Sunday, May 22, 2016

Not a misery memoir

On Saturday I went to a talk by graphic novelists Nicola Streetsen and Una as part of the Norfolk and Norwich Festival, literature weekend.  The title of the talk was 'Not a misery Memoir - gender, identity and overcomign trauma'.  Streeten has written and drawn Billy, me and You, a novel about her grief journey (sorry, I hate that phrase) after the death of her 2 year old.  You can see why I was interested in the talk. Una wrote and drew Becoming/Unbecoming, about growing up 70s Yorkshire when the Yorkshire Ripper was around.

I was expecting a talk about horrible, miserable stuff but that wasn't it at all!  Streeten started, and touched upon a few things in her book, the panels about marking people's reaction to her news, the funeral director's problem accepting they didn't want a religious service, stuff like that.  Una talked about feminism and how women's bodies are policed and judged.  But, most of the talk was about how art can show metaphor in a different (better?) way than words can.  About how we read the comics page and about how readers connect comics in a different way than they do to prose, so comics can be more beneficial than prose when processing traumatic things.  They talked about why they chose to do their story as a comic.  They talked about their art styles.  I think Streeten said her rough and ready scratchy style suits the depiction of grief, because grief is rough and ready.  Or maybe that's something I came up with.  There was some brief stuff about the technical process of comics too.  And, I keep forgetting this, they talked about these sorts of books being cathartic for readers, not the writers.  This is very true, I think.

Una comes from a fine art background and her stuff is beautiful.  I had not heard of her before, and now I think I'll be checking out Becoming/Unbecoming.  There's a lot of empty space in the art which I find quite emotional and nerve wracking, but that maybe because of where I'm at in my head (who knew 2 years later I wouldn't be back to normal and that grief taints every part of my day and mind).

They also talked about Laydeez do Comics of which Streeten is a co founder.

Of the audience, I was one of three women in their 20s/30s.  The rest were in their 50s/60s/70s and were there for the literature weekend.  It was very surprising to me but it felt lovely.  To be in a comics environment dominated by well to do professionals, no costumes, by hyperbole, no fuss, and to be surrounded by older people who didn't know anything about comics and were treating the medium and the other attendees seriously - I loved it.  The atmosphere was friendly and informal and I loved seeing Streeten and Una as older woman, and friends, doing comics professionally and chatting easily.

The day was being sketched by the founder (?) and definitely editor of Graphic Medicine, Ian Williams.  This is a tweet of one of his sketches:
His work was lovely!

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