Posts Tagged graphic novel

Interview with author Kayla Miller and a giveaway of Kayla’s latest, CAMP!

Today we welcome Kayla Miller to the Mixed-Up Files of Middle-Grade Authors blog. Kayla is the author/illustrator of the graphic novels CLICK and CAMP, and here Kayla talks about their process for creating their novels; what it is about sleepaway camp that makes it a perfect setting for a middle-grade book; and their short-lived career as high school talent show host. Read on, and then enter to win a copy of CAMP below.


Mixed-Up Files: We see from your bio that you did not always want to be a cartoonist, and that wanted to be a paranormal investigator with a specialty in ghosts and aliens. That is hilarious! Why do you think you came up with that career path?
Kayla: I loved anything spooky or weird as a kid. My middle school library had this series of books about paranormal phenomenon and cryptozoological creatures that explained the history of each topic and had examples of people’s experiences. I was obsessed. When I was younger than that, I had wanted to be a private eye and had a bunch of toy evidence collecting kits and “spy tool” kits. Becoming a paranormal investigator seemed like a natural combination of those two interests.

Mixed-Up Files: So when did you decide you wanted to draw and write for a living?
Kayla: High school. My favorite subjects were always Art and English. When I was looking at colleges I was torn between doing something art related or something writing related. In the end art won and I went to school for illustration, but I kept writing while I was in art school and would complicate my illustration assignments by making them into comics. When I graduated, I thought my career would be as an illustrator/cartoonist putting pictures to other people’s stories and writing would be a hobby. I honestly didn’t know I’d be lucky enough to write as part of my job until an editor approached me and asked if I wanted to illustrate and write a comic.
Click by Kayla Miller
Mixed-Up Files: Your first graphic novel was CLICK. Can you talk about where the inspiration for that came from?
Kayla: The idea for setting a book at a school variety show came from my agent (then editor) Elizabeth, whose daughter had just participated in one. It’s partially inspired by her experience of how being asked to break into groups for a project can strain friendships, something I can definitely remember being an issue when I was a kid, and partially inspired by my own experience hosting my high school talent show. My co-host and I had come up with a series of skits and gags to do between the other students’ acts that we considered to be Vaudevillian or like the banter from the Sonny & Cher Comedy Hour… but were mainly just very silly.

Mixed-Up Files: Re: CAMP — we’re assuming you went to sleepaway camp. Is that right? What did you want to capture when writing about this rite of passage for so many kids?
Kayla: I went to Girl Scout camp as a kid and I worked at an Arts & Sports summer camp as a counselor when I was in college. Camp is many kids’ first time being away from their family and I think that’s a big step. Camp gives kids a place where they can assert themselves and make their own decisions in a way they might not be able to at school or home. I wanted to capture how that freedom is both exciting and stressful at times.
Camp by Kayla Miller
Mixed-Up Files: For people who don’t really know much about making a graphic novel, can you explain the process to us a little bit? Do you write the story first with little sketches? Draw each panel as you write?
Kayla: I always write the whole story first. I start with an outline and then move on to writing a script with dialog, a breakdown of how many panels will be on the page, and descriptions of the images. After that I make “thumbnails” which are very tiny sketches that help me figure out how the panels will be laid out on the page and a rough idea of where the characters and objects will be in the panel. Then I move on to sketching, inking, lettering, and coloring.

Mixed-Up Files: Was the process different with your second book? What did you learn from your first one?
Kayla: I think I was more organized with the second book. CLICK was the longer than all the pages of every other comic I’d ever made combined, so it was really a big undertaking and I don’t think I realized how much harder it was to keep track of things on that scale. I tried to be more orderly with CAMP. CLICK was also the first time I worked with a designer or a colorist on comics, so I had to get used to passing files between multiple people and communicating about changes. It’s been a big adjustment from working on webcomics alone, but I think I’ve finally got it down.

Mixed-Up Files: Can you suggest a few of your favorite graphic novels that our middle-grade readers might want to check out?
Kayla: If you like CAMP, I’d check out Vera Brosgol’s BE PREPARED. It’s also about a summer camp, but a very different kind of camp than the one Olive and Willow go to– it’s actually kind of like the camps I went to as a kid. I also love Kristen Gudsnuk’s MAKING FRIENDS and Brenna Thummler’s SHEETS!

Enter here to win an autographed copy of CAMP!

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STEM Tuesday– Getting Your Comic-on with Great Science Graphic Novels– Writing Tips & Resources

STEM Tuesday’s Gone Graphic

Comics? We don’t need any of that nonsense in STEM.

What was that? No, I did not see the STEM Tuesday “Great Science Graphic Novel” book list for this month.

Bah-humbug! We didn’t have STEM books like that when I was a kid. Textbooks were perfectly fine for us.

No, my name is not STEMbeneezer Scrooge. Now, get off my lawn and leave me be. It’s time for my nap.

Who’s there? I thought I told you to skedaddle.

Aye! It’s a spirit.

Leave me be! I’m just an old STEM guy stuck in my ways. I’m going back to sleep before Wheel of Fortune comes on.

“STEMbeneezer, log on and follow me!”

What in the world? Another STEM spirit!

Smooth, Ghost of STEM Present. Real smooth. But I’m not going to get on the internet to scour bookstores.

Haven’t you heard of online identity theft and spyware?

Jeez, leave me be, I’m going back to sleep. And where do you come up with these “original” names, anyway?

What are you? You must be the Spirit of STEM Future.

Aack! Don’t beam me up, Scotty!  I don’t want to go!

NOOOooo!!!

A hint? For what?

Help meeeeeeee!

Holy bad dreams. What happened? How long have I been asleep?

I know that answer!

Come, on! The answer’s easy.

Graphic storytelling is a great format for STEM books.

I’m a changed man. Textbooks have their place but the graphic novel format really does work well with STEM storytelling.

Graphic storytelling + STEM = Natural match

Using graphics to define a STEM concept has been a natural partnership for ages.  I present the evidence.

DaVinci designs are a graphical how-to manual

DaVinci’s water lifting device proposal

A canon design

Galileo’s graphic notes on his observations of Jupiter’s moons

Sir Issac Newton’s Graphic Notes

Illustrated concept from NEWTON’S PRINCIPIA

From Newton’s Notes on Alchemy

A young Isaac Newton’s graphical code listing his sins committed

Chemistry

If you have the reagents, you could probably make your own Vitamin A from this graphical reaction.

Maps of biological pathways

The Krebs Cycle, aka The “I wish I had a dollar for every time I memorized & forgot this pathway in my school days” Cycle.

 

TNF pathway from one of our lab’s publications. It tells the visual story of an E. Coli effector subverting the TNF inflammatory pathway.

Let the evidence show using graphics has worked in STEM since the STEM fields were born.

It’s only natural they work in the field of STEM storytelling, right?

Visual Storytelling

A picture is worth a thousand words.

 

UNDERSTANDiNG COMICS: THE INVISIBLE ART by Scott McCloud

This a book you must read whether you are interested in straight graphic storytelling or storytelling in general. It doesn’t matter if the storytelling is fiction or nonfiction, graphic storytelling can be a powerful option for a writer.

Sketchnotes

Sketchnoting is a great way to take notes for the visual-minded individuals. I follow Eva-Lotta Lamm and her work with sketchnotes. She offers a free, downloadable Mini Visual Starter Kit at her website to help you get started with sketchnotes.

Conclusion

Hopefully, you are now convinced that images and STEM go together. The graphic novel format for nonfiction and STEM books not only works, but it fits. Just as architects and engineers use a blueprint drawing to relay information to the contractor and specialists, STEM writers can use graphic storytelling to relay information to the reader.

Still not a believer? Go to the STEM Tuesday book list and give those titles a try. It’s a much less harrowing path than visits from a trio of STEM spirits.

Take it from me. STEM graphic novels and comics are the real deal!

Mike Hays has worked hard from a young age to be a well-rounded individual. A well-rounded, equal opportunity sports enthusiasts, that is. If they keep a score, he’ll either watch it, play it, or coach it. A molecular microbiologist by day, middle-grade author, sports coach, and general good citizen by night, he blogs about sports/training related topics at www.coachhays.com and writer stuff at www.mikehaysbooks.comTwo of his science essays, The Science of Jurassic Park and Zombie Microbiology 101,  are included in the Putting the Science in Fiction collection from Writer’s Digest Books. He can be found roaming around the Twitter-sphere under the guise of @coachhays64.

 


The O.O.L.F Files

The O.O.L.F. Files this month emphasizes the power of visual storytelling in STEM and to celebrate the season, a few links to STEM activities for the holidays. Enjoy!

Superheroes & STEM

Comic Einstein!

More Sketchnoting

Holiday STEM

 


 

STEM Tuesday — Getting Your Comic-on with Great Science Graphic Novels– In the Classroom

Visual Literacy with Graphic Nonfiction!

Graphic nonfiction is a great way to work on visual literacy strategies. This week I’ll introduce four questions/ teaching moves that I use to work on visual literacy with students. I’ll give examples from this month’s book list, but you can repurpose these for use with other graphic nonfiction, illustrations, or diagrams from any science text.

 

1) Provide a diagram or illustration with the text removed. Ask students to work with a partner to talk through the answers to these questions: (a) Describe what you see. Don’t worry if you don’t know the name of any item in the picture—just describe it as you see it. (b) Make a prediction. What do you think the illustrator is trying to show here? (or—what do you think [xxxx] is?)

Consider this cell from the bottom of page 46 in Science Comics: Bats.

Ask:

What do you see in this image?

Make a prediction: what do you think the shapes might represent?

After students have studied the image and made predictions, show them a version with the text. They will be engaged and eager to see if their predictions were correct.

2) Take this a step further and ask students to fill in the blanks themselves with possible text. For example, if your class has already studied meiosis, you might use this image from page 17 of Science Comics: Dogs and let them fill in what the dog might be saying.

Then show the author’s version. Who’s do they like best?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

3) Talk about the role of arrows or other diagram features. I worked with a group of high schoolers studying a mitosis diagram many years ago. When I asked about what they saw, they were describing the image as if it were showing 6 different cells—they missed the role of the arrows indicating that the first cell turned into the cell in each image that followed.

Here’s an example, from page 43 of Older than Dirt.

Ask: Arrows in diagrams can have different meanings. They can–

a) point to something important you should notice

b) give the name of an object in the picture

c) show that one thing turns into something else

d) show that something is moving.

What is the role of the arrows in this diagram?

4) Help them see the value of imagery. Often, some information is found in the text while the images add extra information or make the text more clear. Students who don’t study images miss that extra information. So another pair of questions I like to ask are: What information do you get from the words that is not in the images? What do you see in the images that is not in the words?

This series of frames from page 21 of Secret Coders is a good example of text and images with different information. In this scene, the boy Eni is explaining to Hopper how binary code can show numbers. (Which could be especially useful since digital coding—e.g., binary—is now a piece of the Next Generation Science Standards for middle school.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Try these techniques with any of the graphic nonfiction texts from this month’s list, or any other image-heavy text you choose. Once you have used an image in class, make sure the book is available. Students will want to read the entire book!


Jodi Wheeler-Toppen is a former science teacher and the author of the Once Upon A Science Book series (NSTA Press) on integrating science and reading instruction.  She also writes for children, with her most recent book being Dog Science Unleashed: Fun Activities to do with Your Canine Companion. She can’t draw, so she’s extra impressed with the writers for this month’s books.