Describe your latest book.
Making Stuff and Doing Things
is a collection of articles culled from zines and the DIY underground, featuring instructions, tips, and advice for making a better world through the actions we take in our day-to-day lives. It started as a zine itself before being published by Microcosm as a book and was probably my biggest undertaking when the first edition came out in 2003.
Since then I’ve worked as an artist in various capacities and media, my most recent project being an autobiographical comic called Forever and Everything
What was your favorite book as a child?
I remember having one of those personalized children’s books that my mom special ordered, where they inserted my name as the name of the main character. I remember being a little confused by this but also thought it was pretty cool. I didn’t quite understand how the author knew to include me in the book. I don’t remember much else about the book. It was a long time ago.
A little later on, probably around middle school, I was a big fan of The Far Side
and Calvin and Hobbes
, which, with my recent dabbling in comics, I guess makes a lot of sense.
I actually didn’t read much when I was young, but since becoming a father a little over a year ago, accumulating a decent library of children’s books for my kid has been a fun part of being a parent. I know they’re probably pretty clichéd but two of my favorites are Goodnight Moon
and Pat the Bunny
— Goodnight Moon
for its minimal, hypnotic repetition and its kind of odd, stiff illustration style, and Pat the Bunny
for the interactivity and also the weird and wonky illustrations.
When did you know you were a writer?
When I was very little my mother saw that I liked to build things with LEGOs and draw weird little mazes, and so she told me I was creative, and I believed her. So I guess that's where it comes from.
“Artist” is maybe a better, more all-encompassing term, or maybe just “a person who makes things sometimes.”
What does your writing workspace look like?
I have a pretty great studio where I can make art and a little soundproofed room where I can bang on drums and scream into microphones without disturbing the neighbors. But these days I actually rarely get to spend much time in those spaces. I get more done sitting at the kitchen table, or on the couch, or lying in bed, or with a cup of coffee on a long drive.
Share an interesting experience you've had with one of your readers.
My father-in-law kept a copy of Making Stuff and Doing Things
. on the side table next to his recliner for years. I thought that was pretty awesome.
Introduce one other author you think people should read, and suggest a good book with which to start.
John Porcellino is a cartoonist probably most well known for his long-running King-Cat Comics
, which are autobiographical, very minimally drawn, soft, and sweet. I love the simplicity, honesty, and quiet beauty of his writing and artwork.
Besides your personal library, do you have any beloved collections?
I’m much more of a purger, getting rid of things when I no longer need or use them. But I’m a big list-maker. So maybe you could say I have a collection of lists, my to-do list being the one I most actively engage with. One of my favorite lists is “My Favorite Things.” My rule for adding something to this list is that I have to think or say to myself, in a moment of pure and genuine sincerity, something like, I love cheesecake. It’s one of my favorite things.
If that happens, then the item goes on the list. A few highlights from the list: biscuits and gravy, pot pies, pizza, sleeping, grits, screenprinting, ice cream sandwiches.
What's the strangest or most interesting job you've ever had?
I was a valet at a country club during my late teens. The best part of the job was when no cars were coming or going and I could just sit there and read zines. Sometimes I long for a job like that again, where I could get paid to sit somewhere and just read or draw. A similar job I had in college was as a computer lab monitor. I knew almost nothing about computers and was pretty much useless if anyone actually needed help, but I got a lot of reading and Internet surfing done while on the clock.
Have you ever made a literary pilgrimage?
In my early 20s I developed a crush on a zinester who lived many states away. One night I decided, on an impulse, and out of a place of certain emotional instability, to drop everything and drive to see her. I drove through the night and the next day we met up and hung out. If I remember correctly, I think we got pizza and talked for a bit and then I headed back home. This was before most people had cell phones, and I didn’t tell anyone back home where I was going. When I returned home my roommate, understandably, yelled at me for disappearing, and my girlfriend, understandably, broke up with me. I’d like to apologize to them both.
If someone were to write your biography, what would be the title and subtitle?
Just Another Person: A Guy Who Did Some Things That Felt Somewhat Important to Him at the Time But Ultimately Really Weren't.
Share a sentence of your own that you're particularly proud of.
“Soon this will not matter.”
Describe a recurring or particularly memorable dream or nightmare.
I used to dream about snakes somewhat regularly. I don’t care for them. Though I feel like recently the snake dreams have slowed down. So that’s good.
What's your biggest grammatical pet peeve?
Something I find amusing is when people misuse quotes to emphasize a word. For example, a sign advertising Delicious “Hot” Dogs. It’s like they’re saying that the hot dogs are only supposedly hot, but not really. Should I take it that they’re actually cold?
Do you have any phobias?
I’m not a fan of many authority figures or institutions, but as I've gotten older I've softened up on this a bit, especially since becoming both a teacher and a father.
Name a guilty pleasure you partake in regularly.
Alcohol. Late-night cookies and milk. The other day I happened to hear the song “Friends in Low Places” and was singing it to myself later and thought, I actually really like that song
What's the best advice you’ve ever received?
To work incrementally. Small steps on a regular basis can accumulate to large outcomes.
Share a top five book list of your choice.
First is Understanding Comics
by Scott McCloud. I had to read this for a graphic design class in college, and it flipped a switch in my brain, changing how I thought about art, design, and visual storytelling. It really affected how I thought about my own work as an artist, and it sat in the back of my brain for about 20 years until I eventually, finally, started making comics myself.
Next is The Acme Novelty Library
by Chris Ware. This is another comic artist I was introduced to in college who just totally blew my mind. Beautiful colors and compositions, and stories that are bleak and sad while still being funny. Why didn’t I start making comics sooner?
Third I’ll mention King-Cat
by John Porcellino again. I first came across his comics in the context of zines, also during my college years, and I loved them from the beginning. Then just a few years ago, I came across the King-Cat Classix
book. I bought it, devoured it, and that’s the moment I decided to start making comics.
Lastly I’ll mention two of my favorite comics that I’ve read in just the last year or two as I’ve been immersing myself in this new (for me) wide world of comics. Fart Party
by Julia Wertz is sooo good. It's an autobiographical comic about a somewhat aimless, alcoholic cartoonist with an acerbic sense of humor. The Eightball Collection
by Daniel Clowes: dark, weird, unsettling, beautiful. He’s indisputably one of the best.
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is an artist and musician who lives and works in the upper 9th Ward of New Orleans. He teaches art to pay the bills, then makes art and plays music every other possible spare moment. He is a founding member of the artist-run gallery The Front and also co-founder of Hot Iron Press, both hand-in-hand with his wife, artist Jenny LeBlanc. Back when he was a young and idealistic punk rocker, Kyle edited the book Making Stuff and Doing Things: A Collection of DIY Guides to Just About Everything
, which is amazingly still available in your local anarchist bookstore. Kyle’s most recent musical projects include fiddling with his four-track in his garage and his bands Kay Swiss and the Keddz and Koozie Basket.