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G - Graphic Novels. You meanX-rated? by Susan Stephenson

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Muselings - Editor - Susan Stephenson

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G - Graphic Novels.  You mean…X-rated?
Does the term “graphic novel” conjure up disturbing images of duct tape, chains and whipped cream for you? It does for many adults. Let’s do a little myth busting.


Myth One
A graphic novel is one which portrays its story line with brutal realism, graphic violence and/or graphic sex.
The word “graphic” used in the above context has evolved from the original meaning of something being described in vivid detail, to have sexual and violent connotations. But that’s not what is meant by “graphic novels”. These are novels where narrative is related through a combination of text and art, often in comic-strip form. Some of these novels are written for children. Some are written for adults and consequently MAY have sexual references etc.
However, the exact definition of a “graphic novel” is causing contention among librarians, publishers and critics alike. Does it include superhero “collections”?
What about non-fiction? Does the novel have to be “square-bound”? To get a good understanding of graphic novels, it’s best to do some research and not rely too heavily on any one definition.
Because of the connotations of the word “graphic”, some people in the trade prefer to call them "drawn books" or "visual novels".
Myth Two
No self-respecting writer would read comics – they’re for kids, aren’t they?
I decided to start my research for this one in our own bookcases. Here are the titles we own which I believe would come under the heading of “graphic novels”.
Asterix, Goscinny and Uderzo – every volume known to man
The Sandman, Endless Nights, Neil Gaiman
Paul Jennings’ “Round the Twist”- a graphic version by Lumsden and de Vries
I did not include our picture books, most of which do have a “combination of text and art” because I believe they are in a separate category of “picture books” rather than novels. Nor did I include the Calvin and Hobbes series by Watterson, Hagar the Horrible, Wizard of Id etc because they are all written as “comics”, not novels. We also have the wonderful Cartoon History of the Universe, Larry Gonick, Vols 1-7, but it’s non-fiction.
Writers, self-respecting or not, owe it to themselves to read some of the graphic novels in the market today. Try to get a copy of the visually beautiful “The Sandman”, definitely not written for children, but very popular with young adults.
Those of you writing for the YA market should check out library shelves and bookstores to find more titles in the graphic novel genre. Some of them have to be read from back to front because they follow the Japanese manga style. These manga novels in particular are responsible for pushing the huge growth in sales of graphic novels.
Marjane Satrapi has written a memoir about growing up in Iran during the Islamic Revolution in her graphic novel, Perspolis. You can read what Marjane has to say about her writing process here:
There are calls for submissions from publishing companies for graphic novel writers. Though it isn’t for writers of children’s fiction, and though it may seem to contradict what I said about Myth One, here’s an example of one company I found on the internet:
  • Yaoi Press - Graphic Novel Script Writers Wanted
    PAY: $200-$250 for a 20 page script
    Yaoi Press publishes graphic novels. These are thick, soft-cover, digest-sized comic books. Our books are drawn in the Japanese "manga" style. Our stories all fall into a niche Japanese genre called 'yaoi' that is popular with women in the United States. Yaoi is romantic stories about guys in love with other guys for women readers. We need graphic novel script writers. We're hoping some polished fiction writers will consider making the leap into something different. Please research the genre of yaoi online before you submit. It's not the same as gay fiction. Payment is $10-$15 per graphic novel page depending on your professional published credits. A full-length graphic novel is 100-120 pages. We also publish shorter bonus stories of 20-60 pages. Sample scripts available upon request. Please read our submissions guidelines carefully:
Book sellers and libraries are catering to the increase in readers of graphic novels by expanding their selections and including novels for children, young adults and adults.
Myth Three
I’ve heard graphic novels are just for kids who don’t like reading.
Touted by some, especially publishing companies, as the cure-all for aliterate or reluctant readers, the audience for graphic novels actually includes children, teens, young adults and adults, many of whom love to read different genres.
Let’s think back to when we read comics as kids. Do you recall enjoying them? My parents disapproved of comics, so of course they held an added lustre for my brother and me. We occasionally met up with kids who were allowed to own comics and we’d indulge in an orgy of Superman, Little Lulu, Donald Duck and Li’l Abner. We read as many books as we could get hold of, too, but we adored the speed, colour and pizzazz of comics.
When my son was seven, he discovered comics for himself. His great love was Asterix which I got to enjoy all over again. And again! My son is now eighteen. He enjoys reading Terry Pratchett novels just as much as he enjoys reading Chobits by Clamp. Fortunately, he has now learnt to read to himself! When I stole his copy of Chobits, ordered at great expense over the internet, I discovered it’s about a guy who falls in love with his persocom  (a lady robot). To tell you the truth, but please don’t tell my son, it reminds me of what my mother called “penny dreadfuls” which were romance comics we read under the desk in high school.
My point is, it’s not just reluctant readers who enjoy graphic novels. However, graphic novels certainly are a wonderful way to get such kids into reading. In my book, if you’ll pardon the pun, anything that gets kids away from a screen and back to print, deserves to be encouraged by parents, librarians and teachers.
Here are some useful links for writers of graphic novels:
Tokyopop Fiction Submission Guidelines are here:
Dark Horse Comics Writer Submission Guidelines are here:
2000AD Submission Guidelines are here:
There is a list of Trade Paperbacks and Graphic Novels here at Michael Lavin’s site :
Michele Gorman has a list of graphic novels suitable for upper-elementary readers here:
Have you been to these sites yet?
Menagerie Publishing currently publishes two magazines. Think & Discover is for grades 1-4
and Above and Beyond is for grades 5-8. Both magazines are comprised of “creative enrichment
ideas for gifted, bright learners and every child who wants a challenge.” These are not just your
typical classroom magazines - so we do not want the typical submissions including short
stories, bulletin boards, crafts, etc. We are looking for story starters, logic puzzles, creative
writing exercises, problem-solving scenarios, school projects and enrichment activities for the
core curriculum. All manuscripts should contain some type of student activities - we do not
accept informational articles.We do accept e-mail submissions although there are some formats that we have trouble retrieving. If that happens you will be notified.
E-mail: Fax: (319) 376-5734
LEE & LOW BOOKS, the award-winning publisher of multicultural books for children, is pleased to announce the sixth annual NEW VOICES AWARD. The Award will be given for a children’s picture book story by a writer of color. The Award winner will receive a cash grant of $1,000 and our standard publication contract, including our standard advance and royalties. An Honor Award winner will receive a cash grant of $500. More details at the site.
Dragonfly Spirit
Stories and poems must be previously unpublished. Content should be age-appropriate—no violence, sexual situations or profanity. Be creative, and most of all, have fun with it!
March and June 2006 issues:  (updated October 17th, 2005)
We are now accepting submissions for our 2006 Spring and Summer issues. There are no specific themes.   More information at the site.
Did you catch Robert Redmond’s Pencil Pals column in November? He had an excellent interview with Troy Wilson, children’s author, which no writer should miss.
Your PROMPT for this month is to take the seventh picture you see in a book or magazine of choice and let it develop into a story or article of 500-1000 words.
Until next month, write on!