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Ask Vivek: How do I make comics?

October 24, 2016 | E Writer in Residence 2016 — Vivek Shraya | Comments (0)

How do I make comics

This week’s question was about comics. I don’t have any experience making comics, so I thought I would interview two comic artists that I really admire: Michael DeForge and Eric Kostiuk Williams. Michael has created several comic books and zines and recently worked on Adventure Time. Eric has created a fantastic comic series called Hungry Bottom Comics and his debut book, Condo Heartbreak Disco, is out next year!

When did you make your first comic? What drew you to the medium of comic making?

Michael: I've wanted to draw comics for as long as I can remember. I learned to read and draw with the comic strip collections my family had. I made my first physical, finished comic when I was around 11 or 12. It was a 12-page horror anthology and the stories were all sports-themed. I wasn't a sporty kid, so all the comics were about, like, soccer teams kicking around severed heads, ghosts haunting the deep end of swimming pools, stuff like that.

Eric: In Grade 5, we had an assignment that involved creating a superhero character whose story related to saving the environment. This was probably one of the coolest and most random things I got to do in school! I called my superhero T.O.L.G. ("The Ozone Layer Guardian"). Once the assignment was over, I was still really attached to the character and ended up creating more comics on my own time, featuring him, and a cast of other characters.

I've always seen comics as such a powerful medium, because you're creating a fully realized world from scratch. If you think of a comic as a movie, you're actually the writer, director, set designer, casting director, costume designer, cinematographer, etc. This can feel very intimidating sometimes, but if it's an idea you're passionate about, it feels exciting to be so involved in its creation. The combination of words and images is a direct way to get your ideas across. Although the process of making a comic is pretty solitary, being able to then share your story with folks, and have them respond to it, is a feeling unlike anything else.

I also love making comics because they can be about anything! My early comics were focussed on superheroes, but since then, I've made science fiction comics, autobiographical comics, abstract comics... the sky's the limit.

Can you describe your process? Do you start with an idea or story first, or an illustration?

Michael: It changes a lot from story to story. Sometimes it starts as a loose idea or a character I want to run with, but other times a story will spring out of an image from my sketchbook. I work in my sketchbook a lot.

Once the ball starts rolling, I tend to improvise my stories as I go. I try to be very open to little accidents, or veering off course when I need to. I'm usually not writing very far ahead of what I'm drawing. I'll rough out a page in the morning with some noodley drawings and dialogue, then chip away at the finished version until the day is over.

Eric: Hmm, a bit of both, I'd say! Sometimes I'll draw characters in my sketchbook, and then I'll try to find a story for them to live in. Other times a story or theme will take shape in my head, and the drawings are a way of fleshing out those first ideas.

What advice would you give to someone starting to explore making comics?

Eric: If you're thinking of making a comic, make something that excites you—something that you would want to read! It can be good to start small. Make a one or two-page story, where you can play around with your style and storytelling, and see if it's an idea you like enough to spend more time on. You wouldn't want to find yourself in the middle of making a 30-page comic when you realize you're not into your story anymore! That's happened to me, and it's terrible! I would also say to do it in whatever way feels most comfortable. Some comics are mostly text, with less emphasis on the drawings, some comics are all illustrations, with no text! Sometimes a writer will team up with an illustrator and make a comic together, which can take a bit of the pressure off being responsible for the whole thing. There's no one right way, and that's my favourite thing about comics.

Michael: Self-publish, either online or in print. Make a cruddy zine, throw some strips up on Tumblr, whatever. I learned a lot from self-publishing, and comics have a particularly low barrier to entry. It's can be challenging to make the time to actually draw them, but once you do, they're dirt cheap. I can print the entire run of a mini-comic for the same price I pay to rent three hours of practice space for my band, for instance.


Thank you again for your question. Please keep sending me questions and I will keep answering them here!

Lastly, Michael DeForge’s Big Kids is one of the best comic book I have read and is definitely worth checking out! What are your favourite comics? Let me know in the comments!

Brooklyn Nine-Nine reviewed

October 20, 2016 | Teen Blogger | Comments (1)

Reviewed by Asma, member of the Cedarbrae Youth Advisory Group

Img-allshows-brooklyn-nine-nine_4788Welcome to the Nine-Nine, a fictional police precinct set in Brooklyn, New York, where the talented Detective Jake Peralta holds the highest arrest records. Having never followed the rules too closely, Detective Peralta faces a challenge when the new Commanding Officer, Ray Holt is in charge. Aside from being forced to follow the rules, Jake has to deal with an annoyingly competitive co-worker, Detective Amy Santiago.

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Your Bookmark Here: Bad Girls of Fashion: Style Rebels from Cleopatra to Lady Gaga

October 19, 2016 | Analisa | Comments (0)

Bad girls of fashion

“You live but once; you might as well be amusing.” - Coco Chanel

I must admit, I don’t read a lot of non-fiction books for fun but when I saw this book I was instantly drawn in. This book looks at different women from the past and present. It discusses the contributions of women in the fashion world and beyond that. I really enjoyed reading about each person’s bio. The book was also filled with cool photographs and illustrations. Each person in the book had challenged the status quo and social norms of their times. From scantily clad queens who rolled out of carpets to female artists who rode donkeys into school hallways and lit firecrackers during lectures. Some of the style rebels included women who wore banana skirts, swan dresses or sported stuffed animal sweaters! It also featured women who pioneered some of the styles commonly seen today such as pants, wearable clothing and tailored suits.    

The clothing part of the book was probably the “accessory” and main focus of the book was about the lives of the women that wore them. Overall, a great read about some of the about some of history’s most interesting style rebels and a great source for clothing and costume inspiration.


Further reading as suggested by the author


Ask Vivek: How To Write A Novel

October 17, 2016 | E Writer in Residence 2016 — Vivek Shraya | Comments (0)

How To Write A Novel

Last week, I received a question (thank you!) about how write a novel—where to begin and how to finish.

This is a question I asked myself a lot when trying to map out my first novel, She of the Mountains. I think part of my draw to other literary forms like short stories and poems has to do with how daunting writing a novel feels. The process is so intimidating that even though I have done it once, I worry I will never do it again.

But it most certainly can be done! Here are some thoughts and ideas to help support you in your process.

  1.     I am not someone who outlines because part of the magic of writing for me is the discovery that happens when I am writing. That said, it is worth think about details like: Where does your novel take place? Who are the main characters? What is the intention behind your novel or the central theme or conflict? Spending some time mapping out these ideas before writing, even if you change your mind along the way (which most likely you will), will be useful.
  2.     I also approached my novel a bit like a puzzle. I made a list of all the pieces I needed. This can be a form of outlining. For example, I knew there had to be a section where the characters meet and another a section where the characters fight. Then I wrote about these sections separately. When all the sections were done, I began to organize them in my preferred order. The work then became about writing the sentences or paragraphs required to “glue” these sections together. This method was effective because it made the process less overwhelming. I didn’t start on the dreaded Page One and then have to build from there. Instead, I focused on breaking the novel into smaller parts, wrote each part, and then brought it all together.
  3.     While I think outlining can be helpful, I am hesitant to over recommend it. This is because staying in the outline mode can be seductive. You could plan forever. But at some point you have to take a leap and write your story!
  4.     Think about what you need to write. Do you prefer to write at night? In a cafe? In a notebook? I learned that I wrote better in the morning and at home. This meant blocking off mornings in my Google Calendar to write instead of going to the mall with friends. Writing and finishing a novel required making these kinds of sacrifices.
  5.     Time can feel limited, especially with other commitments like homework. But try to avoid putting off working on your novel until the right moment comes along. Don’t wait to write during Christmas or summer holidays, or after you graduate. I kept putting off my novel like this with the confidence that I would write it when the time was right. But eventually I discovered that there is no such thing as the right time to write a novel. My waiting for the right time was a bit of a procrastination strategy. It sounds silly but it was quite surprising to realize that my novel wouldn’t write itself. I had to carve out time to write!
  6.     There might be days when you write only one sentence. This is okay. More than okay! This is part of the process. The most important thing is that you committed to the writing and will show up again tomorrow.
  7.     For more inspiration, next month is National Novel Writing Month (nanowrimo)! I haven’t tried it so I asked writer and actor Nathan Carroll to share his experience with it:

“Doing nanowrimo was one of the best things I've done because it allowed me to accomplish my lifelong dream of completing a novel. I think it's a smart strategy in how it removes self-editing and self-doubt or criticism from the creative process. It focuses on quantity over quality for a first draft, with the idea being that both increase when you focus on quantity. I found this to be true because there was no room to constantly evaluate. My biggest piece of advice would be to pick up No Plot, No Problem. It is written by the person who came up with the idea. It lays out the process wonderfully. Try to get ahead on the word count. Don't be afraid of writing more than the quota, especially in the first week.”

Thank you again for your question. Please keep sending me questions and I will keep answering them here!

Lastly, one of the best novels I have read recently is The God of Small Things. What are your favourite novels? Let me know in the comments!

FRIENDS reviewed

October 15, 2016 | Teen Blogger | Comments (0)

Reviewed by Sanjana, age 18

Friends DVD"So no one told you life was gonna be this wayy *clap clap clap clap*" Classic! Almost everyone has heard this theme song once in their life, whether they've actually watched Friends or not. If you're someone who hasn't watched Friends, I would suggest you do so ASAP. It's such a great way to de-stress, and the plot and characters will have you fall in love with the show in no time. It's quite humourous, and although it deals with more serious topics at times, watching this classic show is guaranteed to leave you saying "just one more I swear" after every episode ;)

Agendas! reviewed ¿ⓧ_ⓧﮌ

October 15, 2016 | Teen Blogger | Comments (1)

by Sanjana, age 18

AgendaI know this isn't technically a book, but in a way, it is. It's a book that will keep your life together. I just entered my first year in university, and I found my agenda to be a lifesaver. I write down everything I possibly can - from due dates, tests, extra curricular activities - everything!

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TALON reviewed

October 13, 2016 | Teen Blogger | Comments (0)

Review by Sophia, age 18

Talon-book-coverDo you like fire-breathing dragons? Are you interested in fantasy? Well this is the book for you!

Talon is one of the most phenomenal books I’ve read in a long time.

There’s something for everyone whether it’s secret societies, dragons, soldiers, adrenaline-filled action and adventures. Talon has it all!

From the very first line, “Observe. Assimilate. Blend in,” I was hooked instantaneously by its scintillating and cryptic meaning.

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Volunteer Hours: Tell TPL Teen Consultation

October 13, 2016 | Debbie | Comments (0)

Join a group of teens on November 5th for two hours and tell us what you think about the library and our digital services. All participants will receive volunteer hours for participation and transit assistance is available. Your input will help shape how the library serves teens and the opportunity is a unique experience to put on your resume.

Teen Zone Toronto Public LibraryAny person between 13 and 19 years old living in Toronto is eligible. You don't need a library card, but if you are a regular library user that is great too. Feel free to sign up with a few friends and make an afternoon of it!


Teens aged 13-19 who live in Toronto. Library users and non-users are welcome.


Tell TPL Teen Consultation: a two hour session where the library asks participants to share their experiences in small groups.


Saturday November 5th, 2016, 2:30-4:30 p.m.


Northern District static map

Northern District Branch
Room 200
40 Orchard View Boulevard
Toronto, ON





Help the library develop excellent services for youth, develop experience participating in a consultation event and earn volunteer hours.


Add your name to our list before November 1st by registering online, and we'll see you in person on November 5th!


Ask Vivek: What is your advice for a beginning songwriter?

October 10, 2016 | E Writer in Residence 2016 — Vivek Shraya | Comments (1)

Ask Vivek - What Is Your Advice For A Beginner Songwriter

I recently received a question regarding songwriting (thank you!) and decided to put together a short list of tips that have worked for me over the years as a songwriter.

  1. An important part of being a good writer is reading. Similarly, an important part of being a good songwriter is listening to music. This sounds a bit obvious, I know. But what I mean by listening isn’t just having music playing in the background. Make a list of your top ten favourite songs. Write down what makes each song so special to you. Is it the lyrics? Is it the chorus? If so, what about the chorus do you like? Try to be as specific as you can be in your observations while you are listening. It is equally important to pay attention to the songs you don’t like. What don’t you like about these songs? Learning what you don’t like in a song can be useful in helping you define what you do like and to create this.
  2. Similar to the above point, listen to a wide range of music. Admittedly, I listen to a lot of Beyoncé. But it’s been very useful for me to listen to music outside of my preferences, outside of what is being played on the radio, and outside of what my friends are listening to. The more different kinds of songwriting you are exposed to, the better and more creative your songwriting will be.
  3. The acoustic guitar / campfire test is a useful one: If you can play a song on just an acoustic guitar (or even just sing it acapella) and it’s strong, then it’s a good song. A good song is not one that should rely on the production or accompaniment. Instead, a good song is one that you could produce in a number of different ways and would still shine. A great example of this is “Show Me Love” by Robyn. The album version is stellar, but the acoustic version is also captivating.
  4. That said, playing around with production and recording can be fun and enhance your songwriting. Garageband is an pretty easy software that I recommend exploring. Even though I didn’t study music formally, there was a lot I could do in Garageband because of how intuitive it is. It is available on all Mac computers (and if you don’t have access to a Mac, check out the Digital Innovation Hubs at the Toronto Public Library). Recording my songs in Garageband is a useful way for me to go back and listen to a song. I can hear what is working or not working such as which lyrics I want to change. Recording your song will make it easier to add additional parts, like harmonies. Garageband comes with all kinds of cool, built-in sounds, so you can also add drum loops or sound effects to give your song a fuller sound. Don’t be afraid to try things out and have fun. Maybe your song needs a horn sound and the only way you will know is if you try it out.
  5. Look for opportunities to play your songs live, even for your friends at a house party. Or look for open mic nights in your area, like Queercab at Buddies in Bad Times Theatre. This is a great way for you to hear your song in a different context. A song will sound different in a live atmosphere and hearing it in this context will give you a new perspective on the song itself and songwriting. This will also allow you to get feedback from your friends or audience members, build your performance skills and fans! You might also meet other musicians who want to collaborate with you, which will enhance your songwriting.
  6. While there is so much you can learn from listening to music by other artists, avoid falling into the trap of wanting to write someone else. The world doesn’t need another Rihanna, as spectacular as she is. The world needs YOUR unique perspective and voice! Spend the time in developing your own sound by writing constantly. The more songs you write, the better your songs will get. I wrote my first songs when I was thirteen and while I cherish those songs, my songwriting has only gotten richer the more I have done it.

Thank you again for your question. Please keep sending me questions and I will keep answering them here!

Lastly, some of my favourite songwriting this year is on the Case/Lang/Veirs album. What songwriters inspire you? Let me know in the comments!


October 9, 2016 | Teen Blogger | Comments (0)

Review by Sohinee, age 16

A court of mist and fury -coverUsually sequels never live up to the high expectations of the first book but A Court of Mist and Fury exceeded expectations. Author Sarah J. Maas depicted Feyre as such a sympathetic and broken character that we couldn't help but share her pain, anger and loneliness. We see her trying to to fit in the Spring Court, adapting, trying to love and care. Her nightmares are so vividly described that we can imagine it. Along with Feyre we also see some changes in other characters: Lucien, the fae who almost had her killed, attempting to defy Tamlin's orders to help Feyre, Tamlin shutting her out and treating her like property and lastly Rhysand, the cold and cunning High Fae, who killed and tortured other faes, we see a side of him that was unexpected.

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