It took me some time to decide on the colors for Spinning, I really labored over it. I specifically remember one horribly long evening where I had an internal argument about whether or not the yellow really worked. Ultimately, I chose the purple hue because as a color it felt very connected to my skating. Most of my skating dresses were purple or blue, and the darkness and warmth of it felt right. As for the yellow, I knew I needed a color to accent specific moments in the story, and yellow immediately called to me because it reminded me of spotlights. But it was really difficult finding a way to fit it in naturally. I wrestled with that damn yellow. And now I’m super pleased with how it’s turned out.
Spinning takes us through some key moments in your childhood and adolescence. What was your “research” process like as you revisited these moments?
I would barely call my process “research” haha. It was mostly a lot of thinking. And recalling while I drew. It was very fluid. I did take some time to look through the obscene amount of photos I took on my iPhone as a kid (lots of selfies, lots of windows), and that helped me get in tune with my perspective at that time. But the memories in this book are still fresh, so there wasn’t really a need to find a paper trail to trace, or anything like that. I just took my time to think back, and put down the memory on the page in the most accurate way I could.
For youth who may be experiencing the same feelings of loneliness or uncertainty, what advice would you share?
Ah jeez, that’s a heavy question. I think loneliness is maybe a little inherent to being a teenager. I think growing up is naturally very difficult, so a lot of the feelings you experience are hard to vanquish. But I guess I would just say that it’s important to talk. Talk to your friends, talk to your teachers, talk to your parents. A lot of pain can come from keeping all your feelings bottled up, and you would be surprised how much help you can get if you speak up.
What other graphic novels or stories would you recommend for fans of Spinning?
I would recommend This One Summer by Mariko and Jillian Tamaki. That book rules. I would also recommend Afterworlds by Scott Westerfeld. That book ALSO rules.
Spinning is different, but familiar, from your other graphic novels. How has your process evolved over time or how was it different for your own story versus the others you’ve told?
Memoir is very different from fiction for me. It was a new process, and I was learning while I made the book. I had to slow down, and I had to get a lot more organized with the narrative. It was daunting to try and organize my life into a narrative. Real life does not play out like a story, or at least it rarely does. Mine sure didn’t. My memories came in bunches; big clumps of emotion and action, and then long stretches that were vague and hazy. So I had to learn to take what was important and thread it into a proper story. It was hard!
by Tillie Walden
Published: September 12th 2017
Publisher: First Second (love them!)
Poignant and captivating, Ignatz Award winner Tillie Walden’s powerful graphic memoir, Spinning, captures what it’s like to come of age, come out, and come to terms with leaving behind everything you used to know.
It was the same every morning. Wake up, grab the ice skates, and head to the rink while the world was still dark.
Weekends were spent in glitter and tights at competitions. Perform. Smile. And do it again.
She was good. She won. And she hated it.
For ten years, figure skating was Tillie Walden’s life. She woke before dawn for morning lessons, went straight to group practice after school, and spent weekends competing at ice rinks across the state. It was a central piece of her identity, her safe haven from the stress of school, bullies, and family. But over time, as she switched schools, got into art, and fell in love with her first girlfriend, she began to question how the close-minded world of figure skating fit in with the rest of her life, and whether all the work was worth it given the reality: that she, and her friends on the figure skating team, were nowhere close to Olympic hopefuls. It all led to one question: What was the point?The more Tillie thought about it, the more Tillie realized she’d outgrown her passion–and she finally needed to find her own voice.
Tillie Walden is a two-time Ignatz Award–winning cartoonist from Austin, Texas. Born in 1996, she is a recent graduate from the Center for Cartoon Studies, a comics school in Vermont. Her comics include The End of Summer and I Love This Part, an Eisner Award nominee. tilliewalden.com