Hi everybody! And welcome!
When I first started working on the outline for El Deafo, I called it EL DEAFO: A Semi-Autobiographical Superheroic Love Story (with Hearing Aids!). I’m glad I shortened the title. Who needs all those extra words? Not you, Dear Reader.
I thought you might like to see a bit of my process. It took me a long time to find my groove on this project. It was my first graphic novel, after all, and the learning curve for me was steep. I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again, the graphic novelists out there who do more than one of these puppies are amazing people with a seriously keen work ethic. Whew. Anyway, I might share some of my frighteningly overdone earlier attempts later, but here’s an example of how I was working once I did find my groove.
There is an early scene in El Deafo, after I’ve gotten my first hearing aid, in which I talk to my friend Emma for the first time:
It’s the only place in the book where I acknowledge that yes, not only did things sound funny to me, but I sounded funny to other people. Just like Emma and other kids my age (4 and a half), I was still learning the nuances of tongue placement and all that other stuff that goes with learning how to talk. Without sound (or with a version of sound that’s a bit warped due to hearing aids), it gets a lot harder to master speech.
My mother is not a hoarder. She rarely saves anything. She gleefully throws stuff away or gives things to Goodwill whenever given a chance. All greeting cards, receipts, and flyers are torn into squares and used as note paper. However, she chose to save a lot of paperwork over the years that was related to my hearing loss. She saved the Phonic Ear, too. It was almost like she knew that all that stuff would be useful to me some day. It was! I looked back over all of it when trying to figure out various bits and pieces for El Deafo.
I dedicated El Deafo to my parents, because they are awesome. They drive me crazy, but I’m crazy about them.
They’ve been married for over 50 years. They met at UVa. My mom felt sorry for the shy boy who was sitting at a table at the cafeteria all by himself. So she married him.
One of the trickier things about illustrating El Deafo was that I had to age the main character as she journeyed through elementary school. Luckily, the main character in the book is me, so I had some good photo reference to use.
I featured a couple of these photos in a previous post, but here they are again, with their matching comic-Cece interpretation:
The beginning of my book El Deafo is about my 2-week stay in the hospital while I recovered from meningitis. My hearing loss was a direct result of this illness. I spent a lot of time drawing during those two weeks. My parents claim that I drew the same thing over and over and over again, and that by the time I got to leave the hospital, I had done over 100 drawings. My parents only kept three, probably because it wasn’t really a time they wanted to remember. Here’s how I imagined I looked as a kid drawing in a hospital bed:
El Deafo is about hearing loss, of course, but it’s also about my family. Here’s an early scene from the book:
During the less-than-two-weeks-away countdown to El Deafo, I’ll be sharing some of the behind-the scenes stuff, like these covers that never saw the light of day:
Only two weeks until my graphic novel/memoir El Deafo is released! September 2nd is gonna be a good day. The book is about my experiences as a deaf kid trying to function in a hearing world, and it is also a celebration of the technology that I was using in school during the mid-seventies and early eighties. That technology was called the Phonic Ear, and here it is in all its glory in the book:
El Deafo is coming out soon! Mark your calendars for September 2nd, to be exact. In the meantime, I have had the pleasure of reading some very generous and kind early reviews. The book has even gotten a couple of stars, one from Publishers Weekly and the other from Kirkus. Our old friend Jerry Bee likes the buzz: