by Jane Yolen
This past couple of years I have taken a long-planned new road on my trip through children’s and young adult books, traveling into graphic novels. You may know me as a picture book writer, a poet, novelist for midgrades and young adults, and an occasional nonfiction writer for children. Some of you may even know my adult stories, poetry, fiction, nonfiction.
The truth is, I had long wanted to write a graphic novel, being a comic book fan from way back. I especially love Neil Gaiman’s Sandman, Mike Mignola’s Hellboy, Art Spiegelman’s Maus, and Linda Medley’s Castle Waiting. I even got to write introductions for the graphic novels from three of those. I’ll let you guess which one I didn’t introduce.
For the past fifteen or so years, I’d actively pitched ideas for graphic novel’s to the editors I knew. But not one of them thought the graphic novel was something I—or they—could produce successfully. These rejections had nothing to do with whether or not the editors knew anything about graphic novels. Or read them. Or thought them interesting. Or provocative. Or even possible moneymakers. Most of the editors said something like, “Why would you want to do any such thing?” as if writing a graphic novel was—somehow—beneath me and possibly demeaning to my reputation as a writer. Soiling my lit’ry fingers, doncha know.
Finally, almost by accident–but really because manga had begun to make inroads even into literary publishers, my agent set up a meeting for me with Mark Siegel. He had just put out his first list of First/Second books, an imprint under the Macmillan logo, a list dedicated exclusively to graphic novels and his second list was ready to be launched, a brilliant list which included Gene Yung’s astonishing American Born Chinese which eventually won an impressive number of awards, rewrote the book on graphic novels for kids, and put First/Second on the publishing map.
I tried to sell Mark the idea of turning one or more of my many short stories or novellas into graphic novels. He said he wanted something brand new from me. I searched my memory banks (I was a bit sharper five years ago when we started this project!) and remembered a short story which had been seriously foiled at about page 5.
Foiled? Is this about fencing? Well, yes. My eleven-year-old granddaughter Maddison was an avid fencer. I’d promised a story for one of the Datlow/Windling anthologies and thought this story, “Foiled” was going to be that story. Not only was it based around Maddison’s winning ways as a fencer, it was also about my own days as a Smith College fencer when I lost my foil on a date in Grand Central Station.
You heard that right. I lost my fencing foil on a date in Grand Central Station.
Why, I hear you wondering, was I on a date in GCS carrying a foil? Who was the date with? Was I expecting trouble? Did I find trouble?
Now, now! I am 72 years old. You can’t expect me to remember—or tell you—the details! Suffice to say, it was the early 60s. These things often happened then.
Actually, I have no idea why I had a weapon with me on a date, or why I was on a date in Grand Central, or with whom. But the connection between Grand Central and my lost foil is so strong, it has to be true. Or as true as anyone who has spent her working life lying as a vocation.
So I started the short story, “Foiled” for the anthology. My pov character was an ardent and very good teenage fencer, Aliera (a named stolen from one of my other set of grandkids’ favorite babysitter because it was the perfect name). I figured that Aliera would meet the handsome new boy in school for a date after her Saturday fencing class. And they planned to meet at Grand Central because. . .well because. But Avery, the handsome new boy (named after Maddison’s then sixth grade boyfriend) is late. While Aliera is waiting, an annoying bird has gotten caught inside the station (this often occurs, you know), so Aliera puts on her fencing mask. Suddenly she is able to see the world of the faerie, both the good fairies of the Seelie Court and the ogres and goblins and trolls oh my! of the Unseelie court, only she doesn’t know that at first.
You see, Aliera is—unbeknownst to herself or her parents—the Last Defender of Faerie.
This is Part 1 of 2. Read on here…
Jane Yolen has 300 books published, and another graphic novel, from DarkHorse ith pictures by Rebecca Guay, will be out this fall: The Last Dragon.