Figuring out your dream can be tricky.
I have enjoyed drawing since I was a tot and have been a top student in every art class I've attended from kindergarten on. However, I wasn't such a top student when I attended the Academy of Art University in San Francisco, as I failed within the first year. This led to me high-tailing it back to Portland and not having any idea as to what I wanted to do. I put aside art for what seemed to be a safe career in the auto business in call centers and as an analyst.
It wasn't until I had one of those moments in life that usually occurs after a huge emotional trauma (in my case, a break-up) that I buckled down and really thought about what I wanted. It occurred to me that working in the semi-truck industry wasn't something that made me feel proud every night. I knew nine-year-old me would be shocked and disappointed. I thought about the things that made me happy: drawing and comics. So, while at work, I researched comics in Portland. That's when Google showed me that there was a HUGE comics community right under my nose!
I didn't even realize Portland was known to be a huge hub for cartoonists. It seemed like my best bet to get in was to intern for Top Shelf Productions, a local comics publisher, and for Periscope Studio, a collection of comics artists and writers, both while working a 40-hour day job in semi-trucks. My focus became very clear. I knew what I wanted to do.
It was also around that post-traumatic time that I began a sketch diary. I drew a page a day of the things I wanted to remember. It could be about a run-in I had with a homeless person or the miracle of breakfast burritos. I carried the sketchbook around with me everywhere I went. The folks at Top Shelf and Periscope would steal a peak and encourage me to put the pages online, but fear of strangers reading and possibly judging my life swallowed my thoughts. Even still, I decided to put it online (www.emitown.com), and soon after I tabled at my first comics convention, the 2010 Emerald City Comic Con in Seattle.
It was there I met the publisher Eric Stephenson of Image Comics. I later found out that he was interested in publishing my daily scribbles as a trade paperback. This was the most amazing thing I had ever dreamed of. I had no idea it was even possible. The comic was published in December of 2010.
This somehow led to where I am now — blogging on Powell's website. Keep in mind this is a store I would get lost in as a kid. As in, actually lost, even as a teenager. I always loved browsing the comics section in hopes of finding a used copy of the comic I sought for my collection.
Just a couple months ago I saw my book on the shelf. This was completely surreal proof of several things. First, I actually achieved a piece of my dream. Second, being a cartoonist is doable, and the first and hardest step of getting published is done! Finally, working hard really does pay off! They don't teach you that in after-school specials for nothing.