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

VIDEO: World-renowned urban planner encourages Cowichan Valley to ‘benchmark with the best’

CVRD welcomes Gil Penalosa, founder and chair of 8 80 Cities, as part of Place-Making Speaker Series

North Cowichan/Duncan RCMP member poses as construction worker to catch distracted motorists

North Cowichan/Duncan RCMP are taking action on distract driving this year and… Continue reading

VIU’s Cowichan campus promotes mental health awareness with new bench

Friendship Benchs visible at schools across the country

Save-On free $25 gift cards can go to Ladysmith Food Bank

Save-On-Foods is offering a $25 dollar reward to customers that they can… Continue reading

Ladysmith marijuana producer bought by Aphria in $230M deal

Ontario licensed marijuana producer Aphria has reached an agreement to acquire Ladysmith-based… Continue reading

Solitary-confinement veto a chance to address mental health: advocate

B.C. Supreme Court made the landmark ruling Wednesday

Winter storm coming to B.C. this weekend

The bets are on as to how much snow the province will actually get in the coming days

UPDATE: City of Nanaimo senior manager dismissed

Chief operations officer Brad McRae no longer employed by the city

B.C. civil rights group files complaint about RCMP arrest of man who later died

Dale Culver, a 35-year-old Indigenous man was arrested in Prince George last July

Lawyer says former B.C. government aide ‘barely guilty’ in ethnic vote scandal

Brian Bonney pleaded guilty to a breach of trust charge

Quite a few tears as homemade quilts distributed to residents of Ashcroft Reserve, Boston Flats affected by last summer’s fire

Quilters in B.C. and Alberta worked through the summer and fall to create more than 100 quilts.

Island Health: No need for alarm in wake of Victoria needle-prick incidents

Three incidents in a week prompts meeting between health authority, city service providers

B.C. coast loggers celebrate history, hope for improvement

Truck Loggers Association awaits B.C. NDP government’s new direction

Global Affairs aware of report of two Canadians kidnapped in Nigeria

The foreigners were heading south from Kafanchan to Abuja when they were ambushed around Kagarko

Most Read