where the writers are
And so the Fedex Man Cometh

Since my last post in April specific to my graphic novel, I've been working steadily with my editor at WW Norton to reinforce the flow of the story.  It involved a lot of old-fashioned cutting and pasting with X-acto knife and rubber cement.  I moved comics panel around, drew new ones to fill in vacant spots or to emphasize a point.  I like tactile work, which mere typing at the computer lacks. 

I thought, we would not be finished with this last pounce of the editing run until well into fall, but here we are in the first week of September, and my editor has signaled me that there are no more "fixes" to be made.  On Wednesday, a museum curator will come to look at the art for a possible show and then Thursday, the two hundred and fifty hand-drawn and handwritten pages go to New York.

Trustworthy Matt taketh it all away. When he says, "It will be there tomorrow," I know I can count on it.


After completing a thirteen years-long project, Instead of feeling light, spacious and free, as if airborne with the flock of snow geese I am currently illustrating, I felt bluesy last week, stretched out in the strip of sun on the living room floor for entire afternoons.  I felt sore all over.

When I started the process of drawing my graphic novel three years ago, it took me a few weeks to figure out the tools of the trade, the formats, the styles, and more importantly, whether I should use computer programs like PhotoShop or execute the work entirely by hand.  Some artists draw with PhotoShop; they manipulate lines, texture and color by specific choices they make with clicks of the mouse, never using a pen or pencil at the sketch stage.  I am adept at using computer programs, but I decided to go with the hand drawn.


I believe there is nothing quite like an entirely handmade line, although many will argue that using a Wacom pen tablet is just an extension of the hand, like a pencil or brush.  But I love having a finished product I can display at libraries and museum galleries, an object that smells of ink and paint.  I have real objects, which exist as singular, unique products.


And I love the tools of my trade.  I value the various round brushes, which I are responsive to my moods, and the pigment markers of varying diameters to make dark lines, squiggles, hatches, dots.  I love the kneaded eraser, the electric eraser, the Ames guide, which helps me write rows of even script.


I even like the humble tofu containers I use as palettes for the black gouache (opaque watercolor).  One last good reason for the hand drawn: as I age, the work at a drawing board is gentler on my eyes than the pixels, which the eye's irises cannot entirely fix on.  The pixels do not exist at a specific depth so the ciliary muscle must contract and relax, contract and relax in its attempt to focus the image on the retina.


Today, I've started on another project, definitely not something that will take fourteen years to reach publication, but a shorter Chinese-English project for Candlewick, which my children's book editor had asked me to try my hand at some half a dozen years ago.  In this economy, I am thrilled to be occupied and employed.  I must admit I am lazy, but at the same time, I enjoy my life more when I am lazily going about my projects, a steady stream of them.  When I don't have a relatively big one in progress, I feel ill at ease.

But friends tell me I need to celebrate, to put a definitive closure on hard work and to reward myself.  I am taking their suggestion to heart.  I will indeed celebrate.  Maybe all month!

And, I have another big project churning in my brain.  I won't talk about it, because I am superstitious and realistic: the more I talk, the less I write and draw.  It's like the tire gauge, which must let out a puff of air from the tire, each time you test the tire pressure.  I don't want to be deflated in the incremental revealing of a dream.


Youtube video of Belle at work on her graphic novel

 Belle Yang Redroom Retrospective: Words and Images

21 Comment count
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My son works at FedEx, so I

My son works at FedEx, so I hope that's a good thing. :)

I like all your art weapons. Very cool.


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Congratulations, Belle!

Congratulations, Belle! Count me among the folks who think you should take a small breather and enjoy this moment.

Off and on for 14 years, I dated an architect. He was (overly) impressed with my technical skills, but whenever I asked him if he'd adopt CAD-CAM design, he said no. Gave me many of the same reasons you just gave, and his design tools looked a lot like yours. There is a lot to be said for hand-crafted work, and ex beau claimed the manual process itself improved the end product.

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Hi, Ellen,

With comics, the tools are few and inexpensive.  I think it is also the last democratic avenue to publishing.  A young person who has Xeroxed pages of her work and can share it or sell it is undeniably a comics artist.  There is a man in Britain, Paul Gravett, who helped young people sell their work at book fairs and such.  He spead out their Xeroxed work on a table and found audiences for them.

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I love hand-drawn, hand-lettered comics

This is a great post. I prefer going all hand-drawn myself, for the reasons you mentioned. I like the look and the tactility. It takes a little bit longer for me to do that than use the computer. I particularly like the look of a brushstroke drawn by an experienced and soulful hand, which your comic seems to has plenty of. And computers do make the eyes wearier than paper.

Congratulations Belle, it's all done. Now your book, your baby, has to go out into the world and meet all us readers. I am looking forward to it.

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Thank you, Marc--

You yourself know well the feeling of completion.  I wish my hand lettering were as beautiful as those I've seen done by comic book artists, but mine is uneven.  I suppose I could have asked Norton to scan the pages and then I could make editorial changes in the text, using PhotoShop, but we decided to make an alphabet based on my handwriting.  I hope it looks "good" in the sense that it's imperfect like hand done stuff.  I didn't really like the Scott McCloud font he used in his books on the art of the comics.  I pray I won't be disappointed with mine.

I hope your current work is developing nicely, and you are taking needed breaks for your eyes and back.  I should have treated my body better.  It needs to take me through another round of projects before I go home.

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That slight imperfection is the key with lettering, isn't it? Some can even get away with using classic book fonts, though. 'Mouse Guard' is one example of a comic that used an elegant serif typeface. I think it works, for that comic.

Is another graphic novel on the cards for your next round of projects?

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Yes, after I finish

a children's book, I'm back to the graphic novel.  I think it's the format absolutely suited to my needs and skills.  It's like making a movie, without the need for actors and all the necessary funding.  How about you?

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I am planning to draw

I am planning to draw another graphic novel when the current one is finished. With a bit of effort I can have the art done for The Sixsmiths by Christmas this year.

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You know how I feel about

You know how I feel about this already, though I was happy to see Mr. Fed Ex! And more of your process, which is detailed and pretty damn much amazing.

Here's to you, Belle! (raised class of something healthy and delicious).



Jessica Barksdale Inclan

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Thanks, Jessica

You are just the best!!

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What a fabulous feeling when I read this blog.

What a fabulous feeling when I read this blog. Wonderful, wonderful, wonderful!!

I hope your celebrations go fabulously, in whatever form you take it! Absolutely brilliant. :)

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Knowing me,

I'll be spending more time figuring out how to celebrate than on the actual celebration.  Perhaps, I'll simply go to the beach and write with a stick in the sand: Finis.  Then let the tide carry my sentiments out to sea.

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God speed, Matt!


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Happy to say, Kate

there were no thunderstorms and tornados between Carmel and NY City Thursday evening.  My editor is in receipt of the package.  Oh, the nightmarish thoughts of what may happen between here and there.

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Congratulations, Belle!

Every time I see your work I am astounded by how much talent is within your body. Most of us are lucky to have one talent, but you manage to be just as gifted with your words as you are your hands. You are truly a spectacular talent, Belle!

Shana McLean Moore

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Nice, new author portrait of you

Much gracias, Shana.  I would have made a terrible MD, the direction I was headed:  "Oh, I think the heart is about here, let's make an incision around here . . . "  Everything is a guesstimate with me, so art best fits my temperament.

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Eric, you must be responsible for this . . .

Below is a letter from a Fedex person to my literary agent: Hi, Deborah— Thanks for your time today. It was a pleasure speaking with you. The blog post that I was interested in mentioning can be found: http://www.redroom.com/blog/belle-yang/and-so-fedex-man-cometh. You can find the FedEx Citizenship blog at http://blog.fedex.com . As you’ll read, we’re really proud of serving our customers and community and like to show the world our team members in action. Thank you in advance for yours and Bella’s consideration. And….thanks for listening to my pitch about my ladybug. You’re too kind for taking the time to listen. Really. Hope you have a great long weekend. Regards, MC matt ceniceros | fedex media relations | o: 901.434.7889 | m: 901.335.1628 | news.fedex.com |

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let me add my congrats . . .

. . . to the chorus, Belle! I believe in month-long birthday celebrations, and those come every year, so for a 14-year-long project you may be due to celebrate until . . . next summer at least! : ) But, lucky for you, since you love your work, you can be doing that, too, even as you celebrate. I hope we'll cross paths somehow during this next year, so I can toast you in person, but meanwhile, I'll follow Jessica's lead and raise a glass from the east coast.

I *so* can't wait for your book!


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Thank you, Evie and Waldo

I thrashed around for about for a week, trying to relax enough to enjoy the things I used to love to do: reading poetry, writing letters, long walks.

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Many congrats...

First and foremost... congratulations!

I can only imagine the emotions related to finishing and "releasing" ones body of work. The highs, the lows, the fears, the relief, the angst, etc... Being unartistic, I can only imagine myself cursing my work as it drags on and on and on... but then, upon its completion, having abandonment issues.

Secondly, there is nothing better that an excellent pen on quality paper. Ahhhh

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Well, Belle, I just raised a

Well, Belle, I just raised a glass of something perhaps less healthy (Australian Chardonnay). And if there is any left, I'll raise another. Congratulations!!