Sunday, July 12, 2015

Interview with Jennifer Hayden creator of "The Story of My Tits"

Alright Family, today we were blessed to have reached out to Jennifer Hayden and interview her about her amazing book “The Story of My Tits”. Which has has given the comic world the eye opening personal account of breast cancer. This woman’s courage has opened many eyes with her story and continues to inform and educate all of us of the struggle women face with this deadly disease and show that with the struggle is hope, strength and courage. Her amazing story will be released by Top Shelf on October 13, 2015 in both comic shops, book stores and online shops.

QUESTION: Jennifer what made you decide that you should tell your story and share it among the comic community? I understand from watching it as a family member, how hard it can be. What gave you the courage and what drove you to the realization you needed to share your story?

  • ANSWER: I knew by the time my experience with breast cancer was over that I planned to write about it—but then I’d written about most things in my life—and having recently discovered graphic novels, I knew I wanted that to be the medium. I think, though, that what really pushed me to do it was realizing how many women there were like me who were about to be stunned by this diagnosis and assume the title (with luck) of “breast cancer survivors”, where formerly they’d just been “people”. And I wanted to help them through it, if I possibly could, and show others that we were still just “people” who’d happened to have a breast cancer chapter in our lives.

QUESTION: After reading your story I am still in awe struck. When you were creating this graphic novel to reach out to the comic community, was there ever a moment you felt that you went too far with your personal life? I mean you have opened up to some deep moments that most families facing this danger, try to keep “within the family” so to speak?

  • ANSWER: As an artist, I don’t view privacy the way other people do. These “private” moments in our lives are the best material we have to work with, to make sense of life. It would be arrogant to think my secrets are unique. Or that my pain is different from anyone else’s pain. We all go through the same stuff. But I did feel a huge responsibility to transmute these family details into something much larger, that would justify laying them bare. And I did truly try to do it in a way that would not hurt anyone, that would not lay blame. I tried to follow my autobio taste rule, which is: always make yourself look worse than everyone else in the story.

QUESTION: As a comic creator in your early days, did you ever think you would create such an important book that might help others? Was that ever something you inspired to do?

  • ANSWER: From the start, I knew precisely what this project was—or could be—and how to do it. I didn’t know if I COULD do it, but I followed my heart and as the material challenged me, I kept trying to improve and meet that challenge. This graphic novel taught me how to be a graphic novelist. The first panel was my first comix panel ever. I told myself to look forward, not back, and just keep adding another panel, and another, and make them true, and tell the story. And I knew that in the end—if I didn’t lose my nerve--I would have this book.

QUESTION: You allowed us to see your life unfiltered so we can see on many levels how breast cancer affects people in different ways. As you were creating this book, was there ever a deep moment that you felt, tugged at your heart strings to the point you wondered if you should place it in your book? And why did you feel it was important that include it in your story?

  • ANSWER: IF something tugged at my heart strings, THEN I put it in my book. There was no reason for doing this unless I did it whole hog. Certain moments—my mother-in-law’s illness, my husband helping me take a shower after my surgery, saying goodbye to my breasts--brought a wave of grief which I did have to deal with, all over again, after all those intervening years. But that’s how you know you’ve touched the heart of the story.

QUESTION: I know this question might be deep for you and if you don't answer it I understand. I promise, if you don't answer it, it wont be published. For the respect of you and your family. When you decided to create this memoir, how did your family take it? I mean, you are a wife and mother, whose pretty much in the lime light of comic book fame due to your works on “Underwire” and the many educational materials you been apart of. Was there some reserve coming from your closest family members about this book and how open it was about your life? Was there ever a moment they were uncomfortable with you doing this? Or were they all on board?

  • ANSWER: I never once asked my family if it was okay. I wrote this book because I had to. I assumed that because I did it with some taste and a greater end in mind that they would forgive me. Maybe some of them won’t. But I don’t think so. I think something my entire extended and immediate family understands is art. And art is made up of the small and recognizable things in life, but it adds up to something far greater, that actually has nothing to do with those small things. I’ve also changed this story, here and there, so it’s not precisely what happened. No one in my family has read the book yet, so it’s really a ticking time bomb…

QUESTION: As a comic creator creating this story, what gave you the strength to push forward and let your story be told? I mean this story, (though its amazing) feels like it tore into your heart a lot. You’re a strong woman to open up about it. Was there ever a moment that you felt emotionally drained opening up in such a naked look into your life?

  • ANSWER: Thank you. Yes, I did feel drained at times. I took breaks, I walked away from it in tears, but it always felt better to come back and make something constructive out of that pain. And really looking at what happened and how it felt gave me a kind of closure on a lot that had happened in my life. I’ve said this many times before, but I think every middle-aged person should be given a grant to take off work for a year and write the story of their lives. It’s a wonderful time to take stock of what you’ve done, to see the layers and recognize the patterns, and to determine what you most want to do with the last active chunk of your life.

QUESTION: I love how your optimism and humor found its way into the book. How because of it, it makes the book comforting to those who are facing this situation and there families trying to be a strong support system. In its on way, I feel it gives them some guidance how to be “there” in its own way. As a survivor, what do you hope is the most important thing that: survivors, family, friends and those learning of breast cancer expect to take from this story over all?

  • ANSWER: That there’s no one way to do this, for the person getting the diagnosis or for their family and friends. And there are no guarantees about how to live so that you never get cancer. We all live with this—either worrying about it happening or having at last had it happen, to ourselves or to someone we know. To be true to ourselves and to our particular need for rest, for healing, for adventure, for creativity, for love, and not to try to follow someone else’s agenda—this to me is the most important thing I learned. As for family and friends supporting us, they need to be true to themselves as well. Some gave me dinner—some gave me flowers—some gave me wine. And one friend gave me silence. She just sat with me and very comfortably didn’t say a word, which said: “I love you, I’m here for you, and I know that nothing I say will make you feel better.”

QUESTION: Lastly, because I loved what you did with the bird, (I know, I know,) you knew I was going to address the bird. Why did you choose the bird as your voice / conscience for this story? Was it something from an artistic point of view that you saw that made the story work? Or was it one of those things in creative passion that just felt to be the right thing to do?

  • ANSWER: The bird appeared in the first panels without my knowing it, and then I realized I could put a lot of sarcastic comments that seemed too mean to put in my husband’s mouth (though he probably said all of them!) or my own mouth into the bird’s mouth, to include that bitter perspective. Then it became a useful dramatic device when I was alone and needed advice, but had no one to give it to me. And if you notice, the bird flies away when the Goddess appears. I’m sure you know what that means.

Thank you Jennifer for taking the time to answer our questions today for Fangirl Review. Your story is the most amazing comic I have read this year and I believe it will definitely impact a lot of readers out there. Thank you.

THANK YOU for asking such great questions. It’s obvious you read my book with care, and I really appreciate that!

This is it for Fangirl Review’s one on with Jennifer Hayden. Thank you for stopping by and please check into the amazing graphic novel done by Jennifer called “The Story of My Tits”.

My name is Flip Knox and I hope to inform you soon and until we meet again dear readers;

Smile Big, Laugh Loud and Love All. Have a wonderful day.

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