I am at an artists residency in Italy. I was magically given a fellowship to spend 6 weeks at this crazy castle in Umbria, a place called Civitella Ranieri. (See me poking my head out of the battlement window? My bedroom is in that tower.) There are a dozen or so of us–writers, visual artists, and musicians. (I count as a writer.) We get studios, amazing rooms in the castle or on the grounds, and they feed us wonderful local food every day. It’s pretty unbelievable.
I’ve never done an artists retreat of any kind. I’ve listened to my writer friends talk about their stints at various places, and it sounded nice, but not worth the hassle of packing up and leaving home. Now I understand why people do it. In recent years I’ve been feeling so raveled and shriveled and creatively wrung out. But with all this open time and generous space, I feel like I’m reviving a bit. I can just do whatever I want whenever I want. Here’s one of my rooms–a tall tower with a great old drafting table in it. I got myself a giant roll of good white paper, and I’ve been doing big drawings on it. First cartoony things in ink, then more naturalistic, life-size figure drawings in charcoal.
They take us out on field trips once a week. Last week we saw Piero della Francesca frescoes in Sansepolcro. This is Saint Julian, after realizing that he just accidentally killed his parents.
Here’s everybody’s favorite, Saint Sebastian.
Here’s a little movie I made of this strange bird I hear in the mornings.
It sounds like someone tapping away on an old manual typewriter, this funny erratic rhythm. You can hear it and not see it in the first half, and you can see it but not hear it in the second half, because it stopped chirping in order to groom and fluff.
Another cool thing that happened since I got here was the announcement that Fun Home will move to Broadway next spring. Who would ever have thought that beginning a 6 week artist’s residency at a gorgeous castle in Umbria could get better?
I did a cartoon recently for the Cartoon Issue of my local alternative weekly in Vermont, Seven Days. It’s about the experience of seeing my book Fun Home turned into a musical. Well, it’s about a very small part of that process–to convey the whole bizarre experience in all its complexity would take a book. This is just a little essay. Every year Seven Days does an all-cartoon issue—they have journalists work with cartoonists and run all these great visual stories.
Also, here’s how to pronounce my name, in case you ever need to know. That link will take you to a site called Teaching Books. They have these audio links of all different authors telling stories about their names. Find your favorites here.
Yesterday I had to go to the DMV to renew my license. How many identification cards have I posed for throughout my life, how many moments of bureaucracy-induced anomie have been captured, laminated, and carried around in my pocket for years until replaced with the next iteration? Roughly seventeen, apparently. Here I am aging from 17 to 53 in 20 seconds.
I have a cartoon in the latest issue of The New Yorker. I happen to actually be in New York, for the Lambda Literary Awards last night, where I got to give Nicole Georges the first graphic novel prize, and an event with Alysia Abbott tonight to talk about her book Fairyland. So this afternoon I bought the magazine hot off the press at a newsstand in Columbus Circle. I’ve been reading the cartoons in The New Yorker since before I could read. So it’s very strange and wonderful to have my own work in there.
Hol and I are on our way to Charleston. So is the cast of the musical “Fun Home.” Tonight we’re going to do a presentation at the College of Charleston together. I think it’s going to be pretty amazing.
For a little context, here’s an article about it from the Times.
I’ve been posting stuff direct to Facebook about my marvelous adventures in New Zealand. Somehow it is just easier, sometimes. Anyhow, if you care to follow me there, uh…I’m not sure how it works…can you just click this link, I wonder? And then “like” it?
It’s a “fan” page, not a personal page, and I’m always very confused about it.
We’ve been in New Zealand for two days now. It’s too beautiful to bother trying to put into words. My first event was a trip to the small seaside town of Paekakariki in a van with the hilarious mad professor Terry Castle. Here’s the scene outside the town hall where we spoke.
Terry’s book The Professor is a collection of her brilliant personal/critical essays plus a memoir about her early days in the trenches of academia and lesbiana. We had a fun conversation…
…then were feted by the lovely locals. This woman brought all her old DTWOF books to be signed.
This one brought her pink brassiere, which she deftly removed without dislodging her t-shirt.
At the ensuing community potluck, Terry and I were presented with this astonishing cake.
Here are Terry and Holly marveling at it.
Here’s the view from the house of our gracious hosts. How do people bear all this beauty?
Today there was more book festival activity. I did a conversation onstage with Moira Clunie, who is a friend of the great NZ cartoonist Dylan Horrocks. He has a new book out called Incomplete Works, and I will see a panel he’s on tomorrow morning. I love his work. It’s very smart and the quality of his line is deeply pleasing.
It’s very overwhelming being at events like this. So much going on, so many people. It’s exhausting but also energizing.
And people are so kind! We also had a great potluck dinner in Adelaide, hosted by our new pals Sal and Mary. Here is Sal, the kangaroo whisperer. She took us to a wildlife park where we saw kangaroos, emu, dingoes, koalas, and all manner of strange beasts.
Here’s I am feeding a kangaroo. A kangaroo for god’s sake!
Here’s a joey in its mother’s pouch as they both lounge on the grass.
Well this is all rather disjointed. But it’s the best I can do right now. Tomorrow New Zealand cartoonists and a trip to more botanical gardens. Oh. Here’s my new dorky hat that I got at the Melbourne botanical gardens.
And here are some other photos I didn’t manage to upload in Australia where the internet was so pricey. Me with the owners of the Hares and Hyenas bookstore.
And me in a photo these guys gave me that they took in 1997 at Book Expo America of Judith Katz, Nancy Bereano and me at the Firebrand Books booth. This is the pic where Hol says I look like an Amish preacher.