Find Me at A2CAF!

Between the disruption of the Pandemic, the rigors of caregiving, and the long tunnel of working on a new book, conventions have felt like a thing of the past for me. The travel, the crowds, the need to produce and sell and be ON have all seemed difficult to reach in this phase of my life. But there are some shows you just know in your heart are worth the bother, and I’m happy to say that I listened to my intuition and applied for this one back when they announced the deadline.

A2CAF banner

The Ann Arbor Comic Arts Festival is a lovely, kid-specific show that’s FREE (we love a free show) and takes place at the Ann Arbor District Library (WE LOVE A LIBRARY) from 11-5 (WE LOVE A SHOW WITH REASONABLE OPENING HOURS) this Saturday the 15th and Sunday the 16th. My previous visits to A2CAF have always left me feeling so revved up and grateful to be working in comics, and I’m sure this one will be no exception.

Here’s a handy map of where I’ll be (Table #1), unless I’m off doing one of the lightning Quick Draw events, which are scattered throughout the weekend:

A2CAF show floor map

Some other folks I’d recommend checking out are:

  • Cara Bean (Table 25), with her new mental health for kids book Here I Am, I Am Me (this is going to be the first thing I buy)
  • Alec Longstreth (Table 3), one of my earliest comics teachers, who continues to inspire and delight with his series Basewood and a host of other projects
  • Lauren Houser (Table 11), who I had the pleasure of collaborating with on a story for Spitball #7, the CCAD comics anthology that pairs working pros with up and coming student artists
  • Vera Brosgol (Signing at Green Brain Comics, Tables 8-10), celebrating her new book Plain Jane and the Mermaid (the second thing I’m going to buy), which I had the pleasure of contributing to in a small way by getting on FaceTime to puzzle out some Boat Issues
  • Jen Wang (Signing at Green Brain Comics, Tables 8-10), whose first graphic novel, Koko Be Good, continues to shape the way I think about character, story, and expressive acting on the page

I also have some original pages appearing in Drawing Worlds: The Art of Comics and Beyond at the Ann Arbor Art Center. The opening reception will take place Friday from 6-8pm, but the show runs all the way till July 3rd. (I believe they also have some of my stuff for sale in the gift shop!)

Hope to see you there.

Morning Assembly

Dennis Rice, former headmaster of my eccentric, much-loved little high school, wrote some thoughts about the Morning Assemblies we used to hold. I’m reproducing it here because I haven’t written anything in a long while and it touched me and what is a blog for if not to collect things that touch us?

The choice is always ours. Then, let me choose

The longest art, the hard Promethian way

Cherishingly to tend and feed and fan

That inward fire, whose small, precarious flame,

Kindled or quenched, creates

The noble or ignoble men we are,

The worlds we live in and the very fates,

Our bright or muddy star.

Aldous Huxley

The 17 students of my first Happy Valley year slowly grew to 30 then 40. The new buildings wallowed on a muddy hillside, waiting for many Project Days to come before they could be planted and green. Like much of the experimental nature of what we did in those years, we did not pave the paths of the school until people had walked on campus for two years. The paths designated themselves.

To the chagrin of some alums, I admitted other than classical music to Morning Assembly.

When my mind drifts back to HVS, it often lands on Morning Assembly. Each day, rain or shine, students and teachers would gather together—at first in the new Commons, but by the mid-eighties, in a large yurt—seated in a circle on zafu cushions, having all removed our shoes before entering. A selection of gentle music was played, often orchestral or single instrument, on occasion played live by Eddie Guthman and the Advanced Band, and then there would be a reading.

I still have a dozen books that are severely dog eared for morning readings (Huxley’s Perennial Philosophy or The Choice is Always Ours), as I would read on Monday and then solicit volunteers for the remainder of the week. It was rare that anything trivial was chosen. In fact, we had a shelf in the library dedicated to good quotes and readings for assembly. After the reading, we would all sit in silence—a remarkable feat for a room full of teenagers, but it happened every morning. Morning Assembly was an important time for the community, a time to start together before we began the challenges of the day.

I realize that it was not all that popular with every student at the time—some of those mornings were cold—but I would like to think that more than a few look back on those mornings fondly. I understand that Morning Assembly was one of the first things to go after my departure, as David Anderson, who followed me, generally looked on it as a waste of time. It moved to mid-morning and met only on selected days. I would wager that the school still gathers in some way and there are a few old timers still on campus who attempt to keep part of the old flame alive, but the magic of those often cold mornings, sitting in a circle with colleagues and students, still lingers with me after these long years. My gaze drifts around that circle, bringing an endless chain of faces and voices, 27 years’ worth.

I reach over to one of those dog-eared tomes, open to a random page, and read:

Any friendship—between two or a hundred—entails a new emergent unity, where each of the constituent selves is far more in its functional oneness with the rest than it ever was in its apartness.

Gregory Vlastos, 1909, Canadian professor of philosophy
A greyscale photo of a yurt nestled under trees.

2023 in Reading

I was hanging out with some new friends recently and the conversation turned, as it inevitably does, toward books. Someone asked me to guess who read the least out of the assembled company. (Weird move, but okay.) I guessed that one person had grand bookish intentions, but really only read one “big ideas” book a quarter, another escaped into lengthy fantasy series, and the third was a wild card bouncing between fiction and pop psych. Not far off, it turned out. But that’s subject matter, not quantity. Someone said they had a hunch I went through books “like food,” which is true. “A book a month?” someone suggested. I looked shifty. “A book a week?!”

I had to pull up this list to check. It feels off to make that claim when I read so many graphic novels, but it’s true. I love books. I love devouring them. I love thinking about them and talking about them and letting them change and shape me.

Interesting that so many of my top favorites this year were comics! Getting back into working on Seacritters has me wanting to explore the medium more than I usually do, and I found some real gems. I love looking over the list and remembering where I was while reading each of these. It’s a strangely vivid experience. Getting lost in Hilary Mantel at Christopher’s was otherworldly. Plowing through Aidan Truhen at home was a riot. Being bewitched by Trung Le Nguyen’s lines on a beanbag in the Ojai Library kids’ section was nostalgic and peaceful.

I look at these lists and struggle to explain to new people what and how I read. In some groups it’s a shorthand for belonging—in others it’s a gateway to somewhere else.

(Previously: 2022 in Reading, 2021 in Reading, 2020 in Reading)

LegendRough Guide to Ratings
🎭 – Plays
📝 – Poetry
📖 – Books (Fiction)
📓 – Books (Nonfiction)
💬 – Graphic Novels
🔄 – Reread
🎙️ – Audiobook
❤︎ = Yes
❤︎❤︎ = Oh Yes
❤︎❤︎❤︎ = Oh Hell Yes
  1. 📖 Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow – Gabrielle Zevin ❤︎❤︎
  2. 📓 The Quiet Eye – Sylvia Shaw Judson
  3. 📓 Soundings: the Story of the Remarkable Woman Who Mapped the Ocean Floor – Hali Felt
  4. 🔄 💬 Diary Comics – Dustin Harbin
  5. 🔄 📖 This is How You Lose the Time War – Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone ❤︎❤︎❤︎
  6. 📓 The Wisdom of Insecurity – Alan Watts
  7. 📓 Also a Poet – Ada Calhoun ❤︎❤︎
  8. 💬 The Well – Jake Wyatt, Choo
  9. 💬 The Magic Fish – Trung Le Nguyen ❤︎❤︎
  10. 📝 The Wrecking Light – Robin Robertson ❤︎
  11. 📓/💬 Solutions and Other Problems – Allie Brosh
  12. 💬 Snapdragon – Kat Leyh ❤︎❤︎❤︎
  13. 📝 Four Reincarnations – Max Ritvo
  14. 💬 It’s Okay That It’s Not Okay – Christina Tran ❤︎❤︎❤︎
  15. 💬 Queenie: Godmother of Harlem – Elizabeth Colomba & Aurélie Levy
  16. 💬 Garlic and the Vampire – Bree Paulsen
  17. 💬 Garlic and the Witch – Bree Paulsen
  18. 💬 Lightfall Book 1: The Girl & The Galdurian – Tim Probert ❤︎❤︎
  19. 📓 A Sacred Shift – marlee grace
  20. 💬 The River – Alessandro Sanna
  21. 🔄 📖 The End of Mr. Y – Scarlett Thomas
  22. 💬 Skim – Mariko & Jillian Tamaki ❤︎❤︎
  23. 💬 Lightfall Book 2: Shadow of the Bird – Tim Probert ❤︎
  24. 💬 Grass of Parnassus – Kathryn & Stuart Immonen
  25. 📓 Facing the Wolf – Theresa Sheppard Alexander ❤︎
  26. 📖 Hamnet – Maggie O’Farrell ❤︎❤︎
  27. 🔄 📖 A Wizard of Earthsea – Ursula K. Le Guin
  28. 📖 White Cat, Black Dog – Kelly Link ❤︎
  29. 📓 Recollections of my Nonexistence – Rebecca Solnit ❤︎
  30. 📓 Art + Faith – Makoto Fujimura
  31. 💬 Ducks – Kate Beaton ❤︎❤︎❤︎
  32. 💬 I Thought You Loved Me – MariNaomi
  33. 💬 Dear Sophie, Love Sophie – Sophie Lucido Johnson ❤︎❤︎❤︎
  34. 💬 The Gigantic Beard That Was Evil – Stephen Collins
  35. 📖 Wolf Hall – Hilary Mantel
  36. 📖 Bring Up the Bodies – Hilary Mantel ❤︎
  37. 📓 The Old Ways – Robert Macfarlane ❤︎❤︎
  38. 💬 Tales of a Seventh-Grade Lizard Boy – Jonathan Hill
  39. 💬 Equinoxes – Cyril Pedrosa ❤︎❤︎❤︎
  40. 💬 Feeding Ghosts – Tessa Hulls ❤︎❤︎
  41. 📖 The Mirror and The Light – Hilary Mantel ❤︎
  42. 💬 Hoops – Matt Tavares
  43. 📓 The Book Lover – Ali Smith ❤︎
  44. 📖 /📓 Kick the Latch – Kathryn Scanlan
  45. 📖 The Big Over Easy – Jasper Fford
  46. 💬 Himawari House – Harmony Becker ❤︎
  47. 💬 Always, Never – Jordi Lafebre ❤︎❤︎
  48. 📖 Just Like Home – Sarah Gailey
  49. 📖 The Fourth Bear – Jasper Fford
  50. 📖 To Rise Again At a Decent Hour – Joshua Ferris
  51. 📓 Giving Up the Ghost – Hilary Mantel
  52. 🔄 📖 Thief of Time – Terry Pratchett
  53. 🎙️ 📖 A Magic Steeped in Poison – Judy I. Lin
  54. 🎙️ 📖 A Venom Dark and Sweet – Judy I. Lin
  55. 📓 Enchantment – Katherine May ❤︎❤︎
  56. 📖 Fugitive Telemetry – Martha Wells
  57. 🔄 🎙️ 📖 Thud – Terry Pratchett
  58. 📖 System Collapse – Martha Wells
  59. 🔄 📖 Carpe Jugulum – Terry Pratchett
  60. 📖 The Price You Pay – Aidan Truhen
  61. 📖 Seven Demons – Aidan Truhen
  62. 📓 Mending Life – Nina and Sonya Montenegro

First of the Season

Given that they were the standout delight of 2023, I planted wildflowers again for 2024. The frontrunner is still Nemophila menziesii (Baby Blue Eyes), opening its first flower on March 16th. (Last year’s arrived on March 29th.)

A delicate five-petaled flower with blue edges and a white center.

Most of what reseeded this year was Elegant Clarkia. It is out of control. Every patch that held five plants last spring now holds triple the amount of seedlings. The lupins were much-beloved by gophers, so no more of them for now. I sowed a lot of Purple Vetch (with seeds harvested from El Nido Meadow in 2023). They’re currently putting forth tiny tendrils around the agave bed. The local high school’s native plant sale yielded more Narrowleaf Milkweed for the butterflies, Sticky Monkeyflower for under the oaks, Island Snapdragon for the cursed bed out front that gets too much sun. We were liberal with the California Poppies, with varied success.

There’s so much greenery this year that the seedlings often can’t complete, but they’re made for this land. They’ll keep coming back.

A Rare Appearance!

Remember when I used to do events? Me neither.


A banner advertising Tessa and Lucy's event for Feeding Ghosts.

I’ll be at Bart’s Books in Ojai, CA next Thursday, March 21st at 6pm to interview my genius bike-touring, adventure-having, genre-bending cartoonist friend Tessa Hulls about her new graphic memoir Feeding Ghosts. The book explores three generations of her family’s tumultuous history from Maoist China to America and beyond. It’s rich and cathartic and unbelievably gorgeous. Tessa’s spent the last nine years bringing it to life. You can read more about it in the San Francisco Chronicle or the New York Times.

A sample page from Feeding Ghosts.

Given the lengthy isolation and emotional toll required to craft a book like this, I’m very keen to have a packed house to help celebrate its emergence into the world. Bart’s has a gorgeous outdoor courtyard and an absolutely amazing selection of used titles. Well worth the visit. I’ll also be bringing some of my own books along, so if you’ve been wanting to get your hands on some copies from the second printings of 100 Demon Dialogues and Baggywrinkles, you can do a one-stop shop!

The courtyard at Bart's Books.
Photo by Jennelle Fong for the New York Times

Want to get your hands on the book, but don’t live in Southern California? Great news! You can order Feeding Ghosts from wherever books are sold. Personally I’m a fan of using or requesting it at your local library. Tessa’s book tour also ranges widely, so if you have friends around the country who might enjoy this project, take a peek at the list of other stops.

Hope to see you soon!

How It’s Been

A to-do list full of eight different links with "Blog this" written in front of them.

This is a fraction of the items currently in my to-do list app, which functions more like an underpass covered in graffiti tags these days than a tool for productivity. I’m passing through, jotting down names of people I meet, frantic reminders of deadlines, books to read, errands to check off. The chaos of it gives me shivers.

As my dad loses access to words, memories, faculties, ranges of motion, I lose access to inspiration, strength, sensuality, executive function. We mirror each other. My losses aren’t from infirmity, but from emotional exhaustion. Caregiving life is often a life of attrition, and the marathon is taking its toll. I got away for four days last month and came back with a deeper awareness of what’s actually been happening. There’s the kind of burnt out where you can still write about it, and then the kind of burnt out where you can’t. There’s no paper trail from these last few months. The calendar, the blog, my Patreon, my newsletter: all blank. This is how it is sometimes, but it can’t be how it is all the time.

That break was a full breath—an influx of oxygen that look me from 2% on Low Power Mode to a wedge of green battery. Not fixed, but functional. Maybe 38%. Enough to catch little pockets of joy with. Enough to open the “New post” tab and not just want to take a nap.

marlee grace says “I think Summer plays its cursed trick on me to speed me up when I want to go just as slow as October reminds me to.” It gives me chills to read that, because my body feels that way too. In summer I need stillness. The heat and the light and the chaos push me to overextend, when what I really need is five deep breaths face down on the ground, forehead to the earth, painfully aware of the size and shape of my nose as it mushes into the carpet. In the winter the studio is cold in the mornings and I want to dance and I love to dance and it’s not so hot that the idea of riding my bicycle makes my eyes water. But when I’m as tired as I am from a summer of doing Too Much, the movement is hard to come by.

Back to School energy is real, but/and it’s not the same as summer’s altogether-too-brightness. I’ve written here before about how school was often synonymous with spacious, silent mornings that stretched on forever. I can have both the stillness and the movement. I’m chipping away at the space for it. I am trying. I know my body remembers the moment I give it space to do so. (I feel like this is all I say these days, but it’s still true.)

I just saw a punchcard someone made for saying “No” to things the other day. I need to make one.

There. I made one.


Add cardboard (carbon), gently torn, to some dried leaves (carbon), and the leftover zucchini bits and broccoli floret (nitrogen) from dinner, and you’ll end up with a singularly useful and generative substance (“soil”), from which all other life now stems. Is that not amazing? And it’s available to you. The earth’s deepest and most primal incantation.

I lost track of Cassie for a year or two but I’m now I’m subscribed to her newsletter about compost and it’s great.

Manufactured Longing

Working on the music, for me, it’s kind of important to not fake it in some ways, to not try to force this emotional state out of it, to sort of pay attention to what’s going on in your life, if you’re feeling inspired or motivated just letting it happen. […] Especially after you’ve released a bunch of records for a long time, you don’t want to manufacture longing.

RIP Brian McBride

One Quick, One Slow

Two lovely pieces of feedback on the blog in very different mediums recently: a tiny, encouraging email from Rob right after my last entry and the sweetest postcard from Piper that arrived in my PO box sometime in June (but given the way life’s been going I didn’t manage to stop by and discover it until well into July).

Maybe it’s because blogging is often a much quieter affair than posting on social media, but I love these little blips and boops of connection. They hit harder than comments and likes and reblogs. They feel more personal. They remind me to reach out and email people (or write them a card!) when their work strikes a chord.

I had cause to do this recently with Ursula Vernon, whose work I’ve been following since I was in middle school. She’s been sharing some very vulnerable comics about dealing with breast cancer and I thought “My god, if not now, when?” It’s been over TWENTY YEARS and I’ve never taken the time to tell this person how much discovering her website and her comics and her delightfully eccentric illustrations meant to me as a weird tween without a lot of artistic friends. It’s an impossible gift when someone’s been a fixed point in your creative community for that long.

It reminds me that even if social media is crumbling around us, people can endure. The impressions we make on one another outlast the silos and the buyouts and the implosions.

But it’s good to come out and say so every once in a while.

Thought Stream, Friday, 9:43am

I’m sitting here thinking about internet silos, the exhaustion of trying to post all the things in all the places, the relief of not being in an active Kickstarter cycle anymore, how two hummingbirds fencing in mid-air is more exciting than any action film, how much has changed since the WGA went on strike in 2007, what it would look like to write things for my blog and then share them everywhere else rather than trying to tailor things to each channel, how little lust for Instagram I have when I’m not obligated to be there, the Mother Theresa quote on the chalk board in front of this house, the vast gulf between the place I help take care of as a part-time job and this place that I’m looking after for friends, how much love pours out of the funky flooring and flaking windowsills, where I should eat lunch today, how much I need to pee, making physical objects, the power of niche communities, how every industry has its 1% and that 1% colors the public perception of how we do what we do and how so many people really do have no idea how the money shakes out no matter how many times we explain it, the Hooded Oriole who came, long and slender, to the sugar water feeder just ten minutes ago, the oleanders blooming, the possibility of rewilding a large stretch of our property, and building something there in the process, the fact that there are no rules on the blog, the emerging judgement that this is indulgent and pointless, the retaliation that it doesn’t matter, the gift of time, the inclination to capture, even imperfectly, the feeling of swinging on a porch swing while I write and how pleasurable and correct it feels to be writing while in motion, like recording a Ramble while walking, like understanding music through dance, like being in conversation with a friend while you both bob in the surf of the Pacific Ocean.