If you’re heading to SPX this weekend, come by table H13 and say hello!
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Friday Guest Blog By Galen Longstreth (second from left):

In July 2007 Greg Means asked me to consider co-editing a graphic novel by MK Reed, to be drawn by Jonathan Hill, with whom I worked at Powell’s Books. The offer could not have come at a better time. I had just decided to take a semester off from my MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults Program, and in addition to the writing I hoped to do during my time off, it felt important to me to engage in a critique process with other people who were excited about creating books for kids. I’d also been hovering at the edge of the comics scene, with Greg as my friend and Alec Longstreth as my brother, and this was my chance to become an insider. I accepted with great enthusiasm and became part of what Greg called “Team Americus.”

As MK finished each chapter, Greg and I would meet at a coffee shop in Portland’s Alphabet District to go over it scene by scene. It was the first time I had laid eyes on a graphic novel script, and it took me a while to get used to the format. While I mostly concentrated on story line, character development, and dialogue, I also had to be able to visualize the scene as MK had laid it out. Greg taught me a lot about how a graphic novel writer thinks. Now that I’m working on my own script, I know which questions to ask myself. Will all of these words fit in one panel? How many panels will each page have? How much do I need to say about a panel in which no one speaks? MK is a fun script writer, throwing in hilarious asides that show affection for her characters and excitement about certain scenes. And it was incredible getting to see how Jonathan drew these scenes I had first seen only in words.

Look at all the energy and emotion in this chapter. This fight scene is so intense. I didn’t have as hard a time growing up as Neil and Danny have, but when I was a kindergarten teacher, I came face to face with parents who wanted certain books kept away from their children. In particular, this handful of parents wanted me to stop reading books about gay families to my class. And this was a class that included kids with gay parents! I admire Charlotte and Danny for standing up to Nancy. Look how angry and hateful she is. It’s hard to assert yourself around people like her and it’s important. I’m not sure I would have had the guts to do that as a kid, and as a teacher, I was so anxious I thought I was going to puke. So, way to go Danny!

Galen Longstreth is the author of Yes, Let’s, a picture book illustrated by Maris Wicks and available from Tugboat Press.

Team Americus artwork by Greg Means