An updated edition of my graphic memoir/oral history Taking Turns: Stories from HIV/AIDS Care Unit 371 is now out from Graphic Mundi. In this post, I’d like to discuss the process of taking a project that felt finished to me and integrating feedback from early readers.
Only two friends (fellow cartoonists) saw the pages of Taking Turns as they were being made. They offered minimal feedback. More important at this phase were weekly progress deadlines. The three of us had a private blog where we posted our work on respective projects and gave one another encouragement. I cannot stress how important this small group was and continues to be to my creative work. In The Artist’s Way, Julia Cameron refers to this as a Sacred Circle. (See Artist’s Way pg. 217 for more details.)
Once the book as I intended it to be was done, albeit in first draft, I felt safe enough to release it to a wider circle of trusted advisors. I chose individuals who would take looking at the project seriously, from unique perspectives, and with complete (but constructive) honesty. Three of these individuals actually took detailed notes, gathered as a group, and sat down with me for several hours to discuss the draft. Their feedback was invaluable. I then gathered the feedback emailed by other trusted readers and began contemplating, integrating, or disregarding the comments and critiques. Each of the tabbed pages below was a change. Some small, some large.
One example I like to share. Originally, all of the oral histories in the book were conveyed as Karen Coleman’s two pages below, basically “talking head” panels.
But the content of her oral history was describing what the unit looked like. This was a huge missed opportunity! In this visual medium, I could SHOW rather than let Karen TELL. The pages on the windows are the edited versions of the two above.
And here’s a closeup of one of those pages.
When I finished, I was sure to run these pages by Karen to make sure it was okay to add a “fictional” walk-and-talk aspect to her oral history. Thankfully, she was on board 100%.