“Turn and Face the Strange”

“Turn and Face the Strange”

[August 13, 2017]

I have been working on Justin Case and the Closet Monster for just under ten years. Ten years is a long time. Many times during the process I have thought about giving up. Though the book has brought me much joy it has also been challenging and, at times, extremely frustrating. I have shed many tears on the road to its completion and I predict will probably shed many more on the journey to seeing it published.

Just last weekend I had a small art opening at Pegasus on Church here in Toronto. The show will run until the end of August and showcases original work that I have created based on the characters in my graphic novel. When I made arrangements for the show, I didn’t expect to be nervous about the opening, and though it was a very modest affair attended by friends, I have to admit to experiencing some opening night jitters; something not new to me but something - in the past - I would have never admitted to.

You see, to the people that know me best I have never been considered a shy person or an introvert. My best friends in fact would probably tell you stories that depict me as an outrageous, sometimes inappropriate, attention-seeker, forever at home in the spotlight. Though I love those old stories and take pleasure in both hearing and retelling them, the truth of the matter is that I have been fulfilling that role less and less. People who meet me for the first time find it hard to believe that I was ever the outrageous extrovert my oldest friends describe, preferring instead to classify me as quiet, witty, and reserved.

Have I changed? Yes. To be honest, writing the book has changed me.

When I was writing and illustrating my graphic novel, most of my days were spent alone in silent contemplation with my work; my only companions being the imaginary characters in my book. Though I needed the time by myself to produce the work, that much time alone cannot help but make you more contemplative and insular. Socializing skills are a lot like muscles— if you don’t use them they become weak and ineffectual and, as a result of being alone so much, the ease in which I used to interact with people has become a bit compromised.

I used to feel that it was my responsibility to entertain people and make them laugh. But since working on the book I have become more of a listener and an observer of people. If you are going to write believable characters you need to be aware of how people interact. While writing the book, I also I found myself censoring my comments, choosing to keep my wittier remarks and jokes to myself so that I could use them later for the book. After ten years of repressing myself I began to believe that the outgoing person I once was maybe gone for good.

Humans are incredible creatures, though, forever adapting and changing. I thought I had seen the last of my extroverted self until I overcame my jitters and began interacting with my friends at my opening last weekend. With the book finished and new original work finally ready to be viewed, I had no reason to repress anything anymore, no reason to silently observe, and no book to save my wittier remarks for. Free to be my complete self once again, I began to remember how much I truly love the spotlight, and with my passion project finally ready to be revealed, I finally had something real to talk about, something people could see, touch and interact with. With my work on display, and my friends by my side, I was like a person reborn.

I don’t regret the ten years I spent working on my graphic novel. Sure, at times I felt as if I was losing myself in the work but I needed to be focused and connected in order to create something real and truthful. Nothing worthwhile is created without some sacrifice and if retreating into myself was the only way to create Justin Case and the Closet Monster I am proud I had the courage to do so. A courage I must add that was bolstered by my husband Stacy.

The time for introspection, however, is over and though I have been worried that I may not be up to the task of promoting my graphic novel and representing myself, after my opening last weekend I have rediscovered my latent ability to own the room. Thank you to all my friends that showed up to the opening. Your presence allowed me to stretch a muscle that I haven’t used in a long time and with this new found confidence I promise to share my story with anyone who will listen.

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