Interview with Seabeck’s Cartoonist-in-residence

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Interview with Jessica Tremblay, author of Old Pond Comics and cartoonist-in-residence at the Seabeck Haiku Getaway (Oct 10-13 2013)

What does a cartoonist-in-residence do?

A cartoonist-in-residence will go to your haiku conference, attend as many conference sessions as possible and create comics that will summarize each sessions in only three panels. Being cartoonist-in-residence involves staying up all night and producing as many comics as possible.

How did you find the time to make the comics?!

The majority of the Seabeck comics were produced in two nights: on Friday Oct. 11 (10pm to 4am) and Sat. Oct. 12 (11pm-4am). Then, after only 3 hours of sleep, I would get up at 7am to make more comics. I had to skip two communal breakfasts, on Sat and Sunday (missing the best breafkast of the week, I was told: cheese-filled crepes!). In the morning, I sustained myself with cinnamon scones I had brought from home so I could make as many comics as possible. Skipping some sessions and social activities was sometimes necessary in order to make more comics.

Being a cartoonist-in-residence puts you in a strange situation: you have to attend all the sessions to know what they’re about (so you make comics about them), but while you are attending sessions, you are not making comics. It’s quite a connundrum. Basically, the only solution is to attend as many sessions as possible during the day (drafting comics in my notebook) and then creating the comics at night while everybody is sleeping. I use Adobe Illustrator to make the comics.

But doing the comics is the easy part… I also have to present them. Creating a Powerpoint presentation at 4 am is quite a challenge. Then, you have to present them – remaining coherent (difficult), funny (I suppose) and charming (you tell me!) – even though you’ve had only 3 hours of sleep that night.

How long does it take you to make the comics?

One comic takes approximatively 1 hour to make. I’m estimating I’ve spent around 15 hours making comics, and 2 hours to prepare the powerpoint presentation. And I’m not counting the time I spent drafting, attending sessions, taking pictures to use as reference for the comics, etc. Cartoonist-in-residence is a full time job.

How did you start?

I’ve been attending haiku conferences since 2006. I used to summarize the sessions on my blog for people who did not have the chance to attend. My summaries were long blocks of text, without any pictures. It was quite long and boring to read, not to mention time consuming to write, so when I attended Haiku Canada 2009 in Vancouver, I decided to use comics to summarize, in three panels, the sessions. I produced seven comics that I posted on my blog and they became a huge success.

In Haiku North America 2011 in Seattle, I brough my laptop with me and created comics that I posted on my blog and Facebook page every night, recapping the events of the day.

For Haiku North America 2013 on the Queen Mary (Long Beach, CA), I sent a proposal and became an official cartoonist-in-residence for the first time. My comics were featured in the printed program, on the HNA blog, and their Facebook page, and the comics created during the conference were presented at the closing session. Seabeck Haiku Getaway 2013 was my second experience as an official cartoonist-in-residence.

Did you invent this concept of cartoonist-in-residence?

I’m not sure. Perhaps there are other cartoonists-in-residence out there. I haven’t checked. All I know is that I was always intrigued by the concept of “writer-in-residence” and, knowing that, when attending haiku conferences, I was going to make comics to summarize sessions anyway, I decided to send a proposal to the conference organizers to see if they’d be interested in having me as official cartoonist-in-residence. They loved the idea!

Do you have another residency coming up?

Yes. I will be cartoonist-in-residence at Haiku Hot Springs (Arkansas) on November 1-2, 2013. Attendees can send me their bio, photo (optional) and 5 haiku at tessinthewest AT hotmail DOT com to receive a surprise at the conference.

Where do I contact you if I want to hire a cartoonist-in-residence for my next haiku event?

Contact me at tessinthewest AT hotmail DOT com

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