Next Stop by Debbie Fong

Next Stop by Debbie Fong

Debbie Fong's new book, Next Stop, is now available!!

If you're looking for the next heart-tugging, hilarious, slow burn middle grade graphic novel to read, this is it.

It's racked up multiple starred reviews:

  • "Remarkable." – The Horn Book
  • "Poignant" and "profound." – Kirkus Reviews
  • "Weird and wonderful." – The Bulletin of Children's Books
  •  "Gut-wrenching" – Kirsten Gudsnuk
  • "Heart wrenching." – Kayla Miller
  • "Nuanced and deeply felt.” – Andrea Wang

This book is REALLY GOOD!!!!

Next Stop by Debbie Fong, a middle grade graphic novel

Debbie sent me a few spreads of sample art so you can see her rough process from thumbnails, to pencils, to inks, to colors. She's a self-taught artist with a minimalist style influenced by indie comics.

Next Stop process illustration by Debbie Fong

Next Stop process illustration by Debbie Fong

And here's character sketches of the laconic main character, Pia:

Next Stop process illustration by Debbie Fong

And some lovely interior spreads to give you a sense of the story's deadpan humor and surrealist style:

Next Stop illustration by Debbie Fong

Next Stop illustration by Debbie Fong

Next Stop illustration by Debbie Fong

Her book launch at Books of Wonder on Tuesday night was packed!

Debbie Fong's book launch for NEXT STOP at Books of Wonder bookstore in March 2024

The wonderful Wendy Xu interviewed her. Wendy asked Debbie where her style comes from, and Debbie replied:

I'm a big fan of stories with a dreamlike quality. Where you're not quite sure what's real, and what's not. And I also really love stories that cross genres.

Then Wendy asked her to describe her creative process. Debbie said:

I script a lot at first. I know some graphic novelists will combine thumbs and scripting at the same time. That's not what I do. The story lives in my head at first, then I write it as a script. And then I toil away trying to make the pictures happen the way I see it in my head. I draw everything with ClipStudio on my iPad. With the iPad, I can keep working even when I travel.

Wendy concluded by asking her what her favorite part of the process is. Debbie answered:

That's easy. My favorite part is the color. I can sit and color the pages just like coloring a coloring book. It's very relaxing!

Debbie Fong's NEXT STOP book signing at Books of Wonder, March 2024


the deep wild life at the ocean's depth middle grade nonfiction book by lindsey leigh -cover image

THE DEEP!: An Interview with Lindsey Leigh

Tell us a bit about yourself. Where are you from? How did you decide to become an artist?

Hi, I’m Lindsey Leigh! I’m originally from Maryland and I currently live in Boston, Massachusetts. I grew up in a suburb between Washington D.C and Baltimore and my parents would often take me to the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, the National Zoo, and the Baltimore Aquarium, which definitely kicked off my interest in animal life.

I wouldn’t say there was ever a moment where I decided that I was going to be an artist, I just always made art! I was often drawing and making up my own wacky characters and creatures.

the deep's author-illustrator lindsey leigh as a child

On June 27th, 2023, you’re launching your middle grade nonfiction book, THE DEEP!: WILD LIFE AT THE OCEAN'S DARKEST DEPTHS – congrats!!! Tell us about the book. Where did the idea come from? What’s your favorite thing about it?

Thank you!

I have been fascinated by the deep ocean since I was a child because it is a place that seems so full of mystery with many animals still to discover. The creatures that live down there are so downright alien and strange, I was hooked. I have always had a soft spot for animals that other people consider a little odd or creepy, and the deep sea has no shortage of these wonderful weirdos. How could I resist making a book about a place that has carnivorous sponges and yeti crabs?

the deep wild life at the ocean's depth middle grade nonfiction book by lindsey leigh -cover image

the yeti crab interior spread from lindsey leigh's middle grade nonfiction book, THE DEEP: WILD LIFE AT THE OCEAN'S DEPTHS

My favorite thing about this project is that I just love communicating scientific ideas through the medium of comics to make the information fun and accessible to all.

Who do you see as the audience for THE DEEP!, and why is it a great book for them?

I basically made this book for my younger self who was a big nerd about animal facts and loved learning new information. I’m hoping this book appeals to the same type of kid, but I’m especially hoping it sparks an interest in biology for children who were not previously interested.

How do you start your day?

I’ve been trying to do a short meditation in the morning and then I make a cup of black tea with milk and sugar and get to work.

What tool has improved your workflow or creative process recently?

I usually ink my work with a nib pen, but it’s a slightly more time consuming process than inking with just a regular pen as you have to use the inkwell and dip the pen in, sometimes there are smudges.

nib pen and super black ink with artwork by lindsey leigh

With one of the current projects I’m working on, I needed to save some time so I started inking with a Kuretake ZIG cartoonist flexible pen, which has great line quality and I don’t have to bother with dipping it in ink. The nib pen still has a cool quality so I’ll probably keep using it on projects where I have a little more time.

the deep zig mangaka pen

You have a day job as a designer for Barefoot Books. A lot of creators are in the same boat (and very curious about how others do it): balancing a day job with creating books – and having a personal life, too! How do you manage everything?

It’s pretty tough! My design job has been great as I have gained a lot of insights over the past few years into the full publishing process from a different point of view, but it means I have to work a little harder to maintain both my design and illustration work at the same time.

If I’m working through a particularly busy period, I try to wake up at 6am to get a few hours of work in before my 9 to 5. When I get home, I usually take a shower and make dinner to break up my day, and then squeeze in another couple hours before I start to get ready for bed. I also typically will spend a lot of time working on the weekend as well.

I know this sounds like a lot but I do make room for “enrichment time”. I think of myself like a little animal that needs to go for a walk and socialize with other creatures to be healthy, so I take a walk or run around the neighborhood, meet up with some friends, or explore the Boston area. I have been trying to explore all the nature-y areas near the city that I can access via public transportation like the beautiful Middlesex Fells Reservation.

Middlesex Fells Reservation in the fall

What websites, podcasts, books, or creators are particularly inspiring to you right now? Where do you go when you need a dose of creative inspiration?

I’ve actually been reading a lot of adult literary fiction books lately, like the works of Ottessa Moshfegh and Sayaka Murata. I’m finding those to be very creatively inspiring (even though they’re very different from the child friendly work I have been making recently!).

What’s a favorite project that you’ve worked on so far in your career? What did you love about it?

The Deep! is definitely my favorite project so far, it’s just always been my dream to make a book about deep sea life and I’m thrilled that it actually came true.

lindsey leigh with interior spread about coelacanth from her book the deep

lindsey leigh's THE DEEP, interior spread depicting the sea pig

What does your workspace/studio look like? What aspects of it are most important to you?

Most of my work happens at my main work desk which has a large monitor for my digital artwork, but I also have a drafting table that I try to use when I’m drawing or inking something larger. It also gets me away from screens, which I definitely see too much of during my work day.

I like that my desk has tools like my printer and scanner as well as books and tools within easy reach. I love my little trinkets that sit on the shelves up top!

lindsey leigh cartoonist workspace

What's your favorite medium, and why do you love it?

I started doing observational sketches in museums with a brush pen when I was in school and really fell in love with the fact that there was no erasing so I had to really commit to the line and I had to make my marks more intentionally. I think that really helped me develop my art when I was still learning and the ink process is still my favorite step in my workflow.

Early animal sketch by Lindsey Leigh

What’s an example of a past rejection or "failure" that ended up helping you? How did it help?

One of my dreams in college was to work in the animation industry as a visual development artist, but I wasn’t able to get much traction in that area and the competition is also very fierce because so many people are interested in doing those jobs. I think those rejections shifted my focus more towards comics and children’s book publishing, which I think is a great fit for me. It’s still a collaboration between myself, the editor, and the art director, but I feel like I have the freedom to create what I’m really passionate about, even if it’s a little niche.

When you’re feeling “artist’s block,” what do you do to get “unblocked”?

I usually take a break and go for a walk or do some other non-art activity so I can come back to work more refreshed. I also find that experimenting with a new medium is a good way to break out of a slump. I’ve recently been experimenting a bit with Posca pens and those have been fun.

Are you already working on a new project now, or do you have a dream project in the future? If so, what is it?

Yes, I’m currently working on a new book about cave animals and illustrating another book about animal germs and immune systems!

For a dream project, I love horror as a genre so it would be great to do something spooky at some point as well.

Where can people connect with you and find out more about THE DEEP!?

You can find me on twitter and instagram @linseedling and my website is www.lindseyleighart.com

The Deep! is available now wherever books are sold and also at this link!:
https://www.penguinrandomhouse.com/books/709331/the-deep-by-lindsey-leigh-illustrated-by-lindsey-leigh/


unaccompanied nonfiction graphic novel by tracy white cover

UNACCOMPANIED: An Interview with Tracy White

Tell us a bit about yourself. Where are you from? How did you decide to become an artist?

I’m from NYC and still live here. I don’t know that I ever decided to become an artist. I’ve just always wanted to draw and tell stories.

Tracy White, cartoonist, author of UNACCOMPANIED

On June 20th, 2023 your book, UNACCOMPANIED: STORIES OF BRAVE TEENAGERS SEEKING ASYLUM comes out – congrats!!! Tell us about the book. Where did the idea come from? What do you love about it?

Thank you! I’m really excited to finally have the book available to readers.

Unaccompanied is about five strong tenacious teens from four countries who risk everything they have and leave everything they know to seek asylum in the United States. It’s an incredibly dangerous journey and once they are here, another journey through the US immigration system begins.

unaccompanied nonfiction graphic novel by tracy white cover

The idea for this book was born out of my partnership with the Safe Passage Project. The Safe Passage Project is a non profit organization that provides pro bono legal help and other services to unaccompanied refugee minors.

Together, we created a comic that helps their clients navigate the legal system. While making the comic, I realized how little most people (myself included) know about unaccompanied refugee minors, the communities they come from, what they think about, why they leave, how they get here, and what happens once they arrive. So I kept asking questions and expanding who I spoke to until I had collaborated with folks around the globe and this book was made.

This book is important because it illustrates, through visual storytelling, the human side of the complicated issues around children seeking asylum alone -- while underscoring the hopes, joys and incredible strength these kids possess.

Who do you see as the audience for UNACCOMPANIED, and why is it a great book for them?

The audience is teens, teachers, librarians, anyone interested in immigration. Unaccompanied offers a way to understand an often politicized situation from a human perspective.

While we can’t walk in someone else's shoes, we can walk next to them. This book gives readers that opportunity.

UNACCOMPANIED by Tracy White interior spread showing highway

You have some interesting upcoming events related to UNACCOMPANIED coming up. What will you be doing? Are any of them open to the public?

I’m so glad you asked! The reason I made this book is to raise awareness around unaccompanied refugee minors, and to change the common media narrative of pity to the reality-based one of strength and fortitude.

Detail from UNACCOMPANIED graphic novel by Tracy White

My book launch will actually be a panel discussion around immigration/migration/borders and the power of storytelling to make a difference. Please come to WORD in Brooklyn on June 21st at 7 PM, to celebrate, learn, and also buy the book!

My author's proceeds go to the organizations that support unaccompanied refugee minors. Click here to RSVP.

What websites, podcasts, books, or other creators are particularly inspiring to you right now? Where do you go when you need a dose of creative inspiration?

Lynda Barry is always an inspiration. I really like Austin Kleon’s newsletter, it always leads me to discoveries, and I read a LOT of books.

What tool has improved your workflow or creative process recently?

The new tool (now a couple of years old for me) is Clip Studio Pro. It has a lot of options that make sense for cartoonists and for making books. I have barely scratched the surface of what it can do, but it does exactly what I need.

I especially love the navigation tool because I can rotate the canvas so easily when I draw. I know it sounds small, but for me it's huge and speeds up my work flow.

UNACCOMPANIED by Tracy White interior spread

You teach comics at NYU. Is there anything you’ve learned from teaching young people the craft of comics that informs your own work?

I am so grateful to be a teacher. Talking through the mechanics of comics, reassessing the syllabus, and creating in-class exercises every year help me grow as a cartoonist because I rethink everything I’m doing.

My students all bring unique perspectives. For example, last semester one student did a beautiful wordless comic that took place entirely underwater using a traditional Chinese painting method she learned in China, and another student did a comic about a monster under a bed that had physical components to it.

What advice do you wish you could give your younger self? Have you had any "failures" that ended up helping you?

In general I’d say to my younger self, “It’s all gonna work out, and you are enough.”

For this project specifically, I was rejected by one publisher who supported the work but had to pass, saying the margin for error was too slim. Those words were always in the back of my mind and spurred me on to research more, reach out to more people with relevant lived experiences and expertise, as well as constantly check my own biases.

In the end, that comment was one of the most positive things anyone could have said.

UNACCOMPANIED by Tracy White interior spread

Do you ever feel “artist’s block”? If so, what do you do to get “unblocked”?

I walk, I read, I watch documentaries, and I reach out to friends to find out what they are currently inspired by. I find curiosity to be my best method for unblocking.

You’re a mom of three, in addition to being a comics creator and a teacher. How do you balance work and art with personal life?

HAHAHAHA. It’s hard.

As an artist, especially when working on a big project, I need large swaths of time. I can’t dip in for twenty minutes here or there.

So I’m really thankful to my husband and our kids who would visit my mom on weekends so I could work. They even went on a week-long vacation with her at a critical moment so I could hit an important deadline.

Are you already working on a new project now?

Right now my focus is on getting this book out there to teens, teachers, librarians and anyone interested in the issues around immigration today and the power of storytelling to change things.

I’m really excited because I’ve already started visiting classrooms and have created two workshops for folks interested in non-fiction comics. If you're interested, details are at www.traced.com/workshops.

UNACCOMPANIED by Tracy White interior spread, Rosa's village

Where can people connect with you and find out more about UNACCOMPANIED?

Please visit my website www.traced.com, find me on social media @tracedcomics, and/or sign up for my newsletter and get free advice on making nonfiction comics, book suggestions, and obligatory cat pics.