Imagine Your Story -Variety Pack

You know how sometimes (or fairly often) it can be hard to settle down and read? I’ve found a variety pack of options to entertain myself, and maybe some of these ideas will appeal to you as well…

Magazines! From HGTV to Gourmet to bite sized articles in How it Works that help me learn something new, I’ve been enjoying flicking those pages until something catches my eye.

I’ve also been reading from the Diverse Voices for Younger Readers collection. I 100% think books for teens and younger readers can be as good -or better!- than adult books as they tell stories that are compelling but tend to be shorter (aka don’t get bogged down in wordy, unnecessary extras). Why not give it a try?

Sometimes I just listen to music while I clean or do some crafting…

But if you want to be ambitious? You could join me in the Great Courses Myth in Human History and -so far, so good!! And then I have an eye on How to Make Stress Work for You….

I hope one of these choices sounds appealing and gives you something new to try!

—Stacey

Imagine Your Story- RiverCon Interview with Dan Gorman and Josh Nealis

Welcome back to our RiverCon interview series! RiverCon, our first annual mini-con at the library, was moved to at home activities to keep everyone safe this summer. We have also adapted our summer reading inspired RiverCon panel discussion to blog format so you can enjoy “meeting” great local comic artists and authors from home!

This week is our final week of interviews and I have not one, but two comic creators for you- Dan Gorman and Josh Nealis. Dan has done sequential work for various comics, including AC Comics and Dark Horse, and he also creates weekly cartoons for the Akron RubberDucks. Josh is an artist and owner of Cutthroat Comics and Publishing.

Dan Gorman Image from http://www.dangormanart.com/
Josh Nealis Image courtesy of Josh Nealis

What inspired you to pursue a career in comics?     

Dan: I always had the ability to draw even as a very small kid. I originally thought I’d be a syndicated cartoonist, which still might happen, some things are in the works. When I was 12 I fell in love with Spider-man Comics and it was at that point that I decided I wanted to be a comic book Illustrator.

Josh: I had previously been in a heavy metal band. We decided to call it quits. Afterwards, I knew I needed to still be creative. I started a review website for movies, video games, and comedy specials. After about a year or so, it wasn’t fulfilling my creative needs. I had always wanted to write a book, and an idea popped into my head and I ran with it. That book became, Stuffed Squirrels & Porcelain Angels. Once the floodgates opened all these ideas started pouring out. So I decided to do all of it. Books, comics, children’s books, even a self help book. I write whatever pops in my head.

Was there a favorite comic book you read in your youth?       

Dan: My Mom always bought me Archie’s when I was a kid, but it was The Amazing Spider-man that captured my attention the most. I also loved and still love Peter Porker Spider-Ham and Anything drawn by Mike Zeck. His work on Spidey and Captain America is my favorite.

Josh: As far as specifically comics, I loved the X-Men. I had toys, the comics, watched the shows. I mostly stuck to Marvel, but I do have a soft spot for DC, as well as some mid 90s Image franchises like Spawn, and The Maxx, and WildC.A.T.S. And the always popular Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, although I never had the comics.

Why do you think storytelling, specifically in the comic or graphic novel format, is important?       

Dan: Storytelling helps us deal with issues we ourselves are experiencing. Both as a creator and reader the medium of comic books has inspired me to overcome situations in my own life. When I see my heroes are in trouble but fight to defeat whatever challenge they face, it gives me the confidence I can also defeat my challenges. Whatever form storytelling takes.. whether its comics.. movies.. books.. video games.. whatever it is.. participating in that process.. from either side is therapeutic and cathartic. Stories are meaningful even if they aren’t true.

Josh: Well comics are great for learning how to read. It’s not overwhelming, or overly wordy. Plus you get the art with it. As an artist, writing comics is totally different from a novel. You get to collaborate and see your thoughts come to life right in front of you. Plus, you get two art forms wrapped into one. A well written story with colorful characters, and dramatic art, not only the images but the words and sound effects as well.


How have folk tales, fairy tales, or mythology influenced your work? 

Dan: All of our modern heroes are influenced by mythology and folklore. Studying and reading about heroes from the past sparks the imagination. My original character, The Akron Knight, has influences from Greek and Roman mythology, modern day comics, and concepts from film and animation. All of those images and stories can be seen in the mythos of The Akron Knight. 

Josh: A lot of my work, has morals and meaning tied in with the story. I don’t often come right out and explain it to the reader. I let them figure out the point. A great story makes you think. Not just about what happened, but why. When you think about the fairy tales and mythology, etc, they are still popular for that reason. The themes stick with you. Depth makes a great story.

Do you have a favorite folk tale, fairy tale, or myth?   

Dan: I always gravitated towards Greek and Roman mythology. So many great stories and lessons to be learned in those tales. I don’t know that I can site just one as being my favorite.  They all kind of work together in my opinion.

Josh: I love Robin Hood. So much that my son is named after him. But, I love Greek mythology. I like religious mythology as well. King Arthur. Really anything like that has always interested me.

What is a favorite comic book or graphic novel that you have read in the past year?

Dan: I don’t get to read a lot of stuff that I’m not currently working on.  That’s the catch 22 of being a busy creator.  If it’s not a script you are working on its difficult to find time to read other stuff. With that said, the only GN I sat down and read from start to finish this year was “Kringle” written by David Hayes and published by Source Point Press.  I drew the backup story. I will warn you, its not for kids. It’s a very adult-themed book. So certainly read it before you decide to let your children read it.  It could ruin Christmas for them for life lol.

Josh: Aside from my books and comics right? I read Mr. and Mrs. X. really liked that. Absolute Carnage was pretty cool. I am currently reading the Power Rangers and Ninja Turtles cross over. It’s pretty neat so far. I also started Saga recently. It’s very creative, but is for adults. Sorry kids.

Pencil drawing by Dan Gorman.

Thanks so much for following along with us here as we got to know some Ohio comic creators and artists just a little bit. I hope you have enjoyed reading these interviews as much as I have enjoyed conducting them!

Fingers crossed for an in-person panel one day in the future. Until then- don’t forget you can read stellar comics and graphic novels without ever leaving your home thanks to your library card and Hoopla! Happy reading and stay healthy.

Imagine Your Story – Twins, Two Ways

Wow! I just yesterday finished The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett and it has been taking up much of my brain space over the last 24 hours. If you haven’t heard of this brand new, of-the-moment novel yet, listen up. The story is set from the 1950s through the 1990s and begins in Mallard, Louisiana, a town whose population is composed mostly of light-skinned African-American people whose founder believed the lighter they are, the better they are. There, readers meet twins Stella and Desiree Vignes, descendants of their town’s founder, who run away when they are sixteen. The two separate when Stella decides to embark upon a life passing as a white woman – a secret she intends to keep from everyone, including her white husband and daughter. Following the trajectory of these sisters’ vastly different lives had me on the edge of my seat and I literally couldn’t put down this book. Not only is it thought-provoking and timely, it is also an exceptionally well-written look at relationships between mothers and daughters and the men they love that had my heart aching. Read this one. I know your book club will.

If you want to totally twin-out, I have one more twin-focused read. This one is a bit lighter but still tugs at the heart-strings. The Grammarians by Cathleen Schine is the perfect novel for word nerds. It tells the stories of Daphne and Laurel Wolfe, red-haired twins who begin speaking their own private languages as toddlers and are obsessed with words and grammar ever since. Unfortunately, they are equally obsessed with an old dictionary that their late father gave them, something that drives a wedge between them. Watch these wicked-smart girls become adults, figure out their careers and raise families, drifting apart even as they can never lose that twin connection.

And, yes, these are very different reads. I guess, maybe, just like twins can be.                     ~Carol (not a twin)

Imagine Your Story -Book vs Movie

How often have you had the discussion about which was better -the book or the movie? All the time, right? And how often do you pick the movie over the book? Not as often as you pick the book, right? Well, I’ve got a win/win for you this week! You can read the book *and* watch the movie, in any order, and walk away thinking, “that was great!” Are you curious yet?

Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson blends his personal experiences and life journey with his drive to create social justice and encourage us all to get involved. I read this book when it first came out, and have enjoyed it as an audio book as well, and I think part of what makes Mr. Stevenson’s book so special is how a reader can emotionally connect to experiences, feeling his pain and his joy, while breaking down those systemic issues surrounding the inequality of our justice system. Founder of the Equal Justice Initiative leading force in the creation of the Legacy Museum as well as the National Memorial for Peace and Justice, Mr. Stevenson is changing our World for the better!

“But what about Just Mercy as a movie?” you ask. This movie focused in on how Mr. Stevenson became Mr. Walter McMillian’s lawyer over other experiences in the book. Sometimes it’s that trimming that can leave a reader feeling like something was missing, but I would be surprised to hear that after you watch this film. Instead, I’d guess you might also think of this as an additional chapter to the book?

I hope you read *and* watch Just Mercy, and then -please, let me know what you think!

Take care
—Stacey

Imagine Your Story- RiverCon Interview with Clare Kolat

Image courtesy of Clare Kolat.

Welcome back to our RiverCon interview series! RiverCon, our first annual mini-con at the library, was moved to at home activities to keep everyone safe this summer. We have also adapted our summer reading inspired RiverCon panel discussion to blog format so you can enjoy “meeting” amazing local comic artists and authors from home!

This week we hear from Clare Kolat, a talented Cleveland native who is a spectacular comic creator, artist, and designer. Clare’s comics have been featured in Vagabond Comics, The Ohio City Tremont Observer, and Cleveland Scene Magazine. You can learn more about Clare and her work by visiting her website- just click here!

What inspired you to pursue a career in comics?

Clare: Making my own stories and art always came naturally to me. I’ve found mountains of books and comics I made as a kid in my parents’ attic. Somewhere along the way, I realized that it was something I could keep doing as an adult, so I never stopped! 

Was there a favorite comic book you read in your youth?

Clare: While growing up in Mentor, my parents always got the News Herald, and for a time, they would include reprinted copies of old Spider-Man comics on Sundays. I would always grab the newspaper and shake out my comic to read first thing in the morning! I was also really into manga because of Cardcaptor Sakura and Sailor Moon.

Image courtesy of Clare Kolat.

Why do you think storytelling, specifically in the comic or graphic novel format, is important?

Clare: Stories teach us valuable lessons and let us escape to worlds outside our understanding. They let us explore, grow, and share experiences with others we would never have otherwise. I absolutely think graphic storytelling is important as well. It’s a highly accessible medium. Anyone can read comics. Even if you don’t necessarily understand the words, the art is there to guide you through the story. It is really unique in that way. Comics are for everyone. 

How have folk tales, fairy tales, or mythology influenced your work?

Clare: I’ve always loved fantastical stories and magical worlds. Fairytales and mythology always gave me an exciting place to escape. They offer you a different perspective and an opportunity to find magic in the mundane.

Image courtesy of Clare Kolat.

Do you have a favorite folk tale, fairy tale, or myth?

Clare: It’s so hard to pick one. I’ve really been getting into American folklore lately, especially stories about Appalachian cryptids and ghosts. I love the story of the Tailypo and did my own version for Vagabond Comics issue 9.

Image courtesy of Clare Kolat.

What is a favorite comic book or graphic novel that you have read in the past year?

Clare: Again, it’s hard to pick just one favorite, but to name a few Paper Girls, My Favorite Thing is Monsters, and Pilu of the Woods are all excellent.

Be sure to join me next Thursday morning for our final Imagine Your Story RiverCon interview! Stay safe and happy reading.

Imagine Your Story – Book Recommendation

In case you need an excuse to pick up a new mystery series, I’ll give you two. First of all, Rosalie Knecht’s sleuth Vera Kelly is a smart, cynical New Yorker and CIA-trained sleuth who must navigate life in early to mid-1960s–an interesting time to be a spy and challenging time to be a woman. Secondly, it’s PRIDE month, and Vera is a lesbian, and is also forced by the times (and clauses in her employment contracts) to lead a double personal life in addition to her professional one.

In her first outing, Who is Vera Kelly?, Vera is approached and trained by the CIA. Her  surveillance mission to Argentina to infiltrate local student revolutionaries and wiretap government offices for potential coup information comprises most of the novel’s action. Along the way, flashbacks into Vera’s youth show her struggles to get close to others, to fit in, and to build healthy relationships.

Book two, Vera Kelly is Not a Mystery, takes place a year later. Vera is done with the CIA, fired from her latest job because a co-worker outed her, and dumped by her girlfriend Jane. Desperate to make a living and keep her apartment, but without references to get hired, Vera opens her own private detective agency where she struggles to be taken seriously. When a Dominican couple finally hires her to track down a boy, Vera uncovers much more than a missing persons case and ends up, yet again, in another foreign country with a fake passport, reexamining her priorities.

Both books in this series are part spy thriller, part character study, and part historical fiction and will check all the boxes if you like introspective slow-burning mysteries with plenty of international action and a bit of tame romance. What’s truly great about Knecht’s two-fer (and my fingers are crossed that there will be more) is that Vera is vulnerable and unsure of her self–at work, in life and in relationships. Vera has personal problems and regret. She’s not sappy, but it’s hard for her to change. Vera Kelly is just like us.

Will she solve her cases? (Spoiler alert) Yes. Will she find true happiness? I sure hope so. Read her story and I think maybe you will, too.  ~Carol

Imagine Your Story -on a Trip Near or Far

As we head into nicer weather and the time when people like to take Summer Vacations, this year maybe you want to consider doing a little Day Trippin‘? Why go far away when you can see travel around the Great State of Ohio (and locations nearby) with a tank or two of gas?! Economical + supporting local businesses + exploring sites in your own backyard = good times ahead! In fact, why not take a picnic lunch -you can make yummy sandwiches with the bread you’ve made!

Or if you’re feeling like hanging out in a nearby green space this Summer sounds just as good, you can either literally or figuratively Take a Hike with a book! Oh the options!

This week, I think I’ll start small with checking out some Backyard Wildlife and maybe start a little Backyard Revolution? I mean, the bunnies and deer seem to have found their way to me so why not really dig into it! (pun intended ¯\_(ツ)_/¯)

– Stacey

Imagine Your Story- RiverCon Interview with Tony Isabella

Tony Isabella walking the red carpet at the Black Lightning premiere event, Washington DC, 2018. Photo courtesy of Tony Isabella.

Welcome back to our RiverCon interview series! RiverCon, our first annual mini-con at the library, was moved to at home activities to keep everyone safe this summer. We have also adapted our summer reading inspired RiverCon panel discussion to blog format so you can enjoy “meeting” amazing local comic artists and authors from home! Each Thursday morning from now until July 2nd you can read a new interview.

This week we hear from another fantastically talented Cleveland native, Tony Isabella. Tony is a comic book writer, editor, artist, and critic- notably creator of DC Comics’ first major African-American superhero, Black Lightning! You can check out his blog here or follow him on Twitter here.

What inspired you to pursue a career in comics?

Tony: Fantastic Four Annual #1 by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby. I was an avid comics reader in 1963, but at the age when people thought I should outgrow them. Then and now, I think comics are a terrific way to tell stories. When I bought FF Annual #1, it suddenly hit me that making comics was a job and it was one I wanted. Within a few years, I was teaching myself how to write comic books.

Was there a favorite comic book you read in your youth?

Tony: Batman was my first favorite, probably because my idea was that I could become Batman if I worked at it. My other favorites as a kid included Challengers of the Unknown (non-powered adventurers created by Jack Kirby) and Cosmo the Merry Martian (lovable strange aliens that traveled the solar system). But I read pretty much any comic book I could get my hands on.

Why do you think storytelling, specifically in the comic or graphic novel format, is important?

Tony: Histories tell us what happened. Stories tell us why. I believe comics exercise our thought processes on several levels. The words add context to the pictures. The pictures force us to fill in what happens between the panels in our mind. So we engage the readers on the literary and the visual levels.
 
How have folk tales, fairy tales, or mythology influenced your work?

Tony: They’ve never been a noticeable influence in my work, probably because so many comics creators have gone to that particular well. My biggest influences come from the newspapers and magazines that I read and the world I observe.

Do you have a favorite folk tale, fairy tale, or myth?


Tony: Not a favorite per se, but a type. I like folk tales and such in which a protagonist contends with someone much more powerful than them and bests them. 

What is a favorite comic book or graphic novel that you have read in the past year?

Tony: I have three: Goodbye: A Story of Suicide, Superman Smashes the Klan and The Golden Age Sub-Mariner by Bill Everett – The Pre-War Years Omnibus.

A huge thank you to Tony for participating on our Imagine Your Story interview series here!

Image from Hoopla.

If you have never read any Black Lightning comics, I recommend heading over to Hoopla and starting with Tony’s 2018 Black Lightning Cold Dead Hands series- you can click here to jump straight to issues #1-6. The story addresses issues of police brutality, racism, and social justice, all set in Cleveland.

Thanks for reading!

Imagine Your Story-My True Crime Obsession

I love true crime. I listen to a dozen true crime podcast. I read true crime books. I watch true crime documentaries and tv shows. And that’s just on my own time. At work my fellow Murderino (that’s what fans of the hit podcast My Favorite Murder call ourselves) and I started a true crime book club. The Riverinos Discussion Group was formed and while I am biased, but I think it was hit. Due to Covid-19 we are currently on hiatus with our in person meeting, but I can’t be stopped! So, my first exciting bit of news is that I can created a new Facebook group for our Riverinos. We are still working on adding content, but you can join the group here.

Here is a little taste of what you’ll find in the group:

Riverinos won’t be having a July meeting, but that doesn’t mean we can’t talk about the subject here in our group. Maureen Callahan’s book, American Predator is an in-depth report of Israel Keyes and his alleged crimes. Want more? Riverinos hosts Sherry and Megan loves podcasts! Here are Sherry’s recommendations for podcast episodes that cover Israel Keyes:

Jensen and Holes: The Murder Squad

June 10th, 2019

Israel Keyes: https://open.spotify.com/episode/7I0fyBfPrFLMdv8UkNdSsv?si=9APevInzSPSFPB3Sd2a2-w

Morbid: A True Crime Podcast

April 2019

Missing: Maura Murray

March 8th, 2018
Episode 72: Israel Keys Profile
https://open.spotify.com/episode/2AJq8ocIitzbhRinKZHcrx?si=SNxiAbpYQx6o1zsl-qHUzg

My Favorite Murder with Karen Kilgariff and Georgia Hardstark

12/8/2016
Episode #46 Skippers Unite!
https://open.spotify.com/episode/3J4cBcYDoA87aDaOYpahdH?si=xcmjYyqlSomFl-vxd1oJLw

True Crime Bullsh**: A Serial Obsession

Episodes 1 (12/6/18) through Episode 0215 (12/21/19)
https://www.our-americana.com/tcb?fbclid=IwAR2fpRGQI_ooJs1x81zmoOrKx7j1JgVYPrVqcjnyrelG0pYi0MTiNSyeUmEEpisode #0211 Keyes & Cars (11/7/19) discusses Keyes’s strange history with cars and missing people, including two infamous disappearances that happened within Keyes’s hotspots, and a re-examination of one of his murders.
https://open.spotify.com/show/073muZEPrJTiwYvsDplJRp?si=02hLs7zSRpuCuHYmhYBL0w1Sherry ShusterLikeCommentSave

Now, stick with me here. I mention Israel Keyes as a segue to the disappearance of Maura Murray, which is written about in True Crime Addict by James Renner. It’s been suggested that Israel Keyes could be connected to Maura Murray. If you aren’t familiar with her story I recommend reading Renner’s book. The book is great and the case is bonkers!

And, finally, speaking of James Renner, I was so excited to learn about his new project-he next book with be about the murder of Lisa Pruett. Lisa was a 16-year old from Shaker Heights when she was murdered on September 14, 1990. The case is of particular interest to me because it occurred just a few miles from my home in Cleveland Heights, where I was also a teenager. For more information about Lisa Pruett check out James’ website.

If you are also a true crime addict, please join me in the Riverinos group.

~Megan