Kweli, comics, writing & therapy

I went to Kweli this weekend and it was a wonderful, healing, and affirming experience. I have never been in a room full of writers and illustrators. I’m really thankful Laura Pegram created this space for us. Some thoughts:

  • Meeting authors, librarians, and kidlit people in person was a dream come true. It felt like the first concrete step toward my becoming a writer.
  • The kidlit community is real and welcoming. It’s a little surreal to meet Karina Yan Glaser, Cheryl Klein, Alvina Ling, Minh Le, Alia Jones, Tiffany Jackson, JACKIE WOODSON, Susan Tan, and all of these authors that I’ve followed for a long time.
  • I loved meeting debut and aspiring authors too. I met Jessica Kim, whose Yumi Chung is coming out next year, and Emily X. R. Pan whose books have been missing from my life.
  • My thoughts about books have changed so much since I was in high school. All I ever read were dead authors with a few minority authors on the list as tokens. Going to Kweli and reading contemporary books made me see that authors are living and breathing, and they are people living in the same world as I am.
  • My favorite session were the picture book sessions. I learned so much about picture books and they are an ART.
  • Speaking of that, I’m going to start following illustrators and practice drawing.

I had gone to the conference wanting to meet people working IN the publishing industry, but I left wanting to do writing and illustrating myself. I am thinking it would be ok to have a job that supports me, but is not all-consuming, and be able to write and draw. I’m happy being an Admin Assistant and I actually think I’m pretty good at this job. I’m realizing that some jobs are a calling and passion, where you are willing to make sacrifices, and others are something you do, with relationships being a really nice bonus. In a world where work can be literally traumatizing, I am thankful for a job I can do decently and with pleasant coworkers. I realized that as long as I can 1) support myself, 2) pursue my hobbies, 3) working environment is not harmful to my mental and physical health, it is the right job for me. Having been so traumatized, I no longer need my job to “BE” or say something about myself. I just want to feel safe, respected, and get donuts once in a while.

I’ve done a lot of work in therapy the past 3~4 months, and I feel like my life has transformed because of it. Some takeaways:

  • Self-care is noticing when you are not well, and taking steps to FIX IT. Bearing something and hoping it’ll pass or you’ll get used to it is not at all a healthy way to go through life. The problem is going to get worse rather than disappear.
  • It takes a lot to undo years and years of toxic relationships.
  • You need to build up your muscle/shield for dealing with people who attack you. I’ve dealt with my share of aggression from my own parents, students, students’ parents, and bosses. Like a physical sickness, it doesn’t get better unless you treat it.
  • I still need to work on being detached and observing how I’m feeling before acting. Being defensive is also not a healthy response.
  • My biggest takeaway is probably learning to accept who I am and the path I’ve chosen. There are many kinds of success and no one is more valid than the other. Success is when you feel good about yourself and are not constantly rejecting and struggling every day.
  • I’m not really done working on myself and I’ll never be, but I’ve come a long way <3. I am more loving toward myself and finding my community and purpose.

Purpose is not the same thing as passion. Passion is not always a helpful word because it can put people up to a lot of abuse in the name of “passion.” As a teacher, this killed me. Purpose, on the other hand, is a little more detached yet still personal. You have a purpose and everything you do pushes you a little closer towards it. But if it is harmful to you, you can say no. This has made all the difference to me and taken me 7 many painful years to learn.

My purpose now is graphic novels. I am going to work hard on writing and illustrating so that I can make my own graphic novel. Some steps I will take toward my purpose:

  • Read a lot of graphic novels!
  • Listen to Graphic Novels TK, a podcast
  • Practice drawing
  • Brainstorm story ideas
  • Study picture books


2 thoughts on “Kweli, comics, writing & therapy

  1. Great post! Wonderful that you have a plan of how you’re going to get to where you want to be. Very impressive mentality! No doubt you’ll get there!😊

    Liked by 1 person

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