Navigating Deadlines and a Pet Cat: A Week in the Life of Graphic Novelist Meags Fitzgerald
Author: William Johnson
February 3, 2016
“I am supposed to start every day with an hour long, meditative walk. I’m supposed to because I know from years of experience that when I do this, I’m at my most productive and happiest, and yet still somehow when I become catastrophically busy, like I am now, this healthy habit is one of the first things to go.”
“The Banal and the Profane” is a monthly Lambda Literary column in which we lift the veil on both the writerly life and the publishing industry. In each installment, we ask a different LGBT writer, or LGBT person of interest in the book industry, to guide us through a week in their lives.
This month’s “Banal and Profane” partially illustrated column comes to us from graphic novelist Meags Fitzgerald.
Meags Fitzgerald is a Montreal-based artist and an award winning illustrator, graphic novelist and animator. Her first book, Photobooth: A Biography married photo history with travelogue to much acclaim. Fitzgerald won the 2015 Doug Wright Spotlight Award, was nominated for the 2015 Joe Shuster Award in the Best Cartoonist Category and named by the CBC on the 2014 “Writers to Watch” list. Fitzgerald’s new graphic memoir Long Red Hair, is a queer coming of age story that delves into sorcery and sisterhood. Fitzgerald is also a performer and teacher at Montreal Improv Theatre, a regular at live storytelling events and an aspiring aerialist. You can follow and support her work on Patreon.
I am supposed to start every day with an hour long, meditative walk. I’m supposed to because I know from years of experience that when I do this, I’m at my most productive and happiest, and yet still somehow when I become catastrophically busy, like I am now, this healthy habit is one of the first things to go. I didn’t walk today, I made an excuse about the weather and told myself it was more important to use my precious time responding to emails. It feels like I spend 80% of my awake-time responding to emails. I daydream of a hiring an assistant mostly to reduce this percentage.
A few days ago I launched a Patreon page, which is a crowdfunding platform that collects pledges on a monthly basis. I’m hoping to cover some living costs while I work on my new book, at least until I can apply for (and hopefully receive) a grant. Patreon is a good thing, but setting it up has devoured every crumb of free time I’ve had so far in 2016.
This evening I met with an acquaintance from the publishing industry. She graciously spent a couple hours with me discussing percentages and contracts. All of this feels helpful to me right now because in February I will start to research my next book on a regular basis (I’m putting one day a week aside to just dedicate to it and hopefully that will increase two to days by the late spring.) I have a great relationship with the publisher of my first two books but I want what every Canadian author wants, more exposure in the United States of America! That means I’ll have to do some things differently this time around. The book won’t be finished though for probably two and half to three years so I have some time to think about it.
I have a calendar that is stuck to the magnet board to the left of my computer desk. It is a fitness calendar and there are six small boxes on each day of the month that I fill in with an orange marker if I completed that exercise. The categories are as follows:
- Go for a Walk (the aforementioned, meditative walk)
- Attend a Circus or Yoga Class
- Practice my splits (my full routine takes 45 minutes)
- Arm and Shoulder strength training
- Abs and Core strength training
- Back flexibility
I try to colour in multiple boxes a day but recently the orange blocks on the calendar are fewer and fewer. This morning my excuse for not working out was that I met relatively early with new clients to discuss to doing an illustration for their non-profit. The meeting went well and I’m excited to work with them.
In the evening I went to my aerial silks class. I started doing silks a year ago and if I didn’t have objections to the casual use of the word “addiction,” I would say I was addicted to it. All I want to do is silks. When you’re on silks you have the simultaneous sensations that you are climbing a tree and floating in water; two things I love. My fitness tracking is not because I’m a fitness-y person, the opposite is more so true, I am a book worm at my core, but when I find something I love, I throw myself at it fully. I don’t know how not to do that. I’m determined to get stronger and more flexible because I want to be able to do more things on silks and trapeze too.
I’ve been having some trouble with my cat, Ellie. She is a black cat that my roommate and I adopted. My roommate only likes things that are all black and so he was determined to get a black cat. I would have preferred a cat with some pattern but then I learned that it’s much harder for black cats to get adopted, many of them are put down, and so I reconsidered the whole thing. We’ve had Ellie since October and she’s just shy of a year old, making her 17 in human years. She goes on these playful but painful tirades and I have to remember that I’m dealing with a teenager. My forearms and ankles have been decorated with patterns made by claws and teeth.
I had a phone call tonight with a close friend. There aren’t that many people in my life that I would actually speak on the phone with for an extended period, but she’s one of them. I guess the medium works for our friendship. For a while now she’s had crippling pain in her hands. My new book will be about handedness and how the use of our hands is tied to our identities. (The book started out as a book about left-handedness but I can see it getting broader than that as I keep finding fascinating personal stories about people’s relationships to their hands.)
I got up very early today, at 6 AM. I never get up in the “sixes” unless I’m traveling and that was the case today. I took a Greyhound bus from Montreal to Vermont, specifically to the itty bitty town of White River Junction. I was invited as a guest artist and to deliver a presentation at the Center of Cartoon Studies (CCS) which offers MFAs in the making of comics and graphic novels. In preparing my talk, I knew that I would not be the most established or renowned guest artist to visit this school year so I geared my talk to be as helpful and relatable to students at possible. I got really nice feedback right away, so I’ll assume that I succeeded.
Tonight I had dinner with an old pal who’s doing her Masters at CCS. We went for Thai food, I was famished and ordered so much food (the school picked up the tab.) She and I chatted about the comics industry, shared epiphanies about getting into shape in our late twenties, and about meeting (or at least trying to meet) women on OkCupid. I filled up on appetizers and took my entrée back with me to the hotel.
I had a horrific sleep last night. Really, I’m shuddering as I think about it now. I stayed in a very charming, historic hotel in White River Junction that was essentially an ice box. Before bed last night I decided to watch TV (I don’t own a TV, so this novelty is reserved for visits to hotels and to my parents’ house.) I found a channel playing a black and white film that looked to be from the 40s or early 50s. The film was set during the French Revolution but it couldn’t have been less French, all the actors spoke with that American swagger you can pinpoint exactly to that era. I tried to fall asleep but even with extra blankets my teeth were chattering and my muscles wouldn’t relax. The movie had put weird pictures in my head and every hour or so the train junction, which is at the heart of this tiny town, would erupt with the sound of metal on metal. I didn’t fall asleep until 4 AM and when I woke the next morning I had to wear my winter boots in the bathroom to shield my feet from the iciness of the tile floor. I tried to sleep on the bus back to Montreal but couldn’t find a single comfortable position.
When I got home I was able to take a 30 minute nap and then had to wake up for an important phone meeting regarding a TEDx event happening here in Montreal, for which I’m the Visual Director.
I spent tonight recording an Ambidraw, which is a video of me drawing with both hands at once. It’s a skill that I taught myself a few years ago when I was unemployed. I really like making Ambidraws but I’m not in love with all the editing and uploading that follows it. This could be another item added to the list of tasks I would gladly delegate to an assistant.
Saturdays are my longest days. I left the house at 8:45 to take a Conversational French class, I’ve done this the last few weeks and I’ll be doing it for the next two months. The class is four and a half hours long. When I signed up for the course I knew that I was squashing all potential late night Friday plans. It turns out I’m okay with this, even though I’m a night owl, I have never liked being up late anywhere but my own home.
Straight from my French class, I headed over to Montreal Improv Theatre, where I teach a Level 2 class every Saturday. They’re a good bunch of students. The topic of the day was Character.
After the students filed out of the classroom, I tidied up the space and felt my whole body neatly crumple into a tiny mess of folds, like an unplanned piece of origami. I felt an overwhelming desire to be hugged and held, before things could take shape again.
At home I ate dinner in front of my computer while I digitally colored an illustration for a literary magazine. It was 8:45 PM and I was ready to put myself to bed. But then I saw a Facebook message from a friend visiting from out of town, he had just had dinner around the corner from my place and wanted to see if I was free. I thought about how I should be finishing this illustration tonight, and if not, how I should be catching up on sleep, but then I remembered my deep wish to be held and felt that my friend’s message was some kind of divine response. I put my work aside for the night and told him to come over for cuddles and conversation. (When I say cuddles, I really just mean cuddles, it’s not a euphuism. I wouldn’t cheat a reader of that.) I was glad to have him visit but it is now 1 AM and he has just left and I am up writing this.
This morning I was finally able to color in some orange squares on my fitness calendar, I did my arms, abs, back and splits and feel good. Sometimes it’s easy to forget that I live in this body.
I spent the rest of the morning and early afternoon updating my Patreon page, sharing my newest Ambidraw and doing illustration work for clients. Tomorrow I have five deadlines. Yes five deadlines. In the late afternoon I headed to the theater and took a workshop lead by a friend that merged improv exercises with the principals of photosynthesis. After the workshop, three different women complimented my hair, which made me feel uneasy because I just scheduled an appointment to cut another three inches off.
For dinner I spent $10 on a plate of Indian food that was easily worth $15. Then I darted back to the theater in time for a show. I performed an improv set with a friend, which we excitedly scheduled months ago. We were the headliners and disappointingly, our set was nothing magical. We’re both strong performers and were visibly deflated that our set went the way it did. Sometimes that just happens.
Today is the last day of the first month of the new year. 2016 is one twelfth over and this realization gives me the mildest of panic attacks. My gut reaction is that I haven’t accomplished enough, which is ludicrous because besides yesterday’s cuddles I didn’t have even a couple of free hours to myself in January. I’d like to believe that my awareness of this is enough to change my behavior but my February is already scheduled just the same.