Monthly Archives: May 2011

Gradumicated

Well, it’s official! As of May 21, I’m officially terminal. Degreed, that is. Hooded robes. Cowhide in frames. After nearly two years, I’m now the proud holder of a Masters of Fine Arts (MFA) in Writing degree from Spalding University. For those who don’t know (and don’t feel bad, I didn’t know either until I asked just what exactly did “terminal degree” mean…I mean, I wasn’t ready to die or anything like that), an MFA is a “terminal degree” in the same way a PhD is. What that means, is that I’ve gotten the highest education available specific to WRITING. Tis the end of the road. Yes, I could have gotten a PhD in Creative Writing…the difference would have been with the PhD I would have had to have had a lot of extra “fluff” courses to go with it. Things like Literature and foreign languages. But because I knew Writing was where I wanted to be, I didn’t need all that extra stuff.

The funny thing about that is, I’d been accepted into a PhD program for Creative Writing. However, after a 4 hour meeting with the director, he said I didn’t need a PhD, and that I needed to find an MFA program instead. It would be faster and serve the same purpose. The difference for me now (with degree in hand) is that I need to focus on publishing!

So, I’m excited to be done so that I can insert myself into an already crowded job market. I’ve had one near miss (was in the top 3…but didn’t get the offer) and am still on the short list for a couple that I’m very interested in. Plus, I’m still finding announced positions and applying as I discover them.

But I’m also saddened because the Spalding MFA program is such a fantastic program and I will miss the learning, encouragement, camaraderie and feeling of community that Spalding residencies foster. It’s a very “comfortable” place, even though the residencies are grueling days and hours! At my last residency, I had the opportunity to write and direct a short film. What an incredible experience. The University should be posting those soon and when they do, you can bet I’ll be floating the link all over the place. It’s a considerably altered/adapted scene from the opening of my novel, The Interns (which I’m considering renaming to Mississippi Needs Super-Heroes, Too. I’d welcome your thoughts on the titles)…which is now in my agent’s hands! Woo-hoo!

I would publicly encourage anyone and everyone who’s considered further writing education to look into the Spalding MFA program. It is a “low residency” program, which means your time physically on the Louisville, KY campus is limited. Most of the work is done from home. It’s great for the non-tradition student—basically, those with a real life which often consists of jobs and families and responsibilities and such. Not that traditional students don’t have those…yeah, okay, they usually don’t have them.

Anyway, we called PhD holders “Doctor”…so, you may now officially refer to me as “Master Mann”

bwahhhahahahha

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Free Comic Book Day and the Comic Book Writer

Some of you know, but many of you don’t, that this Saturday is Free Comic Book Day in comic specialty shops all across the US. This year will be the 10th Annual Free Comic Book Day. What an incredible opportunity for budding comic writers to browse a list of potential “reference” books and come away with one for free! It’s also a great opportunity to meet local and nationally recognized creators as many of them (including myself! More on that below) will be making appearances at comic shops nationwide.

Comic writers will always be asked the question “do you draw, too?” Most comic writers who’ve been around long enough are used to the question and can roll with it. In fact, comic writers should anticipate this question because comic books are such a visual medium.

So what does a comic writer do?

While there are a multitude of variations, there are two basic styles of scripts used in comic books/graphic novels: full script and plot first. Long time comic book readers have likely heard them called “Marvel style” and “DC style” for the simple reason that long ago each company used a different style of scripts. Those styles are more interchangeable today, but some old-timers hang on to those terms.

A full script or DC style script is a finished script and once it is accepted by the editor, the writer is done. A full script contains a detailed panel description for each comic panel (the individual pictures on each page) in the entire comic. Some writers provide very basic art descriptions; some provide camera direction; and some provide very detailed descriptions of every tiny thing in the panel. Not only does the writer of a full script have to provide art direction, but he must include all of the text that the reader will see or read. This includes captions, thought bubbles and dialogue balloons.

A plot first or Marvel style script is done by the writer in two stages. The first stage is a plot only. The writer provides a detailed description of the actions happening on each page. Setting, mood, etc. is also covered, but very little—if any—dialogue is included. Writers will often suggest what the dialogue or thoughts will be simply to give the artist some direction in facial expressions and reactions. The artist then takes this plot and creates the visual, determining how many panels, etc. The finished art then goes back to the writer so that he can add in the captions, dialogue and thoughts, using the same plot that he provided to the editor and artist.

Obviously there are pros and cons to each style, but both work and proven successful over time. Regardless of style, a writer still must be prepared to tell a good story.

So, for all of you in the Jackson/Pearl/Brandon/Reservoir area, come out to Heroes and Dreams in Flowood this Saturday and pick up a free comic from the boys there! Hours are from 10am until 8pm. While you’re there, say hi to me and pick up my book, not one of the free ones—sorry. I will sign it for free, though! I’ll have to leave before 8 to get home—so come early! J

To find a comic shop near you participating in Free Comic Book Day, click here.

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