Earlier this summer I had the distinct pleasure of attending the Voices of Our Nation’s Artists (VONA) Writers Conference at U.C. Berkeley. I had been lucky enough to join an outstanding group of colleagues as a member of VONA’s first-ever graphic novel writer’s workshop, led by the amazing Mat Johnson.
In one intense, yet too-short, week, we learned about the multi-faceted work of graphic novel and comic book writing, how to pair a carefully-framed sequence of images with a tightly-edited narrative script in order to tell stories that matter.
When the time came for me to share what my work was about, I chose to present the following clip of a talk that I had also delivered at Berkeley earlier this year.
Delivered as part of Berkeley’s “Staff Appreciation Week,” the TED-style talk focused on why I have chosen cartooning as my method of activism; it explains why I think that cartooning has allowed me to convey messages that I could not get across with my academic and creative prose.
The discussion that followed at VONA — an intensive program also attended by Sonia Guinansaca and Marco Antonio Flores of CultureStrike — after I presented this clip was one unlike I have ever had before. As a writer of color who is striving to achieve a measure of social justice, I learned how important it is for me to continue to maintain my creative options open. Graphic novel writing represents another rich terrain wherein my story may be told. In many ways, it is the most flexible and appropriate place where I can show what it felt like to be invisible.
I am now also looking forward to reading all the final versions of the works that the talented group of writers who shared our seminar table allowed me to get a glimpse of. It is high time that that magical diversity of opinion and experience that we shared with each other find its way into the corporate boardrooms and studios where today’s pantheon of comic-book heroes is produced.
I am excited about all the possibilities on the horizon. Now, if I could just figure out how to draw an undocumented, time-travelling, transformer chicken, then I’ll have it made.
Alberto Ledesma is an educator, activist and former undocumented student. View more of his work in Diary of a Dreamer.