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Please welcome special guest Anna Campbell to the virtual offices!
Never Leave Home Without… by Anna Campbell
Hi Julie! Thank you so much for asking me to visit Manga Maniac Cafe to talk about my latest release (26th August), WHAT A DUKE DARES, book 3 in the Sons of Sin series.
The story opens with a proposal from my duke Camden Rothermere to his childhood friend Penelope Thorne. A proposal that goes so badly that Pen says no and runs off for the Continent to find refuge with an eccentric aunt.
So what should Pen take with her on her escape?
Plenty of euros. She’s heading for Italy and I can tell you from experience, that’s an expensive destination. Oh, what’s that? This is pre-Euro? Well, what do you know? Actually the subject of Italian currency in the early 19th century when Italy was still a patchwork of different states is enough to give me a headache. Which brings me to…
Given that a certain duke has given her a major headache, Pen will take lots of aspirin with her. What’s that? I’m too early for that too? Poor Pen, she really is missing out on the mod cons in her travels, isn’t she? In the 1820s, when Pen is embarking on her headlong dash, people used to smell aromatic vinegar to cure a headache or use a variety of herbal cures based on things like feverfew, valerian and lavender, some of which I suspect helped.
Comfortable shoes. The half boots that Regency ladies wore were pretty practical and would stand up to the rigors of travel (and running away from marriage-minded aristocrats).
Some good books. Good books never go astray, after all. And given how bad the Continental roads are, especially in the wild corners that Penelope explores with her scholarly aunt, something to read while she waits for the mud to dry or the snow to clear will be very welcome. Hmm, can I suggest the Sons of Sin series by Anna Campbell? Hours of entertainment there for a lady looking to pass the time stranded in villages outside Rome or Florence.
A duke-defeating kit. Sadly, Pen left home before I could pass this invaluable piece of equipment to her, including anti-duke spray, a book of anti-etiquette and that informative pamphlet, How to Get Rid of Your Aristos: Start Your Own French Revolution Today. I have a dreadful feeling because Pen left without this, that the Duke of Sedgemoor may just show up again to disrupt her life. And without this kit, she’ll be doomed to all the adventures and passion in the rest of WHAT A DUKE DARES. What a terrible fate! Snerk.
So if you were running off to the Continent then or now, what would you take?
About WHAT A DUKE DARES
What woman in her right mind would say no to marrying the dashing Duke of Sedgemoor? Miss Penelope Thorne, that’s who. She’s known Camden Rothermere since they were children-and she also knows she’d bring nothing but scandal to his name. Cam can hardly believe Penelope turned down his proposal. But if she wants to run off to the Continent and set the rumor mill ablaze, he can’t stop her. Then her brother’s dying request sends him to bring home the one woman he thought he’d finally gotten over. The only way they’ll both get back to London without their reputations in tatters is to pretend they’re married during the journey. That means kissing like they mean it and even sharing a bed-until it becomes hard to tell where the game ends and true desire begins . . .
Always a voracious reader, ANNA CAMPBELL decided when she was a child that she wanted to be a writer. Once she discovered the wonderful world of romance novels, she knew exactly what she wanted to write. Anna has won numerous awards for her Avon historical romances including Romantic TimesReviewers Choice, the Booksellers Best, the Golden Quill, the Heart of Excellence, the Aspen Gold and the Australian Romance Readers Association’s most popular historical romance (twice). Her books have twice been nominated for Romance Writers of America’s prestigious RITA Award and twice for Australia’s Romantic Book of the Year.
When she’s not writing passionate, intense stories featuring gorgeous Regency heroes and the women who are their destiny, Anna loves to travel, especially in the United Kingdom, and listen to all kinds of music. She lives near the sea on the east coast of Australia, where she’s losing her battle with an overgrown subtropical garden.
When it comes to assessing someone’s sincerity, we pay close attention to what people say and how they say it. This is because the emotion-based elements of communication are understood as partially controllable and partially uncontrollable. The words that people use tend to be viewed as relatively controllable; in contrast, rate of speech, tone of voice, hesitations, and gestures (paralinguistic elements) have tended to be viewed as less controllable. As a result of the perception of speakers’ lack of control over them, the meanings conveyed via paralinguistic channels have tended to be understood as providing more reliable evidence of a speaker’s inner state.
Paradoxically, the very elements that are viewed as so reliable are consistent with multiple meanings. Furthermore, people often believe that their reading of another person’s demeanor is the correct one. Many studies have shown that people – judges included – are notoriously bad at assessing the meaning of another person’s affective display. Moreover, some research suggests that people are worse at this when the ethnic background of the speaker differs from their own – not an uncommon situation when defendants address federal judges, even in 2014.
The element of defendants’ demeanor is not only problematic for judges; it is also problematic for the record of the proceedings. This is due to courtroom reporters’ practice of reporting the words that are spoken and excluding input from paralinguistic channels.
I observed one case in which this practice had the potential for undermining the integrity of the sentencing hearing transcript. In this case, the defendant lost her composure while making her statement to the court. The short, sob-filled “sorry” she produced mid-way through her statement was (from my perspective) clearly intended to refer to her preceding tears and the delays in her speech. The official transcript, however, made no reference to the defendant’s outburst of emotion, thereby making her “sorry” difficult to understand. Without the clarifying information about what was going on at the time – namely, the defendant’s crying — her “sorry” could conceivably be read as part of her apology to the court for her crime of robbing a bank.
Not distinguishing between apologies for the crime and apologies for a problem with delivery of one’s statement is a problem in the context of a sentencing hearing because apologies for crimes are understood as an admission of guilt. If the defendant had not already apologized earlier, the ambiguity of the defendant’s words could have significant legal ramifications if she sought to appeal her sentence or to claim that her guilty plea was illegal.
As the above example illustrates, the exclusion of meaning that comes from paralinguistic channels can result in misleading and inaccurate transcripts. (This is one reason why more and more police departments are video-recording confessions and witness statements.) If a written record is to be made of a proceeding, it should preserve the significant paralinguistic elements of communication. (Following the approach advocated by Du Bois 2006, one can do this with varying amounts of detail. For example, the beginning and ending of crying-while-talking can be indicated with double angled brackets, e.g., < < sorry > >.) Relatedly, if a judge is going to use elements of a defendant’s demeanor in court to increase a sentence, the judge should be prepared to defend this decision and cite the evidence that was employed. Just as a judge’s decision based on the facts of the case can be challenged, a decision based on demeanor evidence deserves the same scrutiny.
Welcome back to Choose Your Own Adventure! In a choose-your-own-adventure story, you read a chapter and then you get a few choices of what the character should do next. Have you read Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3 yet? Pay attention to your answer choices because when the story is done, your answers will reveal the adventure hero you are most like.
The door bursts open, sending a blinding light everywhere. You skid to a stop. The rain seems to stop, too. You can’t see anything so you squint your eyes, but you still can’t make out anything. A second later, you hear a deafening BOOM and feel a gust of wind so strong it literally sweeps you off your feet. You’re knocked backwards and land on your back in the mud, which does not feel good at all.
You cough and blink the dirt out of your eyes, groaning and rolling over onto your stomach. You roll over onto something hard that pokes you in the rib painfully.
“Ouch!” you holler. Sitting up, you see that you rolled onto a giant leather-bound book. On the cover, in giant letters, are the words OPEN ME. You scramble away and stand up. You look up and the sky is clear again. You look towards the spot where the door was and see nothing. The tree that you just watched explode is standing tall and whole.
You . . .
A) can’t deal with this situation alone. You take the book back home, planning to take it to a librarian who might know more about it.
B) are totally excited by this new development! You hide the book in a safe spot and will come back for it tomorrow. Right now, you’re pretty hungry. Dinner first, adventure later!
C) know that books that come out of nowhere are dangerous. You learned how to start a fire at summer camp last year, so you build one and throw the book into the flames. Good riddance!
D) study the outside of the book before deciding what to do next. You’re so curious, but you want to play it safe. You want to do more research on the make of the book and find out who made it.
Some things are too big for a boy to solve. Jesse is an eleven-year-old boy tackling many problems in life, especially fitting in to a new school. Luckily he meets Kate. She has curly black hair, braces and an infectious smile. She wants to ‘Save the Whales’ and needs Jesse’s help. But they haven’t counted on Hunter, the school bully, who appears to enjoy hurling insults at random. With Hunter’s catchphrase ‘Ha!’ echoing through the school, something or someone has to give. But will it be Jesse? Kate? Or is there more to Hunter than everyone thinks? An inspiring and funny story about the small gestures that can help to make the world a better place.
I think Steven Herrick writes with a great deal of insight and subtlety, so I was really looking forward to reading Bleakboy and Hunter Stand Out in the Rain. I strongly recommend both Cold Skin and The Simple Gift (the only other Herrick novels I've read so far) - extraordinary verse novels with tough subject matter delicately handled, very powerful. They demonstrate beautifully the meaningfulness that can be achieved even when words are used economically.
Bleakboy and Hunter Stand Out in the Rain is written in prose rather than verse, and for a younger audience than other Herrick novels I've read, and it's both funny and thoughtful. I think it will really appeal to kids in upper primary school. It's positive and uplifting - a lovely little story with lots of nice messages, about environmental conservation and charitable causes (it's very message-dense). The story is told from the perspectives of both Jesse, who is well-meaning and quiet and a bit eccentric (he talks to a poster of Jesus that he refers to as Trevor, as his parents are atheist - the family dynamics are rather amusing), and Hunter, who is the school bully but gradually revealed as an endearing character - his interactions with the elderly man he befriends were some of my favourite in the book. As someone who was a bit eccentric and very thoughtful as an eleven-year-old, I really identified with Jesse, but both characters are likeable and authentic.
It's definitely a feel-good sort of novel, and one I think 9-12-year-olds will love, and anyone older who likes heartwarming stories about saving whales and making friends and the various awkwardnesses of being eleven.
As writers, we want to make our characters as unique and interesting as possible. One way to do this is to give your character a special skill or talent that sets him apart from other people. This might be something small, like having a green thumb or being good with animals, to a larger and more competitive talent like stock car racing or being an award-winning film producer. When choosing a talent or skill, think about the personality of your character, his range of experiences and who his role models might have been. Some talents might be genetically imparted while others are created through exposure (such as a character talented at fixing watches from growing up in his father’s watch shop) or grow out of interest (archery, wakeboarding, or magic). Don’t be afraid to be creative and make sure the skill or talent is something that works with the scope of the story.
Description: having heightened powers of observation and exceptional body language reading skills that allow one to deduce things that others cannot, leaving many to believe some sort of psychic ability is involved.
Beneficial Strengths or Abilities: because the key to mentalism is the ability to see past deception and facades, appearing good-natured and nonthreatening will encourage others to put their guard down. A background in human psychology gives a mentalist insight into human behavior and motives, which allows them to make judgements about who they are and what they believe in. Armed with this knowledge, they will be able to deduce facts in a way others cannot. Having a way with words will allow the mentalist to ask the right questions to elicit a “tell” that can then be harvested for information. Sharp eyesight will allow them to notice micro-gestures in the split-second that they appear, which acts as breadcrumbs of true emotion. Mentalists are also skilled in mind tricks (the power of suggestion, reverse psychology, leading questions, misdirection, etc.) and utilize them to appear to read minds or somehow access information in a way that seems impossible.
Character Traits Suited for this Skill or Talent: observant, focused, alert, intelligent, shrewd, persuasive, crafty, controlled, friendly, unconventional, creative, curious, charismatic, mysterious, charming
Required Resources and Training: understanding human psychology and emotions, having exceptional body language reading skills through exhaustive practice and some working knowledge of hypnosis and/or the power of suggestion will all hep a mentalist hone his craft.
Scenarios Where this Skill Might be Useful:
magicians who use mentalism in conjunction with sleight-of-hand can become very effective at manipulating audiences through illusions
police or other law enforcement personnel in the course of interviewing suspects and determining what is truth and what is not
those who practice psychological torture, where secrets must be uncovered
politicians who must persuade and inspire in order to retain support
lawyers during jury selections, and then later at reading the jury during the trial, allowing them to revamp their strategy if needed
anyone in a position of leadership or power, where retaining control is difficult and may depend on being able to uncover enemies before they attack (criminal organizations, for example)
You can brainstorm other possible Skills and Talents your characters might have by checking out our FULL LIST of this Thesaurus Collection. And for more descriptive help for Setting, Symbolism, Character Traits, Physical Attributes, Emotions, Weather and more, check out our Thesaurus Collections page.
The period of recent Brazilian democratisation (...), has so far failed to produce an even moderately impressive number of novels that manage to get away from the reality of white guys, living in the big urban centres, belonging to a middle class that is modernised and advantaged.
Nor has it produced novels that risk a more substantial (and also more vertically-oriented) and challenging weighing-up of the social impact of recent political choices.
Indeed, he thinks:
From this perspective, contemporary Brazilian literature (...) is still quite timid compared to what is being produced in the rest of Latin America, from Mexico to Argentina.
In English we of course only get a sliver of the big picture (since very little is translated), but from that limited vantage point the differences don't seem so great.
Scott's Nowhere People is just out from And Other Stories -- see their publicity page, or get your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk.
I have a copy, and will certainly be taking a closer look.
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Paul Gauguin arrived in Panamá in June 1887. He was 37, practically destitute having gone from riches to rags as a broker, and in bad health. (Absinthe didn´t help.) His sister Marie was married to a Peruvian with business interests in Panamá city and Gauguin believed that, with his experience in banking, his brother in law would offer him a job and that he could then send for Mette and their five children. Years earlier a sailor had told him that the island of Taboga in Panama Bay was a true paradise, that land was as good as free and that fish and pineapples and coconuts could be had for nothing.
He wrote to Mette before his departure: "I´m taking my paints and brushes and will, living like a native, immerse myself far from mankind."
Unfortunately, the brother-in-law´s business was no more than a general store and the French canal-building project under the direction of Dr de Lesseps was already in big trouble. Malaria and yellow fever were killing thousands of the workforce every year. Landslides and explosions killed thousands more. (Most of the workers at that time were from the French-speaking islands of Martinique and Guadeloupe.)
Worse, the supposed paradise island of Taboga had been turned into a huge sanatorium run by the French Sisters of Charity and, to add insult to injury, was a day-trip destination for the French officials and their families escaping the oppressive heat of Panamá city. The price of land had soared and was already out of reach of Gauguin´s limited resources.
Charles Laval, the artist, who had travelled with Gauguin, started doing studio portraits of the wives and daughters of the French officials but Gauguin refused to do so. Instead he worked as a labourer on the canal, with the crews dynamiting through the Continental Divide at the Gaillard Cut. He wrote again to Mette: "I have to work from five-thirty in the morning to six in the evening under tropical sun and rain. At night I am devoured by mosquitoes."
A few weeks later, he was arrested (allegedly for urinating in a street, protesting that it was in any case an open sewer,) was imprisoned for a night or two, and fined. To compound his problems, he was then laid off before he had earned enough to get off the isthmus and return to France. On June 8th, with his dream of life in the tropics shattered, he left for Martinique where he promptly came down with amoebic dysentery and nearly died before being repatriated to France.
It would be several years before he could fulfil his dream of paradise when he moved to Tahiti and unleashed a totally new way of painting saturated with tropical colour.
(But what if, in fact, he did paint some as yet undiscovered masterpieces inspired by his stay on Taboga Island? That´s the seed that I´m working on at moment.)
De Lesseps´ dream of building the interoceanic canal also foundered around the same time. The French abandoned the canal amid financial and political scandals that shook and nearly bankrupted the entire country.
In 1904, the Americans stepped in (after engineering a "revolution" in which Panamá declared its independence from Colombia so that the USA could do a land grab and take control of the canal building). The work was mostly done by harshly treated, poorly paid and segregated Jamaicans and Barbadians.
I´m recalling this because the canal was finally completed in August 1914, one hundred years ago , an extraordinary achievement that changed the world but that was totally eclipsed by the outbreak of War in Europe days earlier. The epic story of its building, the massive death tolls, the engineering and medical advances that the canal builders brought about, the struggle of the Panamanians to regain their autonomy : all these deserve to be remembered in this year of the canal´s centenary. Happy 100th Birthday, Panamá Canal. PS Will update with more photos... www.maevefriel.com www.maevefriel.com/blog
On August 23rd the United Nations observes the International Day for the Remembrance of the Slave Trade and its Abolition. In honor of this day, we examine the history of slavery and its abolition, and shed light on contemporary slavery practices.
U.R.Ananthamurthy (Udupi Rajagopalacharya Ananthmurthy), one of India's leading writers, has passed away.
Lots of Indian media coverage about this, of course (see, for example, Shiv Visvanathan on U.R. Ananthamurthy -- The greatest storyteller in The Hindu) -- he was a leading Kannada literary figure -- but little beyond, so far; some will surely follow -- hey, he was a finalist for the Man Booker International Prize, 2013.
Two of Ananthamurthy's novels are under review at the complete review:
Tukwila WA is one of the country’s most diverse cities. In part, it’s a hub for many Somali immigrants who attend mosque, visit the local ethnic shops and restaurants, and find support at the Somali Community Services Coalition (SCSC). SCSC has a vital presence in Tukwila, offering an array of social services for their clients, Somali language instruction for non-Somali-speaking adults, and both afterschool and summer programs for children. These refugee children are placed in the appropriate grade level by age when they arrive in the U.S.A. If a 5th grader doesn’t know English, nor is literate, it’s a struggle to keep up, especially with parents at home who can’t help them with their lessons, so I formed a partnership with the Youth Program Manager of SCSC to help reduce the summer slide. We made arrangements for two dozen elementary students to visit our library once a week during their summer school period. Our main goal was to improve the students’ reading skills, but we also hoped the Somali children would become familiar with library staff and feel comfortable using the library. I lined up our teen Book Buddy volunteer to help out with one-on-one reading sessions. Additionally, I was tasked with providing library materials to match different themes each week.
Working with this group required a fair amount of flexibility and creativity. Challenges began on the first day – we wouldn’t be doing activities based on a theme, we’d simply be reading. I had to quickly come up with some activities and reading games that would work for children ranging in ages 4-10. Those leftover science storytime materials from the previous night sure came in handy! In preparation for the following weeks, I thought of different ways of using our Bananagrams, and I took ideas from Reading Games for Young Children by Jackie Silberg. Her book offers a ton of ideas that can be adapted for early English language learners. I tried to make our reading activities fun for all the children.
The sessions were chaotic and meetings sometimes fell through. Managing this boisterous group was demanding, usually requiring constant interactions with several young people at once. But contributing toward the success of these students felt rewarding, and it was truly fun! They were so enthusiastic about learning! I’ve been asked to resume working with the students in the afterschool program this fall and I’m looking forward to our continued partnership.
-Gaye Hinchliff, member of School-Age Programs and Services Committee, is a Children’s Librarian at Foster Library, a branch of the King County Library System
I make a pretty solid effort not to over-feature self-published and indie published books which are SOLELY ebook offerings, because I'm still a fan of the pages-cover-artwork-words experience that comprised books for me for most of my life. However,... Read the rest of this post
From Simon & Schuster
Written by Joshua David Bellin
Fourteen-year-old Querry Genn's world is a desert where small groups of survivors struggle against heat, starvation, and the creatures known as the Skaldi, monsters that appeared on the planet after war swept away the old world. Suffering from amnesia brought on by an accident, Querry struggles to recover the lost memories that might save
I found myself in a twitter conversation about Christian YA books, and I thought, “Hey, someone ought to write one for the Satanic kids.” I think I tweeted out the first few paragraphs almost exactly as they appear in the final draft.
How long did you work on the book?
Off and on for a couple of years; I’d work on it to amuse myself during downtime, then tell myself to get back to work on the other projects that I thought would be more commercial. I hadn’t done a YA book with a guy narrator in five or six years; my publisher back then told me they were hard to sell, and I was better off either writing more girls or switching to middle grade. I did a little of both.
How long or hard was your road to publication? How many books did you write before this one, and how many never got published?
Well, this is my sixteenth book, counting nonfiction, a couple written under other names, etc. In any given year I’ll write 3-5 books; maybe a third of the ones I write get published. The rest get used for parts; there are a couple of scene in PLAY ME BACKWARDS that are partly drawn from an unfinished one about younger versions of the characters called TAKE THIS TEST AND SHOVE IT, and others come from an old graphic novel script. If you want to go back further in time, I wrote three or four full novels before the first one that came out. The first one I wrote when I was fifteen or sixteen, the first one that was published came out when I was twenty-six.
What's your writing ritual like? Do you listen to music? Work at home or at a coffee shop or the library, etc?
I get up and go to work every morning, usually at the closest coffee shop to my house. Putting together playlists, creating an atmosphere, etc are really just excuses not to work. But I do them all the time. Some songs one every version of the playlist for this project include “DC Comics and Chocolate MIlkshakes” by Art Brut, “Stay Hungry” by Twisted Sister, “Thinking of You" by Katy Perry (I always had visions of publishers making me use a Katy Perry song as the title) and “Ask Her for Adderall” by the Hold Steady. And lots of The Mountain Goats.
What's advice would you most like to pass along to other writers?
I hate to say it, but the most practical advice anyone can give is “follow the trends and stick to the formula.” I only manage to do so off and on, but the difference in how interested people are in the books when I do is pretty shocking.
My parents bought our town cemetery when I was in middle school, around the time a bunch of really random deaths were happening in the close circle of our family and friends. It was a pretty harsh and rapid introduction to death and mourning for a young kid, and the way our parents guided mine and my siblings' responses to the sadness around us was always kind of baffling to me. As we grew up and each worked different jobs in the graves, my sisters and I would encounter people and events that were at turns heartbreaking and beautiful and confusing and just awful and our responses were constantly monitored and often mocked. It was messed up! I've always written, all my life, and I think this story, many versions of it, began forming when I was maybe twelve years old.
How long did you work on the book?
The first incarnation of the book was as a full length play, part of my grad school thesis in Playwriting. I wrote the play in 2000, then began the prose version of the story when my daughter started pre-school in 2006. It took two years to write, a year to revise. So really, I guess thirteen years? Yikes.
How long or hard was your road to publication? How many books did you write before this one, and how many never got published?
SIX FEET OVER IT is the first novel I've written. It took me a year to land an agent, and once I did she bravely led me through a year of doing spec revisions for several editors who "Loved" the MS, but wanted changes. I would revise for months to each editor's liking, then they would ultimately turn it down. This happened five or six times, until Random House bought it in 2011. The book is completely different in many ways from the initial version, and once Random bought it it went through several more revisions. Not at all easy, not a road for easily bruised egos or wishy-washy agents. My agent is AMAZING. So is my editor. I won the literary lottery and I'm grateful every day for those two unbelievably talented women and everyone at Random who brought this book to life.
What's your writing ritual like? Do you listen to music? Work at home or at a coffee shop or the library, etc?
I recently moved to Seattle from San Francisco where I at last have the writer's dream: a home office. My ritual is blessed and rigid: I run every morning at 7am, take my daughter to school at 8am, shower and do errands till 10am and then it is ON. People better not mess with me from the hours of 10am-3pm because I AM WRITING. I take breaks, of course, but that's WRITING TIME. I listen to music, religiously. I've written every word of every play and story and book I've worked on since 1998 listening to one artist: Enya. She is just perfect! Moody and easily tucked into the back of my mind. I love my office, and am incredibly grateful my husband and I have figured out how to make it work for me to take care of things at home and write. Still though, there are days I have to leave the house and go to a coffee shop or the library or I'll be distracted by the never-ending laundry and dirty dish piles.Seattle is a haven of writers who are so generous and I've been lucky enough to start having writing dates with some of them, which are incredibly productive. When I'm revising things shut down and my family is like, "Are we ever going to eat or have clean underwear again?" The answer is, of course, sure. As soon as I'm finished with this revision, People.
What's advice would you most like to pass along to other writers?
Before you begin, make sure you've got at least a basic grasp of the main tenants of sentence structure and grammar. And plotting prose. READ. All the time, and make note of why you love what you love and hate what you hate, what confuses you and delights you and WHY. Outline. It may work for you. Write the book that won't leave your mind alone, the story that nags you night and day. Find an agent who loves your book for the same reasons you do, same goes for an editor, and then trust them. And trust yourself. Trust your story and why you wrote it. Two books I could now never do without: ON WRITING by Stephen King and THE ELEMENTS OF STLYE by Strunk/White/Kalman, a book suggested by King in ON WRITING. In a sea of books about how or why to write, they are all I will ever need.
There were a couple of mosque burnings in the news. I posted on my FB page, "We all serve one Creator," meaning Christians, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, whomever. A teen slapped me, saying, "It's awfully arrogant of you to think I have to believe in anything at all. I'm an atheist." That interested me as a storyline....
How long or hard was your road to publication? How many books did you write before this one, and how many never got published?
I broke in as a freelance journalist and did that for a number of years. Some of the stories I wrote seemed like they'd make interesting nonfiction children's books. I was already involved with SCBWI and thought I'd write picture books--not my skill set! But I was learning the children's publishing industry that way and published 20 nonfiction children's books before the story idea for CRANK hit me. I met an editor from S & S at a conference, showed her ten pages of CRANK, and the book sold with only 75 pp complete. RUMBLE is my 11th YA with S & S.
What's advice would you most like to pass along to other writers?
Write honestly. Write courageously. Don't write to trends. Create a new one!
Inés Hüni was born in Mendoza (Argentina), the land that produces the finest Malbec wine grapes in the world.
She remembers that as a little girl, she always dreamed about having her “taller de arte” with lots of small “frasquitos”, colored pencils and brushes of all sizes.
She moved to Buenos Aires – the big city – when she was 11.
During high school, in her spare time, Inés was always involved in drawing and arts & crafts activities. She could not wait to finish high school in order to begin studying what she really loved:Arts.
She graduated from Fine Arts with major in drawing and engraving. Inés also studied humoristic drawing and animation with some of the finest professors in Argentina and USA.
Ines is a great observer of the world that surrounds her. She loves the challenge of interpreting every brush stroke of reality and capturing it in her artwork.
Already married and with two daughters, she moved to México. What was initially supposed to be a 3-year-experience, but it has now turned into an 8-years-one, tasting and living Mexican flavors and colors. The family has recently added a fifth member, her little Mexican daughter named Mora.
Inés is a versatile creative professional. She illustrated children magazines, scholastic manuals, worked for animated movie studios, developed characters to be used in murals and posters and has illustrated several children’s books from renowned Editorial Houses from many countries.
Some of her customers are: Animation: Heart of Texas Productions (Texas, USA) in films for Disney Studios, Warner Bros and Lyric Corporation – Illustration: Garcia Ferré, Infantil, El Gato de Hojalata, Guadal, Perfil and Quipu (Argentina), Richmond, Mac Millian, Cordillera, Trillas, and Bilineata (Mexico), Santillana (Puerto Rico & U.S.A)- Everest (Spain).
Here is Ines explaining her process:
This is one of my illustrations in “Mymini moleskine.” Myninimoleskine is a little red sketchbook that I take everywhere, especially if I travel.
The idea is to draw women in different poses and moments of their lives, in one small space, that’s a challenge!
I start the sketch with the blue pencil and on it I remark with black pencil.
Here we have a sketch of a woman who is a football (soccer) fan. She is celebrating a goal with all her soul. That’s an example of how I like to start with the blue PRISMACOLOR col- erase pencil and then remark with black pencil.
Woman of the Cats: here you can see the hole process and my work space.
After scanning I clean it up with Photoshop.
This is my workspace with my lightbox, I use this table to trace and transfer the illustration to a good paper. You can also see all my painting materials, including color inks and watercolors.
You can see how I start to paint the big areas and views of my desk and materials.
Continue to paint.
With the whole illustration painted, I begin adding details with color Prismalo Carandache pencils.
Illustration almost done.
Here are several drawings I made after a trip by the south of Mexico, in Chiapas State. I was delighted by this place, especially by a town called San Juan Chamula, it’s church, and it’s popular market.
How long have you been illustrating?
I always drew, but it has been 20 years since I started to illustrate.
How did you go to school to study art?
I wanted to study Fine Arts since I was a little girl.
I finished school since I needed to, in order to pursue a University Degree in Arts.
When the time came to choose a career I had no doubts in my mind: Fine Arts. At the same time, I took a course in Humoristic Drawing in another school.
It was a lot of fun since I realized that everything that I was learning was really interesting to me.
What made you move from Argentina to Mexico?
We moved to Mexico with my family due to my husband’s job. It was supposed to be a 3 year experience but it has been almost 9 years already!
Do you think the culture of Argentina influenced your style?
Every experience a person has gone through contributes to defining you as an individual. Regarding specifically my illustration style, I think I have influence from many places, not only from my Argentinian background, but also from other places I have visited, books that I read, movies that I watched and also from some of my colleagues’ works.
What was the first art related work that you did for money?
That is a tough question! I started out by doing Christmas Cards and painting T-Shirts with original designs. I guess my first customers were my parents and my family.
Did you start out doing freelance art or did you do other work to pay the bills?
It was really a mix. At the same time that I looked for free-lance jobs, I worked in a greeting cards editorial house (similar to Hallmark) and also worked in a company that made sticker albums.
How did you get involved with animation with Heart of Texas Productions (Austin,Tx USA) in films for Disney Studios, Warner Bros and Lyrick Corporation?
Wow, that was one pretty chance! My husband and I had just moved to Austin, Texas to study a postgraduate and a neighbor of our condominium worked in that study of animation. When the person who rented us the apartment learnt that I was an illustrator, she made arrangements for me to visit the studios. After the tour, I asked if I could show my portfolio. I think that they had not finished telling me that I was already leaving my folder with them. A few days later I was called to sit for a test and then I was chosen. In Heart of Texas, we also worked for larger studios such as Disney, Warner and Lyric Corporation and that is how I ended being part of films like Aladdin, The Quest for Camelot and three children’s animations on St. Francis and his friendly world.
Do you still do animation?
No. Animation was a great learning experience and I learned it well from the inside: I was trained while I worked in Heart of Texas. In addition to that, I attended College where I experienced going through the whole process of designing: from scratch, to filming my own short (very short) animated movie.
I soon found out that the process of making animation was like a very long, mechanical chain, where one is just a small link and the only way of applying your own creativity was by designing the characters, backgrounds or the story itself. So I turned completely to illustration, which is less mechanical and a greater challenge, because each job order demands my own imagination and creativity.
What type of work did you do right after you graduated?
I worked doing typographies and some illustrations for greeting cards.
When did you decide to get involved in children’s illustration?
Well, as I already said, while I was studying Arts, I attended another school for humorous drawing, where I learned the basics on how to create characters and move them from side to side, to explore and to draw different topics and to make comic strips… But while I was studying, I realized that it would be hard for me to come up with a joke every day to go with an illustration, like the comics in newspapers. That was when I said to myself: my thing is children’s illustration. I do come up with cute illustrations that can actually be funny but are still not the daily joke or comic strip.
Have you ever illustrated a children’s book or book dummy?
Yes, I have several illustrated books:
The collection Palabrerio by Infantil.com
The collection Hadas Virtuosas – Editorial Guadal, El Gato de Hojalata
Collection Hadas con patitas – Editorial Guadal, El Gato de Hojalata
Several pedagogical publications with Santillana of Puerto Rico and the United States.
Historias maravillosas de la Biblia [Wonderful histories of the Bible] – Publishing Everest.
Deseo of Mateo [Mateo’s wish] – For Kraft, Oreo
Kazurá.Un manifiesto infantil – Editorial Quipu
It looks like you have a friend who writes and you do the illustrations. Could you tell us about how the two of you connected and how many books have you done?
Yes, my friend Agustina, another coincidence in my life! One day in Mexico, I went to a birthday party where new comers had just arrived. I ended up sitting next to one of the new ones, and the host looked at us and said: “Inés, this is Agustina and she writes. Agustina, this is Inés and she illustrates. You must know each other!” Just a few days later, I was contacted by a publisher to make a Christmas Story for Kraft Foods about the Oreo cookie. They wanted it immediately but there was no story yet and they requested the cover and an inside page… I told them that I knew two writers and we could see if they already had something written to adapt into the project… So I contacted both writers. Agustina responded immediately with a story, thought and written especially for the project. It was called “El deseo de Mateo” [Mateo’s wish].
It ended up being a beautiful book, and the best part was discovering what a wonderful team we made together. Then, new projects came up and we continued working together.
Recently our book “Kazurá” was published. It is an illustrated children’s book that we presented in Buenos Aires Book Fair this past July and continue to promote here in Mexico.
What do you consider is your first big success?
I believe that my biggest success is to be able to turn my passion into work, to let my imagination fly, to face challenges with each job order, which sometimes can be something completely new in my life. I sometimes worry but in the end, I always come up with something that I like, and that amuses me!
Each stage of my life had its own hit, like working for Disney and Warner Bross or winning a contest for and important hospital: My character became the Pediatrics’ mascot!
Success for me also meant travelling to the greatest Illustration Fair in the world (Bologna) and being contacted for different jobs after those interviews. And lately, success meant to materialize one of our projects with Agus: our book “Kazurá” recently published.
How did that come about?
The most recent success was our book “Kazurá”, which we worked jointly with my friend Agustina, designing each word and each illustration so that each of us, in our own specialized language, would tell the same story without repeating each other. We made a very good presentation of the book, with a dummy, at the Book Fair of Guadalajara. This was an efficient way to introduce ourselves and the book to the different publishers. Not only did we make a good impression on them but we ended with more than one publishing offer for “Kazurá”.
How do you promote your work to get more business?
Mainly through Blogs and webpages. I am in Childrensillustrators.com and I have recently created a blog on Facebook called “Hüni la ilustratera”.
I also promote my work presenting dummies of books in fairs such as FIL de Guadalajara in Mexico (the greatest Spanish-speaking fair of the world ) to show a complete, well presented idea, something which publishers seem to look forward to seeing, lately.
The above is an illustration which represents everything that a book can contain, and how they can amaze us. In this illustration I used a photograph of a painted wall taken by me, as a background. Then I worked on creating the characters with several sketches. I transferred them into final lines in good paper, then I scanned them and once in the computer, I worked digitally on the color in Photoshop.
What materials do you use to paint your color illustrations?
I like to work with inks and watercolors, on good papers, and on those backgrounds I work on the details with coloured pencils. Finally, I finish up digitally in the computer. Lately, I have been applying textures and photos with digital collages.
Yes, I do. Although I am a colour fan, I have studied and made many engravings in the past during my Fine Arts career. I also made several comics with ink and pens. It is a different type of exercise, to think in black and white, and I love it, especially in my sketchbooks.
Above and Below: Painted with inks and watercolors (usually I use Colorex by Pebeo) in a good watercolor paper (Strathmore cold press), retouching the details with colored pencils (Prismalo by Carandache). Finally, after scanning it I worked digitally with Photoshop. The shells are a digital collage of my photographs.
Have you done illustrations for any children’s magazines?
Yes, in Argentina I worked for García Ferré’s magazine “Anteojito” and for women’s magazine called “Mia” by “Editorial Perfil”.
Above and the four below are illustrations made for a collective exposition in honor to the Grimm brothers, the story I had to illustrate was “All-kinds-of-fur” (is that the translation in English for Bestia Peluda?) – 2012 Buenos Aires International Book Fair.
Have you done any work for educational publishers?
Yes, I worked for many educational Publishers illustrating pedagogical texts.
What is the one thing in your studio that you could not live without?
Uh, one? Just one? I cannot work without good light or without music. And, by all means, I am very careful to have the right and best materials to work… If I must choose just a single item, that is a good, well-sharpened pencil.
Do you try to spend a specific amount of time working on your craft?
In theory, I try to… but in practice, I can´t always do so. I generally work at night. I like it when everyone at home is asleep. I do burn the midnight oil.
Do you have an agent?
I do not have an agent. And yes, I would love to have one that could make my work known worldwide and sell it for me.
Do you take pictures or do any types of research before you start a project?
I am also a photographer. It is a great advantage that today we have easy access to document everything that we like or calls our attention. When I began to study humoristic drawing, the professors encouraged us to have a file with cut-outs and photos of things that helped us draw, for example: things from the field and from the city, examples of animals and of different leaves and plants. Today, everything is a click away and we must do research before we begin to draw.
Do you think the Internet has opened doors for you?
Absolutely! Today, you can be reached from anywhere and everywhere in the world.
Do you use Photoshop or Corel Painter with your illustrations?
I use both. They are the absolute key to my work.
Do you own or have you used a Graphic Drawing Tablet in your illustrating?
A long time ago, I believe in 1998, I bought my first Wacom tablet. Today, I cannot work without it!
Do you have any career dreams that you want to fulfill?
Yes, indeed… there’s always a goal ahead.
What are you working on now?
I am working on a new book and a complete project to take to FIL de Guadalajara, and on personalized illustrations that my clients have ordered.
Do you have any material type tips you can share with us? Example: Paint or paper that you love – the best place to buy – a new product that you’ve tried – A how to tip, etc.
In animation I learned to sketch with blue pencil, Prismacolor Col-Erase is the brand, which has become almost an addiction to me as I can no longer sketch without them. The idea is to make all the necessary lines and scribbles in blue and then clean up the definitive lines with a black pencil.
There are some drawings that I like better in their primary state of sketch, and sometimes I decide “not to remark them with pencil or ink” and even let them without paint.
Any words of wisdom on how to become a successful writer or illustrator?
I really don’t know how to be a successful writer or illustrator, but I do know that a great part of our learning takes place as we observe, and perfection is reached through practice.
The more you feed your senses, the better you tell the story.
In reality, writers and illustrators are devoted to tell, to convey something. Nobody can do this successfully, unless they know it and feel it deeply from within. Last but not least, it is important to demand respect and value for our work so that our profession keeps growing strong.
Thank you Ines for taking the time to share your process and journey with us. We look forward to hearing about your future successes.
To see more of Ines’ illustrations you can visit her at:
Some of the joy of travel is when I return home and share the fun and stories with my friends and family.
On this trip though, it occurred to me that I really didn’t have a home to come back to. Not the kind of home that I had always had. This thought kept me traveling for much longer that I had planned and would take me around the world. It was in the space of time when I left the plan behind that I realized home is no longer a place, but resides in my heart. And the heart, while fragile, has an infinite capacity for love.
Some trips shape me. Some trips change me. Some trips transform me. Some trips have affected my family and friends. And sometimes, the stories I tell and the gifts I give have reached beyond those I know and love. Far beyond anything I could have ever imagined.
This is the story of the bracelet.
Wherever I was, whether in the countryside on the outskirts of Melbourne, trekking the Himalayas, in the jungles of Java or on the shores of the Bali Sea, I had my eye out for little treasures. Unique gifts I could bring back for friends and family. As I was backpacking through the world, portability was key.
In Kalibaru on the island of Java I found and purchased a handful of beautiful handmade bracelets. For the next sixty days they would travel with me all over the world. When I returned to the U.S. I gave one to my very good friend. She loved the bracelet so much she never took it off. It stayed on her wrist as she journeyed to Wales and then to Africa.
The bracelet (photo credit: A. Burrows)
And it found its way to a little village in northern Tanzania where a tribe of Maasai lived. The women of the village made bracelets to help support their families. The Maasai women surrounded my friend when they saw her bracelet. The idea of using different-sized beads on the same bracelet never occurred to them. The type of beads captivated them. The way the bracelet fastened was a curiosity. This gave the Maasai women lots of ideas about bracelets and their future designs. My friend bought one of their bracelets and when she returned home, she gave the bracelet to me.
And through my friend and the bracelet and the Maasi women, my home just got a little bit bigger.
So often in life we think that the little things we do don’t matter. We discount our influence or even our own significance, at times. But the biggest things we do can be the smallest. A smile. A joke. A well-timed call. A small gift. A simple treasure. The little things your heart whispers can bring so much joy to the world.
Who doesn’t enjoy a well-drawn curmudgeon? Children’s books are rife with them. From dour Eeyore moping about the Hundred Acre Wood to the irritable Mary Poppins, they come in all shapes and species. Proudly singular, such cantankerous characters are invariably exasperating, endearing and entertaining all at the same time. And now along comes Jennifer L. Holm with a doozy. Best known for her works of historical fiction, three of which have won Newbery Honors (“Our Only May Amelia,” “Penny From Heaven,” “Turtle in Paradise”), and the graphic novel series “Babymouse,” Holm uses a surprising twist to bring us a particularly memorable grouch in her latest, “The Fourteenth Goldfish.”
That’s the beginning of my very enthusiastic review of The Fourteenth Goldfish in this weekend’s New York Times Book Review. Read the rest of it here.
Today I purged a forest of paper from my files and finished setting up a nifty new filing system that has me squeeing a bit. I spent hours on this project over the past three days, but the funny thing is that right now, as I look around the room, I can’t see any difference: all the change is inside closed drawers. But now there will be much less chance of those drawers disgorging their contents across the flat surfaces of this room. Invisible or not, it’s a mighty satisfying development.
Tonight some of us are headed to a friend’s house for a group reading of The Importance of Being Earnest. Promises to be fun.
I’ll be spending part of the weekend prepping for a talk I’ve been asked to give on Monday night, about habits and scheduling and atmosphere. It’s going to be here at the house, since part of the idea is to see us in our habitat (warts and all). I promised myself to do only ordinary cleaning, nothing extraordinary, because I want to give a really true impression of what everyday life is like. (The overhauled files live in my room, where my visitors are unlikely to go, so although my efforts in that department may well qualify as extraordinary—maybe a once-a-decade event for me—it doesn’t count as a breach of my aforementioned promise to myself.)
Was going to add a photo (of what, I know not), but it’s time to head out for our Wilde reading!
For most language learners and lovers, translation is a hot topic. Should I translate new vocabulary into my first language? How can I say x in Japanese? Is this translated novel as good as the original? I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve been told that Pushkin isn’t Pushkin unless he’s read in Russian, and I have definitely chastised my own students for anxiously writing out lengthy bilingual wordlists: Paola, you’ll only remember trifle if you learn it in context!
Context-based learning aside, I’m all for translation: without it, we wouldn’t understand each other. However, I remain unconvinced that untranslatable words really exist. In fact, I wrote a blog post on some of my favorite Russian words that touched on this very topic. Looking at the responses it received both here and in the Twitterverse, I decided to set out on my own linguistic odyssey: could I wrap my head around ‘untranslatable’ once and for all?
It’s all Greek to me!
Many lovely people of the internet are in accordance: untranslatable words are out there, and they’re fascinating. A quick Google brings up articles, listicles, and even entire blogs on the matter. Goya, jayus, dépaysement — all wonderful words that neatly convey familiar concepts, but also “untranslatable” words that appear accompanied by an English definition. This English definition may well be longer and more complex than the foreign-language word itself (Oxford translates dépaysement as both “change of scenery” and “disorientation,” for example), but it is arguably a translation nonetheless. A lot of the coffee-break reads popping up on the internet don’t contain untranslatable words, but rather language lacking a word-for-word English equivalent. Is a translation only a translation if it is eloquent and succinct?
Translation vs. definition
When moving from one language to another, what’s a translation and what’s a definition — and is there a difference? Brevity seems to matter: the longer the translation, the more likely it is to be considered a definition. Does this make it any less of a translation? When we translate, we “express sense;” when we define, we “state or describe exactly the nature, scope, or meaning.” If I say that toska (Russian) means misery, boredom, yearning, and anguish, is that a definition or a translation? Or even both? It is arguably a definition — yet all of the nouns above could, dependent on context, be used as the best translation.
If we are to talk about what is translatable and what isn’t, we need to start talking about language, rather than words. The Spanish word duende often features in lists of untranslatable words: it refers to the mystical power by which an artist or artwork captivates its audience. Have I just defined duende, or translated it? I for one am not so sure anymore, but I do know that in context, its meaning is clear: un cantante que tiene duende becomes “a singer who has a certain magic about him.” The same goes for the French word dépaysement. By itself, dépaysement can mean many things, but in the phrase les touristes anglais recherchent le dépaysement dans les voyages dans les îles tropicales, it’s clear from context that the sense required is “change of scene” (“English tourists look for a change of scene on holidays to tropical islands”). Does this mean that all words are translatable, as long they are in context?
Saying no to stereotypes
One of my biggest beefs with untranslatable word memes is the suggestion that these linguistic treasure troves are loaded with cultural inferences. Most of the time they’re twee, rather than offensive: for example, the German word Waldeinsamkeit means “the feeling of being alone in the woods.” Gosh, how typical of those woodland-loving Germans, wandering around the Black Forest enjoying oneness with nature! The existence of an “untranslatable” word hints at some kind of cultural mystery that is beyond our comprehension — but does the lack of a word-for-word translation of Waldeinsamskeit mean that no English speaker (or French speaker, or Mandarin speaker) can understand the concept of being alone in the woods? Of course not! However, these misinterpretations of Waldeinsamskeit, Schadenfreude, Backpfeifengesicht et al. make me think: what about those words that really do have a particular cultural resonance? Can we really translate them?
Excuse me, can I borrow your word?
Specialized translation throws up its own variety of “untranslatable” words. For example, if you are translating a text about the Russian banya into a language where steam baths are not the norm, how do you go about translating nouns such as venik (веник)? A venik is a broom, but in the context of the banya it is a collection of leafy twigs (rather than dried twigs) that is used to beat those enjoying the restorative steam. Translating venik as “broom” here would be wildly inaccurate (and probably generate some amusing mental images). The existence of a word-for-word translation doesn’t provide the whole answer if cultural context is missing. We can find examples of “untranslatable” words in relation to almost any culture-specific event, be it American Thanksgiving, Spanish bullfighting, or Balinese Nyepi. If I were to translate an article about bullfighting and retain tienta rather than use “trial” (significantly less specific), does that mean that tienta in this context is really untranslatable?
So what has all this research taught me about translation? Individual words may not be translatable, but language is. And as for the accuracy of the translation? That often depends on how we, as speakers of a particular language, attribute our own meaning. Sometimes, the “translation” just has to be Schadenfreude.
Sheffield Museums have had funding for an exciting new festival this year, called Drawing the Summer. It's all about getting people to draw: everyone and anyone, especially encouraging those who don't normally do it, to have a go.
It's such a great idea - there are so many people out there who secretly want to draw, but who lack the confidence, or just the time in their busy lives, to get out some paper and justtry.
As well as lots of practical hands-on events, there are also some great exhibitions on, to tie in with the festival: the Recording Britain Nowshow in the Millennium Gallery is wonderful - really exciting and varied new work by artists shortlisted for the 2014 Ruskin prize. There is also an excellent series of lithographs from 1916 by Joseph Pennell at The Graves. They bowled me over!
OurDrawing the Summer base-camp was a big table set up with drawing boards and stools, pencils, A3 paper and a big box of coloured pencils. We strung a washing-line up too, so we could peg up drawings. We had two lovely big banners, but it was so windy, we couldn't use them. Hence all the multiple pegs above!
We grabbed any passers-by, to ask if they fancied stopping and doing a sketch. There was plenty to draw: as well as all the extremely varied architecture, Tudor Square has a couple of table-tennis tables set up for the summer months so, to get the ball rolling, I had a go at sketching some of the different people who stopped for a while, to play:
We clocked 80 people during the 2.5 hours we were set up, but my favourite was this man, who said he had never drawn before, but who sat for about an hour, very carefully drawing a complex view of the buildings, which turned out really well. I think he was astonished at what he'd achieved.
Many people took their work home, some gave it to us to peg up on the line. Some people asked for help and advice, which was where I came in, but mostly they just got stuck in. I obviously had my sketch gear too, so when I wasn't needed, I drew alongside them, hoping to attract attention and perhaps to inspire. This was one view from our table:
The older kids were lovely to watch: we had various families with children, often around 8 - 11 years old. In an age of short attention-spans, it was interesting to see how well the act of drawing focussed them. They sat, totally absorbed, for around an hour at a time and created drawings which were strong and confident.
One very interesting thing I noticed: the Crucible and The Old Monk pub in Tudor square have prominent lettering. Adults always started by drawing the shapes of the buildings and then added in the typography afterwards, so invariably ran out of space for the letters. The children all started by drawing the lettering, then created the building shapes around the words, so that everything fitted. A curious difference.
There are still lots of events to go, between now and September 10th, in fact there is another very similar event tomorrow (Sunday 24th) at Weston Park, so you too could have a go. Whether you are an experienced sketcher or a complete beginner, it'll be fun. And if you really don't want to draw yourself, there are still some excellent talks and demonstrations you will enjoy. Check out the Events Guide and look for the yellow pencil icon.
Italian fanzine Fumettologica has made an English transcript of their interview with Milo Manara available, and offered it to run at The Beat. And it’s…a thing. Like I’ve been saying all along, Manara is Manara and he can draw all the butts in thew air he wants. However, he trots out every bingo card argument there is, from “men are sexualized too!’ to blaming this on the spread of Islam (????!!!!!????). Also women evolved to be sexy.
Also censorship is a red herring here. The issue is a MARKETING one, and I still haven’t seen anyone address that from Tom Breevort on.
I must say, I like the idea of Spider-women advancing like a jaguar. Perhaps focusing on her rump was not the best way to convey this concept.
All that said, this Spider-Woman variant has now become a symbol for many things. It really isn’t just about her butt any more.
Fumettologica: How do you interpret the debate generated by your cover?
MANARA: Reading on the internet, I saw that the criticisms have two different motivations. One is the sexy and erotic side, the other is the anatomical error. Now, about the incompetence in the drawing I do not know what to say. Let’s say I’ve tried to do my best for 40 years. Nobody is perfect, and I may be wrong; simply put, I’m a professional, doing the best I can.
On the erotic side, however, I found it a bit ‘amazing. Apart from the fact that there is a mandatory thing that I have to start by saying: it seems to me that both in the United States and around the world there are things much more important and serious to worry about. The events at Ferguson, or the drama of the Ebola. That there are people getting angry for things like that … Unless there is, these days, a hypersensitivity to more or less erotic images, due to this ongoing confrontation that we are supposed to have with Islam. It’s known that the censorship of the female form should not be a feature of our own Western civilization. This is what I find also quite surprising.
QUESTION: The main criticism to your picture – although not new, neither in discussions about comics nor in your work – is that it represents a woman who is the ‘object’ of sexual desire, through a shape and a pose that is provocative, not very ‘natural ‘
MANARA: “What I wanted to do is a girl who, after climbing the wall of a skyscraper, is crawling over the roof. She finds herself on the edge, and her right leg is still off the roof. So the criticism about anatomical issues that were made, I think they are wrong: she’s not to have both knees on the roof. One leg is still down, and the other is pulling up. Precisely for this reason, also, then this back arched. This is what I tried to do”.
That said, it’s not my fault if women are like that. I’m only drawing them. It’s not me who made women that way: is an author much more “important”, for those who believe … For evolutionists, including me, on the other hand, women’s bodies have taken this form over the millennia in order to avoid the ‘extinction of the species, in fact. If women were made exactly as men, with the same shape, I think we would have already been extinct for a long time.
Also, I do not consider it one of the covers most erotic I’ve done. I think I have chosen, out of all the poses imaginable – and the proof is there, if one goes on the Internet, where I documented myself, to see all the photos of Spider-Woman – the one that is , even framing, less problematic . If fact the view is a bit from above. You do not see hardly anything. We see only that she has an ass, drawn this way. And it’s a girl with a nice ass, indeed, at least from my point of view.
That’s the way Superheroes are: they are naked, covered in whatever color of paint. Superman is naked painted blue, Spider-Man is naked painted red and blue, and Spider-Woman is painted red. But that’s part of the “trick”, so to speak, that publishers use to create these forms of superheroes nude – of which I do not find anything wrong – but without real nudity. When we see them later in the stories, going beyond the cover, these are characters whose bodies are “in view”.
QUESTION: In addition to the form, however, it’s also the position. Don’t you see it as something provocative, if not problematic, in itself?
MANARA: It is actually a girl who is crawling, or rather, advancing at the pace of the jaguar. After climbing the wall of the building, she is pulling herself on the roof of this building. That’s how I see it. Sure, of course, since women are built in a certain way, any movement they make, if they are nude … and to some degree, more or less, all super heroines are naked. And this cover isn’t any different. And Spider-Woman is not gonna be sitting in a chair, right? But if one goes on the internet to see all the other images of the character, there are many far more erotic, and if they were naked, they would be more vulgar than what I did. Instead, as we know, this leotard, this – let’s say – ‘colored plastic wrap’ is what saves all appearances.
QUESTION: The debate remains open, however, and very timely. To add an item to the discussion, there’s also the intervention of the vice president of publishing at Marvel, Tom Brevoort, who said ” It’s, for a Manara piece, one of the less sexualized ones, at least to my eye. Maybe others feel differently.
But given that the character is covered head-to-toe, and is crouched in a spider-like pose, it seems far less exploitative to me than other Manara pieces we’ve run in previous months and years. (…) I think a conversation about how women are depicted in comics is relevant at this point, and definitely seems to be bubbling up from the zeitgeist.”
It seems that this cover has come at a time when even in the comic field there is a somehow new sensitivity: it’s not acceptable anymore to see some excesses in the ‘provocative’ representation of women.
MANARA: I can understand, of course. As I also understand people who have felt offended. But I understand in the sense that it suddenly opens my eyes, and I have to acknowledge that what I think is a beautiful picture, nice, attractive, seductive – that is exactly my purpose, or what I want to achieve – for others it is disturbing. But this is something that I have to face every time I. And by the way it keeps surprising me more and more.
If you go to the beaches now, you see girls whose scanty swimwear totally let see the shapes of their bodies. Of course, for someone that can be an image that is disturbing, but not for me. In fact, I’m sorry, but my aim – when I’m asked to draw – is trying to communicate serenity, more than seduction.
QUESTION: What has struck some commentators and writers – Dan Slott for example – is that we have raised so much amazement on a job perfectly in synch with your extensive career, which is known to everyone. Others have instead asked why all this has happened with one of your drawings and not others, suggesting how in your touch there is a graphic load that, for better or worse, makes the strongest erotic impact of the bodies you draw.
MANARA: If that were so, it would be a great compliment. I tend to believe that maybe I was already in the crosshairs of some commentators or bloggers who have seized the opportunity, even though it wasn’t the most convincing one, to raise such a problem. I understand the controversy over the fact that the use of women bodies is a sensitive issue. And I couldn’t agree more on the fact that the female body should not be used in advertising, for example, to sell … silicone sealant. The thing that I do not agree is not so much the fact that these images are erotic, but the fact that they are banal. Everyone is capable of assign beautiful image to any product: it is clear that you transfer to your product the beauty of that image. A trick so trivial that I find cloying. But when it comes to draw a character in red tights, whose line of work is skyscraper crawling, I see no scandal in the fact of drawing her in a seductive way. Because I imagine that’s how she is.
I don’t know if this character will also become a movie, but it does, I think they would have their sweet problems to make her do what Spider-Man does (frame her in the same vicissitudes and athletic performance and so on) without her becoming seductive. If she’s played by an actress endowed with an ass, it is clear that her ass will be seen. I0m reminded that her tights are “painted on” … I also noticed that some website says that more than a suit, what you see in my drawing, it’s body painting. It’s true. Sure it is. But because it is so in all the superhero comics: These tights are painted on them. You don’t see a crease, a wrinkle. You read the muscles perfectly.
I’m not so convinced, though, by the last part of the controversy. That is, those who accuse Marvel that while trying to take a stab at capturing the female audience, by using a cover of that kind, they’re commissioning it to me, an artist who, you know, has a male audience. I totally reject this. My audience is at least 50% female. I know it for a fact because when I go to festivals, and I see the queue of those who put themselves in line to get signed books, there are more women than men. Therefore, I also reject the notion that the celebration of the female body interests only to males: I do not think so.
Ah, there’s also those who insinuate the whole controversy is manufactured on purpose. I can only say I did not know anything until I was informed about it. If anything, from my point of view, I have to congratulate Marvel, who showed respect for a drawing that, as horrible as it might be, no one asked me to do any kind of change. I do not think it was worse than others, or more scandalous than others. And in front of an image of seduction I feel joy, not repulsion.
QUESTION: The author of the regular cover, Greg Land, it’s been noted that he is known to sometimes use photos of porn actresses to draw poses in his comics.
MANARA: I wasn’t aware of that. I respect very much Land as a draftsman. I see that he is one of the most realistic, and I assumed that he used models, but that he traced pictures of that kind, that I did not know. Unless it’s not just unsubstantiated slander? I like his art because it has a certain evocative power, sometimes strong, impressive, so he’s among the ones I like. I have seen, anyhow, that some have given anatomy lessons to him too. You never stop learning.
And anyway, I have to say this: the last thing I want is “épater les bourgeois” (shock the bourgeoisie), or offend someone. I just want to make something seductive that provides five minutes of relaxation. It’s all there is. The reason why I agreed to do some covers for Marvel when they asked me is because I think that in some remote farm in Maine or Oregon there was anyone who would read these comics, perhaps saying “ah, what a beautiful girl “. It’s all there is. I’d be more than satisfied if such a thing were to happen. But I do not think a design like the one on the cover of Spider-Woman could have masturbatory consequences. I do not think; it must be seductive, and I’ll do my best for it to be that way. As I said, the perspective that I chose – I have not framed her from behind, from beneath, etc. – is from above. And from height you see her sinuous back and you see her two buttocks. But it is not what you see, it’s what you know.
I’m tempted to circle back to the beginning: I think there are other things to worry about. but if you please, however, one last thing. To date I have not heard from Marvel (these days there are some communication difficulties, but I think I’ll hear from them soon, next week). But it seems to me that this cover has not yet been published. This is to say that it may well be that Marvel, seeing these controversies, withdraws it and does not publish it. Who knows, maybe we are talking about nothing: Marvel decides not to publish it so then it’s “goodnight to the bucket” (Italian expression that means “and then we’re screwed”). In any event, just for completeness, I remember that they asked me to enlarge a little bit the costume of one of those covers. So in general, if they have any objections, they tell me. And I concur: since the responsibility is theirs, it is their right to be cautios. Furthermore, it’s the American market, so whatever… Also, I was given this assignment 3-4 months ago. It was and remains only a celebration of the body, without any manipulation. I’d understand if they were real girls, forced to do things they do not want to do, for commercial purposes. But it’s just drawings, santa pazienza (holy patience).”