illustration, comics, animation

I haven’t been back to my alma mater since graduating, so presenting at the Illustration, Comics, and Animation conference at Dartmouth was wonderful for many reasons. Comics and animation isn’t my area of expertise, but I love presenting at these conferences, as I always find them enlightening and enjoyable, even if I experience a twinge of regret that I didn’t pursue it as a career. Geeking out about comics over drinks, and realizing I’m not the nerdiest person in the room, never fails to be an amazing feeling.

I presented a paper titled “Mobius double reacharound: The convergence of comics, animation, and gaming in Homestuck,” the online MSPaint webcomic that complicates notions of authorship, participatory culture, readership and ways of reading, and fandom. The Q&A was unexpected but illuminating, as the question I got stuck on concerned why Homestuck was interesting to readers, and (perhaps) why scholars should look at the text. I think I was stumped because I gravitate to difficult texts that ask me to look outside the text and learn, but maybe ultimately it comes down to that: a self-selecting readership that values difficulty and continually ups the ante.

Like Love and Rockets, Homestuck has a sprawling cast of characters, requires an immense time commitment to fully unpack its universe; it’s different, maybe, in that it requires readers to engage with or at least be aware of the values and quirks of other subcultures, particularly gaming and general Internet culture. Admittedly, I lost interest at the end of Act 5 when new characters are introduced, but I’m always like that—I had trouble making the shift from The Golden Compass to The Subtle Knife because I harbored resentment toward Will for displacing Lyra, and I had a hard time wading through Season 2 of The Wire (my all-time favorite TV show) because of the shifted focus on different characters. But I also know once I get over myself, I can continue reading because I appreciate being tacitly asked to be a smart reader and figure things out for myself if I’m unfamiliar with the material, be it ways of reading, memes, or other pop culture references I don’t immediately recognize.

literary agent unlocked

After years of hunting, I discovered my ideal literary agent had been right in front of me all along. I’m now represented by fellow writer and close friend Mary Krienke of Sterling Lord Literistic. She’s interested in literary fiction, creative nonfiction, and realistic YA, and since I work primarily in the first two genres–and her edits and comments always evince a deep respect for the integrity of the work–this agent/client partnership is a perfect match.

Follow her on Twitter @MaryKrienke.

Reflections on Censorship, Occupy Wall Street, and the 99%

By now I’m sure we’ve all heard about Union Square, Washington Square Park, the Brooklyn Bridge, and other city sites that have been marched on; we’ve all seen the video clips circulating on the Internet, read about the original July call put out by AdBusters, and the supposedly unintentional or accidental censorship of emails and Tweets with the Occupy Wall Street phrase or hashtag. It does seem ridiculous that with the Occupy movement spreading to Washington D.C., the White House lawn, Los Angeles, Detroit, and banks and other corporate institutions everywhere, Twitter is currently trending #PeopleWhoAreOverrated and #moviebands.

Vibe, on the other hand, is overrrun with messages from Anonymous, the hive mind, bagpiper, and other similarly (un)identified individuals updating each other on Occupy Wall Street and the other Occupy movements springing up around the country and worldwide.

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i’ve become a c&w groupie

I presented a paper titled “I think writing is a pretty cool guy. eh makes meaning and doesnt afraid of anything” at my first-ever Computers & Writing. My presentation was about the role of accidental grammatical errors in the selection of memes and evolution of 4chan’s dialect, and the purpose of memes perpetuating grammar mistakes.

I’ve had good conference experiences in the past, but Computers & Writing blew them all out of the water. Granted I’m easily starstruck, but this conference facilitated professional relationships, and everyone was so accepting, welcoming, and critiques occurred with warmth. I met Gail Hawisher. Cynthia Selfe(!) asked me about my research (and remembered it and me later on). I wasn’t brave enough to talk to Katherine Hayles but I did get into a debate with Tim Wu in a Q&A session and while I might have later psyched myself out, nothing about these “greats” was intimidating at all. I’ve made so many IRL and Twitter friends here, and exchanged research and advice with so many people with backgrounds as diverse as mine, if not more so. In short: this conference is love.

Also, Dan Anderson (@iamdan) is my new idol. Some day I’m going to create the way he does, because when I see his work, I can’t help but be moved with regards to pedagogy and my own personal way of being in the world.

All of which is to say that C&W has become my new home-base conference, and I will strive to present at it every year.

new narrative iv

I co-authored and co-presented ““We are Sri Lankan civilians plz save our life”: Photography and the spectacle of Sri Lanka’s civil war” with my sister, Anjali Manivannan, a human rights activist pursuing a law degree at NYU, on war photography, spectacle, and the Sri Lankan civil war. I handled the material on photography while she addressed the legal perspective. I was exhausted and unwell for most of the conference, but our presentation was solid, and our Q&A was marked by big questions about journalism, ethics, and the politics of the image in the context of mediating stories that, because they are so awful, may discourage even the very act of looking.

If you’re interested in the human rights law perspective, you can follow my sister at @Anji_Manivannan (JD as of 2014!).

bearing witness.

This month marks the first anniversary of the bloody end of Sri Lanka’s civil war.

On 2009 May 17-18, depending on how you look at it, the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (தமிழீழ விடுதலைப் புலிகள்), also known as the LTTE or Tamil Tigers, were routed by the armed forces of the primarily Sinhalese government. The war, which was the product of years of ethnic tension between the Sinhalese majority and Tamil minority, lasted 25 years and was marked by the ruthlessness of both government military and paramilitary campaigns and guerilla warfare and suicide bombing employed by the LTTE, both with little regard to the cost of civilian life. We saw this magnified in the end stages of the war in May 2009, when the LTTE brought over 80,000 civilians with them into a tiny spittoon of land in the northeast, using them as human shields and impressing them into service (“Sri Lankan Government and LTTE Must Heed Demands from UN Security Council”), and the Sri Lankan army indiscriminately shelled the shrinking warzone, as it had hammered designated no-fire zones such as hospitals, bunkers, and other areas in the Vanni with a known civilian presence in flagrant disregard of the laws of war (“Sri Lanka: Repeated Shelling of Hospitals Evidence of War Crimes”).

In May 2009 my sanity was eroding and I cried almost every night, barely slept, was made numb by President Rajapaksa’s victory speech. People celebrated in the streets of Colombo and throughout the country. Like many others, most of whom were Tamil, this victory felt hollow and strange. Thousands upon thousands of civilians died in the months leading up to May 17. And while I personally condemn the actions of both the Tamil Tigers and the Sri Lankan government, I didn’t know what to think when confronted with the news of LTTE leader Vellupillai Prabhakaran’s corpse. On the news segment his forehead was covered. There were flies. I wanted to see the bullet hole for myself. Wanted proof. Felt like a part of my life had ended. At that point I hadn’t lived my life outside of the shadow of Sri Lanka’s war.

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born to write

“She’s more than a college student; she’s a force of creative nature.”

Also, infamously, this article in Dartmouth Life publicized my penchant for rolling out of bed and attending class in my pajamas even in the face of Dartmouth winters. Former professor and dear friend Brenda Silver softened the blow by adding that “Whatever she does, she does intensely and well.”

“it’s crunch time”

credit: valley news – james patterson

I have to say, I think my favorite part of this interview is that I’m quoted as saying “it’s crunch time,” a statement I feel like I’ve never stopped saying, and probably never will. Also, I’m beyond flattered that professor/friend Brenda Silver described Invictus as “an extraordinary work for a 15-year-old, both in terms of its linguistic sophistication and its sense of how narrative works.”

Also, this interview may be the only print mention of the spectacularly failed novel I wrote when I was 11: a behemoth of about 400+ pages that I stupidly sent unsolicited and without an agent to Tor Books. The thing was riddled with plot holes and cliches and what have you, but I received a kind, two-page rejection letter that explained what needed fixing and encouraged me to keep writing.

At the time, of course, I believed that the chief editor himself had actually written it (look, Mom, it’s signed in blue ink!), but now that I’m older and wiser, I know that it was likely an assistant, and I want to say thank you to that assistant who, circa 1994, was compassionate enough to compose and sign a letter to a kid who needed encouragement.

These little moments, they pay off.

all news begins with this

Yes, I realize I wasn’t even blogging in 2004 and only had three years of college under my belt, but for me, all news begins with this news: that I published a novel I wrote when I was fifteen, revised when I was sixteen, revised again when I was eighteen, was published, sans agent, by Pearl Street Publishing Company, who accepted the MS thinking I was a full-grown adult. While I like to say now that it’s a story of hybridity, negotiating otherness, and trying to escape the incessant ranking of identity factors, it’s essentially a sci-fi romp about biological robots. I should cite the Rockman franchise as a major influence.

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