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.

1 comment:

  1. Great post. Reminds me I have been meaning to read (almost typed that as reading to mean!!!) David Hadju's TEN CENT PLAGUE about the war on comics in the 1950s.