There are lots of reasons I used to be “more effective” in my life, more capable of generating output or crossing off tasks, but part of me wonders if the lack of travel since 2020 is part of it. I got so much done before leaving for Wayward in September—far more than I really needed to. Tasks and projects that could very easily wait until my return became impossibly urgent. Items that had sat unattended in my notebook for months suddenly leapt to the head of the queue. It got me thinking about how often I used to travel for conventions and book tours and residencies, and what effect that must’ve had on my ability to Get Shit Done.
Any impending departure drives me to put my affairs in order as if I’m about to set out on a doomed expedition to the South Pole. It’s an old act-out, but one that’s served me for a long time.
It stands to reason that traveling less often robs me of these false bottlenecks of urgency.
I got it sometime early in high school, probably from the outdoor shop Riley’s mom managed down in Ventura. I eschewed carrying any kind of purse for years because I like keeping my arms and hands free to scramble about, and this little pack was a dream come true for that purpose. It’s just the right size to hold all my essential belongings: a water bottle, a sketchbook, my pens, snacks, a book, even (these days, when necessary) an iPad.1
It’s been down the Grand Canyon and across the Pacific Ocean, to conventions and signings, through endless TSA checkpoints, and to the Edinburgh hillside in this photo, where I passed a blissful and sunny afternoon in 2007.
But last week I came home to find the front panel shredded open thanks to the escalating Rodent Situation here at Bellwood Towers. I was heartbroken. Patagonia have a repair program where they’ll do their best to fix anything that’s gone wrong with their stuff for free (pretty cool!), but the wait times right now are long, and I couldn’t really imagine being without this thing for months on end. I could patch these little rodent holes myself—they’re not huge, after all—but the truth is, the bag’s seen better days.
The elastic is shot. The zipper pulls all broke off long ago. The inner lining is dingy and stained because I’ve never learned my lesson about which pens can and can’t survive air travel. The waist straps are missing because I cut them off to make a belt for my dad when we’d evacuated from the Thomas Fire and his trousers kept falling down.
And so I thought “What’s the harm in looking?” and opened eBay.
As you might expect for an item released in 2005: not a lot of options. Some from the same line, but inevitably in a larger size, and all of them black. The only similarly small one was $115. From Japan! Excessive. Unreasonable. I gave up.
And then the following morning I checked again. A bag! My bag! The same color (well, the color I guess my bag must’ve been once upon a time, though I’d never think it to look at them side by side), thirty bucks, shipping from Texas. Too good to be true.
I hit the button.
When I was working on A Life in Objects (my first 100 Day Project, back in 2016) it became very clear to me that I love long-term belongings. Partly it’s because I grew up in a very thrifty household and the idea of randomly replacing or upgrading things willy-nilly is blasphemy to Bellwood ears. But it’s also because I love the stories that trail behind oft-used and much-loved items. And yet: a huge benefit of that project was giving myself permission to let some of the profiled objects go after feeling like I’d preserved them for posterity in some small way.
In fact, I’m pretty sure I drew this backpack. Oh yeah, here it is: Day 52.
I guess my feelings about it haven’t really changed.
Anyway, I’m blogging about a tiny, ancient backpack because I want to give myself permission to take its replacement with me on my next adventure: a flight tomorrow morning, my first since February of 2020. I’m sure I’ll be twitchy and anxious under my double-masked exterior, trusting in two shots of vaccine to carry me across the country and back without incident, but I think there will also be a lot to appreciate. A lot to wonder at. I feel rusty, but renewed by this long break from going anywhere.
Tiny miracles. Old things made new again.
1. Hell, when I first got this bag the iPad hadn’t even been released. I didn’t own a cell phone. Different times. ↩
Hi friend! If you’ve landed on this page, you probably just asked me a question about my move, possibly prompted by hearing about it for the first time via my 2021 Hourly Comics. Hopefully your question is answered below:
Whoa, you’re moving?
I have, in fact, already moved! I drove away from Portland on February 4th, quarantined for a week upon arrival, and then received a negative COVID test so I could relocate safely.
Where are you off to?
Ojai, California, the valley I was raised in, to move in with my parents and my 21-year-old cat.
I realized I needed to move now the night before I was due to give this talk, so if you’d rather hear me verbalize why I’m making this choice, you can watch it.
The textual version is that my dad is 81 and has moderate dementia. He also had a couple of micro-strokes last November. My mum’s been shouldering the bulk of caretaking for the last few years, barring the odd break when I’ve come down to help. I’m an only child. We’re all muddling through a Pandemic. It’s the right time to be here.
I’m also going to be head-down working on my next graphic novel (Seacritters!) for the foreseeable future. Given that a publishing advance isn’t enough to live on for the time it takes to complete a book, reducing my financial overhead right now is a smart move.
This sounds really hard!
I have a remarkably functional and loving relationship with my parents. Ojai is, as far as I’m concerned, one of the most beautiful places on earth. (It also has the best bookstore.) I’m near the ocean. I’m in a community of people who’ve known me since I was very small. I get to focus more fully on work that delights me. I’m no longer panicked at the thought of missing opportunities to care for and connect with my dad. This is all, actually, really good.
I don’t want to downplay the fact that caretaking is complex and often devastating. This will not be a walk in the park, but it is 1000% the thing I have been longing to do for several years. Being in this place, with these people, gives me a sense of purpose and fulfillment and love that is irreplaceable.
Do you need anything?
If you’ve had parental caretaking experience (especially if you’re also under 40), maybe drop me a line and say hello. Never a bad idea to have allies who know what this is like.
If you want to support me materially while I make my next book, I’m sharing stuff on Patreon and would love to have you in that community.
Can I have your new address?
YES! I got a PO Box and nothing so exciting has ever happened to me ever. It is:
Lucy Bellwood, PO Box 734, Ojai, CA 93024
I would love to receive mail from you.
Okay! The end! Thanks for reading!
(Obviously if there’s something I didn’t talk about here, please return to our conversation on whatever platform you came here from and ask about it, but at least you have the facts now. I appreciate you reading through all this so I don’t have to repeat myself a bunch 💛)
“I’m so tempted to just go—not tell anyone, just load everything up and leave.”
She narrows her eyes.
“Can we unpack that for a minute?”
Maybe I protest too much, but it’s not what it looks like! I’m no thief in the night! I’m not trying to desert my friends! We do all our socializing on Zoom these days anyway—what difference does it make?
But the truth of the matter is that I want to up and go without any fanfare because I’m dreading the endless cycle of small talk. Why should I keep telling people when the first thing out of anybody’s mouth is “Is it permanent?” and I have to throw my hands up and do the same dance over and over yelling “I don’t know, is anything?!”
The shock in people’s voices also nags at an ongoing pattern of worry: that I have somehow neglected my duty to Keep Everyone Informed.
This happens often: the people closest to me are surprised when I share things that I think I’ve been talking about non-stop, but it turns out I’ve just been thinking them very loudly for a very long time. Not the same thing.
But it is exhausting to always be informing on myself. If I share a thought in progress and then change my mind five more times before coming up with a decision (common), I condemn everyone else to the same vicissitudes of anxiety and overthinking that I’m busy contending with in my own head!
And then even when I have come to a decision, there’s still so much performing. There I am hemming and hawing for the benefit of communicating to other people the complexity of the situation and how I came to this decision and all the factors at play and before I know it I’ve bought into my own mummery. I’m believing the hype that this is terribly difficult and I am terribly conflicted—oh woe is me!—when perhaps if I am quiet and listen only to myself and act only for myself it turns out not to be so difficult or conflict-laden after all.
My word for the year is “flow; or, the sensation I get in the center of my chest when I watch footage of starling murmurations” which, yes, isn’t just one word, but it is a word plus a feeling, or a word distilled from a feeling, which I think still counts. Maybe counts more.
So I am flowing downhill to Ojai. Swimming upstream through my own history to land back where I started. I’m grateful that the blogging urge rekindled when I was down there last summer, because I can see it in my own paper trail—the rightness of this.
I don’t know how to tell everyone, but I do know that tomorrow morning when I am driving south with a car full of unread books, I will feel light, and I will be singing.
I’m lying in the dark, brain whirring. Too much Borges before bed.
There’s a dog baying at regular intervals somewhere down by the river—a canine foghorn. There are crickets, and the wash of cool night air already filing the room. I’m on the edge of going under when I hear the faintest echo of a Great Horned Owl.
It jolts me awake. Ears pricked. Eyes wide. After a moment’s hesitation, I climb out of bed, unlatch the window, and slip into the garden.
There’s no moon in the sky—just a riot of stars, all dull amber and icy blue. I pause, the night chorus seethes around me and then: the owl. Resonant and distant. A warm, mournful sound from the end of the drive.
I pace the gravel in the dark and I am eight years old, flush with the freedom of having snuck out after bedtime, certain I am running away to go on adventures only to stop, as I do now, at the edge of the road. I am wrapped in the scent of pepper trees and dust, soles pricked by scalloped oak leaves. The owl sounds again, but it’s across the street, lost in the tangle of houses that was once an elaborate bed and breakfast.
I remember hovering on the edge of this curb, young and dreaming, aware that everything in the dark was held in a kind of suspended animation. A sacred in-betweenness. I wanted to go further, perhaps even knew that I could, but I was too enthralled with what was here. Every time I’d walk back to my room, or whatever part of the property I was nesting in at the time, and return to bed, as I will now.
Perhaps that was what I came looking for in the dark. Not the owl, but the reassurance that slipping out would still grant entry to this surreal and weightless darkness. Would let me pass my former selves in the drive, circling farther and farther from the cradle, always coming home before dawn.
I love being on Patreon for many, many reasons, but chief among them is the platform it’s given me to record more conversations with creators I admire. I already keep an extensive archive of panels, talks, and classes on my SoundCloud page, but the support and enthusiasm of my Patrons has allowed me to add candid monthly interviews to the mix. Typically these conversations go up for Patrons first, and then (if the artists are comfortable with it) on the public feed a few weeks later.
Back in September I spoke to Tessa Hulls—a dream interviewee of mine for some time. Tessa’s work defies categorization, but it often encompasses notions of heritage, independence, wilderness, and community—all things I am endlessly fascinated by. She did a staggering number of residencies in 2018, all while juggling enough concurrent projects to make my head spin. I am deeply in awe of her energy and dedication.
In this 90-minute conversation, we discuss merging identities to create powerful new selves, balancing finances as a traveling artist, the transformative power of alternative community gatherings, coming into one’s own as a vulnerable communicator, navigating fine art spaces, “pathological independence,” and the current cultural crucible of female rage. Notes on our conversation below:
If you want to see more of Tessa’s work, I’d highly recommend starting with…
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.
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!
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.
This is it, friends! My last convention of 2017! If you’re in the D.C. area, come on out to Bethesda, MD for the Small Press Expo this Saturday and Sunday. SPX boasts an amazing roster of indie comics folks, and I’m so excited to be returning this year. I’ll be camped out at Table K9-A alongside the team from Cartozia Tales. You can check out the full exhibitor list and floor map here.
I’m also appearing on a panel on Sunday at 12:30pm:
Balancing World-Building and Character In Kids’ Comics
Laura Terry, Ben Sears, Janet Lee & Lucy Bellwood all create elaborate worlds for their colorful characters to dwell in. They will discuss how to balance the immersive quality of world-building with the development of character and story, particularly as it pertains to comics for kids.
Sunday, 12:30pm, White Flint Room
So what am I gonna have on hand? WELL.
I just picked up these extra shiny ✨new sketchbooks✨ from my time in Iceland. If you want 24 pages of watercolor studies, life drawing, and landscapes from two weeks in a totally unreal and gorgeous country, this is the book for you. (It’s also available as a PDF if you swing that way.)
I’ll also have a limited selection of miniprints from the 100 Demon Dialogues series, and the plush prototype for folks to get a handle on.
If you missed your chance to order a book or a plush toy through the Kickstarter campaign, there’s now a pre-order store where you can do all of that! No deadlines needed. Just for kicks, here’s a look at the letterpress print design I’m working on for the campaign:
In addition to these new treats, I’ll have gold foil box sets of my first 100 Day Project, A Life in Objects, which sold out in record time at last year’s SPX. (Don’t worry, I’m bringing a lot more this year!)
I’ll also have assorted travelogue minicomics and softcover copies of Baggywrinkles, if you somehow don’t own a copy yet. PHEW. Lots of goodies. Oh! AND. I’m also giving away copies of Mappin’ the Floor, the comic that came out of my three-week stint in the Pacific aboard R/V Falkor. Learn some stuff about oceanography in 12 bright and charming pages—fo’ FREE.
Okay, I think that’s legitimately it from me. SEE YOU AT THE SHOW!