“You two are GETTING MARRIED??? Oh man, I LOVE being married!!!”
Long story short, we took a detour on our way back home last night and ended up at a bar with Lynda Barry, Dan, and a bunch of other nice Oberlin folks, talking about marriage, writing, world-building, video games, ink sticks, George Saunders, smoking, and Skoal rings.
Lynda gave a downright marvelous talk and reading of her novel CRUDDY to a packed lecture hall at the Oberlin Science Center. “I feel like this must be the Make A Wish Foundation,” she said, admiring the audience. “I have a tumor right?”
Lynda lives in rural, southern Wisconsin. “I’m the daughter of a meat cutter and a Filipino house cleaner. Most people look at me funny when I say I’m half Filipino, but Norwegian blood will suck the color out of anything.”
There was little talk of comics, and a lot of talk about writing. For her, telling a story in images is the most important thing. “When you’re in that image state, the language takes care of itself.” She outlined a process of telling the story of your life with an image–a car, for example–focusing on that image, and then describing the world around it. I mentioned to her my ideas about worldbuilding and she said, “People ask me if my stories are autobiographical. I say, ‘my stories aren’t, but my settings are.'”
She talked about “the state of play,” and the importance of play in our creative endeavors. “I love kids, man. They can teach us so much.” She said its essential to recapture that youthful, unfettered creativity that we all possess as children. On English class: “There’s nothing wrong with taking apart stories, but for the longest time I thought that was how you put them together.” On that pesky editing monkey on the writer’s shoulder: “When did the asshole become the voice of reason?”
She’s wary of computers and a champion of drawing and writing by hand. “In the digital age…don’t lose your digits!” She said when writing her second novel, the computer was a burden, making it too easy to delete things. After ten years of working on it, she decided to start writing the novel with her Japanese brush, and it worked like magic.
Later on, I told her I worked on the computer to do my woodcut-styled comics. “Yeah, but you use a Wacom tablet,” she said, “so at least you’re still drawing.”
I mentioned to her that James Kochalka, another great cartoonist, also emphasizes the importance of play, but that his emphasis comes from his love of video games. “I don’t know about video games, man. But I trust young people. That many young people can’t be wrong.”
What else can I tell you about the woman? She spent an hour signing books and talking with her fans. She likes to sing. She can even sing with her mouth closed.