SPX review: Publish or perish

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CCS workshop prompt: A secret box full of items from the past

This isn’t academia, but there is a clang of truth in the saying for writers. When I walked out of the Center for Cartoon Studies workshop at SPX, I realized it was what was missing for me out of my creative process.

During the workshop, Jon Chad and Beth Hetland said that one of the major goals of CCS’s program was to get students to finish a project and then get it printed. They emphasized that printing is a critical final step for students in the CCS program. At first, it didn’t seem like a revolutionary idea, particularly since they were giving the workshop at the Small Press Expo. Of course, people making comics needed to get their stuff in print. It was a big part of how their audience experienced their work and the artists made some cash.

The idea gnawed lightly at the edge of my brain while I went through the workshop’s exercise of thumbnailing a comic (see rudimentary sketch above). Why is it was so critical to have a finished product? What if the artist didn’t feel like the work was ready? What if the artist didn’t think there was an audience for it? What if nobody wanted to look at it? The gnawing questions morphed into a realization. It wasn’t just important to have the work available for the wider world, but also for the artist to see the work as A Real Thing.

I have a first novel sitting on my computer. A handful of friends and family have read it, but I couldn’t get any takers among the agents I sent it to. Whenever I sent them pages, the response was the agent equivalent of “I’m just not that into you.” I shelved the novel. Whenever someone would ask me if I planned to self-publish, I would give long convoluted answers about market saturation, eyeball competition, and my minimal resources. I wrote it off as practice. Lessons learned, time to move on to the next better idea.

The workshop made me reevaluate those excuses. I’ve decided to make my novel real. I’m going to shape it up a bit and release it in installments here on my website. Maybe it isn’t commercial enough to get agented, but it doesn’t mean it can’t be out there in the world. It might even find an audience who will enjoy it. I’ll never know if it isn’t available for them to discover.

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