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Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Guest Post from Mariko Tamaki, author of This One Summer! | blog tour

Later today, I'll be sharing my thoughts on Mariko & Jillian Tamaki's young coming of age graphic novel, This One Summer, but until then, Mariko has stopped by to chat a bit about the book and how her characters come to be.
Check it out below, and then make sure to stop back for my thoughts on the book. And if you want more, don't forget to check out the rest of the This One Summer blog tour!

Introductions and Nicknames: AKA who are YOU?

I once heard a story about Anne Rice where she said that the character Lestat, star of her Interview with a Vampire series, appeared to her, in what I imagine was something like a haunting.

But that might not be the case.

I’ve always envied this channeling of characters. I’ve never, myself, been visited by anyone I’ve ever written up. Possibly the closest I ever came was after Skim, co-created with my cousin Jillian, came out, I was in the car one day and I spotted the actual manifestation of the character of Skim. Almost to a tee. She just, like, walked by like it was no big deal. I almost got out of the car and chased her down but then thought maybe it would open up some tear in the universe and that would be the end of things.

For me, creating a character feels a lot like finding. I typically have bits. I can see her face or her hair. More often I have an idea of the kinds of things she/he would say. I typically start with little things like habits, biting nails, pulling threads out of clothes, picking up pieces of paper and folding them in half. For me, knowing how a person is in the world, how they interact with it, is a huge part of knowing what’s going on inside them, and then, how they work that into how they are in the world.

The curious thing about working in comics is that this process is intermingled with a sort of “meeting” of your character. Comics work involves a lot of front end work on character. Because I work in writer/artist teams there’s usually a back and forth where I describe what I’m seeing and then the artist I’m working with draws out what they see. Almost every time the visual triggers a whole bunch of other ideas. A lot of Windy’s goofiness came out of seeing her in some of the original drawings.

One writing exercise I’ve found helpful, but rarely used in any of the actual final texts I’ve ever published, is to write out a paragraph or two where the character introduces her or himself. I’ll write out the character introducing herself to a class. Then an introduction to a new friend. Then, I think of how she would describe herself with no one around. Writing out a variety of texts helps, for me, because to me character is as much about what you won’t say, in a variety of settings, as what you will.
For a really great detailed character sketch, I always recommend Susan Orlean’s "The American Man, Aged 10" which you can find in The New Kings of NonFiction edited by Ira Glass. The detail in this thing is amazing.

If you’re looking for a brainstorm activity besides my above go-to, try having your character describe their nickname. I like this exercise, because nicknames are about who we are and who other people think we are. And somewhere in between is the truth.

~ Mariko

This One Summer by Mariko Tamaki & Jillian Tamaki 
Get It | Add It
Contemporary/Coming of Age/Graphic Novel, 320 pages
Published May 6th 2014 by First Second
Every summer, Rose goes with her mom and dad to a lake house in Awago Beach. It's their getaway, their refuge. Rosie's friend Windy is always there, too, like the little sister she never had. But this summer is different. Rose's mom and dad won't stop fighting, and when Rose and Windy seek a distraction from the drama, they find themselves with a whole new set of problems. One of the local teens - just a couple of years older than Rose and Windy - is caught up in something bad... Something life threatening.

It's a summer of secrets, and sorrow, and growing up, and it's a good thing Rose and Windy have each other.

This One Summer is a tremendously exciting new teen graphic novel from two creators with true literary clout. Cousins Mariko and Jillian Tamaki, the team behind Skim, have collaborated on this gorgeous, heartbreaking, and ultimately hopeful story about a girl on the cusp of childhood - a story of renewal and revelation.

Mariko Tamaki is a Toronto writer, playwright, activist and performer. She works and performs with fat activists Pretty Porky and Pissed Off and the theatre troupe TOA, whose recent play, A vs. B, was staged at the 2004 Rhubarb Festival at Buddies in Bad Times Theatre. Her well-received novel, Cover Me (McGilligan Books) was followed by a short fiction collection, True Lies: The Book of Bad Advice (Women's Press). Mariko's third book, FAKE ID, is due out in spring 2005.

Mariko Tamaki has performed her work across Canada and through the States, recently appearing at the Calgary Folkfest 2004, Vancouver Writer's Festival 2003, Spatial III, and the Perpetual Motion/Girls Bite Back Tour, which circled though Ottawa, Montreal, Brooklyn and Chicago. She has appeared widely on radio and television including First Person Singular on CBC radio and Imprint on TVO. Mariko Tamaki is currently attending York University working a Masters degree in Women's Studies.

Hello! My name is Jillian Tamaki and I am an illustrator and comics artist. I grew up in Calgary, Alberta, on the Canadian Prairies. 'Went to school there too (the Alberta College of Art and Design). Currently I live in Brooklyn, NY where I teach at the School of Visual Arts and carve out a living making comics and illustrations for magazines, newspapers, websites, and books. I have 2 books of personal work: Gilded Lilies (Conundrum, 2006) and Indoor Voice (D&Q, 2010). I also made a graphic novel with my cousin Mariko Tamaki called SKIM (Groundwood, 2008). My work was recently acquired by the Library of Congress.

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