New York.

Hello out there! How are you? Your shirt looks nice and it seems like fall is finally in the air. 

Tomorrrow I’m returning to the mountains where I’m from for a few days to be with my parents, and Wednesday I’ll be heading to NYC for New York Comic Con. I plan on seeing Chris Claremont’s papers, and being at the convention on Thursday only, and leaving the city on Saturday. 

I’m looking forward to being in the city for the first time in four years and if you’d like to see me I’ll be reachable on email and Messenger. In the meantime here is a lovely profile done about me and Walden: The Graphic Novel.

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Station Identification.

Hello.

I’m David Press, co-writer of Walden: The Graphic Novel, illustrated by the great Emilyann Cummings, adapted from the work of Dr. Curt Stager. My family and I are in the process of moving and broadcasting to my notebook will cease for the foreseeable future.

My photos will continue to auto post there for reference purposes for my upcoming writing projects, but I won’t be checking this blog often. 

To reach me, I can be found here–on Instagram and Twitter–and my email [depresswrites at gmail dot com], and my seasonal newsletter will next go out in September. 

 Thanks for reading.

Walden: The Graphic Novel out now.

I’m proud to announce that the preview copy of the first chapter of Walden the Graphic Novel is now available for download. Here’s the back page copy: 

In 2016, Paul Smith’s College English teacher David Press passed his colleague, climate scientist Curt Stager (author of Deep Future and the forthcoming Still Waters), and said: “I have an idea.” 

What grew out of that is this graphic novel in which Stager and Press with Emilyann Cummings  analyze how climate change has affected one of America’s iconic landmarks–Walden Pond–and look to the future of environmental change in America’s waters.

Read the 16-page preview here. Let me know what you think! 

This Is My (Writing) Boomstick! by Cullen Bunn

I thought I would do a similar thing just to see how it changes in 2017.

My Primary Workspace: is the guest bedroom/office, which we call the “Goffice.” We share a desk with two drawers, one drawer is for my wife and filled with her various knitting needles, notebooks, and sewing supplies. In my drawer is everyday office needs: post-its, pencils, pens, notecards, and pocket notebooks. The pocket notebooks are always in the drawers for the quickest access to work notes. This year I primarily used Word Notebooks and Field Notes for my daybook. I went through fifteen this year, on daybook notes alone. I have separate notebooks for specific projects like ABD, Walden, Thought Balloons, and the Emerson Novel.

There’s a mattress in the Goffice and with my newborn we use the room to change when the kid is asleep upstairs. There are two book cases split between the two of us. Drawers in the bookshelves hold old files from the file cabinet that will get put away in a banker’s box and put in the attic during the break. I cherish this time of year. It’s a way to clear the deck and start fresh from an organizational standpoint.

My Secondary Workspace is also where I start the writing day in the winter—the dining room table. It looks out on our front yard and the street ahead and is surrounded by three windows that expose absolutely delightful views. It’s always interesting to watch the people poke around in my little Adirondack town.

In the summer, I use the back porch and have a table setup out there in case I want to work on my laptop while outside, which is rare. Sometimes I’ll migrate to the picnic table in our back yard, but that doesn’t provide much cover and the glare makes it hard to see the screen so I stick to the back porch. I’m not the sort of person who sits in the couch or chair and types away on the laptop, because usually I’m referencing a notebook, or looseleaf pages and it’s awkward. I would sooner get a standing desk then write on the couch with my feet up on the coffee table.

Usually, I spend a half hour writing morning pages or whatever project I’m working on that day. I almost always compose my zero (handwritten) drafts over breakfast and coffee. I like it because it gives me a view and gets me off a screen to start the day. I try to stay off the screens in the morning and in the evening after dinner. That’s family time, and usually I have a hard time focusing at night—my best time is in the morning though I’ve gotten over that with concentrated bursts of writing—usually for a half hour to forty minutes. I’m a big believer in the Pomodoro Technique and writing sprints. Writing on a computer for two or three hours at night has never been something that worked well for me. Sometimes you just gotta go with instinct, and short bursts of concentrated work better at night when your body wants you to wind down.

Technology: I have a Motorola Droid Maxx, because it’s not hard core unless there are double xxs. To be honest, I’m not thrilled with this phone. Sending videos and such come out garbled and I’ll probably switch to an iPhone when the time comes to get a new phone. It’s got a big screen and I use it mostly for messaging and photos. I don’t take notes on it or anything. It’s primary use is the timer for concentrated writing sprints that minimally go for a half hour though I do get distracted—especially now that I’m home with a newborn most days during the holiday break.

I have a MacBook Pro, running Yosemite. I’ve had this computer since early 2011 and I’m a total Mac user for life. Every PC I’ve ever used dies screaming within a year or decides to erase itself. You can imagine my anxiety as a journalism student at St. Bonaventure with my P.O.S Compaq Presario. Those four years scared me for life and often you’ll hear me complaining amongst my colleagues about Windows because we’re a Microsoft campus. So I always bring my laptop to work and my own printer because I don’t trust PCs, or rather PCs don’t trust me.

My wife has an iPad that I will use from time-to-time but only to read comics. Eventually, I think I’ll get an iPad and make more use of it while traveling. It’s part of the reason that I’m spending the holidays learning Scrivener as it’s a solution that I might make use of on the iPad / iPhone.

Software / apps: I use Word for everything. I have Final Draft, but it’s been a long time since I turned that thing on and wrote a screenplay–at least three or four years. Writing for television or movies is not where my head is right now. I’d rather write books and comics. Dropbox and Google Drive backup my files. I just got a terabyte so I’m using that and the Time Machine functionality to transfer old files that live on my hard drive and remove a lot of the stuff that I don’t really need anymore. I take a lot of photos with my phone and those go directly to a private Google Photos archive. Photos don’t live on my hard drive unless I have files from artists and other things that I use for reference materials. I use Spotify to create project specific playlists, but I almost always buy tracks and use Amazon Music to add them to my iPod. I don’t have much music on my hard drive. Really, I only use iTunes for Podcasts. My frequent listens are Matrimoney, Freakonomics, Lore, the Memory Palace, This American Life, and the Comics Experience Make Comics Podcast. I miss the great interview comics podcasts like Let’s Talk Comics and find most of the comics podcasts out there really annoying.

I use Gmail and Google Calendar so my wife and I are constantly up to date on where we are and what we’re doing during the course of the day. That said, Todoist is my primary task manager. I use it to get a bird’s eye view of the week’s tasks and schedule events which autosync to my Google Calendar so my wife knows that usually after class is over at 3:45pm I’m writing a Thought Balloon script for a half hour or something. Todoist is great, I like that I can write sentences into the field and it generates the due dates, labels, and project folders it goes under. By far the best $29 I spent this year.

I used Evernote for a while, but I’m finding it less useful now. I just started playing with Scrivener and I’m pretty sure I’ll replace Evernote with Scrivener just so I can have all of my project materials in one place while I’m working on said project and not have to be synced to the internet.

Social Media: I’ve deleted my Snapchat and shifted to Facebook, which is pretty locked down. I will allow people to friend me but they get sorted into specific groups and then most of my family-related posts go to a specific group of about 20 friends and family members. People are welcome to follow methough, but most of the public posts you get if you follow me on Instagram or here, so there isn’t much reason to add me on Facebook. Instagram is probably my primary social media app because it goes to everything—here, Twitter, and Facebook. I use Messenger now as a way to communicate with students after hours and send them Today’s Message bursts, which were inspired by @kellysue ‘s @bgsd-archive. Messenger is by far the most useful thing about Facebook and I don’t look at the app or the website very much because it’s filled with political discussion and consistent negative updates—I just have better things to do with my life. Twitter, I’m using less and less and it’s mostly used to shoot-the-shit with people I like and post updates from my blog. I know the cross posting across three platforms from one service might be breaking some kind of social media rule but I don’t care. I use the things that I find most use of, and I’m looking to scale back my use of Twitter and Facebook totally in 2016 to anything but the promotional. Messenger, Instagram, and my seasonal newsletter will probably be my primary places of contact.

Writing Tools: I’ve used the Pilot G-2 pens as my carry around pens and Blackwing pencils for handwritten drafts of stuff. While I think Moleskines are by far the best pocket notebook, the amount of notebooks I go through in a year makes it tough to justify the cost of the Moleskines. With that in mind, I’m revising my approach to notebooks in 2017—I’m getting a Bullet Journal and seeing how long that lasts as my primary daybook and a bunch of Word and Field Notes notebooks as project-specific notebooks. I’ve been using the Bullet Journal system for a year and a half now and replenishing the little pocket notebooks—which last about three weeks max—with the month log, collections, future log, etc. has been a pain so I’m going to see how long a big primary daybook lasts in 2017.

Travel Gear: day-to-day I carry my MacBook, a legal pad for class and meeting notes, whatever project notebook for that day, and my Kindle Paperwhite, or whatever non-fiction book I’m reading. I can’t read more than two books at one time, and I usually have one nonfiction book going along with a fiction book on my Kindle. I get overwhelmed and have a hard time choosing which one I’d rather focus on so Austin Kleon’s post about choosing to read books helps me out. For long trips I have an EMS backpack and includes all of the above including the cables, along with a roller suitcase with clothes and especially my iPod nano and running clothes. Most of all, I plan through redundancy and that’s why I’m going to start using Scrivener so all my story notes are in one place where I am and I can pick up and work whenever I need to for ten minutes or so. I’ll just have to get over my situational working mindset of not writing on the phone or not at a table. I just don’t like using the laptop on the chair or something, and shit spending less time on a screen and more time in notebook form helps me get the junk out of my head.

Finally: This is mostly as a placeholder for what I’m using right now in 2016 before it changes next year. I hope this was helpful and I’m a big believer in having a good organizational system that offloads a lot of prep before hand so that when time frees up I can just work for however long I have. That’s the biggest writing lesson I learned in the last sixteen weeks with my kid is that being organized and taking advantages of naps and other down time goes a long way in writing.

Thanks for reading and have a happy holidays. See you in 2017

This Is My (Writing) Boomstick! by Cullen Bunn

How I write Comics.

I use my Instagram as a process diary, so it’s filled with photos of what I’m reading and photos of my notebooks and boring shit like that. But this weekend, I thought about posting my current process–for personal posterity reasons–for writing a recent Thought Balloons script. The prompt was in celebration of “home” and celebrated the six year anniversary of @ryanklindsay founding the blog.

There are far better resources for this sort of thing than me, take @jimzub for one. And the excellent comic book script archive–this is just how I do it now (May 2016) after years of fiddling with different processes. Who knows whether this is how I’ll write comics come next year or even by the end of this summer.

Initially, I said I would send this script in my newsletter, but since it contains some sensitive material that really isn’t for public consumption, I’ve decided against it. Regardless, here’s my process.

1. my first step when is to lay out the plot points on every page.

2. After going through the plot points, I’ll start doing page breakdowns where I’ll detail panel descriptions with some dialogue. I check it off when I’ve written the page in script format so I know where I left off.

3. Then I’ll break out those page breakdowns into thumbnails to see if what I detailed actually works on a three-tier comics page. I got this idea from Archie Goodwin, who would draw thumbnails, then script, adding those thumbnails to his script.

4. Yeesh, I need to clean my laptop keyboard, and yes, I’ll never spell TOBOGGAN correctly on the first try. That’s the idea behind this picture: this is my first draft of the script. I won’t start writing until I have the page breakdowns done and the first take on the script is just to combine the page breaks and the thumbs, but really it’s to work out the dialogue. Knowing what’s going into the panels prevents me from writing dialogue that is in reaction to what the art is showing. So the first draft of a script is all about voice, and, for me, that’s about rhythm, so I don’t number the panels until I do what is essentially the fifth draft of a script to make sure things work together.

5. Once I’ve written a draft of the script I will go back and number panels and dialogue. As you can see here, on what is the first plot point in this “Home” script is a situation I had in high school with the school counselor. The numbered word balloons with “3B” and “3C” are continuing word balloons. It’s a trick I picked up from Charles Soule.

If I could guess what my current style of scripting stems from is an amalgamation of @warrenellis, Brian K. Vaughan, @mattfractionblog, Soule, and using the template that Fred Van Lente developed that @jimzub pointed me towards, but I changed the fonts and a few other things.  

I usually write letters at the beginning of scripts to the artist clarifying a few things with character notes and opening the script up for feedback. That’s something I took from @kellysue who I think got it from Neil Gaiman.

This is just how I do it at this time, and I would say it’s a far cry from polished, but this post is just meant to show how I developed my current scripting style and calcify it in time for future reference.

How I Do It [or “Soule Work” for my students].

Paraphrased and adapted from this post by Charles Soule.

  1. DECIDE on what you can do today and do it. I practice this by meditating for ten minutes before I start my day–before a shower sometimes. I focus on my breath, while letting my mind run through all that I have to accomplish that day. Then I…
  2. ORGANIZE: Make a list and put them everywhere–phone, desktop, notebook. I use Wunderlist. After a few false starts with various Android applications for Gmail Tasks, I’ve settled on this one. I organize the Inbox section for Week Goals–like getting to a particular section in something I’m writing, and updating my Mint budget account, and then I setup separate lists per day. This is for little things that I forget easily like making sure I have a student’s paper graded, or I’ve photocopied that handout, or got batteries for an thermometer. I have a hard time remembering those things, so I offload it to Wunderlist to remind me to do.
  3. RECOGNIZE and ELIMINATE Distractions. Shut off the Internet and restrict things to what I NEED to do instead of doing things that I WANT. This is a hard one for me, because I’m so easily distracted. But what I do when I have to sit down and get to work, I use Waste No Time as a Chrome extension, because I can lock down my internet and just focus on the primary function for my computer: writing, or grading papers. This way, in the time I set for myself, I can do nothing but that task.
  4. SAY NO. Soule writes that if you can’t draw a straight line between a “potential obligation” and a “goal” then say no. This especially  means if/then statements. I’m actually really great at standing my ground and saying no or being unable to do things because of my goals. Sorry, I can’t make it to that meeting, because I’m meeting with a student, or I’ve taken this time to focus on writing for an hour straight.
  5. EXERCISE. This is really important to me. I need to work out at least three times a week. Whether it’s lifting [I can now squat my body weight!], swimming, or doing a Nicky Hollander workout–I know I need to have that regular exercise otherwise I get anxious, unrested, and generally lethargic. I really can’t be lethargic–it’s something that I’ve always struggled with–I have a lot on my plate and it’s all really important to me.
  6. PRE-WRITE. Outline things: A list of plot points and chapter breakdowns, especially lists and stick to them. I handwrite every thing. Lists, drafts of stories, thumbnails even handouts. After that, I put the list into that day’s Wunderlist and setup reminders so I know to move onto the next thing after Wunderlist pings me.
  7. SIT DOWN & DON’T STAND UP until it’s done. This has been really helpful, with the lists and the reminders from Wunderlist, I’ve gotten really fast at grading things and getting them done so I don’t spend an entire Saturday and Sunday doing school work.
  8. MAKE the best use of YOUR TIME. Mostly related to the last thing, and is Soule’s second “decide”. It helps me regulate how much time I spend on the Internet. I only check tumblr, twitter, or my work emails twice a day. I have more important things to get done than be on the Internet. It’s gotten so focused that I really only check my Feedly once a week. There’s nothing that happens on the Internet that’s important to check every minute of every day.
  9. DO NOT MULTI-FOCUS: You can’t do it, or at least I can’t do it. I got this from Greg McKeown. We can multi-task–you can listen to music while drafting or doing chores or driving, but we can’t multi-focus like try to grade a student’s paper while watching television. That just prolongs the pain and one works at the half the rate of speed that you normally could. It’s amazing how much can get done in an hour if you focus on just that thing.
  10. I just added this one last week: DON’T GET FLAPPY by trying to do too much at once. Focus on one thing at one time. This is a major problem for me. I get ahead of myself often, especially in stressful situations like cooking dinner or doing the dishes. Trying to do three things at once causes a mini-breakdown where I’ll ask questions and run from one task [say grilling chicken] to another [making a salad] before completing the first task. This relates to multi-focusing, but the “flappy” bit is from Meggan. When I get stressed out I try to do too much at once to compensate for an error. I run around flapping my arms and asking a million dumb questions that I know the answer to.