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

Local artist Danika Naccarella commissioned to design artwork for Northern Sea Wolf

The Sea Wolf symbolizes family, loyalty and the protection of those travelling their waters.

B.C. turns up the heat

Environment Canada has issued a special weather statement for most the province due to high temperatures

‘Daddy bonus’ common in B.C. workplaces, study finds

UBC researchers say dads don’t have to be number one in the office to get a raise

Conservation officers relocate two grizzlies away from Bella Coola

Officers worried the bears would become reliant on human food sources

Explosives, firearms recovered from weekend standoff in Hagensborg

A high stakes standoff ended peacefully last Friday when single male was arrested without incident

Homeless people living on ‘Surrey Strip’ move into modular housing

BC Housing says 160 homeless people are being moved into temporary Whalley suites from June 19 to 21

Heat wave could lead to record-breaking electricity use: BC Hydro

Monday was a hot one, and many turned to fans and air conditioners for relief from the heat

BC conservation officers release badger from wolf trap

Badger recovering after being caught in trap near Williams Lake

Private schools continue to top Fraser Institute rankings

Think tank says its ratings are fair to all schools, public and private

Former Somali child refugee fights to stay in Canada

Former child refugee Abdoul Abdi’s judicial review set for today in Halifax

U.S. border separations ripple through midterm campaigns

Several Republicans to break from President Donald Trump amid boarder separation issues

AFN chief accused of being too close to Trudeau

Perry Bellegarde insists he is not that close to the Liberals as elections looms

Three injured after industrial explosion in Newfoundland

The roof of the warehouse was blown off in the explosion near St. John’s

Most Read