The Switch

It’s happening again, the thing that happens when I get back to drawing after a slump.

The transition was abrupt. I woke up two weeks ago, went to the studio, queued up Neil Gaiman’s live reading of The Graveyard Book (my habitual comfort food of many years), cranked out four pages, rode my stationary bike for a half hour, and then took it upon myself to begin eating a whole head of lettuce every day to finally get ahead of our CSA box. The transition was shocking in its ease, especially when I hold it up beside weeks and weeks of disruption and self-judgement. I’ve been torn between dog-sitting gigs, two different living situations, visits from friends, heart procedures at the hospital with my dad, studio moves, traveling out of state for events, and passing obsessions with whittling, ultralight backpacking, and quilting scattered in between.

Writing it all out, I soften. Of course I’ve struggled to sink into the kind of flow state needed for real progress on my book. There’s been no consistency! No ritual! No routine! My poor little animal brain doesn’t know how to make sense of it all.

But now that the gears have clicked into place and I’m suddenly off to work every morning like clockwork, the other thing happens: I lock down. I become superstitious and squirrelly, prone to evading all well-meaning attempts at conversation from the people I love.

“How’d it go at the studio today?”

“What’s your page goal this week?”

“When are you heading to work?”

Too much scrutiny makes me fearful. The ease of transition is suspicious. How did this happen? Why did I magically wake up and find it simple to return to work on this day of all days? If I don’t understand it, anything might switch it off again. So I err on the side of secrecy, and remain a jealous guardian of my time.

It’s been two weeks of consistent creative flow. It’s working for now. I’ll bask in it for as long as it lasts.

Lines of Light

A month ago, encouraged by this wonderfully clear explainer comic from Maia Kobabe, I bought an eSim for someone in Gaza via Connecting Humanity. Like Maia, mine took a while to get assigned and activated, but this morning IT HAPPENED.

Suddenly, two of my eSIMs were activated on the same day! The Airalo I’d purchased 4.5 months earlier and my second Nomad. I began buying top-up packages immediately.
I felt like I had planted a seed in the fall and waited all winter for it to sprout. Seeing it activated was like watching the first new leaves break the soil. (Maia watering tiny seedlings thinking “Watering my eSIMs!”) Sadly, only .07 GB of data was ever used on my Nomad. It was never used again after that first day.
(This is just an excerpt from Maia’s full comic. You can read the rest here.)

I try to pay a lot of attention to how taking various actions makes me feel. Not because activism shouldn’t include things that are difficult or painful, but because I’m a human creature and I know that I gravitate towards things that bring me pleasure or fulfillment. If I can embody my values in a way that’s rewarding, I’m going to be far more effective in my work. I see this in the people I admire: a kind of joyous integrity that drives fundraisers and community events, art projects and experiments.

The feeling I got seeing that eSIM activated and streaming data was very similar to what Maia describes in her comic. A burst of hope! A jolt of delight! The understanding that a stranger across the world, in unimaginably horrifying circumstances, has the chance to reach out and be heard—to connect.

In a season where everything about the internet feels poisoned, I’m reminded that data can mean hearing a loved one’s voice, subscribing to updates from emergency personnel, letting your children distract themselves with a cartoon on YouTube, or sharing the lived reality of life in a war zone. These are all means of spiritual and physical survival, and we can gift them to others.

If you feel moved to give it a go yourself, there’s an ongoing 5% discount code for Nomad Middle East eSims (NOMADCNG) and I have a personal code for 25% off (LUCYUADYUW) anyone’s first order. The full instructions for purchasing and donating eSims can be found on Connecting Humanity’s eSim page.

(Enormous respect to Mirna El Helbawi, the organizing force behind Connecting Humanity and Maia Kobabe, for always sharing such clear and humanizing comics. The title of this post comes from a chapter about the internet in Dan Nott’s fantastic book Hidden Systems.)

The Gay Agenda

Lemme tell you a story about an eagle.

Our town (~9,000 people) has a couple garages, but there’s a big one on the main drag. My family has been going there for decades. I drive past it every day.

There used to be a huge pine tree on the corner of their lot, but last year it became a hazard and had to be taken down.

Shortly thereafter I drive by and see they’ve hired a guy to chainsaw sculpt the stump into a bald eagle.

A carved wooden statue of a bald eagle.

Birds own my heart, but nationalism makes me twitchy. I withhold outright condemnation of the eagle, but I’m skeptical. (The original owner—an objectively Good Dude—sold the business to a younger couple a few years ago, and I don’t have any knowledge of their whole deal.)

Then it turns out someone on staff is really into making costumes for the eagle. Every holiday. Every month. Stuffed turkey, witch costume, menorah headpiece, bunny ears. These people love to dress their bird.

A carved wooden statue of a bald eagle wearing a green top hat and tail coat.

The changing of the eagle suit becomes a source of joy every time I drive through town.

Until June, when the eagle is bare.

Now look, maybe I’m expecting too much asking my garage to celebrate Pride. But this is a small town. Every time I drive by that stupid eagle—this thing that has previously brought me so much joy—I feel hurt. I feel reminded that there are plenty of people in my liberal bubble who don’t consider my community worthy of celebration. I drive to work, I feel bad. I drive home, I feel bad. The eagle is mocking me.

Then my A/C quits working.

So I book an appointment to bring my car in—and realize what I have to do.

A collection of bright pink belts, a feather boa, a pair of blue heart-shaped sunglasses, and a white shirt that says love is love.

I pick all this up at a thrift store for under ten bucks. I print the shirt with some weird heat-transfer fabric crayons I find in a cupboard. I loop gold elastic around the sunglasses and pray they’ll fit on the eagle’s head. (It is also important to draw your attention to the price of the feather boa.)

A pink feather boa with a 69 cent price tag.


My reasoning is thus: if I show up with a complete costume ready to go, someone will have to look me in the eye and say “We don’t believe in that,” at which point I’ll be finding a new garage. But if they let me dress the eagle, then people in town get to have the joy I’ve been missing since the start of the month.

I listen to a lot of hype-up jams on my way over. I hate confrontation. I also don’t wanna have to find another garage. I want to believe that this decision isn’t actively antagonistic, but I’m not particularly hopeful.

I talk through the A/C issue with the guy at the desk, hand over my keys, then take a deep breath.

“Who’s in charge of the eagle?”

“Oh, that’s all Dylan. Second bay from the end.”

I walk down the row of hydraulic lifts and find a disarmingly smiley middle-aged man pouring fluid through a funnel. I introduce myself and explain that, since the Pride parade is this Sunday and the eagle seems to be missing a costume, I have taken the liberty of making one myself, and can I get his blessing to go put it on?

Dylan grins this absolutely giant grin and goes:

“Oh hell yeah.

A carved wooden statue of a bald eagle wearing heart-shaped glasses, pink feather boa, and love is love t-shirt.

So that’s what’s up now.

Happy Pride.

Sail Cargo Resurgence

Back in 2016 I had the pleasure of working on a piece for The Nib about renewed efforts to bring wind-powered shipping to the international trade scene. I chatted with a handful of passionate, fascinating people and just got to scratch the surface of what was happening at the time. Somewhere in the years that followed, between multiple changes in hosting and ownership, the comic disappeared from The Nib’s archives, so I’m re-posting it here on my own site to make sure it stays up for future readers to investigate.

(I’m still mucking around with the best way to format this kind of thing for my own site, but this’ll do for now. You can use the arrows to scroll through thumbnails, or click the image to read in a bigger carousel viewer.)

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.