By Lorraine Glowczak
Students at Windham High School who have an interest in or creative flare towards graphic arts had an opportunity to meet Sean Murphy, a comic book creator known for work on books such as: “Batman: White Knight”, “Batman/Scarecrow: Year One”, “Shaun of the Dead”, “Joe the Barbarian” and “Tokyo Ghost”. He spoke to approximately 50 students on Friday, December 7 about the graphic novel writing industry as a career.
Murphy, who also works for DC Comics and lives in Portland, was invited by English Teacher, Ryan Lowell to inform students about this genre and to highlight the graphic novel class added to the curriculum. “Our graphic novel class is part of the "choice curriculum" English that we have offered for juniors and seniors since last fall. In the spirit of preparing our older students for college and giving them more choice, we broke junior and senior English into four semesters, and let students pick the subjects that interest them most. The graphic novel class meets all the argumentative writing, speaking and listening skills of a traditional English class, but our texts are all graphic novels and comics.”
Murphy offered real and down to earth information about his career as a graphic novel writer, both as a business and as a passion. His presentation included how he made it into the business as well as tips on how to write a well-written graphic art/novel and publish it. “But I must be honest,” he began. “This is a very competitive business, so be aware that if you choose this as a career you may have to work a full-time job and use your graphic novel writing as a side business.”
Lowell was very pleased with Murphy’s presentation, stating that the knowledge and advice he shared benefitted the students who hope to break into the business. “It's such a rare and impactful opportunity for young writers and artists to be able to talk shop with someone as successful as Sean. As Sean mentioned, storytelling is a very competitive field, but perhaps it seems less impossible now that the students have gotten to ask questions and get honest, constructive answers from a professional who knows. His advice to take advantage of independent funding through sites like Kickstarter provided a realistic first step for students trying to get a foot in the door.”
Murphy took the time to answer many thought-provoking questions from the students. “I was proud of my students for the thought they put into their questions, and there was a lot to learn from Sean's insightful responses,” Lowell said.
One student, in particular, had many questions for Murphy, as she plans to publish a novel she is writing. Karyn Dion, who is taking Lowell’s graphic novel class this semester, said she hopes to make a career out of writing full-time. “I’ve had a passion for [writing] as long as I can remember,” Dion stated. “I’ve always loved books and I began writing stories down about five years ago. If I can, I'd love to write for a living.”
As for Murphy’s advice of entering this competitive field as a career, Dion said she is going to give it a shot anyway. “The only way to get anywhere in life is to have a positive attitude. So, that’s what I’m doing by writing this book and putting my writing out for the world to see.”
Dion is making the publication of her book, with the working title of “A Novella of Horror Stories”, her Senior Capstone Project. Briefly, the Senior Capstone Project is a new graduation requirement this year that is intended to help students find their path after high school and show young people it’s not impossible to stay in Maine. Students will write a proposal, complete some short reflection papers, obtain mentor agreements and conduct a presentation to a panel of teachers and students for graduation credit. “Writing and publishing my first book is my entire capstone. So, the goal is to get it published so that I can graduate.”
Dion stated that Murphy’s presentation was extremely helpful as she reaches her graduation goals and requirments. Lowell agreed with Dion in that he believed Murphy provided thorough and encouraging information. “I hope my students left the auditorium inspired to go out into the world and create,” Lowell said. “I know I did!”