On Saturday, November 18, 2023, I attended the Second Annual Non-Fiction Comics Fest at the Fletcher Free Library in Burlington, Vermont.
The 3-day event featured panel discussions, workshops, and a main floor exhibit space filled with cartoonists displaying their non-fiction and autobiographical work. On Sunday, I dropped in on Zoom for a SAW workshop (The Sequential Artists Workshop).
I started the morning with “Seven Days Cartoonists Speak!”
Chris Farnsworth, Seven Days Music Editor led a panel of cartoonists featured in the pages of Vermont’s favorite free weekly.
Keith Knight uses Sharpies or Micron Pigmas, size .08 for the main drawings, and size .05 for details. He uses the Sharpies to color in blacks.
He draws on Strathmore smooth Bristol. 300 series, 11×14 for the K Chronicles and uses 110 pound, smooth card stock, 8-½x11 for (th)ink strips.
James Kochalka is the first official Cartoonist Laureate of the state of Vermont, appointed in 2011. You can find and buy a vast collection of his work at Top Shelf Productions.
Panelists included (L-R): Keith Knight of the nationally-syndicated K Chronicles, James K, Julianna Brazill, and Rachel Lindsay.
Rachel Lindsay‘s book, RX: A Graphic Memoir (2018), was the featured book for US National Network of Libraries of Medicine’s mental health month 2019, and was included on the American Association of Medical Colleges’ top ten summer reads list 2019. She is also the creator of Rachel Lives Here Now, a comic strip about Vermont-centric themes, which runs every other week in Vermont’s alt-weekly newspaper Seven Days.
Sequential Art goes by many names: visual narrative, graphic narrative, pictorial narrative, picto-narrative, sequential narrative, sequential pictorial narrative, sequential storytelling, graphic literature, sequential literature, or narrative illustration.
Whenever I was able to break from the sessions, I strolled among the exhibitors on the main floor. It was a great chance to speak one-to-one with any of the individual graphic authors, see their work, and of course buy some cool examples . Each of these multi-talented storytellers have a personal style of showing and telling. From the back cover of Dock Dorks Volume One: “C. Shelton has been living aboard her 30′ sloop La Bonita since 2007. She is a writer, illustrator, singer, songwriter, and boat systems actuator.”
Cynthia Shelton is also a NASA Solar System Ambassador as evidenced by her badges, pins, and the spread of free NASA stickers that graced her table. Just visit her website to request a free space presentation or activity for your group – any age, near or far. She is building a straw bale home in northern Vermont and has produced a six-part audio series about vegoil as a fuel which aired on NPR Stations around the country. Sometimes, you get to meet a true Renaissance person.
The Non-Fiction Comic Fest would not have been complete until I was encouraged to pick up a pen and draw a story.
Natalie Norris is a cartoonist, teacher, and comics librarian. She teaches and lectures on depicting trauma in graphic memoirs and graduated from the Center for Cartoon Studies. Dear Mini (2023) is her first book. She currently resides in Vermont with her chihuahua-poodle rescue, Gwen.
On Saturday afternoon I attended Natalie’s Resiliency Narratives workshop and learned how to build a four-panel graphic that would outline what to do, what fuels the fire, the intention, and the reward. She dealt with techniques for approaching memoir stories that we find difficult to tell but feel compelled to share. Her focus on the resiliency that grows out of personal stories about adversity, illness, and survival explained how we can harness our strength to face these kinds of memoirs.
I folded by sheet of standard paper in half each way to define the four quarter panels and picked up my pen…
Then, I went home and joined the Sequential Artists Workshop (SAW), a non-profit comics school and creative community led by award-winning cartoonists. Since lots of them use Macs. I searched for a few Windows alternatives and came up with the Top 10 Procreate Alternatives & Competitors. Tools will set you free. Pick up a pen and join me.