Sunday, March 3, 2013

Interview with Library Journal Graphic Novel Columnist Martha Cornog

1.      What are some trends you are spotting as a graphic novel columnist for Library Journal?  At last, the teacher/educator community is catching on: kids will read comics when they won’t read anything else, and often they’ll remember the content better than they remember all-text material. For decades, children have learned to read  with comics, sometimes encouraged by parents, sometimes in spite of them. The homeschooling community is picking up on this now.

A cool trend still somewhat under the radar is “graphic medicine” Doctors, other health professionals, patients, and patient advocates are discovering how stories in comics format about medicine and health can help bring education and healing. People in all these groups are creating comics themselves, holding specialized comic-cons, and setting up courses in medical schools to teach about graphic medicine as part of medical humanities programs. Another trend is comics in prison libraries, both for entertainment and to encourage reading among inmates.

2.      What can libraries do to support graphic novels? Libraries are already doing a huge amount of heavy lifting for comics. The American Library Association officially endorsed the medium in 2002, and ever since, interest from the library world has only been growing. Recently gone viral: mini-comic-cons held in libraries, from big city library systems like in Chicago to much smaller libraries in the South and Midwest. (See example in Cincinnati These micro-festivals offer the fun and the art/literacy enticements of the big conventions but right in the front yards of people who may not be fans yet. Library comic-cons help parents learn what their kids see in comics, and why comics are good for kids and can appeal to all ages.

3.      What do writers need to know about creating books that are commercially viable? First, do your homework and finish the job of creating your book. I don’t know how many nonfiction books I’ve reviewed that lack basic amenities like sources for information consulted, or resources for curious readers to find out more about the topic, or (for graphic novels) even page numbers. Assertions should be supported with references or notes, even if very brief. Second, edit, rewrite, and proofread it well or hire these out. Do the illustrations match their captions and any mention in the text? Would section headings clarify the arguments? Do the logic, structure, and arguments actually make sense? Reviewers look for underpinnings like these.

4.      What do you find to be the rewards and challenges of being a writer today? Rewards: Reading something I wrote a few years ago and thinking, “Wow – that’s good! I wish I wrote that! Wait a minute – I did.” Challenges: Finding a golden synchrony of what I want to write about, what I can write about, and what I can actually get published.
5.      Where do you see book publishing heading? All formats, all subjects, 24/7. I don’t see digital as cannibalizing print, but complementing it. With the simultaneous explosions of self-publishing, print-on-demand, digital access, and web vendors, the written word is in no danger. Textual literacy is more important than it ever was, and early reader programs (incorporating comics, please!) are the front line of attack against American disparities of opportunity.

Brian Feinblum’s views, opinions, and ideas expressed in this blog are his alone and not that of his employer, the nation’s largest book promoter. You can follow him on Twitter @theprexpert and email him at He feels more important when discussed in the third-person. This is copyrighted by BookMarketingBuzzBlog 2013 ©

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