Today's #fridayreads interview is with graphic novelist Willow Dawson and it was conducted by TPL Editorial Youth Advisory Group member Maria Yang.
Willow Dawson's books include Ghost Limb (self-published), Hyena in Petticoats (Penguin Books), No Girls Allowed with Susan Hughes (Kids Can Press), and more. She is currently raising a baby while finishing revisions on The Wolf-Birds (Owlkids Books) and Avis Dolphin (with Frieda Wishinsky, Groundwood Books), both due in 2015. And she is in development of 100 Mile House (excerpts: Top Shelf 2.0). Her books are supported by the Toronto Arts Council, the Ontario Arts Council and the Canada Council for the Arts. www.willowdawson.com
Maria: Why did you choose to be an illustrator and comics creator instead of a novel writer?
Willow: I've always had a difficult time with reading and by extension, writing. I'm a more visually literate person and so illustration is a natural fit. I like comics because it's a really complex storytelling medium and yet so much of the writing is visual!
Maria: What are your favorite subjects to explore in your work? Why?
Willow: My first loves are myths and fairytales, especially the older, more unsettling versions. And I like history and science, too! Wolves and ravens are a big part of my research these days and I have a couple projects on the go that bring together the scientific and mythological aspects of these awesome creatures.
Maria: What's the hardest thing about illustrating a book?
Willow: In comics I'd say the thumbnail stage because you're translating words into images. It really is two different languages and so there is a lot of editing.
Maria: Can you give some tips or suggestions for youth who want to be illustrators and/or cartoonists?
Willow: Draw and write every single day. Self-publish and submit your work to different magazines and anthologies. It's the best and fastest way to improve your craft!
Maria: In The Big Green Book of the Big Blue Sea, you and writer Helaine Becker explain the cradle of all living things—the Ocean—through vivid illustration and tell us that the ocean is at risk. Canada is surrounded by the Pacific, Atlantic and Arctic Oceans. What should we do to reduce our impact on the sea?
Willow: Firstly, what attracted me to this project was that it wasn't simply a book of alarmist facts and warnings. Instead, Helaine brilliantly delivers the information in ways that are creative, engaging and inspiring.
I think there are many ways we can decrease our footprint (eat local and organic if you can, decrease energy and water use, cycle or use public transit…) but the biggest obstacle we face is knowledge. It surprises me how many people deny that oceans are overfished / polluted, sea levels are rising, or that climate change is real, despite irrefutable scientific data. And I'm shocked when people draw blank faces at the thought that this is urgent and will require longterm vision and political engagement.
Which brings me to my next point. Our current Federal government appears to act with complete impunity, pulling Canada out of worldwide environmental initiatives, signing trade agreements with other countries that will be devastating to the environment, pouring money into tar sands, silencing the scientific community, and destroying Canada's relationship with its First Nations who rely on hunting and fishing as a way of life. And nobody holds them accountable.
This is the byproduct of a culture where people feel hopeless and politically disengaged. In order for people to be inspired to change they need to understand how the health of our fresh waterways and oceans affect them personally. Knowledge is power and large scale change won't happen until we make the political personal. It's going to require creativity and solidarity. Think about ways you can inspire friends to see hope in our future. That is where the solution lies.
Born in Beijing, China, Maria Yang moved to Canada in grade 6, and is glad to be a new Torontonian. She studies at St. Joe's and volunteers with the Toronto Public Library's Editorial Youth Advisory Group. Loves nature and animal. Enjoys reading, painting, drawing, travelling, skiing, cooking, food, and caring for vulnerable people and voiceless living beings.