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.