The Secret Loves of Geek Girls is a non-fiction anthology set for publication at the end of the year. The anthology is a compilation of text stories and comics about dating, sex, and love by over 40 female contributors, including Margaret Atwood. RATS spoke to creator, Hope Nicholson, and contributors, Sarah Winifred Searle and Meags Fitzgerald about their contributions to the anthology and how they hope it will be perceived.
RM: How did the idea arise for The Secret Loves of Geek Girls?
Hope Nicholson: The idea arose out of a docu-soap series I was developing about the daily lives and struggles of geeky girls. I filmed some segments with women I knew, who brought their friends and more. Though the series was never picked up by a broadcaster I had a great deal of fun and started building more relationships with the women in the games, animation and comics industry in Toronto. Through travelling to conventions across Canada and the States when I began to publish comics, I met even more amazing women. Invariably, we would talk about our love lives, our common frustrations and troubles as well as the great experiences we had. It struck me that fangirls really do get neglected in the media, and to me the focus on love sex and dating, would be a great way to bring people intimately into our lives.
What provoked you into a project like this?
Sarah Winifred Searle: As a lifetime member of the geek girl club, I certainly have my fair share of experiences that fit the theme, but when I saw the announcement, I knew immediately what I wanted to write about. It had been on my mind and this was the perfect outlet for those thoughts.
Meags Fitzgerald: I was asked by Hope Nicholson, the editor of the project if I would be interested in contributing a comic and I instantly said yes!
RM: Did you envision yourself in this milieu or did the project just come to you?
HN: I suppose it was a lengthy development? The docuseries I started to film way back in 2011/2012 with Stephanie Morano who I had previously went to school with and done an internship with at BookTV in Toronto. But as these things happen, even though that project didn't work the seed of it kept in my mind. I've had for maybe a year that I wanted to change this into a book instead, and had been chatting to women in the industry who were very supportive of the idea and eager to contribute. I remember during Fan Expo in August 2014, I asked Twiggy Tallant and Kat Curtis if they wanted to join specifically, and I had already asked Adrienne Kress some time before that. It all really became fast-paced a few weeks before the launch of the campaign when I felt my previous project had finished and I could start on the next one. So I started asking more women I knew who were all very keen, and then opened up the call for submissions.
MF: I feel like I’m in good company, as the contributor list to Secret Loves of Geek Girls is pretty outstanding. Though it’s not the milieu I often find myself in. The world of comics is pretty huge, so it’s the first time my name has been alongside these other artists, as my work tends to lean more towards the literary world.
RM: What is your contribution to The Secret Loves of Geek Girls about?
HN: My contribution is about the community support I received when I decided to 'come out' as a late bloomer in my late twenties. I had felt completely alone, uncomfortable, and scared. When I started to talk about it and open up though I received a lot of support and comfort, more importantly I received a lot of empathy and found out there were many women and men just like me!
SWS: "Better Than Fiction" is about finding romantic fulfillment in reality after relying too heavily on escapism, both as a consumer and creator of stories.
MF: My contribution to the anthology is about my pre-teen curiosity of sex intersecting with my love of Sailor Moon. My friends and I would draw pictures of our favourite Sailor Scouts, which transitioned into drawing them in erotic positions. It was a way of making sense of all these new feelings we were experiencing.
RM: How did this derive from your experiences writing prose/comics?
HN: Well, it's a huge departure from what I usually do. I really am not much of a writer, I prefer to organize and put projects together. But I am a researcher and because of that I have written a few essays here and there so have some small experience in this field. I'm depending on my contributors to act as my editors for this piece so it will match up to the quality of their submissions!
MF: My new book, Long Red Hair, is a graphic memoir and so I’ve been thinking of these formative, childhood stories a lot lately. Distilling a memory down to make it work as a comic can be really tricky.
RM: How did you decide on comics as a method of communication? What does it bring to a story, which is otherwise unachievable through text?
MF: This story really comes to life through the images that my friends and I drew, so the visual medium lends itself well to it. More generally, I think comics can be a powerful tool for communicating emotion.
RM: How did this derive from your influences?
HN: I really am trying to resist the temptation to include every single bit of information in the story. It's hard to know what is relevant and what isn't, so I try to think of the stories I like to read and what they talk about. Mostly I read a lot of online articles, and you can tell that influence carries over into the book, with every contribution being fairly short, around 1,500 words in length. Because of this, each contributor's story is really distilled into the essence of their story and it creates a vibrant atmosphere I feel.
MF: I read all kinds of comics but my favourite ones are graphic memoirs. My major influences include Alison Bechdel, Craig Thompson and Mariko and Jillian Tamaki.
RM: What is your schedule like for this project?
HN: I am aiming to have all the submissions finished and edited by September 9, and have the book shipped out by late December. That might be difficult now with the increased amount of funders, but that's the goal.
SWS: Since this is a smaller project, I'm able to fit work on it between other deadlines. If I'm waiting on feedback for some layouts for another story, I'll ink a couple pages of this, etc. It's been nice to have something fun and different like this to break up the bigger projects.
MF: The finished pieces are due near the end of August. Personally, my piece is written but I haven’t started the artwork yet, I’ve got a few other projects to complete first.
RM: What's your intention when publishing something like this?
HN: I really just want us all to not feel alone. I feel almost silly at all the stress I had as a young adult, but it was unavoidable, how would I have known that I wasn't the only one dealing with these issues? Especially since the stress around love and dating often prevent us from talking about it so we can see we're not alone. But maybe if we read about it, it will help.
MF: My hope is that readers will recognize that time in their own development as young women. It’s not the kind of story women often share but I think many have similar experiences. Relating to each other is one of the first steps in forming community.
RM: Why do you think this project was funded so quickly?
HN: Probably because Margaret Atwood is involved! There is a curiosity factor there where people are excited to see what cartoons she makes. But also a lot of people just really feel the lack for this type of content and want to read about it.
SWS: While the theme of the anthology is meaningful to a large and ever-growing demographic, I honestly think the contributors are what sealed the deal. These are smart, interesting women, many of whom have established audiences who are excited to hear what they have to say on this unique subject.
MF: There are so many reasons! I don’t think there’s anything else like this out there for women in geek culture. There’s been so much support, it speaks to the strength of the community. And of course it doesn’t hurt to have Margaret Atwood on board!
RM: How do you think the entire anthology will be perceived?
HN: People are strange, and I've seen criticisms of great books, so I imagine with a collection of 50 different pieces, there are going to be some that hit chords with people and others that aren't to their taste. I'm prepared for criticism regarding that, but I hope people will be kind. Other than that I really do think the vast majority of people will be so incredibly excited at the diverse range of stories in it!
MF: I have no idea, positively I hope! Though everyone is making work on the same theme, there’s a lot of room for us to each share our voice. I think the final result will offer deserve perspectives and experiences and be just as touching as it will be funny.
Hope Nicholson is a Toronto-based, Winnipeg raised comic book publisher of Bedside Press. She has previously championed the awareness of 1940s Canadian comic book history with her projects "Nelvana of the Northern Lights" & "Brok Windsor". Recently, she was the editor of the aboriginal comic book anthology "Moonshot"
She is also a film producer and researcher, previously a producer on the film "Lost Heroes" and currently a researcher for the film "Africville"
In 2015 she was named one of Flare Magazine's Top 30 Under 30 Female Entrepreneurs in Canada.
Sarah Winifred Searle is a cartoonist from spooky New England. She has contributed to such fine publications as Fresh Romance, Smut Peddler, Chainmail Bikini, and more. You can find her work at swinsea.com.
Meags Fitzgerald is a Montreal-based artist and an award winning illustrator, graphic novelist and animator. Her talents also include improv comedy and live storytelling. Her first book, Photobooth: A Biography received wide acclaim and her upcoming book, Long Red Hair will be released this fall.