I have always been drawn to mythology, history, story and archetypes. Anything in that realm will always catch my attention. Some of my favorite reads on the subject are by Joseph Campbell, Carl Jung, Christopher Vogler and Clarissa Estes. I love the personal interpretation each adds with their own insights and interpretation of the machinations behind the veil of story — of life, really. The more I learn about story and the hero’s journey in writing, the more I see it mirrored in my life. And that is ultimately why it endures and is so powerful.
As I progressed on my own journey — like the heroes in these tales — I came to a place where I was in need of a mentor/guide/supernatural aide to go any further. I managed to find an incredible mentor in Andy Schmidt, founder and creator of the Comics Experience program.
The very first class I took with Andy was Introduction to Comic Book Writing. I watched the course open and close for enrollment twice before I got the nerve to sign up. I look back on that class and think of all the things that could have given me an excuse to bail.
I felt like I was on different planet than the other kids in the class. Most were looking to pursue careers with the big two, and I didn’t even know what the big two were at that point. Others had these fantastic and elaborate, wild sci-fi stories they were burning to tell as indie writers. And then there was me: a mom, a social worker, and completely clueless about anything relating to comics. But like my classmates, I had a deep desire to tell a story.
And then there was Andy. I don’t know what I expected, but it wasn’t what I got. As the class unfolded, he was genuinely interested in my life as a social worker, in the fact that my husband and I adopted our oldest child out of the foster care system, and about parenting and navigating the world of social services. And the greatest part for me was that he didn’t dismiss my ideas as completely bonkers. He was gracious, encouraging and — best of all — he had a wealth of knowledge about his craft that he happily shared. I learned so much. In that first class I wrote a five-page story about a foster mother who died and her spirit stayed to help grieving parents and babies that had passed.
The experience of telling that simple, short story was genuinely cathartic. I had been running around with bits and pieces of that story for so long. I had a compulsion to tell this story, but I lacked the tools to put it together. When I started gathering up notes to write it, I was shocked at how much time I had spent on this one little story.
I was so excited after I wrote it and had it illustrated that when that story came to life it freed up this huge space in my mind. I had told my tale and set it free into the ether of myth. Of course once that story was free, another began to gather around the edges. Thankfully there were more classes to take.
And I had so much more to learn. Over the next several years I took many writing and art classes in the Comics Experience program. Steadily, I learned about the industry and the process in a holistic way. I had come into the industry as an outsider, and through this program I learned enough, as they say, to be dangerous.
I finally ended up working with Andy directly as a mentor on my current project. One of the happiest days of my life was when he called to say he liked my script and I had something here. My e-mail to him with the script attached had said something to the effect of, “I appreciate your encouragement and tutelage, but I have reached a point where I need to know if this is a thing. Please tell me if I need a new hobby because I don’t know if I can fundamentally do better than this.”
I was being ridiculous, but I had worked so hard and really needed a reality check before going onto the next steps, finding an artist, production, pitching, etc.
Andy was great though. He said the value of his experience was in his honesty, and that he would be doing a disservice to both of us if he were anything other than objectively critical of my project. And he said I didn’t need to find a new pastime … at least not yet. He said he really enjoyed the story and saw its potential … which was was immediately followed up with twelve pages of notes on things that I needed to fix. But at the heart of his message: I finally had a real story and one worth pursing.
I have truly felt called to tell this story — for reasons bigger than me. And in answer to that call, I have worked hard for a long time and continue to do so. But I couldn’t have done it on my own. And Andy gave me the tools to do something I could not figure out on my own.
The Comics Experience program took me from a comic consumer with wild ideas and no clues, to a creator. And for that I will be forever grateful.