I’m currently prioritising a graphic memoir that me & my friend are working on this year.
This project is a pretty big one for us in terms of the time & emotional energy it’ll take to get out, but it’s something that I’ve been itching to do for over 5 years now.
First I went through the diary I kept at the time, and picked out the points I wanted to get across. I realised with a pleasant surprise that there’s a story there:
In 2013, when I googled my best friend’s BMI, search results said ‘Death Imminent’.
She was too ill to tell any professionals without endangering her goal to study abroad and get her degree, so we promised to beat her eating disorder together.
When I revisit the diaries and notes I kept at the time, one thing is clear – for me, her state of health was a matter of life or death.
The graphic memoir is our account of what we were going through at the time, with a healthy dose of lessons learnt, for anyone who has any regrets, or who is dealing with mental illness in their lives.
Why a Graphic Memoir
I’m doing it as a graphic memoir because I wanted to include all the visual metaphors that exist around mental illness, that can make it easier to understand.
This is an event that took up a huge portion of our time and brain space, and it’s relevant. So relevant – I see it everywhere, addictions, anxiety, stigma and the people in between…if our story can make things a bit clearer for some, a bit easier, then awesome.
How we deal with mental health needs to be more common knowledge. I wish I had known how to watch out and handle this stuff – it’s a real brain drain, when all your focus is on staying alive or keeping someone else alive. And as far as my personal experience goes, it starts with self love – so that’s going to be the focus.
This book is about more than living with an eating disorder – it’s main focus is on codependency, recovery & forgiveness. Ella said that you can replace the eating disorder with anything: a disability, drug abuse, alcoholism, depression or adhd – the story would be the same.
My Progress So Far
After re-reading the diary, it was a matter of breaking it down into its parts for the narrative – which I did in the form of post it notes.
It has 4 parts;
the first is about us and the situation.
2nd part is what we’d learnt up until around Christmas time, which is when she hit her worst.
3rd part is where we both really started to suffer,
and the final part is where we’re at now.
I then did more post-its with the main points and experiences I wanted to get down.
I sent the post-its to Ella and we had a 4 hour conversation about each one. It was pretty therapeutic, to be honest – going through the scenarios and how we felt at the time (by which I mean, how we really felt at the time), and forgiving ourselves for the things we said or did. It was confessional at times, a bit tough during tender spots, but reassuring throughout. Ella is a marvel, and god I hope I get that through in the graphic novel.
After our conversation over the phone I was feeling pretty fired up, and was up until 4am sketching the first 12 pages. (Now that I think about it that was 9 hours straight of sketching :’D).
I got to a point that I was particularly frustrated with, and drafted it out in Photoshop where I could move things around, resize things and undo unwanted strokes. It’s easier to use references as well on Photoshop, as I can trace parts of the background that I need.
It was so convenient to use Photoshop that I’ve been drafting out all the pages this way since then – not worrying about the look of it exactly just yet, or even the style. I’m just getting everything down and experimenting.
So that’s it so far.
I need to start thinking about a title, and how I want to present this to the world.
Should I be contacting publishers? Or aiming to self publish?
Let me know if you have any advice in the comments below, or please contact me directly.
And I’ll be entering this competition which is offering a £30k grant to an unpublished graphic novelist – check out the link if that’s you, too!
Also, here’s a handy resource for creating your own fonts in Photoshop! The one you’ll see in the comic (sample below) is my actual handwriting! That I’m typing in! Crazy :’D