Comics and memoirs might seem like two completely different literary mediums, but they actually have more in common than you might think.
That's one lesson that graphic novelist and artist Miriam Libicki will teach participants of her Writers Adventure Camp workshop in Whistler next month.
"I'm going to talk a bit about comics as a medium of non-fiction," Libicki says. "(We'll do) exercises to do with sensory details—accessing sense memories you can translate into words and pictures ... Sensory details are what can make work immersive. That's a strength that comics have, but it's also a strength that can be brought into prose."
Libicki should know: the American-Israeli artist has, in part, made a name for herself through her autobiographical comic series, jobnik! about her time in the Israeli army. (She now lives in the Lower Mainland.)
"I'm a visual thinker and my memories are quite visual," she says. "I feel like I can say a lot more if I can literally draw people a picture—especially (with) my army memoirs and drawing them for a North American audience, people who would never have been in the Israeli Army. What the buildings look like, what the sun feels like, what you're wearing and what that feels like—I felt like I could really make this immersive."
On top of that long-running series, Libicki has also published a book of drawn essays called Toward a Hot Jew, served as the 2017 Writer in Residence at the Vancouver Public Library and currently teaches illustration at Emily Carr University of Art and Design.
While comics and graphic novels have been taken more seriously in recent years, there's still room for improvement, Libicki says. "They've become more popular (with) young adults," she says. "That's a good thing ... But (some people) think comics are for so-called reluctant readers. It's a medium that's very accessible, but I think they can be accessible and quite complicated and full of complex ideas."
To that end, she's hoping to have her next project released by a mainstream publisher to help her reach a wider audience. Currently, she's working on turning the script she wrote for her master's thesis as part of the University of British Columbia's creative writing program into a graphic novel.
"I finished my masters degree in the fall, so I've started to put pictures to it," she says. "Self-publishing is still a very viable option—and that's great because you can find your audience even if someone who works in publishing might not think you have an audience. I want a chance to reach people who might not know yet that they like comics. They might like memoirs or politics or issues of immigration or Jewish identity, but they wouldn't think to pick up a comic. I think there's room to grow."
Libicki will lead a session called Gonzo Literary Comics: Graphic Nonfiction that Matters at the Writers Adventure Camp, taking place at The Point Artist-Run Centre from June 7 to 10.
For more information, or to register, visit writersadventurecamp.ca.