August 15, 2014

Visual Storytelling - 6 reasons why stories with pictures are awesome.

I spoke in a panel at BlogHer14, called "Developing Your Visual Voice". My segment was about eighteen minutes pulled from my workshop on Visual Storytelling. The response was positive enough to follow up with a more in-depth "how to" series here on my blog. I am nice.

Let's get started.

Why should we tell stories with pictures?

1. Welp. The world is full of noise.

If you're doing business, if you're an educator, or an independent artist, writer or blogger; if you're content marketing in any way, images will help you stick out of the pile.

There's a lot of bloggers out there - not a lot of them draw. And NO ONE draws like you (whether you think you can draw or not).

2. Stories will pictures have sticky-power. People have short attention spans - they often skim rather than read.

I'll bet you're reading this.

So putting your message into pictures is a perfect way to be instantly seen...

...and remembered. And shared.

Hurrah for sticky-power!

3. Be instantly recognizable. Use certain colours and styles consistently to establish your visual voice. Remember that visuals add your personal touch to any kind of media. Some folks call this 'branding', but it really means you being 'you'. Know who you are.

Your "look" should be visible on all your social media platforms, your audio-visuals, PowerPoint presentations and your print media.

4. Pictures are empathy triggers. They grab people and make them feel something. The more personal your drawing is the better, i.e. if you draw it yourself, then you're using your own authentic visual voice.

And if you can engage on an emotional level, it becomes a two way conversation.

You talk to them and they talk back - people like to be heard, it makes them feel good. We all want to feel that we are a part of the story.

You can capture the hearts and minds of your audience with visual storytelling.

But that's not all. These four points contribute to one great result:

5. Drawing is good for your brain. Whether you draw it yourself or hire someone else to draw it for you, being able to think and express yourself visually will make you a better communicator and a better storyteller.

6. Duh. Stories with pictures are fun. You can put things in drawings that enhance a story and add layers of meaning. Visual storytelling is value-added.

I mean, which book would you go for?

Next up in this series: simple digital tools. 

August 7, 2014

Epic #toonswag at #BlogHer14.

I started toonswagging at my first BlogHer in 2012, and in the past two years, have collected nearly 100 souls, no other way to describe it. I probably have enough for a book.

There is nothing quite like plucking a face from the crowd and drawing them right there on the spot. True, the drawings are simple, but I do try my best to gather the features that sparkle and infuse them into a nuance of line. People don't sit still for long at a conference, so I have to be quick.

And so it was with Teneshia Jackson-Warner, the Morning Keynote for BlogHer's Pathfinder Day. What an extra-ordinary woman. Her path from volunteer to Hip-Hop mogul Russell Simmons to founding the award-winning marketing firm Egami is truly remarkable. She's got the focus of a laser.
Tenacious with a capital T-E-N-E-S-H-I-A-S.

I was lucky enough to be thrust in front of her by my friend Alexandra (scroll down) and someone named Isabel, who turned out to be AlphaMom (I had no idea, holy fark-a-doodle, I am so ignorant). Anyways, thanks to them I was able to show Teneshia the toonswag and she said she'd send it to her mom. I only send my mom drawings of me that I like, so I guess that's all good.

This is Linda Roy, who won a Voice Of The Year (VOTY). She's a friend from the Aiming Low NonCon, blogger at Elleroy Was Here and co-founder of the burgeoning Lefty Pop site for smart people. She's also the magical embodiment of rock and roll, when it settles down and has a family. I've been wanting to draw Linda's face forever, so it was like my hand already knew what to do.
Instant Rock: just add ukulele.

Jenny Lawson really needs no introduction. She was the Opening Keynote for the conference itself, and even though she's super famous, she comes across as refreshingly real. The Bloggess is one of the few speakers I've seen who can monologue without plummeting into the abyss of ego and conceit. Here she is, corpse hair in place, and also, slightly on fire. Because why not?
"Don't be mean." Wise words from Jenny.

Normally I ask people's permission to post their toonswag, but in this case I was just too shy to line up and see her at the book signing. Shy and embarrassed about those times I wrote to her asking her to write a blurb for my books. SORRY, THE BLOGGESS! Public figures get toonswagged sometimes! (I will totally take this down if you hate it though. Please don't sue me.)

Aliza Worthington, from The Worthington Post and other publications. She accosted me I bumped into her on an escalator last year and we just clicked. Then we spent a year clicking on the Internet and became Friendlies. She's got a very powerful Red Pen and won't hesitate to use it on your writings if you are an ignoramus.

Hilarious, intelligent and insightful, a writer (and vlogger - see Don't Take Viagra) to watch for; Aliza I love your face.
I met, and hugged, Roxanne Piskel from Unintentionally Brilliant. She's one of the people I talk with regularly on social media, but when you find that person standing in front of you in the realzies, the relationship changes and becomes something new. I was looking into her lovely face, all shy giggles and enormous brown eyes and I was thinking, there's a lot of layers of sensitivity here. I recommend you read her take on BlogHer14; it's pretty raw, and very well written.
She may try to steal your shoes.
Every time I turned a corner at the conference, I would see Christine Harkin (of Napttime Writing). She and I were gravitating to the same tables at all the keynotes. Either that or she was stalking me. 
When I bumped into her last year, we had apparently already spent some hours together hitting on entertaining unsuspecting sponsors at the Expo Hall the previous day. But I remember none of it because I had The Drunkies, which she was kind enough to point out, by saying, "You were really drunk last night". Yes folks, I was that blogger. Christine had unknowingly tripped over my 'secret' elephant, and in so doing, shifted me a little closer to this side of the line. I owe her a debt of gratitude for it.
"I'm sorry but women apologize too much." 
I love that. Her no-bullshit style is so cool...and smart. And there we were on a really big bed at Deb Rox's Queerosphere party. How could I not draw Christine? She is part Elf. 

Arianna Huffington, media-maven...interviewed by Guy Kawasaki, tech-evangelist, for the lunchtime Keynote....could you not find two more social-media-savvy personalities BlogHer? Seriously. Guy asked questions knowing full well that Arianna wasn't going to answer them. It was extremely amusing.
Sleep is easily recommended from a point of privilege.
So she talked about her new book, Thrive, insisting that the key to a happy and successful life is simply to get more sleep. TELL ME SOMETHING I DON'T KNOW ARIANNA.

Canadian (like moi) Julie Nowell blogs at Three Chickens And A Boat. She is much taller than I am. We know this because she bent down and smiled at me at Blissdom in Toronto last autumn. She said, 
"I think you are lovely". 
And I believed her. You see how easy it is to make people happy? 

Julie sat cross-legged on the floor in the hallway so I could draw her. She is so nice.
Two chicks and a house.
She has a baby chick and it is the cutest thing ever. Baby animal videos rule. Animators figured that out a long time ago, thanks to Mr. Disney. 

Sometimes people message me privately and ask me to illustrate their book. Tammy Soong, from World's Worst Moms, was one of these people. I told her, "No way Tammy. You can illustrate your own book".  To which she replied, "You've got to be fucking kidding me," or something along those lines. 

To cut a long story short, I gave her a little push and the next thing you know she's illustrating her blogposts and winning VOTY's. It was a proud moment to see my mentee on stage and reading her illustrated post "First Reason Not To Get A Tattoo: Your Mom Probably Has One" in front of several thousand people. I teared up! Even when her images came out of order (I live in fear of this), Tammy shone, rescuing the funny out of a very stressful moment by clicking furiously through all the drawings. Can you say "animation"? Read about it here.
Plotting world domination, obviously.
Tammy is one third of my favourite podcast, The Blogging Betties - you can see more of her hilarious art flourishings over on their blog. (WARNING: If you ever meet Poppy Marler, make sure you're wearing steel-toe boots. She's an uninhibited toe-cracker. *shakes tiny fist at Poppy*).

You can go anywhere in the world and find an #UsGuys. Marla Schulman and I met online through this great group of mostly-social-media-marketers. After missing a conference in Arkansas last year due to a...uh, visa malfunction, it seemed like Marla and I might never meetup IRL.  
I turned around and saw her running towards me. Hurrah for BlogHer! 
The Divine Ms. M.
Marla is an Idea Generator. Drawing her in person, I couldn't help but be impressed with her confidence - we are really similar in that we both have creative minds and producer skills. And we are also both extremely sexy, but you guys knew that.

Here's a surprize: it's Lucy Ball, from My Life As Lucille! We finally met at BlogHer but I didn't have a chance to draw her because my iPad kept dying. So this is a Latertoonswag. Which is just like a Latergram on Instagram, only toonswagged. I'm making this up as I go along. Hurrah!
"The Bloggess signed my boob."
Oh yes she did.
I am pretty sure Lucy looked just like this when she saw this drawing. #animated
And finally, Alexandra Rosas of Good Day, Regular People. Super-fricken talented writer. VOTY Winner and 10X10 Speaker. All the feels and so much heart. She's a blogger's blogger...and she's my friend. 

Following her around the Expo Hall like a baby sister, we stopped in front of The Mrs mirror-thingie. I put the headphones on and stared at my reflection as Alexandra whispered to me from inside the booth. She said wonderful things. Things that she'd gleaned from reading between the lines of my blog. Things that are difficult to listen to, because for some reason it's hard to take a compliment. I had to blink a lot.
The Empress.
She would not let me reciprocate, insisting that it was a one-way-deal. But I would like to say this to you now, if you're reading this Alexandra: you make me want to give. Making people want to give is a gift. Thank-you. And thank-you for saying "terror shits" on stage at the VOTY 10X10. That was awesome.

*     *     *     *     *
There's one waiting for you.
Is it feasible to sell a toonswag book? There's gotta be a way to harness #toonswag for a good cause... I'm thinking of hooking up with a sponsor and a charity and doing a three way cross-promo: Postpartum progress? Cancer research? Multiple sclerosis? Your input please.

July 20, 2014

Visual Storytelling at #BlogHer14

I'm so over Italy already! Heading out to California tomorrow afternoon where I'll be hanging out with my cousin and her husband at the very cool Ink + Smog in LA. I'm also going to see some animation industry friends because Hollywood, and then I'll be heading up to the BlogHer conference in San Jose. My friend Neil Kramer is driving and someone has to make sure he doesn't fall asleep at the wheel. That someone would be moi. I make an excellent passenger.

This will be my third BlogHer. If we've never met, and you come up to me IRL and say "Hi JC!" I may stare blankly at you. This is because I'm a visual person and I'm used to seeing your avatar and stuff. Also, Internet friendships are contextual, you know? I might know you as the person I talked about magical dog poop with on Twitter. So if I space on you, try saying, "Hi! I'm the magical dog poop person!" And then I'll totally know who you are and we can hug IRL.

Alternately, you can simply whisper the Secret Password:

The Secret Password is "monkey farts".

If you do I'll know that you're MY PEOPLE. You should only whisper the Secret Password if you don't mind being hugged, squeezed and possibly accidentally groped.

There will be Toonswag. Here is a sample (it's Neil. And by the way he will not be taking Instagrams while driving to San Jose...unless he wants to get thwacked.):

This adorkable dude blogs at Citizen of the Month. He hates being called "dude".

Also this is happening:

I'm speaking on Friday afternoon, in a panel on The Visual Web track called "Developing Your Visual Voice". The other speakers on the panel are Jill Krause (Baby Rabies), Melanie Perkins (Canva) and Vanessa Bell (De Su Mama) and you can find out more about it here. My bit will be on visual storytelling, with tips and tricks on how to use simplification techniques to illustrate stories and concepts. Also it will have drawings and animation.

If you're coming to BlogHer I hope that you'll find a way to make it to this session. I can promise you that it will be fun (because cartoons), you'll learn something (because cartoons) and it will likely be somewhat different to what you're used to seeing at social media conferences (...because cartoons). And there will be a free monkey button for everyone who comes.*

*While quantities last.

Wish me luck getting over this beastly jetlag. Who wants toonswag?

July 17, 2014


I'm half Italian. The top half. Which makes buying a bikini all kinds of challenging; I always say that together, J-Lo and I make the ideal woman.

Back to the bit about me being half Italian. It is entirely my mother's fault. Both her parents are Italian, and their parents are also Italian. All this is why I find myself here in Italy with twelve other family members, namely my mom, my two brothers, and all our respective partners and offspring. It's a family heritage trip to the part of Italy from whence came my mother's maternal grandparents, my Bisnonno and Bisnonna.

I never met my Bisnonna as she died when my mom was a child. But I remember my Bisnonno fairly well; positively ancient and smelling faintly of parmesan he would ask if I thought he'd get into heaven when he died. Being a non-religious and slightly awkward ten year old with zero knowledge of Italian, I figured the best thing to do was to just keep nodding. I'm pretty sure he made it, because he was basically a good guy (though my Grandma did tell me that he slapped her in the face once for talking to a boy when she was a teenager - times have changed, yo) and from what I understand that's where good guys go who are Roman Catholic or whatever. Heaven. In case you got lost.

ANYWAYS. I just thought you guys might be wondering where I've been for the past three weeks. My great-grandparents were from near this part of Italy that I'm surrounded by. At the moment, I'm on a recliner beside a pool laid out in a beautifully landscaped villa property nestled in the Apennines, farmland and hills of Le Marche countryside, probably owned by British people. I say probably because one is never sure about who actually owns a vacation property. Is it the person you negotiated the rental with, or is it the person who's family photos are staring back at you from every horizontal and vertical surface in the main floor common rooms? I hate that! Seriously, one time we stayed in a vacation rental house in New Brunswick and the "in-laws" official silver anniversary photos were hung on the wall above the bed in the master bedroom. Not exactly conducive to sexy-time, if you know what I mean.

My mom went around the villa, collected all the family photos and put them in a cupboard. Sorry property owner family members! (Not really. We've paid enough money to enjoy this vacation in your crib without having you watch us).

When I say "enjoy" I really mean take turns having meltdowns. Here is a graph:

Are you still with me? Try and keep up because there might be a quiz later.

When you put thirteen (I know, I know) people together in a house in paradise, and the people are my family, you're tempting the most disastrous kind of fate. And fate did not shy away, unfortunately, it was most inconveniently forthcoming. Grown men transformed into macho babies, the food and wine that was meant to be an expression of love was turned into a weapon. Egos exploded left and right, bitter accusations borne of baggage long-dragged flew, tears were shed quietly behind closed doors and hearts... were fractured. I thanked the Universe or whatever that I had quit drinking a few months earlier, because I might have otherwise been sucked into the abyss.

And yet...there were gems. The birds, the hills, the people in Le Marche, the coffee, the shoes and handbags, tiny lizards running through the grass, humble corners of cobbled village streets, and the softest sunlight filtering down on everything. It was a sheer joy to watch the kids fling themselves into the food, the family and the pool in spite of the dramaz. My three year old nieceling was cousining for the first time in her young life, surrounded by five mostly teenagers.

But the best? Was hearing my mom speak Italian; the shining faces of the local people looking up to her and seeing one of their own. Ever the lady, unbroken and lovely, here in Italy. A worthy Matriarch.

Also I have a tan. A half-Italian one.

Follow #jcinitaly on my Instagram for more humble pics of Italy. Coming home in a few days. After that...California.

June 27, 2014

Four Year BLOG-iversary.

HOLY CRAP-A-DOODLE. I missed my fourth Blog-iversary.

It was on June 21st.

There's just too dang much going on around here: two books, three films, three teenagers in my is rushing past me! I barely have time to live it, let alone record it in drawings.

Never mind. You can still wish me a Happy Blog-iversary if'n you want to. could draw me a card!! If you do, I will post it below. And it will make me very, very happy. Prolly won't happen, but you never know.

PS I love drawing for you. What was your favourite post this year?

June 18, 2014

Menopause FUQ.

WARNING: This post is bold. In fact, my husband is pretty much convinced that I'm destroying my blogging career with it. Do I care? Not really. Both my daughters and my own mother burst out laughing viewing these drawings. But anyways, if you’re at all squeamish or easily offended by anthropomorphic lady bits you should stop reading now and click away from this blog post. I’m taking no prisoners.


Yeah, I said it out loud. Seriously, nobody* wants to talk openly about this fact of female life. I grew up, got married and had three children, and was all the while blissfully unaware of anything to do with menopause. I only learned how to spell it properly when I got my first attack of the sweaty-undertits. No one wants to talk and no one wants to listen.
*A group comprised of most people.

Just for fun, I Googled some of the female-exclusive reproductive words to compare interest levels (I included a Google search of "sex" just for laughs.):

9.1 billion mentions of "menopause" on the Internet seems like a lot. But is it? I mean, it has a tad more presence than "menstruation", which kinda surprised me, but is still nowhere near the search results for "pregnancy", or "sex", which is totally off the charts.

I’ll say it again:

MENO - wait for it ......pause.”

I feel like sharing. Here’s a list of things no one told me about menopause - think of it as a PSA falling kerplunk! into the category of answers to Frequently Unanswered Questions, or FUQ:

1.  First off - Tweezers will be your new best friend. You'll want a magnifying mirror to see the nasty black bristles you've been oblivious to for the past six months since your eyes have been going bye-bye.

2.  When you look in the mirror, you'll sometimes see a man staring back at you. This is especially true if your teen-aged daughters steal borrow your tweezers. Weirdly, make-up tends to enhance the masculine effect. It’s kind of a drag.

3.  You will need three different bra sizes in one month. Randomly undulating breasts are fun! Try to enjoy it.

You're looking at my star qualities aren't you.

4.  My Hot Flashes are probably contributing to Global Warming. I'm sorry about that. If only there was a Think Tank clever enough to dream up a way to harness this sustainable energy resource...

5.  Night sweats can totally happen during the day. (Note the sweaty- undertits.)

6.  Things that you used to be able to set your clock by, suddenly go haywire. And just when you think you're in the clear because it's been months and months since you've had to tear off a strip, your period will come raging back into your knickers like an old acquaintance that you never liked very much cornering you at a cocktail party.

Wear white at your own risk and above all, avoid swimming in shark infested waters.

7.  Oh the mood swings! Oscillating between crying jags and vicious snarls is exhausting. Too bad those hot flashes are keeping you awake at night.

See what I did there?


Still here? Well alrighty then, don't say I didn't warn you.

8.  Vaginal dryness happens to OTHER women. Nobody wants to admit they have it because our plump, juicy vagina is tied directly to our core sexuality. But one day you'll be innocently going about your business when suddenly there'll be a scratching sensation. The closest thing I can liken it to is having sand in your bathing suit and you'll wonder how on earth it got there.

Life is a beach, and then you get sandy shorts. THANKS A LOT, MENOPAUSE.

Sex can be ouchy! You might be well and truly turned on but it still feels dry and it hurts. Some days it feels like if your vagina had a face it might look like this.

But don't freak out - it doesn't have a face.

Actually, I looked "vaginal dryness" up on a reputable site, and guess what?! The vagina is not necessarily dry; it could just be that the tissues are all thin and shriveled due to a decrease in estrogen and progesterone. So yaaaaaay.

Also known as "Reasons to die young".

9.  You will lose your memory. You will even lose the memory of your memory.

10.  What was the question again? I'm sorry I can't hear you above the wailing wind whistling through my empty cranial cavity.

11.  Somehow, through this tornado of bleck and uncertainty, The Huz still finds me hawt. Hurrah! I will keep him.

Yay! Someone loves me, vadryna and all!
On the bright side, I've only got another five to ten years of this menopausal crap. I wonder what's supposed to happen after that...?