My first comic festival – not scary at all!

We know you’ll all be eager to see the video of last night’s Women in Digital Publishing event which will up very soon. But whilst you’re waiting, here’s something completely different!

As you know we are really keen on graphic fiction here at Hot Key and delighted that an illustrated book (A Monster Calls) won both the Greenaway and the Carnegie Medals this year – congratulations Patrick Ness and Jim Kay!

As I blogged about before, I’m pretty new to the comic/graphic novel world and was curious to go to a comic festival to find out more, but felt a bit shy about it. So I decided to dip my toe in the water, and headed over to East London for my very first comic festival, the inaugural East London Comic and Arts Festival held at Village Underground in Shoreditch organised by Nobrow. Check out the amazing mural on the outside wall.

Inside the place was buzzing. The exhibitors hall was full to bursting with visitors and publishers, both large and small, including Random House, Self Made Hero, Nobrow and many others, all selling their graphic novels and comics at a discount with their authors hanging around their stands to chat and sign copies of their books. Heaven!

The event space was set up for the ‘Happy Sports Village Drawing Marathon’ organised by the great people behind Anorak magazine – where kids could create an Olympic inspired comic by cutting out images and letters. My daughter had a great time colouring, cutting and sticking to create her Olympic scene.

Next up were some brilliantly inventive animation short films and adverts created by the team at Nexus. One of the most entertaining was one about two funeral directors who’s hearse is flattened by a boulder and their comic/tragic adventure to get the coffin and corpse to the burial ground.

After a spot of lunch I caught the end of the ‘Tac au Tac 2012’ Drawing Relay Race with Luke Pearson – here he is busy drawing a fearsome duck beast ridden by an alien creature.

The highlight of the day for me was a fascinating panel discussion about the current poplar trend in autobiographical graphic novels. The panel comprised Simone Lia (Fluffy, Please God, Find Me a Husband), Darryl Cunningham (Psychiatric Tales, Science Tales) and Karrie Fransman (The House that Groaned) chaired by Becky Barnicoat from the Guardian.

The panel discussed why it was such a popular genre and key thoughts were that for autobiographical stories to work they need to think of the reader and tell them something about themselves – not just navel gazing. They also spoke about the ethics of using family and friends as subjects in their stories.

Karrie Fransman uses her family and friends extensively for her comic strips but consciously chose a non-fiction story for her first graphic novel The House That Groaned. She is now working on a reportage story.

Simone Lia’s first graphic novel was a fictional story called Fluffy, about a rabbit who thinks he is human and finds out he’s not. Her latest book Please God, Find Me a Husband on the other hand is a deeply personal about her relationship with God, which took her four years to write because it was such a difficult story to tell. She said that her next book will definitely not be about herself and like Karrie, she is next planning a reportage-style story about her community.

Darryl Cunningham used his own person experiences with depression and anxiety as well as his experience as a Psychiatric nurse to talk about mental health in Psychiatric Tales. Although he has been questioned by a colleague about using his patients stories, he has only had positive feedback from everyone who read them.

Everyone agreed that the author does have a certain responsibility to respect their family and friends privacy and in Darryl’s case his patients, and wouldn’t write about anything they would be unhappy about.

After the talk I hit the exhibition hall and spent lots of money on books (very difficult to resist) and even got to have a chat with the brilliant Hannah Berry (currently Booktrust Writer in Residence check out her blog!) who signed my copy of Adamtine and drew a scary picture!

Then I got to meet the lovely Simone Lia who was interested in attending the Drawing the Graphic Novel course despite the fact that her book is on our reading list! She also signed my book for me and did another picture!

I then had to head off to the Museum of Childhood to join my family so missed out on the rest of the programme but next time I’ll be sure to stay all day! This was a really great event full of friendly, passionate people – not scary at all!