Rex Arrasmith (Fiction, January 2018) interviews Sophie Goldstein, a mentor in the new Graphic Novels & Comics genre of the Lesley MFA Creative Writing low-residency graduate program. Listen as Sophie, creator of works such as “The Oven,” “An Embarrassment of Witches,” and “House of Women,” defines the term “graphic novel,” the benefits of black and white comics versus ones in color, different comic styles from fotoromanzo to web comics that use clipart, the marketing differences between comics and prose, and the benefits of getting an MFA degree.

Check out some highlights from the conversation below!

The mentorship process is a little bit different than, you know, a traditional school environment where you have multiple classes and multiple classroom teachers. It’s much more of an intimate one-on-one process so the student hopefully will be coming in and they would have their own kind of goals for what they want to do. Either they would have a bigger project that they have been thinking about a long time and they want to actually make progress on that and get it into shape, into a publishable shape or move further on it or they have certain areas where they know that they need help developing their skins. So I can work with that student on those specific areas and help them with a kind of laser focus on what they want out of the program that wouldn’t be available within a traditional classroom setting.

-Sophie Goldstein on how she envisions teaching the genre at lesley

What you need to convey are the emotional notes of that story and so it’s just about learning about creating a style that you can do that, can emotionally communicate what you’re trying to say and I think that really anyone can do that, and there’s plenty of examples of people, especially in Europe where there’s a lot more, you see a lot more variety in terms of artistic styles. There’s plenty of people who are doing things that are, you know, rougher or more sketchy or things like that. And people love that—for a lot of people that’s what they prefer over a more finished Marvel/DC style.

-Sophie goldstein on the subject of the necessity of artistic skills

I think that it’s important to highlight that because […] our [Sophie Goldstein and Pam Petro] intention for this genre is much bigger than that [traditional comics], so we really want students who are doing things that are different than, you know panels and word balloons. We want people whose interests are word and images and bringing those together, or even just sequencing images in a way that is storytelling, like it’s so much broader and more flexible than what you think of when you look at a newspaper comic.

-Sophie Goldstein’s parting message to prospective students

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