Karen Romano Young

From the desk: Doodlebug: My Novel in Doodles and Humanimal Doodles, a science comic in print and on the web.

Friday, October 28, 2011

My Hero

The Invention of Hugo Cabret was written and illustrated by Brian Selznick. The movie is coming out soon; here's the trailer.

This book changed my attitude toward books, and made me realize that the way I think might actually be okay.

And, when I heard an interview with Brian, something he said changed my attitude toward my work, and made me realize that the way I feel when I'm working was maybe also okay.

If you haven't read this amazing book -- not just read it or flipped through it but looked at it and absorbed it and Brian's purpose start to finish -- I wish that you would give it a try.

When I began writing novels I found that I hardly ever wrote a scene longer than three pages, and I didn't quite understand why until my editor, Virginia Duncan, suggested that I envisioned my story as movie scenes. Yes -- I see it and hear it and my purpose in writing it is simply to make it move.

So I was fascinated to discover Hugo Cabret, a story whose illustrations reveal that Brian Selznick's vision is a movie and that, rather than only writing it down, he showed it in drawings intended to provide a similar view to that provided by a camera. Brian's pencil drawings deepen that view, making his story and its characters seem immediate, tangible, and deeply personal.

There's no direct connection between Brian's work and mine, other than the affirmation that someone who does things differently, staying faithful to his own way of seeing, can succeed, and can even expand the idea of how stories can be told.

In recent months I've been learning about transmedia storytelling -- using different digital and other modern media to involve people in stories in all kinds of ways, not only through reading. On Tuesday night at a meet up of Transmedia NYC, I heard Frank Rose, author of The Art of Immersion: How the Digitial Generation Is Remaking Hollywood, Madison Avenue, and the Way We Tell Stories, Frank talked with Nathan Golding about zombies taking over Boston in the style of Orson Welles' War of the Worlds. And he showed examples of how people through history have feared what might happen if we got too deeply immersed in stories told through, say, reading, radio, and television. Now, once again, some are concerned that people experiencing stories through social networking, gaming, and other internet-based media may lose their grasp on reality.

My personal so-called transmedia focus is on using graphic elements such as comics and drawings and nonlinear, visual presentations of fiction and nonfiction. For me, Brian Selznick's work is an example of the fresh, new vision of what stories can be. And, though I'm nervous about what I'm doing, I remember something I heard Brian say to Horn Book editor Roger Sutton, and it soothes my spirit.

During the interview, on the floor at the American Library Association annual conference, Sutton asked Selznick how winning the Caldecott Award for Hugo Cabret had changed things for him. Selznick said that he had been terrified the whole time he was working on Hugo, sometimes fearing he couldn't go on. Now he realized that this terror was where he needed to be in his work, because that feeling assured him that he was pushing himself into new territory.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

A Birthday Doodle for Herbie Hippocampus

I'm a total fool for aquariums. It's the light. It's the fish. It's the smell. It's irresistible. I've been known to work

for aquariums free, or almost free, risking life, limb and reputation to get the ocean word out to the masses.

Gone are the days when I drove coolers full of live crabs around the state, bringing "touch tanks" to schools on behalf of the Maritime Aquarium in Norwalk, Connecticut.

Here are the days when I create Humanimal Doodles -- my graphic article/comic about animal science -- about work being done by people who work at aquariums.

Today's Doodling Desk doodle was created for Herbie Hippocampus, the official spokes-seahorse of Monterey Bay Aquarium, an objet d'amour for me since I wrote about it in my 1997 book, Guinness Record Breakers (now CHEAP at that link!) I've only gotten to visit once. There were people wearing crab and jellyfish costumes. There were sunfish (mola mola) in the deep ocean tank. And there were sea otters sunbathing in the kelp forest along the shore. Big sigh. I have to get back to California for some more doodling, and sunbathing, and strawberries...

But meanwhile, it's Herbie's birthday. So here's that doodle I promised you. Enjoy!

Monday, October 17, 2011

Doodle News and a New Doodle

A deep bow of gratitude to the many people who sent me the link to Sunni Brown's wonderful TED talk about the value of doodling.

"The incredible contribution of the doodle is that it engages all four of the learning modalities -- visual, auditory, reading and writing, and kinesthetic -- simultaneously with the possibility of an emotional experience. That is a pretty solid contribution for a behavior equated with doing nothing. "

There's more about Sunni at The Doodle Revolution.

On Friday at Comic Con I met Trevor Mueller of Reading With Pictures. In partnership with Northwestern University, the Reading With Pictures folks, led by graphic artist Josh Elder, seek to bring comics into the classroom, and have put together an acclaimed sampler of comics.
I'm trying to find a way to get involved, maybe through Humanimal Doodles, because when one of my loves (science comics) gets crossed with another (schools) I get excited.

I'm excited to present a brand new Humanimal Doodle here -- the first of the school year published in Odyssey magazine. In an issue about addiction, it features lab mice -- and the discussion of whether and why they should be used in labs. I'm reporting on the response to those ethical questions, so please don't engage me in the debate.