwig Vinson.

Then two other guys walked in for the class.

That was it.


When so few people show up for something like this, it can either be very good—or very bad.

Fortunately, this turned out to be not just good, but a fantastic experience.

We pulled our chairs into a tight circle and discussed some of the aspects of what Donna calls “drawn books.” She coined this term because she’s observed that using the more traditional terms of; comic books, commix, or even graphic novels, was still dismissed as “just for kids.” In fact, it was this perception that led to comic-book publishers into accepting the maturity rating system. This in turn, led to a discussion about censorship within the comic book industry--which she vehemently opposes.

When discussing the books themselves, Donna defined drawn books as “…being the perfect balance between writing and art” (from the workshop handout). At this point I became concerned because, when I think of "art," I tend to think of hand-drawn pictures or painting. So I asked about my work with photographing miniatures, in which I spent several minutes showing her and the rest of the class The Bushwhackers of Kashyyyk.

I was pleasantly surprised to learn that there’s an actual term for this form: It’s called Fumetti.  This is an Italian word meaning, literally, “little puffs of smoke,” referring to the speech balloons. In English this refers to what’s otherwise called photonovels or photographic comics:

Wow! Up until now I didn’t know there was an established art term for what I was tinkering around with. This was a revelation for me! I’ve spent the past several years trying to figure out what niche I fit into as a writer. Now I can say I'm a graphic novelist.

Donna Barr is best known for her two series: The Desert Peach and Stinz. The Desert Peach features the gay brother of Field Marshal Erwin Rommel; while Stinz is an historical fantasy about a centaur living in central Europe. Donna Barr’s website is:

Donna also suggested checking out the works of the following drawn book novelists:

Roberta Gregory:

Colin Upton:

Carla Speed McNeil:

Madison Clell:

Kevin Bose and Stasio Kato (The Virgin Project):

Diana Sasse:


Donna Barr said...

Cool! And the fact that more people DIDn't show up was because I'd used such a cryptic title for the class. After years of having drawn books sneered at, I had no idea so many people really wanted to know about them now. I'm glad we had a little private class -- if PNWA would have me back, we could expand on it. I'm really pleased I could help you with knowing where you want to go with your own work, and giving you a boost. We need more Book Drawners! :)

Stern Rake Studio said...

I recommended inviting you back when I filled out the on-line questionier/critique form. Pam's also teaching the Popular Fiction class I'm attending, so I'll put in a good word for you!

Thanks again, for a great seminar!