The Anime Monologues

I grew up drawing anime, and I guess it could’ve been worse.

Yu-Gi-Oh! was technically the first “anime” I was a big fan of as a kid, if that even counts (I think it counts in the same way that Pokemon counts as an anime, in that anything touched by 4Kids doesn’t count. Eh.)

After that, though, came FullMetal Alchemist, which all in all is a freaking anime, by anyone’s standard. Yeah! Hell yeah! A real anime!

Edward Elric was my first anime crush (well, ok, after Yami Yugi/Pharaoh Atem, if we’re splitting hairs here.) I think my first anime swag was an FMA shoulder bag that I got at Hot Topic. I RP’d over MSN Messenger with my equally 11-years-old best friend at the time, and Mary-Sue’d the hell out of myself.giphy-67Even before all of this, though, I was drawing anime.

It was definitely my entrenchment in YGO that all of this happened, but the gateway-drug that was FMA didn’t help. I was the quiet, weird kid in the back of the class drawing bug-eyed cat girls and perpetually angry dudes with pencil-thin eyebrows and winking eyes that perpetually tried to escape the outline of the face. I drew the pointy hair, the glittery irises, the tiny triangle mouths. I had a library of How to Draw Manga book stuffed under my bed, dog-eared and wrinkled with my tears of frustration. I cried some more whenever I walked by the Copic Marker section of the art store.

Growing up, though, I seemed to only ever hear one thing: anime/manga isn’t real art (implying that it’s somehow, actually, fake art?) I was told that college art professors wouldn’t take me seriously if I only ever drew anime (and yet Americanized cartoons were A-OK.)

And so, naturally, I attempted to adjust my style in order to avoid this stigma. I hid my art from passersby, I refused to let anyone glance through my sketchbook. Whenever people would try and laud me as a good artist, I’d respond, “haha, no, not really, I only know how to draw anime!”

This is so messy

God, how I wish people hadn’t burdened me with that opinion, the opinion that anime is lesser of an art form, or whatever. I guess the same goes for most styles of illustration, though, all of it being considered lesser than “fine art,” while “fine art” is considered lesser that video art, on and on and on we go.

Still though, anime remained at the bottom of the totem pole, for whatever reason, and so for years and years I never actually considered myself to be a ~real artist~, seeing as anime isn’t ~~real~~ art. And yet, even with all of that, I continued to draw it. The bug-eyed cat girls, the pencil-thin eyebrows, the arms bent behind backs because hands are hard to draw.

I even got my BA in art, and my emphasis would have been illustration if I’d wanted to spend an extra year or two grinding away at it. It was this point in my life that I was hit with an epiphany– that epiphany being this:

Anime is art, just as modern art is art, just as contemporary art is art. Anything can be art, if viewed in the proper mindset. Anime was no lesser of an artform than the cartoons of Glen Keane (OK, BAD EXAMPLE, Glen Keane is a god among men, I’m so sorry that his name is included within a sentence that also includes the word “anime”).

And so, after finally swallowing my embarrassment in showing off my anime art in class, I found myself opening up dialogues between myself and a number of other students who felt the same way, that anime was mocked within the art world for seemingly no reason. Even professors would join in, apparently surprised that this stereotype even existed in the first place. I wasn’t the only one who’d been teased and bullied and demeaned over my art style through the years, and knowing that honestly made me want to draw anime even harder.

And, let me tell you, nothing is more satisfying than looking around and finding a bunch of other nerds like me embracing their once-secret anime skillsets and demonstrating them in class projects. Whether they drew traditional 90’s-esque anime, or big doe-eyed moe anime, or some warped hybrid of them all– it warmed my heart.

Embrace your inner weeaboo flame, make the style yours, flaunt it and don’t be afraid to show it off. While there will always be people and teachers who disapprove, anyone with actual art education and an understanding of the art world will appreciate what you bring to the table.

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The Day I Realized I Don’t Deserve the Emotional Abuse

Alternatively: The Evil Stepmom Trope Is Real And I’m Living In It

I grew up in what was considered to be a “broken family.” My sister held daily screaming matches with my at the time too-overbearing dad, my mom popped pills in the bathroom with the door locked, I cried in my room by myself.

My sister ran away from home, again and again, until finally she was too old to be picked up by the police and brought home. My dad left my mom, and won full custody of me, eventually realizing his mistakes with my sister and befriending her with apologies for his actions. The divorce was messy, but necessary.

My mom took up alcoholism again, and moved away. I never saw her anymore, and barely spoke with her, either, except on federal holidays and birthdays. She’d spent my childhood lying in bed, rendered unconscious from sleeping pills, pain medication, whatever it was she felt like she needed that day, and I spent all my years as a kid hanging out with my dad. The coolest dad in the world.

I was raised by my single dad for the rest of middle school, high school, and a few years into college, before I bit the bullet and moved away from home (my adventures of which I’ve immortalized in a previous blog post). During this time, my dad met his second soon-to-be wife, and went on to marry her, too.giphy-59I’ll call her B. Whether that’s the first letter of her name, or the first letter of what she is (a salty word I don’t dare broadcast), I’ll leave for you to decide. But all in all, what I wish for you to know about B before diving in, is this:

My first impression of B was that she was a genuinely good person, who loved my dad a lot, and wanted to mutually take care of him while he took care of her. She treated me with respect, though she was shy, and I thought, for once, I might know what it was like to have an involved mother-figure in my life (one living under the same household as my dad, at least).

After the wedding, though– apparently, not even 10 minutes after the wedding, either, B shed her nice person skin like a goddamn poisonous pit-viper.

I wasn’t there for most of it, I was off doing my thing during college, but I heard enough from my dad. Things started small, “B and I have been disagreeing lately, but I think it’s just because we’re a new couple.”

“B has been giving me the silent treatment for the last week, but I think it’s because we don’t know how to communicate effectively yet.”

“B tells me I’m a mean person, so I’ve been trying harder to understand her point of view.”

“I pay all of the bills, including the mortgage, but B buys the groceries sometimes. It’s because she believes the man should be the provider for the household.”

“B says she’s refusing to cook dinner anymore, but then gets upset when I then only cook for myself.”

“B came home to me watching TV on the couch last night, and it was like WWIII.”

“B refuses to go to couples’ counselling, because she says if there’s something wrong with the relationship, it’s my fault.”

“B is clearly bipolar, or depressed, or [something else needing medication], but she refuses to go to the doctor, because she doesn’t think anything is wrong, and I’m the one that’s instigating all of the fights.”
giphy-51And then, finally, everything culminated the summer I had to move back home, or else be rendered homeless. According to B, it was the “worst summer of her life.”

According to me, it was the “summer I almost actually ended my life out of misery and desperation.”

I have a tendency for being dramatic. I’ll admit this. But that summer I was with her, I honestly, for the life of me, can’t understand how it was possibly the “worst summer of her life,” unless she’s lived every summer previous at a resort hotel and spa in Hawaii. (Honestly, I wouldn’t be surprised if that were the case, since she grew up wealthy.)

Most of the summer for me went like this: I stayed in my room when she was home. When she wasn’t home, I might go into the living room to watch TV. I might make something to eat. But when the garage door opened, I would retreat back to my hole. The only time I ever actually interacted with her was during dinner, or when my dad would invite her along on our weekend outings into town.

If I was on speaking terms with her now, I’d love to ask what it was that made her hate me so immediately, without question. I didn’t want to live there, since the beginning. I was being forced to live there. I would’ve never stepped foot into that house, had I been able to help it.

She accused me of rolling my eyes, constantly. She accused me of “stealing” my dad– which made no sense, because she was married to him, and living in the same house. She thought I was inconsiderate, because I rearranged the guest room she was letting me “borrow.” She thought I was an ungrateful child, because she couldn’t comprehend why I didn’t have a positive relationship with my mother. I was afraid to speak when she was nearby, because she had a problem with anything that escaped my mouth. She would condescendingly laugh whenever I did speak, or offer an opinion. She told my dad she didn’t approve of my relationship with him, accusing me of being disrespectful because of the friendly rapport he and I shared.

God damnit, for the life of me, I have no idea what I did to her.

This went on for months. I was absolutely miserable. I was depressed. I was ready to die. The only reason I didn’t, was because I didn’t want to leave my dad behind, alone with this sad excuse for a sentient human being.

And yet she’s the victim, it being the “worst summer of her life.”giphy-52I felt like a burden, I felt like an eyesore, I felt less than wanted. Despite never leaving my room in fear of enraging the beast, I somehow still managed to get under her scales. Anything I said or did, she would take out on my dad, rather than coming to me with her issues. How many problems could have been solved if she hadn’t been so goddamn passive-aggressive, like a high schooler?

Finally, one day, it occurred to me: I didn’t deserve to be treated like this. I didn’t deserve to be looked down upon, and walked all over like an insect. It wasn’t my problem she had an issue with everything I did, despite my never interacting with her anyway.

But, most importantly at all: she didn’t deserve a constant place in my mind.

I wasn’t going to give her the satisfaction of knowing she was taking a toll on me, that her scare-tactics and gaslighting were working.

A switch had flipped, suddenly, as if overnight. I couldn’t give a shit what she said, thought, accused me of doing, or being. It wasn’t my fault I’d been stuck living there all summer, it wasn’t my fault she hated me. If she wanted to dedicate her entire life to making me miserable, that was her own choice– but I wasn’t going to dedicate my own life to falling prey to her.

I stopped censoring what I said to my dad when she was within earshot. I stopped caring if my making individual meals in the kitchen bothered her, despite her being at work all day. I stopped caring what she said to my dad in complaint– because he’d stopped caring, too. He outright told her that he didn’t want to hear it anymore, that he knew everything she blamed on me wasn’t fair. Without even my dad on her side, she had no power over me.giphy-54While I’m not privy to physical abuse, or sexual abuse, and even this abuse I experienced over the summer was nothing more than having my self esteem demolished, I feel like I at least garnered a peek inside the mind of a miserable person who has nothing better to do that make other people miserable, too. Other, totally undeserving people, like me, and my dad,  and even my cat (who doesn’t give a damn about anyone, honestly).

By this point, though, I can confidently say she never even crosses my mind, and that’s exactly what she deserves.

The 5 Stages Of Grief As Demonstrated By My Drawing Process

I can’t tell you how many tutorials I’ve either watched on Youtube or read online over the years in terms of art and different art styles– not to mention, how each technique is done so differently between artists, it’s almost something that should be studied by psychologists. Like, I wonder if different artists do different things in their process because they didn’t get enough positive feedback as a child, or because their mother was withholding.
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My biggest cry for help as a child was probably my affinity for anime– but that’s another story.

I always come face-to-face with confronting my art-creating process without realizing I’m doing it, mostly because I send WIP screenshots to my best gal-pal and fellow artist throughout the entire process– and in looking back, I can recall exactly the thoughts going through my head at any given time. Whether it be excitement, enthusiasm, or crippling disappointment.

This got me thinking, creating art (or writing, or music, or anything else ~artsy~) seems to follow a very familiar pattern, at least in my case– and it didn’t take long for me to remember what that pattern was.

It’s the 5 stages of grief.

And right now I want nothing more than to explore them further and really figure out why the heck my brain is so mean when I’m just trying to doodle up a cool pic.

  • 1. DENIAL

“I CAN DEFINITELY DRAW THIS… OH DAMN, JUST KIDDING.”photo-jan-31-2-35-23-pm

Fellow artists. You understand this sentiment. The “if they can do it, so can I,” sentiment that is drawing things you have no experience with. For a long time, for me, it was dudes. Now, it’s backgrounds. I can’t render a background for shit.

But, that doesn’t stop me. Why? Ideally, because I’d like to get better, more practiced, at the things I’m not particularly good at– but in reality, it’s because my head is too inflated to properly fit through a standard door frame. I think, I’m really talented in drawing all of these other things, and I see other artists at similar levels drawing incredible backgrounds, and I understand the theory behind creating them… how hard could they be?

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Hard. They’re hard.

In the beginning, it’s all sunshine and daisies. I can do this. I deny the fact that hell, I’m not great at backgrounds. I tell myself I can do it because I am the all-powerful anime fangirl with a pen in my hand, and the drawing should bow to me… which leads me to the next step of this cycle: anger.

  • 2. ANGER

“WHY THE HECK CAN’T I DO THIS PERFECTLY THE FIRST TIME I TRY?”photo-jan-31-2-35-23-pm-2

Whether it be rendering backgrounds or creating mood lighting, this is the stage I gripe to my S.O. about how I’m just the worst, how I’m a disgrace to my art degree, how I should just give up. We then exchange sarcastic little quips along the lines of, “Wow, I wish I could draw,” while trading images of other, more successful artists.

This stage also leads to the mindless changing of layer blend modes, hopelessly trying to find that perfect combination while only growing more and more unhappy, more and more dissatisfied with my art and what I should be able to do by this point.

Magically, with no prior experience.

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By now, I’d like to think I’ve learned something about how practice makes an artist– but no, instead I insist on whining and oh, woe is me-ing. It’s much easier that way, because I’m not held accountable. Victim-complexes make a lot of sense.

  • 3. BARGAINING

FINE, MAYBE I’LL JUST APPROPRIATE SOMETHING INSTEAD OF FREEHANDING IT”photo-jan-31-2-35-23-pm-1

(In this scenario, “appropriating” is creator-speak for “tracing”)

Ok, tracing might be too harsh of a word (I tell myself, the writer of this blog and the perpetrator behind the appropriation in the first place), but in all honesty, I can’t see much harm in tracing art for reference and practice– assuming the original artist is CITED as a SOURCE later on, should the appropriated work become public. That’s my only stipulation. Trace to learn, but make sure ON THREAT OF DEATH that you later link to the original.

thanksubiThanks for that pic, theverge.com (Also technically Ubisoft, I guess.)

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I found myself struggling so much with the background, with the correct point of view/perspective and color, that finally I knew I would either have to figure something else out or potentially just scrap this entire piece– and I wasn’t too thrilled about that second option. Arno Dorian, my beautiful French son, needs to be paid his due.

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So I did what I had to, as a struggling single mother– I found a reference I liked and that fit with the theme of my piece, and I incorporated it, while referencing its source whenever I could (or willingly divulging the source if asked through a site where linking the source wasn’t as viable, like tumblr or instagram).

  • 4. DEPRESSION

“CLEARLY IT WAS A MISTAKE FOR ME TO EVER PICK UP A PENCIL AT THE AGE OF 5. IT WAS ALL A WASTE. I’M TRASH.”

That might be a bit of an exaggeration– but apparently thinking along those lines is incredibly common, even outside of just myself, and within my artist friend circle. What the heck is it about art that makes people hate themselves so much? I remember my favorite drawing professor in college told us: “Drawing is pain. Nothing will make you suffer like drawing will.” And he was RIGHT. DRAWING IS JUST THE WORST

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But in a lot of ways outside of the pain and misery, drawing is great, and worth it in the end. Even if your final product isn’t exactly what you set out to create, creating anything at all in the end is more desirable than giving up and being left with nothing at all. Even an ugly drawing is still a piece of art, unique only to you– and something you can later redraw to retrieve your dignity, if necessary.

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  • ACCEPTANCE

“I’M WASHING MY HANDS OF THIS. I’M POSTING IT AND ENDING THIS TORTURE.”la_liberte_ou_la_mort_by_panicward-dax9x3jLA LIBERTÉ OU LA MORT on tumblr and deviantart

Here’s the thing: this piece is not perfect. I’m horribly disappointed that I wasn’t able to capture the exact background scene, time of day lighting, mood that I was originally intending… but that doesn’t make it any less successful, in terms of audience. Your viewers don’t know the original image in your head, they don’t know how different this end product turned out. All they see is what’s shown them, and it’s their first and last impression.

Art exists as a “could have been” only in the mind of the artist themselves, and while that’s disheartening in a lot of ways, at least in terms of the intended viewers, they can enjoy a piece simply for existing. That’s probably my main point in all of this, take it as you will. Definitely not trying to advertise my own art links. What? That’s crazy.

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7 Of My Most Common Query Responses, and How I Understand Them

By this point, I’m not sure how many queries I’ve mailed off for two potential manuscripts, and I certainly don’t know how many actually garnered replies. (I could probably go in and count, but honestly, I don’t need to relive that many trips down disappointment lane.)

There are a few types that have stuck with me, some for more positive reasons than others. To a point, though, I must say, even a rejection response is more positive than no response at all. Like, I understand that the genre I’m trying to force myself into is saturated to all hell (YA is a real monster. If you tried to wring out that towel, it’d probably just look like this), but there’s always something a little disquieting in not receiving a response at all. From the perspective of an agent, though, I 100% get it. You do you, friend, you do whatever you need to keep your sanity. I got you.

I like to consider myself something of a query-veteran by now, dirty and tired and struggling to gather the strength to find 5 more prospects to email. But it’s necessary, and I’m gonna do it. Scavenging the remains of my inbox only motivates me to keep going, I guess. It certainly doesn’t make me want to go home, shut the blinds, turn off the lights, and watch every episode of Parks and Rec again while avoiding the outside.

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For those of you who understand, and those of you who might not yet, let’s take a walk down disappointment lane.

 

  • 1. The Beginning

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This is the first response I ever received, for the first query I ever sent. Honestly, even now, it absolutely shocks me, because this agent responded to me within 2 hours of receiving my email. In almost 2 years, that’s never happened again. Not once.

At the time, my manuscript was still in its infancy (I later went on to rewrite the entire thing– can’t quite believe at the time I thought it was “finished” and “polished”), my query was in its first draft, and was a horror to look at (I immediately closed the gmail tab containing it as I searched for this particular response. I don’t want to see it. I’m so embarrassed.)

The thing that makes this response so important to me, however, isn’t necessarily the response time (though that certainly means a lot, looking back. Honestly, one day if I ever do become a published writer, I might email this agent and say hey, thanks.) it was the fact I received a response at all.

As it was my first query, I think my biggest fear at the time was that I would be ignored, that my work would be so laughably bad that I wouldn’t even justify a response. And so, to receive one, especially so damn fast, a weight lifted off of me. I felt like I could breathe again.

Despite being a rejection, I’d jumped into the pool, and now knew what to expect. After doing my research, I knew going in that I was likely to be rejected a lot (Harry Potter was rejected 12 times by publishers, Twilight by 19) so I was already armored up for disappointment. I’ll be honest, a part of me was excited to be immediately loved and lauded as this century’s greatest novelist, book signings sold out and movie deal pending, but the writing gods have yet to smile upon me.

 

  • 2. The “Open to queries– oooops, just kidding everybody”

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Honestly, I receive these types of automated replies more often than I’d like. Of course, while it’s impossible for agencies to keep track of where their contact information is posted outside of their own agency’s website (I suggest to always visit the official site before querying someone, rather than relying solely on the information listed on a 3rd party agent-search) it’s a little frustrating to get your hopes up about a potentially killer agent, only to find out they’re not even open to submissions.

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  • 3. The “Almost Made Me Cry”

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This one broke me. I think I was at least a year into querying this point, thinking maybe my original manuscript was too long, or too specific in genre (YA Sci-Fi), and maybe I needed to pitch something else– a different, shorter manuscript, one a little easier to swallow and get my name out there before dropping the big one– and oh damn, this one hit me hard.

I was sitting in class when I read it, and I recall exactly what happened after– I felt absolutely nauseous. I thought I was going to be sick. I immediately texted my BFF and told her, and then had to fight back tears.

By this point I was so frustrated, so tired, I just wanted something. Even if it was just another rejection with some hopeful words in it, I wanted anything but this response. I don’t know if it was automated like everything else, or if this agent actually plucked those keys and worded it this way on purpose, but the thought that I was so close, but still not good enough, I felt like I’d been gutted.

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It sounds dramatic, but when I read it, all I saw was this: “Hey! Your query really got me interested! Oh, but the actual material just isn’t great. I was prepared to offer you something, but, maybe, nah.”

+10 Baby Points added to my stats

 

  • 4. “Dear Author”

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I don’t particularly have anything to say about this one, except that I find “dear author” kind of hilarious(ly ironic), seeing as every “How to Write a Query” step by step guide explicitly states “under NO circumstances should you address your query with ‘DEAR AGENT’”

 

  • 5. The “Words of Encouragement”

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“This business is highly subjective; many people whose work I haven’t connected with have gone on to critical and commercial success. So, keep after it.”

Oh, you sweet, sweet, angel, thank you so much. I want to wash your feet.

It’s the little things. Motivational blurbs at the bottom of any rejection letter suck the drowning water back out of my lungs with a vacuum hose. I think this is so inspiring because, while I understand that agents don’t reject for any personal reasons, really, they’re out to make money themselves and wouldn’t want to waste anyone’s time representing something they themselves don’t really care for– just being reminded of that warms my heart a bit.

Like, yeah, ok, my work isn’t total garbage– it just doesn’t vibe with you. Thank you for being honest, and supportive all at once. I hope Amazon accidentally sends you two things when you only ordered one. You deserve it.

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  • 6. The “Automated Encouragement”

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“Please don’t take a pass as a comment on you or your writing ability; it isn’t intended to be one.”

Real tears in my eyes right now. I’m actually crying.

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  • 7. The “No Reply Means No”

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Perhaps the most frustrating response I receive is no response. Even if I receive an automated reply that says, hey, just a heads up, we don’t reply to everyone, that’s still some kind of contact, and weirdly doesn’t count as a no reply to me.

Don’t get me wrong, I know why a majority of agents don’t reply to every single query they receive (seeing as some can get up to 230 queries in a single week), but it’s still a pretty crappy end game when every query I send feels like another year off my life. It’s all fine and good, I’m not bitter.

After all, I’ve received replies to some queries I assumed were just a “no reply means no,” type situation almost a year after originally sending it. So, maybe all those agents I haven’t heard back from yet still plan on replying, it’s just at the bottom of their to-do list.

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For a long time, I saw every agent who rejected me as the enemy. I felt personally slighted, I asked myself what was wrong with my query and sample pages, wracking my brain as to why these people just couldn’t see my genius. I parried comments from family and friends that would ask “how’s that book coming?” before snickering, because they thought I was all talk and no work. I had to constantly remind my dad that no, I can’t email a rejection back and ask why.

The thing is, though, that a rejection is none of those negative things. Although it might be a frustration, and a punch to the ego, try looking at it in this light instead: you would rather have an agent who’s as passionate about your plot, obsessed with your characters, and moved by your voice as you are yourself. You don’t want the first agent you send it to, who thinks, sure, ok, I could break even on this– no, you want one who will fight tooth and nail for the best book deal, and then subsequent movie deals (if that’s what you’re into, at least.)

Keep querying, keep waiting, and keep searching for your agent soulmate. They’re out there, and they’re waiting to find you, too.

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