In what ways does the concept of convergence play a role in your writing life &/or writing process?
When I was in college, I tried to be a painter, but all of my paintings came out the same. They all featured the same characters staring at the viewer, desperate to talk, desperate to do something. But they couldn’t do anything, because they were stuck in a painting. I also wrote fiction and was in writing workshops, but that felt very separate. That activity took place in another building across the street, with a decadent staircase and carpets, so far from the pocked concrete floors of the Carpenter Center where most of my classes were held.
My thesis advisor, Nancy Mitchnick, eventually showed me some contemporary graphic novels. I still remember them, spread out on her paint-spattered card table. She told me that my paintings needed narratives, and that one way I could do this was by switching over from painting to cartooning. She generously didn’t point out the thick lines around my figures, their primitiveness, the way I could make a dozen paintings that all pretty much looked the same.
I’m so grateful to Nancy and her German shepherd Olivia for showing me how my interests could converge. Even though I’d drawn comics as a kid—an epic about a wayward mouse, a series of morose pieces about a hateful tree—I hadn’t realized there was a world of comics beyond the multiverse of superheroes, one where I could find a place.
LYDIA CONKLIN is the 2015-2017 Creative Writing Fellow in fiction at Emory University, where she teaches undergraduate fiction and graphic fiction. She has received a Pushcart Prize and fellowships from MacDowell, Yaddo, James Merrill House, Vermont Studio Center, and Millay, among others. Her fiction has appeared in The Southern Review, Narrative Magazine, and is forthcoming in The Gettysburg Review. She has drawn graphic fiction for Gulf Coast, Drunken Boat, and Chicago’s Steppenwolf Theater. She has taught graphic narrative and prose fiction in prisons, camps, public schools, and universities. She attended Harvard and holds an MFA from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.