Mark Siegel Promotes Comics in Minneapolis

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I’ve known for awhile that First Second’s Editorial Director Mark Siegel would come to Minneapolis this winter. Until he arrived, I didn’t understand why.

Minneapolis, I now know, was the second stop on his “goodwill tour” (my words). Siegel is meeting with booksellers, organizers, librarians and students in an effort to promote comics readership and by extension First Second Books.

He’s reaching out to the people who matter in the comics world who we rarely talk about — the connectors.  People who are positioned to take comics seriously and bring new readers to the medium.  His travels have taken him to Seattle and Minneapolis so far.

Siegel’s tour may lead to other cities, I didn’t get his full itinerary, but I know he spent nearly a week in Minneapolis:

I attended a Thursday dinner where representatives from local bookstores, reading groups, writing centers and universities were present.  I see that he’s really reaching out; hopefully making a big impression on our local literary scene and reigniting excitement and interest in the graphic novel.

On Friday his time was spent largely with the folks at the Minneapolis College of Art & Design (MCAD), talking with seniors during the day and at night giving a presentation on graphic novels to a packed house.  The talk was sponsored by Rain Taxi (a literary magazine that also reviews comics and runs the Rain Taxi Festival of Books), MCAD and Big Brain Comics.

Saturday he delivered a talk on graphic novels to the Children’s Literature Network, an event that targeted librarians and educators and discussed comic editing and publishing at the Loft Literary Center.

Monday he stopped by comic shops around town, including Dreamhaven (closed, unfortunately) and The Source Comics & Games, and ran a workshop on creating graphic novels through the Minnesota Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators.

Tuesday he met with a group of public librarians through the Metropolitan Library Service Agency (MELSA), a library group that includes the majority of the metro area’s public libraries — including Hennepin County Library, one of the top library systems in the nation.

I was able to attend his talk at MCAD and have transcribed parts of it below.

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Interview: John Porcellino at MIX [Audio]

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I had a long conversation about interviews last weekend. At some point I suggested that, if the interviewee says something along the lines of “this is going to sound crazy” or “I shouldn’t be saying this,” you’re probably doing something right. It’s not about tripping someone up so much as witnessing the on-the-spot formation of thoughts.

Canned answers are for politicians and movie stars. Good interviews are organic, and sometimes, if you’re lucky, you can witness a person rethink an idea they’ve clearly been over a million times in their brain.

You’re lucky if you can get that out of a John Porcellino—not because he’s not thinking, of course, but rather because he’s clearly examined his own motives ad nauseam, since launching King-Cat Comics in the late-80s. But what began as a casual conversation in front of an intimate crowd at last weekend’s Minneapolis Indie Expo, ended in some fascinating revelations about everything from factory work to Zen Buddhism.

The interview began, fittingly enough, rather casually, the audience still chatting, largely unaware that we had begun—that probably doesn’t come across in this recording, since the mics are so close to Porcellino and myself, but I think it’s an important to point out.

The full audio of the interview is available as a stream or download, just click the linked title below. Special thanks to Sarah M. for recording us. More interviews from MIX will be available in the coming weeks.

BH

John Porcellino in conversation with Brian Heater

Minneapolis Indie Xpo Exhibitors on Parade

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Check out some of the great artwork and projects you can expect to see at MIX 2010!

The Minneapolis Indie Xpo has run out of exhibitor space, but you can still attend! Fun and adventure! Minneapolis, ahoy! Admission is free.

MIX will take place on Saturday, August 21, 9am-5pm. Please join us for the kickoff party and signing at Big Brain Comics on Friday, August 20, and for the after-party at Altered Esthetics on Saturday, August 21. Details to follow.

Sarah Morean

Comicopolis and Minneapolis

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Like Timmy Williams, I’m from South Dakota. It’s the kind of state where, if a comics event gets billed anywhere within driving distance, you’re obliged to show up because it might be the last one you’ll ever see. Right now, the biggest thing SD has going for it is Chris Browne (Hagar the Horrible). When Mr. Browne RSVPs for an event in Sioux Falls, you show up. When a high school has its own comic book convention, you go and buy every bad manga-inspired mini. When Scott McCloud makes a 50 state tour, you thank the lord.

This was my upbringing. So when I moved to the comparatively exciting metropolis of Minneapolis two years ago, I did so with the understanding that my new community of cartoonists might supply me with a wider range of slightly less pathetic comics-centric events to attend.  I was thrilled.

Yes, I knew my schedule would fill up a bit more than usual, but lately I can’t get a break from it all.  When one comics show closes (Big Funny), another one opens (Comicopolis), and while a big anthology project is taking off (Lutefisk Sushi), another one is winding down (The City Pages Comix Issue). These cartoonists are keeping me on my feet, and really, I’m tired of it. I don’t know how New York copes.  When do those people see their families?

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Zinefest: the only good party I ever threw

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Toby Jones and Madeline Queripel

Toby Jones and Madeline Queripel

Two years ago, I began coordinating the Twin Cities Zinefest.  It’s a small, two-day DIY craft, culture and self-publishing festival in Minneapolis that offers affordable table space to exhibitors and often includes an art show, concert, workshops, documentaries and an open mic zine reading.

Throughout its history, the Twin Cities Zinefest has often been run by well-intentioned, creative coordinators with busy lives.  It’s a model that is about as independent as its cause, since the coordinator has about as much free reign as any exhibitor making a zine.  There’s no board, or committee, and hardly any volunteers.  So it’s pretty common that after a couple years running the fest, whoever’s in charge just burns out or moves on to persue their own personal projects.

When I took over Zinefest in 2008, I didn’t have much guidance from the previous event coordinators.  I mostly consulted with friends, visited other conventions, and tried to pick apart the attitude and events that make a good convention.

For better or worse, you can blame dumb luck for what happens at most cons, but there’s still a lot to be said for a maintaining and executing a well-oiled plan with core values when you’re organizing any public event.  A con can change enormously depending on the strengths of its location and place on the calendar, but I’ve developed some general, useful ideas about conventions that other DIY, book and comic festival coordinators might want to hear.

As far as I know, there is no convention for convention planners, so we’re all pretty much going on old steam or starting from scratch, which is why I think “how to create a better convention” is a conversation that’s long over-due and well worth having, so I’m starting it now.

I’m sharing with you some of my ideas about what makes a good show, in hopes that other small press events consider my arguments, re-think old standards, and usher in a more exciting age of print-loving festivals.

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Beautiful, Cool, and Irreplaceable by Will Dinski

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Beautiful, Cool, and Irreplaceable
By Will Dinski
Self-Published

Among the lessons that can still be learned from the works F. Scott Fitzgerald is the fact that melodrama and literature need not be mutually exclusive forces, a concept sometimes overlooked in this age of daytime soaps and Danielle Steel paperbacks. In the proper hands, hyperbolic characters and plot points can be an effective tools in spinning a story, without edging too far into the world of self-parody.

Will Dinski has seemingly learned a lot from his fellow Minnesotan, taking a page or two out of Fitzgerald’s character playbook in the crafting of Beautiful, Cool, and Irreplaceable’s cast. They’re rich, they’re troubled, and they possess a propensity for passionate embraces. On a surface level, the character interaction that comprises the majority of the book unfolds like standard soap opera fair. In fact, early on the book, it’s difficult to gauge just how seriously Dinski expects us to take their problems. Surely the average reader of a self-published indie comic must have some difficulty conjuring up the proper empathy for the shallow relationship problems befalling successful movie stars.

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