How to Raise an Interesting Child

Friday, August 26, 2011

I think there is a naturally tendency after having a baby to hunker down a bit, to rest, or take stock of the damage, or to just get a bit hermitlike as the hormones run roughshod. Have you seen me lately? I'm the adorable Ted kaczynski, with not as much hair. People, I have lost so much hair in the past two months from post-preggo shedding that I have to keep a bag in my car to deal with the mess. My trash cans are full of it, as are my baby's fists. But in this self-imposed exile, a gift. I have been writing. A lot.

Or maybe staring at a blank page and thinking about it a lot. But from the moment I wake until I go to sleep, my stories are staring me in the face. They are Glenn Close from Fatal Attraction and they will not. be ignored.

The only way I can explain it is that I gave birth to my second and last child and the REST OF MY LIFE suddenly loomed large in front of me. I am writing like my life depends on it, and depending how much sleep I got the night before, I think it just might.

For several years now I have been kicking around the idea of a parenting story, one that focused specifically on the first amazing, terrible, life changing first year that a couple becomes parents for the first time. And whlie the title is always flucuating, I'm calling it How to Raise an Interesting Child. One, because I think it's catchy and sounds like a quirky parenting manual, and 2) because the story is as much the birth of two people into parents as it is the birth of a child.

Because in a former life I was a screenwriter, the story has always been intensely visual, and I thought the topic would be excellent fodder for a movie. But here was the dilemma for me: that first year of parenting is so jarring and disorienting by its long, drawn out grind. The sleep deprivation. The constant near-panic over the exotic sounds, smells of this new baby, the enormous shift in identity that occurs as husband and wife become father and mother and all the existential flotsam and jetsam that crowd a day already jammed with the task of shaping a human being. Heady stuff, but not exactly compelling to watch for two hours on a screen.

And then I happened onto what I thought would be an elegant solution. The graphic novel.

Here was a way to crack open the brains of my characters and show them as they thrill and despair in their day to day challenge as new parents. I could tell the story with a traditional narrative framework but also throw in some really crazy shit. Her anxiety fueled nightmares. His comic book within a comic book. Twitter feeds. A poo chart. A DETACHABLE poo chart. It's been exciting to write, and as I am nearing completion of the first draft, the other essential part of the equation has come into play.

The artwork.

I can't draw. But I found Kayla Cline, an enormously gifted artist who can. Her work reminds me of Craig Thompson's Blankets, one of my favorite graphic novels, and a really beautiful meditation on falling in love for the first time.

So I can't begin to tell you how excited I am to share a sneak peek into the book. Here's a rough sketch of Sam and Jesse Miller, the heroes (and sometime villains) of How to Raise an Interesting Child. Voila!!



  1. That is really, really exciting! I haven't read much in the way of graphic novels, though a cool friend dropped a few on me recently and I did love the few I found earlier. I would TOTALLY read a graphic novel on this topic. I always shake my head when talking to parents of a single under-one and say, oh, that first year is, like a thousand years long. It doesn't put a negative or positive connotation on it the way the previous generation was always saying, (insert nasal voice here): Enjoy this time, it is so fleeting ... All I wanted to say was oh, ya?! F#$*(#$ you. (As much as I really loved the moments.)

    So ya. I think a graphic novel would really do the topic justice. And I think you hit a winner with the artist. I'm in love.