Hello, long-neglected blog. I hope the tumbleweeds and bits of lint accumulating in the corners of this platform have been keeping you warm, even if they’re singularly unable to keep you company.
I’m back because I launched an odd new project on my birthday last month and I wanted to talk about it here to break my long silence and maybe goad myself into blogging more often on a website I actually own.
So: the new thing!
The Right Number is basically a secular confessional housed in a voicemail box. Dial (503) 673-6267 and you’ll hear a brief prompt, after which you can record a response for up to three minutes. All messages are confidential, prompts rotate every two weeks.
The first two prompts (“What’s something you wish someone would say to you right now?” and “What’s something you wish you could say to someone else right now?”) both elicited a wide range of thoughtful, heart-wrenching, funny replies. I’d say it was working as intended if I’d had any real sense of how this was going to go ahead of time, but I didn’t.
As it stands, I’m very happy with the project so far. The user base is still small—an intimate crowd of willing weirdos—and I’m perfectly content for it to stay that way. Recording freewheeling audio updates over on Patreon every two weeks for the last couple years has taught me that sometimes the quality of conversation and connection I’m hungry for online is best cultivated through sustained, vaguely directed projects over long periods of time.
So: that’s the thing!
If you want to play along, you can sign up for this tiny newsletter that’ll send you an email reminder every time there’s a new prompt (usually on Mondays, but I make no promises).
If you follow me elsewhere on the web, you’ve probably seen an uptick in posts about something called the Boat Gnome Mercantile Trading Program. Maybe it makes sense, maybe it doesn’t, so here’s a big ol’ post with some background about this zany undertaking and how you can play along.
If you just can’t wait to exchange goods with the Boat Gnome (even if you are, perhaps, a little unclear about what that entails), the Trade-by-Mail Program is already open to Patrons at any pledge level. You can find all the instructions for sending trades through the mail by becoming a Patron and visiting this post.
The Boat Gnome’s desired items for the 2019-2020 Trading Season are as follows:
An interesting shell (level of interest is in the eye of the beholder)
A piece of seaglass (bonus points for unusual colors)
A transcription of your favorite nautical poem (typed or hand-written, as preferred)
A knot (tied in a piece of string, twine, rope, etc and labelled by name)
The story goes like this: there is a gnome—a Space Gnome—who runs a trading outpost in outer space. She releases a list of desirable items prior to sending one of her representatives to conventions around the country. The desirable items are often simple. A nice rock. A cutting from a succulent. A poem. A story.
Traders may present the representative with one of these objects and receive, in exchange, a limited edition enamel pin.
Once a participant has made a trade and received a pin they become a Trusted Trader, and can return to the representative at future events (wearing their pin) and receive additional, special items. Shing also runs a trade-by-mail program exclusively for their Patreon supporters (DID I MENTION YOU CAN SUPPORT SHING ON PATREON?) in case folks can’t make it out to conventions.
I love this project. It’s subversive and human and playful and kind. So when Shing and I were on a ferry coming back from the Wayward Retreat this summer, I screwed up my courage and said:
“Do you think there might be other gnomes? I mean, hypothetically, what if there was also, say…a Boat Gnome?”
I felt self-conscious even asking. Why can’t I come up with my own ideas? Isn’t this plagiarism? But the beauty of this project lies in the fact that it’s not commercial in the slightest. Nobody’s making a profit. It’s a sandbox—a container for play, and as if to prove it Shing immediately shot up off the bench and shouted “YES!!!”
One month later they showed up in the front yard of childhood home in California (long story) and officially inducted me into the Association of Gnomes—a process I can’t recount here, so you’ll just have to flip through this Instagram Story really quick to experience it.
Armed with my gnome hat, I started drafting ideas. Since Shing had already come up with a format for the pins and cards, I decided to keep things simple and just riff on the existing material.
So here’s our Boat Gnome. (Perhaps suspiciously like a smaller version of me, but WHO’S KEEPING SCORE.) I translated this small friend onto a postcard that would mimic Shing’s space-themed offering with a load of nautical motifs.
And then came the PINS, which I wanted to match to Shing’s design so that enterprising traders could line them up in a handsome row on a lapel.
Once I had all my elements assembled, it was time to number all the backing cards and start assembling pins. The final result looks amazing.
The great thing about doing a project that won’t make me any money is that a lot of the perfectionism that usually dogs my steps during production is just…gone. Who cares if this isn’t utterly perfect? It’s a game. People are going to play.
I’ve spent a little over $500 assembling the materials for this project, which would’ve felt impossible three years ago. But I’m finally at a place in my career where not every expense has to turn a profit. There’s so much heart-felt fun to be had exchanging gifts with strangers and friends. And because of the support I receive on Patreon, I can do these kinds of projects. It’s such a wonderful privilege. I’ve already completed over 40 trades with people from all over the country, and the offerings are universally stellar.
I’m back in the UK for my biennial pilgrimage to table at Thought Bubble (and catch up with English friends and family in the process). Since I was last in the country they’ve changed the date of the festival to September, which has been an enormous improvement so far. The weather is just beginning to turn autumnal, with a good few sunny days still in reserve.
If you’re planning on heading to Thought Bubble in Leeds this weekend, you can find me in the Ask for Mercy Marquee at Table 43. Thanks to some cunning distribution work, I’ve got a TON of 100 Demon Dialogues books and plushies already in the country, plus copies of Baggywrinkles and fresh sets of watercolor skyline postcards!
As per usual I’ve made a goofy graphic to help you locate me at the event. Here’s a map:
Being in the country a week early has left a lot of room for acclimatization and a bit of exploration. I’ve been going on six-mile rambles near Egham with my current host, cartoonist Dave Whiteland. We’re not far from Runnymede, site of the signing of the Magna Carta. Interestingly, it’s a landmark more beloved by Americans, who tend to view the Magna Carta as the precursor to our written constitution, but there are also a number of beautiful memorials and installations by local artists scattered throughout the open meadows.
I have so many childhood memories of England coming into view out a plane window. It’s a patchwork quilt in hundreds of shades of green. Each border is picked out in dark hedgerows like raised lines of embroidery. After the rigid grids and circles of American crops seen from the sky, it confirms this sense of being somewhere other.
England is walking through fields and turnstiles and picking up fossils from beds of flint. It’s the particular smell of petrol and peat and cold air and river water. It’s tea and smooth wood floors and the familiarity of gentleness. It’s not perfect here, but it brings me back to a part of myself that feels foundational and true.
After the chaos of touring all summer, I decided to forego scheduling a separate last-minute event in London or Cambridge. It’s enough to be here, and to see friends, and to have the festival to look forward to. I hope to see many of you there in a few days.
Keeping you all updated with a few more confirmed tour stops on the great 100 Demon Dialogues Summer Experience.
Catch me this Sunday (August 12th) at 6pm at Other Books in Los Angeles for an intimate chat about the creation of 100 Demon Dialogues. Other Books is a wonderful shop in Boyle Heights that specializes in underrepresented voices and exploring notions of “the Other” in literature. They’ve got loads of zines, small press books, and rare finds. I think it’ll be a lovely night. RSVP here.
Looking ahead: I’m headed south to SAN DIEGO for not one, but TWO events later next week.
On Thursday, August 16th, I’m fulfilling a long-time dream of appearing at the Maritime Museum of San Diego for a free signing in the gift shop at 6pm, followed by a lecture inside the museum ON A REAL BOAT! Admission is $18 for adults (various discounts available) and gives you free reign of the many amazing vessels and exhibits until 9pm. Well worth the price of admission, I promise.
This tour stop will be more nautically-themed, since I haven’t been down to San Diego since Baggywrinkles came out. Expect discussion of scurvy, maritime history, and what I got up to when I crossed the Pacific Ocean on R/V Falkor. It’s gonna be GREAT.
Then on Friday, August 17th, I’ll be at San Diego Writers, Ink with my “Cohabiting with your Inner Critic” workshop. Learn more about that in this blog post or just snag tickets here.
Looking ahead, we’ve got stops in Austin, Boulder, England, and Cambridge (MA):
Heads up, San Diego! I’ve got an extra-special workshop planned for my stop on your sunny shores next month, and I wanted to make sure you all had dibs on tickets. I’ll be teaming up with San Diego Writers, Ink, a local literary organization, to teach a class on August 17th. Here’s a little more info about the class:
Join cartoonist and educator Lucy Bellwood for a two-hour workshop about learning to live with our Inner Critics, hosted by San Diego Writers, Ink. Participants will use a mix of generative exercises and group discussion to get to grips with their anxieties and hangups about the creative process—no drawing ability required! Excellent for those battling Writer’s Block, Imposter Syndrome, or a general, nagging sense of unease in their work.
Bellwood’s classes have been described as “high-level professional group therapy for artists,” and her candid talks about redefining success in creative fields have garnered thousands of views online. 100 Demon Dialogues, her latest book, is a collection of comics for anyone who’s ever wanted to talk back to the little voice in their head that says “You’re no good.”
The workshop is $30 for SDWI members and $36 for non-members, and admission at either level includes a signed copy of 100 Demon Dialogues. You can register online via SDWI’s website right here!
Can’t make the class? Short on cash? I’ll be doing a regular tour stop at a TBA venue on Thursday, August 16th as well. More info as soon as I get it confirmed!
I just wanted to give you the heads up that my big summer book tour is hitting the Bay Area this week. You can find me at 826 Valencia’s PIRATE SUPPLY STORE this Wednesday evening for a big 100 Demon Dialogues event (RSVP and further details here). I’ve invited three lovely, smart folks to come join me on a panel discussion. They are:
Rose Eveleth, a writer and producer who explores how humans tangle with science and technology. She’s the creator and host of Flash Forward, a podcast about possible (and not so possible) futures, and has covered everything from fake tumbleweed farms to million dollar baccarat heists.
Molly McLeod, a freelance artist, designer, and creativity coach who does a different daily art project every month. Her work helps people express themselves, connect with their communities, disconnect from technology, and reconnect to what really matters to them.
And, last (but certainly not least):
Bobbie Johnson, a journalist, publisher, and the editor-in-chief of Anxy, a beautiful, award-winning mental health magazine that opens up the inner worlds we often avoid sharing.
I’ve dreamt of doing an event at the Pirate Supply Store for well over a decade, and I’m really really looking forward to digging into the Real Business with these fine friends. I will, of course, record the conversation and share it for my supporters on Patreon after the event, but I’d love to see you there in person.
If you can’t make it to SF, here are a couple more confirmed stops:
Local Color [Facebook event forthcoming after details are locked in] – 6:30pm, July 28th, San Jose, CA (followed by Mighty Mike McGee’s Spelling Bee/r)
Details are coming together for a writer’s workshop (and tour stop) in San Diego around August 15th. There’s also Colorado stuff in the cards after I stop in Texas. Phew!
If you’d like to keep up with all the tour shenanigans, Instagram is a good way to do it. I try to post regular updates to my Story there about what’s been going on. Hope to see some of you on Wednesday!
I’m back from a frankly ridiculous month of touring across the Midwest and down the East Coast, which means it’s time to announce the dates for Leg 2 of the 100 Demon Dialogues Tour. But first, some stats about Leg 1:
PRETTY HECKIN’ COOL, RIGHT? I feel very accomplished. Also very tired. Turns out moving house every 1.8 days will do that to you. Check out these lovely smiling faces from the many bookstores, comic shops, and venues I visited in June:
I was especially grateful to how many people participated in my experimental Guest Book idea, where folks filled out name tags about what their demons said to them. Here’s a selection:
Even though the resultant volume is pretty heavy reading, my hope is that people found it helpful to see visual proof that they weren’t alone in their fears. We can get through this together.
If you’re on the West Coast or hanging around the Southwest, I’ve got a slew of stops for the next few months right here (also a bonus visit to the UK and back to the East Coast for a couple comics festivals):
Here are those stops with RSVP links, in case you’d like to invite any local friends to tag along:
826 Valencia‘s Pirate Supply Store (with special guests Rose Eveleth, Molly McLeod, and Anxy Magazine) – 6:30-9pm, July 25th, San Francisco, CA
Thanks for keeping up with this wild and crazy endeavor! I’m looking forward to visiting some new places and returning to old haunts over the next few months.
A note on actually PURCHASING copies of 100 Demon Dialogues:
Due to Some Nonsense, the official in-store release date for 100 Demon Dialogues got pushed out to July 19th (although I heard some comic shops got their copies this week). If you’d like to encourage friends and family to buy a copy in the meantime, you can get both soft and hardcover editions (and Demon Plushies, stickers, postcards, and prints) from my own online shop. This is actually the best place to send folks, because more of the profit goes back into supporting my work, but I also want everyone to be able to get the book from their local shops if they so choose. Keep your eyes out next week for wider availability in stores!
Sound the trumpets, y’all. I’m taking my latest collection of comics, 100 Demon Dialogues, on the road for the next two months! This has been a whirlwind season of planning, and I’m so glad to be at the point where I get to share it with all of you.
Here’s the details for Leg 1 of the tour, including the hometown release party TONIGHT:
We’re lining up Leg 2 right now, which will likely take me through Texas, New Mexico, Colorado, and allllllllll of California a little further into July and August. If you have friends in any of these cities and would be willing to pass event details along to them, I would be forever in your debt. All the tour stops are listed in this handy directory.
Aside from good hangouts and conversations with various creative luminaries, I bought a guest book to fill with these name tags at every tour stop. Also blank sheets for people’s illustrations of their own demons (like the ones we had at the Kickstarter closing party):
I’m really excited to see how this develops over the tour. I think it’s going to be amazing.
Okay, that’s it for me. SEE YOU TONIGHT IN PORTLAND! (And then everywhere else.)
Just a heads up that I’ll be giving a talk as part of Design Week Portland this Thursday evening at Figure Plant, a local design and fabrication studio. Design•Build•Business•You explores the unexpected benefits of collaboration, curiosity, and niche passions in a series of brief presentations. I’ll be joined by artist and wilderness guide Hannes Wingate and creative strategy specialist Christine Taylor to share insights about our creative practices and how you can find greater clarity and purpose in your own work.
It’s finally here! Emerald City Comic Con is upon us and there’s lots to share about the show.
First up: the raw details.
You can find me in Artist Alley on WSCC Level 6 this year from Thursday through Sunday, tabling alongside many of my good pals from Helioscope. I’ll also be appearing on two THREE panels, which take place down in TCC Level 3 (more about those anon).
You can find Helioscope in the H block of Artist Alley tables, and my specific table number is H-2. (Note that if you’re searching for us in the ECCC App, we’re all listed under “Helioscope” rather than our names, so don’t panic if you don’t see us listed individually!) Here’s a closer look at who’s gonna be there with me:
100 Demon Dialogues, my brand new collection of comics about overcoming imposter syndrome, is making its debut at the show! I got the proofs of both the hardcover and softcover editions this morning and THEY. LOOK. GREAT.
JUST LOOK AT THAT SILVER FOIL. AAAAAAAAA.
In addition to the books themselves, I’ll also have demon plushies, stickers, and letterpress prints, all made possible by the book’s smash-hit Kickstarter campaign.
If you want to be a professional comic book creator, getting published isn’t the only answer. More and more creators are building independent careers outside of the traditional model. From social media to crowdfunding to self-publishing, learn more from creators Lucy Bellwood, Jason Brubaker, and Jake Parker. Moderated by Heidi MacDonald.
The comics world is full of creators honing their craft, but how can we better connect established pros and up-and-comers for the betterment of all? Join Lucy Bellwood (Mentorship Program Coordinator, Helioscope), Alissa Sallah (veteran intern of Milkfed Criminal Masterminds & Helioscope, Oni Press), Erika Moen (Oh Joy, Sex Toy), and Danielle Corsetto (Girls with Slingshots) for a discussion about finding mentorship opportunities, owning our strengths, and advancing new careers in comics.
Join two cartoonists who have turned their niche passions (the nautical and the naughty) into successful careers in the world of comics, earning them professional accolades and invitations to guest lecture at universities and appear at events around the world, for an intimate fireside chat. Bellwood and Moen will unpack their combined 20+ years of hard-won industry experience and probably talk about their feelings a bunch too.
Yes, there will be a real fireside.
No, this is not a joke.
Here’s a handy guide to where those two rooms are in the TCC L3 floorplan:
So there we have it! Here, once again, are all those details in one place: