August 13th, 2011 | Uncategorized

book cover drawings

Ever since my memoir about my dad, Fun Home, was published in May of 2006, I’ve been working on another graphic memoir–this one about my mother. Why is it taking so long? You can find a partial explanation in this little video clip.

But the good thing is, after many years of writing and fretting and throwing things out and starting over, I’m finally, actually drawing. (this movie was actually shot in April, which is why the news in the background is talking about the government crackdown in Syria.)

48 Responses to “working”

  1. Cheryl says:

    Great to see!!

  2. Tom says:

    I want so much to read it… I hope it won’t take long to be translated into Portuguese and available in Brazil!
    (deep sigh)
    Even if Brazil doesn’t deserve it. The Council of our largest city, Sao Paulo (the same that claims to have the largest gay parade in the world) have passed a Law to institute the Heterosexual Pride day. And the homosexual civil partnership just came to be, months ago, through an injunction of Supreme Court, for our Congress would never pass the proposition that was sleeping there since 1995.

  3. brooke says:

    I think if I had to write my dissertation, and then trace it like that, I’d really consider quitting. Right now I’m only sorta considering quitting. I admire your tenacity. I REALLY admire your tenacity. If I had half your motivation I’d be done with this god forsaken thing and finally have those god forsaken letters behind my name – that everyone assures me (NO comments if it’s not true, please.. I’m trying to motivate myself NOT to quit right now!) will open doors not currently open to me.

    The short point: way to go. You rock. I hope this novel is as much of a popular culture success as “Fun Home” was. More importantly, since you’ve written about her before, and you seem to actually have a relationship with her (unlike some folks), I hope your mom appreciates it, or even better, likes it.

  4. K.B. says:

    I though the next memoir was going to be all about all the previous girlfriends/relationships and the tension between the self and the other. When did the plan change?

  5. lisbet says:

    Okay, I’ll as the obvious question- I used to dabble in type design. It seems to me that you could draw each of those letters once, have someone turn it into a font, and avoid hand writing it but get the same effect. Just, you know, for sanity’s sake!

  6. lisbet says:

    (Okay, the question in there was just implicit.)

  7. NLC says:

    This is fascinating.

    I can see how, when one is down in the trenches, cranking it out, it can feel like it’s going on forever….

    …but look at the other end. What must it be like to look at the finished work, and know that every little stroke, EVERY LITTLE FUCKING SERIF is YOURS, the output of your mind, the work of your very hands?
    Everything –and I mean everything– that’s now sitting here is something YOU CREATED FULLY out of nothing; out of what was then only a ream of blank whiteness staring up at you.

    God, I envy you…

  8. Meg Wallace says:

    ‘should get a job?’

    uh, this *is* your job. Do it.

    No one else is going to… or is able to, I might add.

  9. K.B.,
    The book still is about previous relationships–mostly one in particular, and it’s still an attempt to figure out the self/other problem. But my focus has shifted. Or gotten sharper. My mother was part of the original conception of the book, too, but at a certain point I had to face the fact that the story about her is really the most important one.

  10. Eva says:

    Congratulations on ending the beginning of your new book!

  11. Thank you, Eva!

    Also, I should explain something! In this video, I’m not actually “lettering” my book. I have talked in the past about how much I wanted to hand-letter this book, instead of using a digital font like I did for FUN HOME. But in fact, I’ll be using a digital font for this book too.

    The “text” I’m inking in the video is actually a drawing. I use lots of quotations from books as images, and I’m recreating one of them here.

    I feel like I”m not explaining this very well.

  12. Lurk-A-Lot says:

    @ A.B.

    I was wondering how you were managing to stay focussed on the book, with the news around the world and in the U.S. being what it is.

    Glad to know it’s coming along. I am really looking forward to reading it.

  13. Anna in Albuquerque says:

    AB – Anyone can get a job (well, not lately) but only you are Alison Bechdel. Getting a job wouldn’t help anyway.

  14. Eva says:

    You’re so welcome!

    You explained it just fine, btw. To show you I understand here’s another way of saying it:

    You’re lettering part of an illustration that includes a quote from a book. A book that is not one of yours. To make the lettering distinct from your handwriting-font you are inking the words that are part of the quote.

    Did I get it?

  15. Anonymous says:

    Turn off the radio/TV. Seriously. If you have to have something on, make it music from the period or TV from the period. You are trying to live in two different time periods at once–no wonder it is dividing your attention.

    Set aside times to immerse yourself in what you are doing–I assure you that if you don’t listen to the TV/radio for 8 hours a day, that the TV/radio will sound just the same when you finally put it on.

    And, to the person who is working on the dissertation and feels like giving up–set aside a time (I used to work from 3AM to 5AM, because the family had to be awoken at 5:30AM) when you will do nothing but write. If you do one page a day, and your dissertation is about 200-300 pages in length, you will be done with the first draft in far less than a year. Once you have a draft, you will feel better.

    Multitasking is a bad idea–it only means that you are doing more than one thing at the same time, badly. Do one thing; it is easier to do it well.

  16. jessica says:

    Hey Anonymous,
    I think she’s got it covered. Your advice is snooty to the max! Different things work for different people. Weird how it works that way, eh?

  17. Fi says:

    Creating a handwritten facsimile of some other book’s typeset page. Forget digitising; this is craft. Love it.

  18. rinky says:

    beautiful lettering

    I had always wondered if you wrote the whole book (Fun Home) first then drew it or did rough sketches with rough words then just refined and refined or what the process was

    Thanks for sharing the video


  19. Ginjoint says:

    SHE’S ALIVE!! SHE’S ALIIIIIIIVE!! (Insert Frankensteinian laugh here; cue thunder clap and lightning bolt)

    And Eva, thanks for that explanation!

    Mang, I can’t wait to see this book.

  20. Dr. Empirical says:

    I have a job. It sucks.

    Keep on doing what you’re doing.

  21. Kate L says:

    The finest hand-crafted Yankee cartooning! 🙂

  22. Cathy says:

    Ah, your video clip really refreshed me. I hardly ever get to do cartooning myself any longer(and only rarely work in pen and ink), so I was happy to watch you work. In these days of desktop publishing and Photoshop, I miss the craft that used to go into art for publication.

  23. Therry and St. Jerome says:

    Hmm. I have preordered the book about your girlfriends, and now I have preordered the book about your mother. I thought they were two distinct books, the one due out in October and the other at some indefinite time in the future. But if they’re both about your mother, eh bien, tant pis.

    And Anonymous, if you’re going to dish out snooty advice, have the decency to sign your posts.

  24. Ellen Orleans says:

    Your comment on the old news of a Syrian government crackdown was supposed to be funny (in a sad way), right? What’s changed there in four months?

    Apparently, even the best jobs (yours?) can contain hours or days or months of tedium and repetition. I hope you are onto a less odious task by now. As for me, I’m really tired of writing, sorting, and deleting email at work, even if it’s for a fairly engaging, environmentally-minded job. But at least I’m not digging coal, cleaning sewer pipes, or making cold sales calls. (I keep telling myself that.)

  25. Andrew B says:

    Anonymous, given the context I thought your post was clever. You have got the scolding mother voice down cold. All you needed were a “fists on hips” icon and a “wagging forefinger” icon.

    Therry, I suspect the book you preordered that’s due out in October is the Best American Comics that Alison edited (is editing?). Anyhow, it’s a book that’s associated with Alison that’s due out in October.

    Anybody who hasn’t already should follow the link from Pam I’s comment on the previous post (Pekar Tributes) and take a look at her blog.

    Alison… for some reason I have Chuck Berry stuck in my head. Go, Aly, go, go. Go, Aly, go go go. Aly B. Goode. (Has anyone ever actually called you “Aly”? Probably not. Look, I needed two syllables…)

  26. Ginjoint says:

    Yeah, Pam, you might want to re-post that link under this post – it’s worth it. And where’s Ian? You O.K. out there, Ian?

  27. Straight Ally says:

    Pam I’s comment (#67) in the previous thread (Pekar) is
    here—her “setup,” the link to her blog, and all.

  28. Therry and St. Jerome says:

    Andrew B., you’re perfectly right, it is Best American Comics that is hanging in the ether waiting for October. But I also pre-ordered Are You my Mother? I am relentlessly consumerist where AB is concerned.

  29. M. Hamilton says:

    Just finished my Masters Thesis, which was a shorter graphic novel about the death of my parents to cancer.

    However, as the days went by and the pages were being inked, I realized that I was focusing heavily upon my father. My mother, although she appears at times, had been a secondary character of sorts.

    So, ultimately, what I’m wondering is: Why is it so hard to represent our (The) Mother?

  30. Kate L says:

    Congratulations on finishing your thesis, M. Hamilton! 🙂 Why is it so hard to represent our mothers? An entire thread is contained in that question…

  31. khatgrrl says:

    Just to lighten the mood, we need a bacon reference!

  32. NLC says:

    Forgive the blog-hijack, but I’ve just got to brag about Vermont a bit:

    Vermont gov presides over a gay marriage, fulfilling promise office

    More [Here]

  33. […] Alison Bechdel posted about her new memoir in progress. […]

  34. Alex K says:

    Who ever would have thought of beginning the longer bar of the lower-case Y at the bottom of the bar and coursing upward?

    **tries it**

    No. NO. I can’t… I just can’t.


    Ah, the “Arab Spring”, when communications from rebel to rebel via social media tied clumsy governments and their dispensers of sanctioned violence into helpless knots. Access to information! Liberty! Freedom! Hurrah!, cried Her Majesty’s Government.

    The London riots, when the first response of Her Majesty’s Government was… the proposal that BlackBerry / Twitter messaging be disabled.

    The interval between repetitions of history, “first time as tragedy, second time as farce” (thank you, Karl!), seems to be shortening rapidly.

  35. Alex K says:

    @K.B.: You wrote “I thought the next memoir was going to be all about all the previous girlfriends/relationships and the tension between the self and the other. When did the plan change?”

    Only one letter off. Consider —

    “I thought the next memoir was going to be all about all the previous girlfriends/relationships and the tension between the self and the mother. When did the plan change?”

    Still on plan, then.

  36. chriso says:

    I think I would go blind and insane just attempting to do what you’re doing. But clearly you’re made of sterner stuff than I! The handwritten book passages from Fun Home were some of my favorite parts. I was always amazed at the detail and it gave the book a much more handwritten feel overall, even if you did use digital font for the bulk of the actual narrative.

  37. hairball_of_hope says:

    @Alex K (#34)

    Those of us on this side of the pond, beneficiaries of John Peter Zenger’s unauthorized handbills against HRM’s government, seem to have forgotten that lesson too.

    Witness the unilateral shutdown of cellphone service in San Francisco’s BART train stations last week, over the possibility of protests against BART police brutality. Not actual protests, mind you, simply a preemptive strike against potential protests. Ahh, the First Amendment trampled with nary a concern.

    Of course, that gave license to those fun folks at Anonymous, who had a field day hacking the BART police union website and releasing all sorts of info.

    Nice drama to watch, probably not so nice to be living within.

    (… goes back to her antenna-festooned lair, listening and hoping for signals of intelligent life on Earth …)

  38. Judybusy says:

    I envy your steady hand, Alison; the writing is so beautiful! I also found your explanation of the process quite clear.

    Hang in there, Brooke, keep at it! You will be so proud when you’re done, and walk through one of many doors.

    Ian, no doubt, is at the allotment pulling up bindweed.

  39. grrljock says:


    (Context: I ride BART to work)

    Those fun folks at Anonymous made the situation worse by hacking an external vendor site ( and releasing subscribers’ personal info, before they hacked the BART police website.

    To be clear, I have no love for BART’s management in general (and their whole bumbling ‘policing’ policy in particular), but the protests and hacking seem to affect commuters more, instead of BART.

    [Freed from spam-filter limbo. –Mentor]

  40. grrljock says:


    unfortunately the fun folks at Anonymous struck against commuters first by hacking an externally-managed website ( and publishing commuters’ personal info, before hacking into the BART Police website. To be clear, I have no love for BART’s (mis)management in general, and much loathing for their policing policies in particular. But to me the protests and hacking are misdirected, as they seem to affect commuters more instead of BART management.

    (I ride BART every day to work)

    [Freed from spam-filter limbo. –Mentor]

  41. nic h says:

    Im in the middle of re-reading the dtwof series.
    I have learnt two things. 1. most of my lesbian politics I learnt from these books. 2. I still have no idea what Sydney is talking about.

  42. Jerome says:

    A friend of mine ran across this odd homage: “If Liefeld drew Bechdel’s Fun Home.”

  43. Brazenfemme says:

    @nic h
    I learned a lot about politcs from DTWOF too!Not just lesbian, but American (I’m not American)and international. I often wished AB was my highschool history teacher….but then I’d have that stupid song in my head…

    Like many others here, I have a job. And sadly, it is a lot like Sydney talking 🙂

    Can’t wait for the book AB!

  44. nic h says:

    @ brazenfemme, yes I had forgotten about the american politics. 🙂 or should that have been a 🙁 as im reading 2003 book now? (second gulf war)

  45. Lea says:

    Well Alison that is ZEN! 🙂

  46. dc says:

    Did somebody say your new book is due out in October? 2011? If it is, I’m demanding it for my b’day 🙂 Whoopee!

  47. dc says:

    p.s. stay dry and safe….

  48. Making drawings of books that includes carefully- lettered pages so that we can read the text is such a worlds-within-worlds-within-words (sic.) thing to do. It’s calming to watch. The concentration sings. I couldn’t make out what was on the radio on my lousy little speakers, but the writing words, forming under your pen that way — impossible to look away.