Lynda Barry

Lynda BarryArtist, Writer, Teacher.

“The image world is so much more than art, or something that can bring you something. It is an external organ tied to our mental health and we ignore it at our peril.”

Lynda Barry is an author and cartoonist credited with expanding the literary, thematic and emotional range of American comics. She is best known for her groundbreaking weekly comic strip “Ernie Pook’s Comeek,” which ran for 30 years throughout the United States and Canada.

Barry is also a sought-after speaker and visiting artist. She was UW-Madison’s spring 2012 interdisciplinary artist in residence and will be teaching on campus this semester. Her popular writing workshop, “Writing the Unthinkable,” is offered all around the country. The workshops focus on accessing creativity, not crafting character arcs and narrative line, the typical content of writing workshops.

Her work explores the depths of creation and imagination. She believes play can be serious, monsters have purpose and not knowing is an answer unto itself.

She adapted her novel, “The Good Times are Killing Me,” into a long-running off-Broadway play. Barry has written 18 books, including the just-released “The Freddie Stories.” She has worked as a commentator for National Public Radio, had a regular monthly feature in publications such as Esquire and Mother Jones Magazine, and has been a frequent guest on the Late Show With David Letterman.

Barry has received numerous awards and honors for her work, among them two William Eisner awards for graphic novels, The American Library association’s Alex award, the Washington State governor’s award, the Wisconsin Library Associations RR Donnelly Award, and in 2008, her book, “One! Hundred! Demons!” was required reading for all incoming freshmen at Stanford University. Her novel, “Cruddy”, (which the New York Times called “A work of terrible beauty”) has been translated into French, Italian, German, Catalan and Hebrew.

Barry attended The Evergreen State College (Olympia, Wash.) and studied under painter and writing teacher Marilyn Frasca for two years, trying to answer this one question: What is an Image? This question has guided Barry’s work ever since.

“There are certain children who are told they are too sensitive, and there are certain adults who believe sensitivity is a problem that can be fixed in the way that crooked teeth can be fixed and made straight. And when these two come together you get a fairytale, a kind of story with hopelessness in it. I believe there is something in these old stories that does what singing does to words. They have transformational capabilities, in the way melody can transform mood… We don’t create a fantasy world to escape reality, we create it to be able to stay. I believe we have always done this, used images to stand and understand what otherwise would be intolerable.”

Twitter: @NearSitedMonkey

Lynda Barry at the 2013 BLE