where the writers are
#3 graphic novel-in-progress: Stitching
Forget Sorrow: A China Elegy.jpg

My father has been telling me stories about old China for nearly two decades. It took me eleven years to write my third nonfiction manuscript, and now I am turning the words into images, instructed by my imagination and the parameters of the comics/graphic novel format.

Below, in the first panel, we are in my father's garden, and I am asking him questions. The second panel moves to the story of Yuan the Idiot, a Taoist “fool,” who taught my great grandfather to meditate.

(Above, the Ames Tool, the clear plastic gizmo, is handy for drawing guide lines for the text. Electric eraser, nonphoto blue pencil and a 4B graphite pencil, resting on parallel straight edge attached to a portable drafting board.)


(If you compare the pencil sketch above with the finished 3rd panel below, you'll see that the intended images have been changed.)

My editor, Alane Salierno Mason* at W. W. Norton & Co., in her recent notes told me the prophecies of Yuan the Idiot need to come earlier in my book so that a return to them at the end will be more effective. I’ve been working the past week to stitch the new pages into the old.

And I as work, I learn about uprising in Tibet, spreading to Qinghai, Gansu, Sichuan, I foresee a bloody spring and summer. (The international community should boycott the 2008 Olympics.)

My father was forced out of his home by the Communists. He walked out of Manchuria and nearly the length of China at the age of seventeen. Unlike in southern China, in the northeast, land was plentiful. Vast tracts had never been put under the plow, so land distribution by the Communists was a sham. It was outright pillage.

Yuan the Idiot warned my great grandfather, Patriarch of the House of Yang:

“Get rid of your worldly goods. All the demons from hell have busted down the gates. Get rid of the wealth that will come to be your bane!”

When I worked on the prose book, I merely envisioned demons and monsters emerging from the netherworld but the graphic novel medium allows me to play with a bit of visual pun and expand on the symbolism by hinting at the Soviet hammer and sickle emblem and a shadow of Mao Zedong.

I will add more details, but my eyes are bleary and my neck sore. It is time for bed.

Btw, I listened to "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof" twice through on BBC Radio 3 as a worked on this panel.


Click here to go to #2 post on the graphic novel process

Click here to go to #4 post on graphic novel process.


* Alane Salierno Mason's fascinating piece of literary sleuthing in the "Boston Review of Books."


1 Comment count
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Firstly, the hat

is fabulous.  Makes me yearn for a hat.

And again, I love this process and that you are sharing it.  So itneresting to to imagine how things are shaped for a graphic novel.  Thank you.


Jessica Barksdale Inclan www.jessicabarksdaleinclan.com