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This blog was featured on 09/18/2019
​​​​​​​Raina Telgemeier on Diversifying Voices, Challenges and Advice
Written by
She Writes
September 2019
Written by
She Writes
September 2019

Raina Telgemeier is the author and illustrator of four New York Times bestselling graphic novels Smile, Drama, Sisters, and Ghosts. She also adapted and illustrated four graphic novel versions of Ann M. Martin’s Baby-sitters Club series, and has contributed short stories to many anthologies.

Telgemeier’s YA graphic memoirs are funny, relatable and real – and that’s exactly why she’s been so well-received in the genre. Share Your Smile, her how-to guide and interactive journal, which she released earlier this year, has been applauded for its useful advice for aspiring writers and comics, as well as its transparency about Telgemeier’s creative process. She’s become known for honest dialogue and expressive illustrations, and her latest, Guts, which hit shelves this month, does not disappoint.

“I thought, after Smile and Sisters, I was tapped out, and that was the end,” she says of writing autobiographical graphic novels, but that observation turned out to be premature. While “slogging through” a completely different project, Telgemeier realized that what she really wanted to write about, if she could only overcome her mental resistance, was how her parents once sent her to a therapist due to her incapacitating anxieties and neuroses. Once she decided to go with the flow, Telgemeier says, the script for Guts was completed in just a few weeks. “It’s like it was sitting there, and all I had to do was pull it out,” she concludes.

This excerpt was originally published in Publisher’s Weekly. Read the full interview here.

On Finding Her Start

Telgemeier's start in comics began as a fan, when she started reading comics in early adolescence.

“I started trying to draw my own comic strips when I was in middle school, but failed miserably because I was not very good at telling jokes and setting up punch lines in a four-panel structure,” she told the School Library Journal. “Later on, when I got into alternative comics – like Adrian Tomine’s Optic Nerve and Jeff Smith’s Bone – I thought, ‘Okay, the comic book form is probably a little bit better suited to me.’ And so I started making mini-comics.”

She estimates that she printed about 6,000 copies total of her minis, and that persistence paid off.  One comic reached the editors at Scholastic, and led to a meeting about doing work for them – hence, her beginnings with The Baby-sitters Club.

On Diversifying Voices

In recent years, graphic novels have been successful in highlighting more progressive and diverse voices in children’s publishing – American Libraries Magazine asked Telgemeier her thoughts on why that is:

“Graphic novels and comics were on the sidelines for a long time, which meant they attracted voices outside of the mainstream. So many cartoonists hone their craft and build their audiences online, where anyone can tell any kind of story, without concern for whether it’s marketable. DIY cartoonists were able to gain large and authentic readerships all on their own – it was only a matter of time before the publishing industry took notice.”

On Challenges

“I don’t consider myself a writer – I consider myself an artist first, and a writer second. And that’s the hardest part about doing a book, or a comic – if you don’t have a good story, it doesn’t work. Your comic can be the most beautifully-drawn thing in the world, but if it’s not written well, it’s not going to resonate with the reader.”

This except was originally published on Newsarama. Read the full interview here.

On Advice

Telgemeier encourages writers to push past the common fear of rejection and criticism, and boldy put your work out into the world. 

"For years, I was too shy to show anyone my comics. But, once you start to share, people can enjoy them, give you feedback, and help you improve. You might even meet people who share your interests, and now you’ve got a support system! Don’t wait to start sharing your work!"

This excerpt was originally published on Raina Telgemeier’s website. Read all of her advice here.

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