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Best of the National Book Festival: Raina Telgemeier, 2019

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Welcome to our ongoing celebration of the Library of Congress National Book Festival. Each weekday, we will feature a video presentation from among the thousands of authors who have appeared at the National Book Festival and as part of our new year-long series, National Book Festival Presents. Mondays will feature topical nonfiction; Tuesday: poetry or literary fiction; Wednesday: history, biography, memoir; Thursday: popular fiction; and Friday: authors who write for children and teens. Please enjoy, and make sure to explore our full National Book Festival video collection!

The following post was written by Sasha Dowdy and Monica Valentine, program specialists in the Library’s Young Readers Center.

This event from the National Book Festival is especially for children and teens, and this blog post includes prompts for writing and thinking that young readers, teens, families and teachers can use to explore the author and the author’s work. Recommended for ages 8-14.

Raina Telgemeier is the author and illustrator of the graphic novels “Smile,” “Drama,” “Sisters” and “Ghosts,” all No. 1 New York Times bestsellers. Raina’s accolades include three Eisner Awards, a Boston Globe-Horn Book Honor, a Stonewall Honor and inclusion on many Best-of and Notables lists. In this presentation from the Main Stage of the 2019 National Book Festival, she discusses “Guts” and “Share Your Smile: Raina’s Guide to Telling Your Own Story.” She is introduced by Warren Bernard, executive editor of the Small Press Expo.

Raina Telgemeier’s presentation starts at 3:42. Timestamps for major topics are below:

  • Advice: Read books (4:25)
  • Advice: Talk to people (11:06)
  • Talking about fear (12:41-13:17)
  • Advice: Share your story (16:48)
  • On graphic novels and the stigma around them (25:00)
  • How Raina makes graphic novels (30:00)
  • Q&A (43:50)

Drawing and Thinking Prompts

  • Have you read “Guts” or any other works by this author? How has this talk changed the way you think about her?
  • What surprised you about the author talk? How do you feel about her three pieces of advice? What do you wonder about?
  • If you had been at the talk, what would you have asked the author?

6:32: Among Raina Telgemeier’s favorite books are those in the “Baby-Sitters Club” series. Years later, she adapted her favorite books into graphic novels.

  • What’s your favorite book? Choose a scene from it and draw it as a one- or two-page comic. How challenging was it? How do you feel now that you have adapted your favorite story with your unique creative vision? If your favorite book is a comic, adapt a scene from it into a one-page text-only story. What’s different about it?

35:38: Raina Telgemeier makes drawings based on prompts from the audience – we don’t get to see her finished product, but what would this prompt look like if you drew it? Try it out!

  • Ask the people around you to give you “a place and two objects that don’t have anything to do with each other,” and then put yourself into the story. What will you do?

53:09: Raina Telgemeier kept a graphic diary from ages 11 to 25. She says, “It’s not easy to depict what [a panic attack] feels like through words alone, but I had the value of art, color and words, and sound effects to try to convey how it feels to be so scared” (13:48).

  • Create a comic of a recent event, a conversation, or draw someone in your life. Or, if you keep a journal, make one of your entries into a comic. How does using a comic format change the story?

Explore More

Raina Telgemeier says, “Comics can make you feel a lot of different things. … [Comics] can tell just about any kind of story” (10:08). She adds that “sharing your story makes other people feel less alone” (23:34).

  • Watch award-winning author and illustrator Jarrett Krosoczka talk about his graphic memoir, “Hey Kiddo,” which documents his childhood in a dysfunctional family, in this video.
  • Watch a brief montage of Dav Pilkey’s drawing of Petey the Cat as he talks about his own childhood struggles.

Explore the Library’s online exhibitions of comic art and share your favorite item with a family member:

Watch an artist in action: One of Raina Telgemeier’s inspirations is the cartoon strip “For Better or Worse” by Lynn Johnston. See the legendary cartoonist illustrate the story of her life and career in this video.

Raina Telgemeier has spoken at many National Book Festivals. Look back at her talks from 2016 and 2012 (featuring live drawing). What new things can you learn from her past presentations?

Create with collections: Try the Be a Comic Creator activity to help guide you in making a mini-comic or try your hand at another creative art, print-making! You can get started with supplies you can find around your house.

The 2020 Library of Congress National Book Festival will celebrate its 20th birthday this year. You can get up-to-the-minute news, schedule updates and other important festival information by subscribing to this blog. The festival is made possible by the generosity of sponsors. You too can support the festival by making a gift now.