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Cartoonist draws smiles and laughter from kids at the Coaldale Public Library

Posted on July 14, 2022 by Sunny South News
Coaldale Library: Gillian Goerz presents on her creative process during a special presentation last week at the Coaldale Library.

By Cal Braid
Sunny South News

The Coaldale Public Library hosted an Author Talk, featuring Gillian Goerz, on July 5. Goerz is a Canadian cartoonist, writer, and illustrator, and she held a kid-friendly workshop for about 30 guests who showed up to hear about her artistic process.

Goerz is the author of two graphic novels: Shirley and Jamila Save Their Summer and Shirley and Jamila’s Big Fall. Save Their Summer spent seven weeks on the Canadian Best Seller list, received stars from Kirkus and Publishers Weekly, and was warmly reviewed by the New York Times Review of Books. She also won the Doug Wright Award for best kids’ book.

Using a slideshow, Goerz presented the group with a 30-minute step-by-step peek into the development of her graphic novels. It was a ‘how-to’ look at her creative process and offered inspiration to the aspiring young artists in the room.

The second half of her hour-long presentation was interactive fun, as she pulled out a marker and poised at a blank sheet hanging on a flip board. The audience was asked to shout out descriptions of features that they would like her to draw. It was a collaboration between the artist and the audience, as they created a visual character through her sketch. The kids in the room would call out a shape, feature, or symbol, and Goerz would add that to the figure she was drawing. She did two rounds of these drawings, and both ended up as comical characters with crazy names.

She concluded the session with a Q & A period from the lively group. Asked about her favourite comic, she took a moment before saying, “Calvin and Hobbes. It’s as well written as it is well drawn. It is so funny. Some of it’s smart, some of it is sad, and some of it’s stupid. Every time it was Christmas or a birthday, I’d get a Calvin and Hobbes book.”

She wouldn’t name a least favourite comic. “I’m not going to name a name, because that’s poor form. What I might hate, might be what someone else really loves and (that) inspires them. Obviously, I want a good story and good drawings. I like it when there’s really beautiful artwork. It bugs me when the drawings are bad.”

Currently, she is contemplating the future of her Shirley and Jamila characters and deciding what’s next for her and for them. She completed her contract for two books and said, “It’s a little up for grabs. I don’t totally know. The adultness of it all, with the publishing world, the marketing, and making a series viable…I’m not sure. I have an outline for another Shirley and Jamila story, but I’m not sure if it’s going to happen or not. I always thought there would be four books, one for each season. There definitely will be more comics, and I’ll probably do some other new characters.”

Commenting on the duration of the creative process, she said, “It does take a long time. Truly, the shortest period from beginning to end of making one of these books is 18 months, and that’s a breakneck pace.”

“It was a choice to make very detailed backgrounds that take ages to do. If I did another book and wanted to put it out faster, I’d make the drawings a little more simple. Simple drawings aren’t necessarily bad, but I made the choice to make it really detailed so I could hide clues in backgrounds and have it not be noticeable.”

“These books both came out during the pandemic, so in any other time of life, I would have had a launch party, gone to events, and met other people who make comics. Instead, I was just at home alone, so any award nominations felt super-exciting, like ‘Oh, right, I actually made a book.’ I sort of forget that I did it. The fact that I did it doesn’t always seem real, because I so rarely get out in public, like with you guys,” she said to the group.

The workshop ended on another light note, when the most pressing question on one of the kids’ minds was, “How many friends do you have?” With laughter from the adults in the room, she answered, “I’ve lived in a bunch of different places. The thing that happens if you move a lot is that you sort of have pockets of friends in different places. I have a decent handful of awesome friends.”

Gillian can be found on Instagram @GillianGdotcom or at her website She is available for in-person and virtual author talks and classroom visits. Her Shirley and Jamila books are available wherever you buy books, and in the Chinook Arch Regional Library system.

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