The Creators of TOON Books Chat about Their Beginnings and Inspiration

TOON

Art and Françoise with their children, Nadja and Dash. Photo credit: Mackin Compendium

A “power couple in publishing,” Françoise Mouly and Art Spiegelman are revolutionizing the way people view comics and graphic novels. Spiegelman wrote and illustrated Maus, a Pulitzer Prize winning graphic novel, and Mouly works for the New York Times as the arts editor. Together, they created TOON Books, a “micro-publishing imprint,” that provides high-quality comics to readers of all ages – from infancy to adulthood – that engage, entertain, and educate readers. Spiegelman, Mouly, and their daughter Nadja (also a TOON author) sat down with Amy Meythaler for Mackin Compendium to discuss their inspiration for creating the educational comics as well as their plans to grow TOON Books.

Spiegelman and Mouly always had comic books available for their children to read, and Nadja and Dash spent hours with their friends perusing the stacks and quickly devouring the stories. Spiegelman and Mouly noticed how beneficial comics were to young readers yet the limited exposure they had to comics, so they started creating comic collections and orignal stories aimed at younger readers. Eventually, Mouly returned to her independent publishing roots and they created TOON Books in 2007. Now, 8 years later, they have more than 30 leveled comic readers and are launching TOON Graphics, which features comics geared towards readers eight to twelve.

TOON Books is widelBarrysBestBuddyy accepted by educators, librarians, parents, and children. Educators vet the comics to ensure the illustrations and narratives nurture the minds of the young readers and are leveled correctly. Mouly and Spiegelman create lesson plans for each comic that go along with the Common Core State Standards as well. Educational and fun, children love the comics because they can actually read them on their own. As Mouly said in the interview, “Visual narrative helps kids crack the code that allows literacy to flourish. […] Many of the issues that emerging readers have traditionally struggled with are instantly clarified by comics’ simple and inviting format.” As Art Spiegelman said,”comics are a gateway drug to literacy,” and TOON Books is happily providing them to readers of all ages.

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Holy Cow! Press Showcases the Many Moods of Lake Superior with MPR

Lake Superior anAmethystandAgated the city of Duluth are often home to weekends away and mini-vacations on the chilly, vibrant water. Visitors and residents spend hours in the magical area, searching the beaches for driftwood and agates and enjoying the scenery. The lake holds a special place in the hearts of all who visit and live nearby. In Amethyst and Agate: Poems of Lake Superior (September 2015) published by Holy Cow! Press, the editors Jim Pearlman, Deborah Cooper, Mara Hart, and Pamela Middlefehldt put together a stunning collection of poetry that captures the essence of the lake and shows off its different personalities. On August 21, 2015, Dan Kraker for MPR News took a look at the special poetry collection.

Amethyst and Agate is just as unique and distinctive as the lake itself. The editors and poets all share a deep connection with the lake and its fluctuating personalities. Poet Deb Cooper, Duluth resident and editor of the collection, shared her love of the lake with Kraker: “Every time I travel away from Lake Superior, I feel like I’m sort of going against my own gravity… there’s always that pull to come back here.” Poet Gary Boelhower reflected on the wisdom the lake holds:”The lake tells me over and over about humility and mystery and wonder.”

Jim Pearlman in his office. Photo credit: Dan Kraker

Jim Pearlman in his office. Photo credit: Dan Kraker

Holy Cow! Press is located in Duluth, Minnesota, and they have published more than 125 books. Founder Jim Pearlman still runs the small publishing company out of his home office, just like he did 38 years ago when he started the company. He is proud to publish one of the few poetry collections that is focused entirely on Lake Superior and its many moods: “The poems are magical, mysterious, and also reveal the mayhem that Lake Superior can be.”

The poetry collection is obviously a work of love for the editors and poets– Lake Superior holds a mystical power over them, and their admiration for the special lake shows on every page of Amethyst and Agate.

 

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The Lady Collective Interviews the Awesome Annie Koyama, the Mind Behind Koyama Press

Annie Koyama. Photo credit: Robin Nishio

Whether you’ve heard of Annie Koyama yet or not, you’re going to want to be her new best friend. She’s the mastermind behind Koyama Press, a small press from Toronto, Canada that produces comics and graphic novels. The awesome women at Lady Collective “pick the brains” of other fantastic women every Friday, and on August 21, 2015, they chatted with Annie Koyama about her life as a 20-something and how she found a career that fuels her passion.

In the interview, Koyama reflected on how her life changed throughout her twenties. She learned to move forward and not look back in the face of disappointment, become more independent, and pursue her passions to find the job that best suited her. Her life has been circuitous in terms of her careers, shifting from social worker to painter among other pursuits until landing a job at the National Film Board of Canada. It was here that she found a passion for film and started to think that she had found her place in the world. In 2007, she created Koyama Press, which works with artists all across the board in terms of experience to produce graphic novels, zines, and comics. While many individuals in their twenties feel anxiety towards finding the perfect job, relationship, etc., Koyama told the Lady Collective that “I’ve stumbled into virtually every job I’ve had in my KoyamaPresslife. My 20s was the decade where I tried out jobs in different professions allowing me to eliminate the ones that were not for me.” She took the same approach in her personal life, learning from her mistakes and moving forward.

Koyama is approachable and wise- characteristics that shine in the interview. Though there are many inspirational gems in the interview, this sums up her approach to life: “you should surround yourself with people who you believe to be smarter than you in as many disciplines as possible. You can’t help but learn from them.”

 

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From Vowels to Genomes, Christian Bök and Coach House Books are Capturing Attention

All of us have heard the phrase “vowels are the building blocks of sentences” at some point in our lives. Christian Bök’s book Eunoia from Coach House Books (October 2005) elevates the vowel from simple building blocks to something expressive and lyrical. Though released almost 10 years ago, the stunning title is still getting lots of attention. On August 16, 2015, Fox News had Penn Jillette (of magician duo Penn and Teller fame) on The Greg Gutfeld Show, where Gutfled and Jillette talked about their mutual admiration for Eunoia.

ChristianEunoia Bök is an experimental Canadian poet, and he is known for playing with language and style to push the boundaries of the written word. Bök’s most famous work is Eunoia, which won the Canadian Griffin Poetry Prize. Jillette and Gutfeld were extremely impressed by the work, which took Bök ten years to write. As Jillette and Gutfeld pointed out, this isn’t surprising considering how deliberate and specific the language is. The book consists of six chapters, each dedicated to one specific vowel. In addition to using words that only have the specific vowel in them, Bök tried to use each word only once in each chapter. The strict adherence to his self-imposed rules allows the character of the vowel to shine, with each chapter having a completely different tone and personality than the others. Jillette explained these personalities: the “U” is “guttural and mean and Germanic,” the “I” is “egotistical and romantic,” and the “A” chapter is “light and ethereal.” The word “Eunoia” is the smallest word in the English language that contains all six vowels (sorry, “Y”), and it means “beautiful thinking,” which is certainly reflected in this gorgeous work.

As if that weren’t enough, Bök is hard at work on a new project, The Xenotext: Book 1, a venture that has spanned nine years and that aims to produce “living poetry.” Set to reChristianBoklease in October 2015 from Coach House Books, The Xenotext: Book 1 sets the stage for further volumes, as it documents the foundation for the project using text, poems, and illustrations. Bök marries poetry and science with his experiment, enciphering a poem into a genome of the bacterium Deinococcus radiodurans which then “reads” the poem and responds by creating a benign protein. This protein has a sequence of amino acids that creates another poem, distinct from the original. The bacterium is virtually unkillable, meaning the original poem as well as the variations it creates will exist long after humans are gone. Not only did Bök change the way vowels are viewed with Eunoia, he is also changing the way language is presented on a cellular level.

 

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Stone Bridge Press Highlights Innovation with Fujifilm Memoir

Komori

Fujifilm Corp. Chairman Shigetaka Komori. Photographer: Akio Kon/Bloomberg

When you think of Fujifilm, do you think of photo paper and cameras, or innovative scientific research that will change the face of modern science? The answer should be both, because Fuijifilm chairman Shigetaka Komori is pushing the company to expand into new markets to help change the world, one cell at a time. In his memoir Innovating Out of Crisis (released June 2015) from Stone Bridge Press, Komori reflects on his gutsy and innovative decision to expand Fujifilm’s investments, using data and knowledge from research on photo-paper technology to grow into the health research field. Bloomberg Business released an interview with Komori on August 17, 2015, where he chatted about his plans for the company’s future and his new memoir.

Fujifilm is well-known for their cameras, photo paper, and film, though with the inInnovatingOutOfCrisiscreased popularity of camera phones and the instant gratification of social media they have experienced revenue loss. Komori believes photo printers and other machines will remain Fujifilm’s largest source of revenue, but he “sees the newer biotechnology and pharmaceutical operations” that they are developing as “future drivers of growth.” For example, the company is working on antiviral drugs that treat Ebola, skin care that uses technology to preserve skin that is also used in preserving photo-paper, and further research on stem cells. Komori isn’t afraid to take risks, making Fujifilm an integral company in a variety of markets, from photography to healthcare.

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Danish Author Naja Marie Aidt is Getting Lots of U.S. Love

Photo courtesy of www.arnoldbusck.dk

Naja Marie Aidt, photo courtesy of ArnoldBusck

Naja Marie Aidt is one of Denmark’s most famous authors. Her poetry and short stories have won numerous prizes, including the Nordic Council’s Literature Prize and the Danish Critics Prize for Literature. With the forthcoming novel Rock, Paper, Scissors, to be released by Open Letter Books in August 2015, Aidt’s enticing and intricate work is bridging the gap to American English readers. Translated by K.E. Semmel, Rock, Paper, Scissors has already started wooing the media masses.

Book Riot included Rock, Paper, Scissors on their “6 Small Press Books to Read in August,” and Publishers Weekly featured the title on their list “PW Picks: Books of the Week, August 10, 2015,” each singing the praises of Aidt and her new work. Publishers Weekly eloquently summed up the novel’s themes and why it is notable: “Laced with sex, marital problems, family drama, and money woes, Aidt’s supremely cultivated novel is concerned with the struggle to connect with those we truly love and the consequences of remaining distant.”RockPaperScissors

Publishers Weekly also featured Naja Marie Aidt on their “10 Best Novels by Poets” series, where Aidt listed her favorite novels and her values in terms of good writing. In the interview, Aidt talked about what she looks for in a good book and also what she values in her own writing: “A good plot or great story is not enough for me. I need the language to be precise, sensual, intense, and distinctive.” In terms of her own work, she draws creative energy from shifting from poetry to prose and different forms of writing, as the challenge of shifting from separate genres allows her to grow and develop as a writer. The maturity and curiosity to explore different forms of language is clearly seen in Rock, Paper, Scissors. Once again, Publishers Weekly accurately summed it up: “Aidt writes with verve, passion, and a sharp edge,” creating work that is equally thought-provoking and entertaining.

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Orlando Weekly and The 405 Are Fond of Peaches

PeachesThe Canadian musician and performance artist Peaches is both an enigma and an inspiration. She is famous for her transgressive music, though she has talents in multiple fields, from stage to screen and everything in between. In What Else is in the Teaches of Peaches, written by Peaches with photography by Holger Talinkski and published by Akashic Books in June 2015, six years of her exhilarating and inspiring life are illuminated with honesty and clarity. The book captures moments from all facets of her life, from onstage, backstage, at home, and everything in between. The photo book also includes essays by Michael Stipe, Yoko Ono, Ellen Page, and Peaches herself.

Matt Stieb for Orlando Weekly said on August 5th, 2015, that What Else is in the Teaches of Peaches is “full of grit, sweat and dripping sexuality,” and The 405 released an interview with Peaches by Clara Heathcock on August 6th 2015 that delves into her unapologetic and provocative life and shows how inspiring people find Peaches to be. These articles are just two examples of the fondness and appreciation audiences have for Peaches. No matter who you are or where you come from, Peaches offers something extravagant yet sincere with her music and performance art that you are sure to connect with. Akashic Books shows off the woman behind the outrageous performance persona with the photo book to connect her to even more audiences.

There are few words that can accurately describe Peaches. As Heathcock said in The 405 interview, “Peaches is able to give herself to the moment of performance fully, trusting herself to shape it into a narrative later.” Photographer Holger Talinski captures this philosophy, each striking photograph catching  Peaches thriving in the moment. The title of the photo book is taken from her debut record from 2010, “Teaches of Peaches,” which launched her career.AkashicLogoNew03

Stieb noted that for Peaches, “the body and all its politics – gender orientation, sexual identity – are there to be toyed with.” The photo book illustrates her interest in gender, highlighting the fact that her role as a queer performer has inspired countless others who feel boxed in by society. In the essay Ellen Page wrote, she recalled how inspiring Peaches was for her: “for a 16-year-old gay person, she offered something that I could not find elsewhere.”

Peaches is set to release a new record, “Rub,” in September, which once again showcases her talent for creating subversive and entertaining content. Peaches is not afraid to push boundaries and explore different outlets for her creativity, and What Happens in the Teaches of Peaches is another example of her performance art that also exposes the woman behind the transgressive music.

 

 

 

 

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