B.C. library goes graphic for writer-in-residence

Cartoonist Miriam Libicki is the Vancouver Public Library’s writer-in-residence for 2017

A library in B.C. is colouring outside the lines with its writer-in-residence program and showing people that literature can be more than words on a page.

Cartoonist Miriam Libicki is the Vancouver Public Library’s writer-in-residence for 2017, marking the first time the library has named a graphic novelist to the role since the program began in 2005.

Comics have captivated Libicki since childhood, but she didn’t think she could create them herself until after she left the Israeli army and went to art school in Vancouver.

There, Libicki struggled to explain the intense experience to others until she turned a diary entry into a comic.

“It’s hard to, just through text descriptions, really immerse somebody,” Libicki said. ”Pictures, it’s much more immediate to immerse somebody in an environment that’s just in your head.”

The response to her work was positive, so the budding artist turned her army experiences into a graphic novel called “Jobnik!” which she self-published in 2008.

Libicki’s work mixes intricate sketches and watercolour paintings, a marked difference from the simple images in comics like Superman. Her subjects, too, delve deeper than Archie and Veronica’s latest tiff, reflecting instead on Jewish identity and examining relationships.

“I write what I like to write and I paint what I like to paint,” she said of her style.

Vancouver’s library isn’t the first to turn to someone with a unique specialty as a writer-in-residence. The Edmonton Public Library picked rapper AOK — writer Omar Mouallem — for the role in 2013, while Concordia University chose graphic novelist Matthew Forsythe to be the 2017 Mordecai Richler writer-in-residence.

Picking someone from a non-traditional medium shows that stories can be created and shared in a variety of ways, said Dawn Ibey, director of library experience with the Vancouver Public Library.

Libraries have changed as societies have changed, she said, and many now offer an array of items and services, from ebooks to recording booths, and three-dimensional printers to musical instruments.

But some traditional aspects remain.

“The end point is still the same,” Ibey said. “We’re still inviting people to be engaged, informed, to create and share information, ideas and stories.”

The Vancouver library is “format agnostic,” she added, and sees graphic novels as a way to engage a broader audience.

“A graphic novel can have an entry point for kids or teens or adults from very diverse backgrounds, different learning styles, reluctant readers, anyone who a more traditional means or a piece written for a specific demographic or age group might not reach,” Ibey said.

Graphic novels have gained prominence in recent years, including Art Spiegelman’s “Maus,” which won the Pulitzer Prize in 1992, and “The Walking Dead,” which was adapted into a hit TV show.

Part of the reason the form is so popular is that it can be used in a variety of ways, Libicki said.

“It’s a medium, not a genre,” she said. “It just means words and pictures put together in any sort of way. Any sort of story can be told with it.”

That’s a message she’s looking forward to sharing as a writer-in-residence.

For the next four months, she will mentor other writers and work on her latest project, a graphic novel about what happened to people who fled the collapsing Soviet Union. Libicki said she’s spent two years conducting interviews, researching and writing a script for the story.

She’ll also lead workshops for both children and adults on everything from water colour painting to conducting interviews.

“I’m really excited about the idea that we can bring graphic novels to so many different populations, both as appreciation and reading them, and getting people making their own,” Libicki said.

“I’d just really like to see more people cartooning.”

The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Pellets adding value to resource at Skeena Sawmills

After years of failed attempts by other companies to add value beyond… Continue reading

Donation bin break-in ends in arrests

Police Briefs | Sept. 24

Vopak expects 240 liquid gas-by-rail cars per day

North Coast residents can learn more about the Ridley Island-based project at the open houses

Bantam Kermodes defeat Seawolves in pre-season action

The Terrace bantam rep Kermodes won an exhibition game against Prince Rupert… Continue reading

More than 35 B.C. mayors elected without contest

No other candidates for mayor in the upcoming local election in Prince Prince, Terrace, etc.

VIDEO: Rare close encounter with whale pod spotted off B.C. waters

Pod of southern resident orca whales breach within arms length of whale watchers

Dead B.C. motorcyclist was member of group that raced down mountain road

Some group members record their rides on Strathcona Parkway and post times to page

Indigenous athletes in spotlight at BC Sports Hall of Fame

New gallery to feature Carey Price, Kaila Mussel and Richard Peter

B.C. couple who went missing on flight from Edmonton named by family

Family released a statement Wednesday saying they’re still intent on finding the two-seater plane

VIDEO: A close look at what you were breathing during the B.C. wildfire season

Electron microscope images show soot and tar particles generated by worst B.C. fire season

B.C. woman donates $250,000 to ovarian cancer research for friends

Two of Patty Pitts’s friends passed away from the disease within a year

B.C. could provide clues as to how New Brunswick electoral results shake out

Premier Christy Clark faced a strikingly similar scenario following the province’s 2017 election

Ottawa working to iron out kinks in public alert system

The alerts are being credit with saving lives during last week’s tornadoes

Premier John Horgan ponders debate on voting system changes

B.C. Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson wants one-on-one, no Green

Most Read