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Meet Lauren!

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GIRL STORIES by Lauren Weinstein, Copyright 2006, Lauren Weinstein, Reprinted by arrangement with Henry Holt and Company, LLC. All rights reserved.

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The Stories of Her Life

Lauren Weinstein loved to draw and tell stories when she was a kid. Now, the comics that she wrote about her high school adventures (and MISadventures…) have been collected to form a graphic novel called Girl Stories! Find out what it takes to be a working artist, and what this working artist likes to do for fun (she’s the lead singer of a rock band!).

You have a lot going on—you’re a cartoonist, teacher, and singer in a rock band. Can you tell us how you balance all of your projects? What is a typical day like for you?

If I’m working on a comic, I’ll be penciling or inking for hours each day (which is really satisfying and kind of like being in your own secret world). Then I’ll teach one or two classes each week, which is really fun because it gets me out of the house and I can see what other people are doing. Also, I can spy on the teenagers I teach and see if what they’re going through fits with the themes of the cartoons I’m drawing!

Right now I’m trying to market my book and that takes an incredible amount of time, way more than I expected. I am always sending out emails, making sure stores get the book, planning book tours, etc. I much prefer working on comics. All of this takes an incredible amount of dedication, discipline and perseverance.

When did you decide that drawing and cartooning would be your career? Describe the skills and training you used to get you where you are in your career today.

I liked to draw ever since I was a kid but comics never really appealed to me then. I always took art classes and I went to an art/liberal arts college, where I majored in painting. I also loved fiction writing and had a weekly column in the school newspaper. When I got out of school, I knew for sure I wanted to be a painter, but I had no idea what I wanted to paint, which lead to a complete artistic crisis! But at the same time, I discovered cartooning. This lead to an epiphany...

Finally I found something I really liked doing! It’s taken me years of experimentation to make the words and pictures flow together and tell a good story.

What would you tell girls who want to pursue a career like yours, or in the visual arts in general?

You have to be fearless! Sometimes you’ll be alone, working on a project and all of these fears creep in: am I good enough? Will people like this? All fears must be left behind for the truly enjoyable creative process to happen.

Don’t worry about what other people say about your work. At the same time, if you have a great teacher, like my art teacher in high school, listen to his or her criticisms. Keep a sketchbook: a place to work on your ideas with no one looking over your shoulder. Try to finish art projects, rather than leaving them behind, so that you can look back on them and assess what you could improve on. Don’t worry about anything being perfect…nothing is ever perfect.

A self-portrait of Lauren as her alter-ego: rock band front-woman!

What are some ways you deal with the pressure you might feel when creating comics under a deadline? What inspires you?

A lot of times the best way to deal with pressure is to take a ten-minute break. Get out of the house, take the dog for a walk, do some jumping jacks, or sing along with your favorite song. Then when you come back to your work, you are fresh again and can tackle the problem. Sometimes pressure actually works in your favor.

I am inspired by all sorts of things. I love going to the natural history museum and looking at the dinosaur bones! I love zombie movies and Monty Python.

You help run a program called StoryArk, which offers cartooning and comics workshops for kids and adults. The Girls Inc. mission is to inspire all girls to be strong, smart, and bold—how can art (in visual or other forms) empower girls to achieve this mission?

I feel like cartooning is a form of self-expression like no other. It involves drawing, writing, design, and math. Using all of these skills at once gives you ultimate control over the universe on your sheet of paper—that’s pretty empowering.

What do you do to balance your work and personal life? What do you do for fun?

The band really is the fun, social part of my life. I like it because it’s working in a group instead of all alone. You have to stand back and listen to other people. Performing on stage is a real rush, too.

My husband and I also watch a lot of movies and cook a lot together. We make complicated recipes that take hours to prepare, which make the house smell really good. If I could, I would read more, travel more, and go to more museums.

What's Next?

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