A Machine for Confidence

The nice thing about having friends in the UK is that sometimes I get to wake up to genuinely lovely dispatches from them on Twitter. In this case: Clarrie (who, I should point out, helps small biz and freelance folks with their bookkeeping, should you need that sort of thing) built a machine that rotates through all the entries from 100 Demon Dialogues on a set schedule. Observe:

I am flummoxed and delighted by this tiny technical marvel. (It is, I just learned, a Raspberry Pi hooked up to a 720×720-pixel LCD screen! TECHNOLOGY!)

Hearing that anyone still reads this book (or builds marvelous automated machines out of it) gets me right in the amygdala. It flies in the face of social media’s decree: that if something isn’t NEW and SHINY and UPDATING DAILY then it might as well not exist. That once we have finished the project and stopped posting to Instagram and run the Kickstarter and published the book and concluded the tour, all of it will fade from memory.

But that’s not how stories work.

To love something, suggests Robin Sloan, is to return to it. I think about this all the time. The longer I am alive and making things, the more I realize that it is (for me) a foundational definition of success.

This is probably why I’m tearing up at my desk on a Friday morning, looking at this tiny box of pixels from across the sea.

The Best at What We Do

When we meet network news producer Jane Craig (Holly Hunter) at the start of James L. Brooks’s Broadcast News, she’s sharing her hotel bed with a chunky phone and a Filofax. Her body is alive with all the energy of a teenager calling her girlfriends after school, but instead she’s rallying her reporting team room by room, chivvying them to meet her in the lobby in a half hour, joking around and providing details about the availability of breakfast (or lack thereof). Seeing her reminds me of days when I’ve been up at dawn to tackle a project I can’t wait to get into alongside people I feel lucky to work with. She radiates anticipation and competence and I fall for her immediately.

The credits are still rolling as she finishes her last call.

Smiling, she unplugs the line from the back of the phone, nestles it under the handset, and places the whole unit carefully on the bedside table. A dance ensues: she drops her hands to her lap, eyes cast down, checks her watch, shifts her gaze, sits with all the poise of a penitent. The moment stretches—no score, just the distant traffic outside. It’s long enough to make you wonder. Five seconds. Ten. Fifteen.

And then, out of nowhere, she’s sobbing.

It’s a bark of grief. A hiccuping thing that almost seems to take her by surprise.

It would be funny if I hadn’t experienced it myself.

Actually, it is still funny. And you can see the moment where even Jane finds it so. For a few seconds after pausing to catch her breath she’s almost laughing, shoulders shaking, but then her mouth twists again and she’s back in the realm of tragic disbelief. It’s absurd.

No, no, not absurd. I look up the definition and it turns out to be “wildly unreasonable, illogical, or inappropriate.” This doesn’t feel that way at all. It is deeply logical; the clear and necessary underpinning of anyone who runs on that kind of energy, who can muster that degree of charm.

In 2018 I spent 268 days away from home, traveling to promote my book, 100 Demon Dialogues. It’s a vulnerable collection about Imposter Syndrome and trying to treat yourself with compassion. I knew I wanted (needed?) to go meet the people reading it in person. To try and connect, on some tangible level, with the countless voices online who claimed to see themselves in my work.

I went out looking for something. Always a dangerous move.

I thought a great deal about authenticity and performance while I was on that tour; questioned the validity of my words as I spoke to people night after night, city after city. The cadence of “Thank you, that really means so much to me” drummed into my brain. I did mean it every time, but I also said it so often that it became more music than language. My body memorized a momentary curve of the shoulders that accompanied a hand to the chest, shorthand for “Your words touched me”. Sign language for “authentic emotional experience”. A fixed action pattern of connection.

I call myself a Fake Extrovert. I am energized by contact, driven to engage and delight in others, but it comes at a price. In almost every city I visited on tour, the ritual was the same: I’d arrive home at whatever place I was crashing that night, shut the door to my room and exhale. The moment would stretch. Five seconds. Ten. Fifteen. And then I’d crack open and sob.

It generally didn’t last a long time. Just enough to let out some of the irresolvable tension. The fact that I both got what I wanted and absolutely did not get what I wanted.

There were so many things that I loved about Broadcast News, but Jane’s outbursts of tears are what I keep coming back to—the thing that’s still under my skin the following morning, wondering if it would be insanity to just rewatch the whole film again.

Atom

NB: I originally shared this post on Patreon on July 14th, 2017, just after launching the Kickstarter for 100 Demon Dialogues. I wanted to link to it in an essay I’m working on right now, but I’m also trying to consolidate my writing on my own website, so I’m reposting the whole thing here. This kind of low-key time traveling will probably keep happening.


This is a story about the first time I successfully orchestrated a theatrical cue of my own design.

I was a sophomore in high school, dipping my toes into other areas of the dramatic obsession that had consumed me from an early age. Us technical theatre students were asked to light and score brief monologues performed by members of an acting class. It was my first brush with the luminous cellophane gels that would become my livelihood for the next three years and grant me the financial freedom to travel on my own before college.

My friend Kendall was performing the opening speech from The Effect of Gamma Rays on Man-in-the-Moon Marigolds by Paul Zindel. In it, a girl describes learning about the enduring nature of the atom for the first time in her life. I’d built up a multi-hued blue Fresnel background wash and a slow, warm Source 4 from house left, carefully trained on her face and nothing more. Kendall ran through the words, savoring the phrases—a tongue of fire that screamed through the heavens until there was our sun—until she closed with three lines: 

Atom.

Atom.

What a beautiful word.

A gentle beat after that last syllable, Jon Brion’s “Row” came in, one note at a time, while the warm front light dwindled until she was just a silhouette in blue. The lilting piano carried the moment for 15 seconds and then faded into silence. 

We’d rehearsed and tried all the individual elements and fine-tuned the timing, but the first time I got to call the shots and watch as light and sound cascaded into something that heightened the emotional impact of her performance, I burst into silent, happy tears in the booth.

Orchestrating the conclusion of The 100 Day Project and launching my Kickstarter this week pushed those same buttons in ways I never could have anticipated.

When I figured out how I wanted to end the series—and I knew a few weeks in advance—I started to panic. I’d never run a daily webcomic before. The notion of an audience investing in a storyline and hanging on every page was entirely new and utterly intoxicating. I’d largely given myself permission to shoot from the hip for so much of the project. Before, there were no wrong answers. Now, it suddenly felt like I had the potential for failure. 

The last few weeks were grueling—all frantic scripting and logistical production and minutia and a million moving parts (on top of the creative work itself). It’s something that flummoxes me when people ask for advice about how to run a good Kickstarter. All I can think is “Just do everything. Work the hardest you can at absolutely everything. And then somehow, magically, it works.” And I don’t think that’s what people want to hear. “Turn thrice widdershins and sacrifice a goat” is way simpler.

Wednesday rolled around and my heart was pounding out of my chest. I’d stayed up way too late finishing the final entry. Folks had sent me photos of themselves on Twitter to draw into the panel (though they didn’t know it at the time). I’d shot reference out my own front door and fretted over the sketches and then, in a rush, poured it out. The finished project resonated with what I’d pictured in my head. It felt, mercifully, right.

At 9:55 am, I posted the final entry, closed my eyes, and counted to sixty before pushing the launch button on the Kickstarter page, and then I counted to sixty again before triggering the blog posts and the newsletters and the updates and the notifications—all these moving parts I’d carefully structured to help guide a new project into the world.  

And when people flooded in to say “YES” to the ending, and the journey, and the campaign, I discovered that all those neurons were still there, lighting up at the pleasure of seeing a well-timed cue resolve all those moving parts into something more. 

Thought Bubble This Weekend

Greetings from England, everyone!

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!

A selection of vibrant postcards featuring watercolor paintings of sunrises and sunsets with silhouettes of trees, tall ships, mountains, and other organic shapes in the foreground.
A third of the new postcard designs I’ll have with me. There are 18 new cards total!

As per usual I’ve made a goofy graphic to help you locate me at the event. Here’s a map:

Map of Thought Bubble venue including table location. Lucy’s Demon screams “It’ll be awful!” From the lower right-hand corner.

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.

A circular space with a pond in the center and an open circle in the roof. Text written upside down around the rim of the pool is reflected right-side up in the water. The walls are pale and rough, the sky is blue.
Writ in Water by Mark Wallinger

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.

An imposing brick building under a blue sky. It has many chimneys and turrets.
Royal Holloway

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.

Be well,

Lucy

Tour Dates for LA and Beyond!

Hi friends!

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):

It’s ALL HAPPENING! Hope to see you on the road.

Cohabiting with Your Inner Critic: a 100 Demon Dialogues Workshop

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 DialoguesYou 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!

100 Demon Dialogues hits San Francisco

Hi Everyone!

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)
  • Bart’s Books – 7-9:30pm, August 3rd, Ojai, CA
  • Other Books – 6-8:30pm, August 12th, Los Angeles, CA
  • BookPeople – 7pm, August 20th, Austin, TX

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!

100 Demon Dialogues Tour: Leg 2

Hi everyone!

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
  • Local Color – 6:30pm, July 28th, San Jose, CA (followed by Mighty Mike McGee’s Spelling Bee/r!)
  • Bart’s Books (Hometown Shindig, come meet my adorable parents) – 7-9:30pm, August 3rd, Ojai, CA
  • Other Books – 6-8:30pm, August 12th, Los Angeles, CA
  • [Venue Forthcoming] – August 16th, San Diego, CA
  • San Diego Writers, Ink: Generative Demon Workshop – [Event Page Up Soon], August 17th, San Diego, CA
  • BookPeople – August 20th, 7pm, Austin, TX
  • [Colorado: TBA for Boulder/Denver]
  • Thought Bubble Festival – September 22nd & 23rd, Leeds, England
  • MICE – October 20th & 21st, Cambridge, MA

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!

Hope to see you on the road,

L

100 Demon Dialogues Hits the Road

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.)

Your Book Tour

Here’s what happens when you tell people you’re going on book tour:

Their eyes widen like they’re picturing private jets and limousines, booksellers laying stock to be signed at your feet, adoring fans queued up out the door. They congratulate you—assuming you have “made it.” You try not to let the lunatic edge invade your laughter as you thank them, unable to explain that they are wrong.

The truth is, you’re about to spend two months sleeping on couches and washing your underwear in the sink. You’re three months past the date any “real” author would’ve had their tour stops booked by a publisher, but you’re emailing venues anyway because you got yourself into this glorious mess, and you love it, and it’s time to go big or go home.

You fill pads of paper with train times and bus lines—an endless game of Cheap Travel Tetris.
You schedule posts on every social media platform known to man, but still manage to avoid updating your own website.
You learn that the barcode doesn’t scan properly on your entire print run of books. You make a lot of phone calls and hope you can fix everything before the ship date.

You whoop with delight whenever a venue confirms, then falter when you see all the other, more impressive authors on the week’s lineup.

You realize those authors may feel just as fraudulent as you do.

You set up endless Facebook events, cripplingly aware of how often you ignore invites from everyone else.
You find out exactly how many of your friends live in Minneapolis.
You worry nobody will come.
You worry everybody will come.

You throw yourself on the kindness of the Internet—your people, your tribe, your network. They offer rides, couches, venues, connections. You recognize, again and again, that you are nothing without them.

It will feel like a miracle any time you meet a flesh and blood human being who knows your work. These moments of connection will pile up behind your sternum. They will turn your abstract Twitter followers into live heartbeats.

Two months from now you know you’ll come home changed.