Category Archives: Letters from Lynn

Lynn Visits Murray and Eleanor Enkin

A couple of weeks ago, I made my annual pilgrimage to see Murray and Eleanor Enkin. Not only did Dr. Enkin deliver both my children, he was the one who encouraged me to create my first book of cartoons and to then find a publisher. To this day, I thank him for my wonderful education (as one of his medical artists) and I credit him for my eventual entry into the serious world of comic art.

Lynn’s First Book!

The Helijet leaves from an obscure spot on the other side of the harbour from where I live. I can almost see where it lands. I packed an over night kit, walked down to the Sea Bus and in 20 minutes, I was sitting in the small waiting room, watching the sea planes lifting off and wheeling into an overcast morning sky. Six business people anxious to get to Victoria, and a couple of easygoing travellers like me packed into the cabin of the Helijet, and in no time we were rising from the dock as waves along the edge blew furiously away in great white sheets. Our pilot was an attractive young woman; her copilot a handsome young man. They were two people capable of the most astonishing magic. No matter how often I fly, or in what kind of aircraft, I always believe I’m experiencing a miracle!

It took about an hour to get to Victoria. By then, it was raining and a taxi was waiting for me. The Enkins live in a small house on a quiet street in an older neighbourhood. A sign on the door read: “Keep ringing the bell. We can’t hear!” Murray and Eleanor opened the door together and welcomed me inside. They are both in their 90s now. They looked exactly the same to me as they did the last time I dropped in, but Eleanor was not able to carry a conversation, and Murray was a bit unsteady on his feet. We had all changed (as one does), but when you feel at home with people, there seems to be no lapse of time. It was as if I’d just seen them the day before. We laughed and hugged and made our way to the small sitting room where Murray keeps a fire lit in the wood stove. A young woman, who comes to give them a hand each day, arrived with tea and cookies and we sat by the fire as we always do, enjoying the warmth and the companionship. Murray and Eleanor are family to me.

Lynn’s dear friend, Murray Enkin

It took awhile to catch up. We tend to interrupt each other and then forget the topic! After filling in the blanks about family and friends, we sat and let the moment settle; like butter melting into warm toast. “How many more times” I thought to myself,  “will I be able to sit in this room with these dear people?”  Conversation was sometimes difficult, as Eleanor chatted about things unrelated to what we were saying. Murry told me she lived in a world of her own. He said he kept himself sharp by reading, writing, meeting with academic friends, and counting backwards from 100 by sevens. I told him I couldn’t do it. By fives, maybe! He said he missed his colleagues at McMaster University and all the great times they had. He missed the challenge of his work, and the business of his days. He missed thinking, and planning, and doing meaningful things. I could feel his sadness. I’m beginning to understand these things, now. I’m beginning to see the world quite differently.

Until I was perhaps 65, I thought I’d always be the person I’d grown into; the person I recognized in the mirror, the person who thought the way I thought and did the things I did. Now, I’m 72 and I am different.  I’m old. My body is old. I find myself doing “old” things.  Murray and Eleanor are older.  We look at each other with a new and profound understanding.  Saying goodbye comes with an extra hug. Saying “take care” means just that.  Saying “I’ll see you again” is a fervent hope. We must meet again soon.

I’ve always been practical, and somewhat cynical, when it comes to life and death. But, the older I get, the more I believe that there’s more to this existence than meets the eye. As I hugged Murray and Eleanor one last time, I felt joy and anticipation. I was thinking: “There’s more to come. There’s a reason we met this time around. Now what?” It’s a profound question: “Now what?”

Growing old gives us time to rustle through our accumulated knowledge and experience and think: “Now that I’ve done all that…what does happen next?”  If I’m careful. If I’m lucky, I might have 20 more years before I find out!  Meanwhile, I have images fresh in my mind of friends who gave me confidence and support when I needed it most, and a personal goal that led to an unexpected career.

One of Lynn's pre-FBorFW comics.

I spent the following two days in Victoria with another friend — about whom I’ll tell you soon.

Lynn J.

Lynn’s Book Review: Becoming, By Michelle Obama

Becoming by Michelle ObamaFor almost 30 years, I produced a comic strip that practically opened my front door and invited everyone into my living room. I received letters from all over the world, from readers who said I was talking about their life, that I was like the woman next door– a friend they could relax with and confide in. This was both an incredible compliment, and an anchor that kept me focused and real. If I may, I’d like to ask my readers to allow another neighbour into their homes. Here is a writer who has done much, much more.

I urge everyone to read Michelle Obama’s book “Becoming.” I think it is one of the most important pieces of literature to come out of the United States or anywhere– because it humanizes all of us. At a time of fake news and cruel, unwarranted attacks from far left and far right, Michelle Obama speaks from the center; from the heart and from a place of normalcy.

Inside all of us is a centered place where we feel balance and strength and a sense of belonging. The wonderful song: “We Are The World” comes from this place. With honesty, perspective, and woman-to-woman candor, she speaks to everyone — without arrogance, reticence or guile. She is an excellent writer who takes you on a most intimate journey. I don’t want to write a review. I want everyone out there to review it themselves. I have a bit more to read before I put this book in a safe but prominent place. I don’t want it to end. It’s THAT good.

Lynn

Lynn, On Her Trip to Cartoon Crossroads Columbus

The last week of September saw me heading off to Columbus, Ohio, where I was a guest speaker and panelist at CXC: Cartoon Crossroads Columbus. They had asked me to give a talk, and take part in a panel.

CXC is more than a gathering of comic art fans; it’s where artists, publishers and collectors go to meet each other and to learn more about the industry. The Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum, located within Ohio State University, has one of the biggest and most important collections of original comic art, books, films, letters, and related documents in the world. In this fairly new museum building, made possible through the generosity of the Ireland family and supported by many others, much of the weekend event took place. Other meetings and presentations took place in the Wexner Centre, another of the spectacular, classic buildings on the Ohio State University Campus.

Above: (L to R) Jenny Robb (curator), me, and Annie Koyama (publisher). Annie had just donated an enormous collection of original comic art to the museum.

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Atlin Chalk Talks

The last week of August saw me heading north. I had agreed to do a “chalk talk” at the tiny Globe theatre in Atlin, BC – just south of the Yukon border. The flight to Whitehorse on Air North was pleasant as always – one of the few airlines which treats passengers with courtesy and appreciation. There is no charge for checked luggage, you get a nice lunch and at the end of the trip, they bring you a warm chocolate chip cookie! I always sit in a window seat. The scenery along the B.C. coast is spectacular and must be seen from above if possible.

Forest fires were raging again, and the result could be seen from 30 thousand feet above the ground. I took some pictures to show that smoke filled the valleys. It came up to the mountain crests. No wonder people were evacuating to safer and clearer areas; the air was bad. Paul (my partner) picked me up at the airport. It was a cool, clear day and compared to the dry heat of the city, it felt like fall.

After a fast trip to Skagway to see friends, we returned to Atlin and Paul’s tiny log cabin. It’s a cozy space nestled in the woods. He built it by hand when he was in his 20s and he says the land is in his DNA. I love being back in the north. When I was a kid and just leaving home, I wanted to stay in the city, be an animator or go into advertising. Like all city kids, I thought the north and the prairies were off the map; no place for me. Later, when fate took my family and me to Lynn Lake Manitoba, I changed. Small towns connect you to what’s real; what’s important. You learn to do without, to create your own entertainment, to be resourceful and to depend on your friends and family. Atlin is one of these special places and it comes with scenery too beautiful to photograph. Maybe that’s why so many talented artists choose to live there.

The Globe theatre, on Atlin’s main drag, was built during the Gold Rush. It has been beautifully restored and seats about 100 people. Heather, the Globe’s young and enterprising operator, had arranged a number of fundraisers in order to pay for the boiler which has to be repaired before the long winter sets in. Paul and I were the last of the “shows” and 23 people showed up. It was like a reunion as everyone knew everyone else.  Heather set the heater in the middle of the aisle to heat the place up a bit, then put on the coffee and the popcorn. She had also made Rice Krispie squares. We had an hour and a half to perform, as there was a baseball game on as well – an inter-community game which was a serious draw! Paul “opened” for me, with a few numbers on his guitar. He is a local favourite and I asked him to play something he’d never played for an audience before. I figured – if he’d roped me into this, I was going to give him a challenge in return! He played some fine original tunes – which I had only heard in part.

This shows the board in front of the Atlin Gas station, advertising the show. I told Heather that what I did was called a “chalk talk” and wondered how many folks would know what that meant! Not many, I’m sure – but there it was!

The chalk talk always goes well and is never the same twice. I talk about the things that go into a cartoonist’s mental rolodex: childhood memories, personal truths and lifetime adventures I want to share. I draw while I talk, using an overhead projector – a machine which is becoming harder and harder to find! I have always loved to watch my cartoonist friends draw. It’s a magical experience. With this in mind, I use the projector to illustrate my talks and it has become more than a tool, it’s kind of a “Dumbo’s Feather”. I need it to hide behind and give me the confidence I need to do public speaking! I’m still an amateur. I have learned that stand up comedy is the hardest job in the world and I’m awed by the people who do it well!

After the talk and some more visiting, Paul and I left the Yukon and began the long drive home. Every year, he likes to bring his truck back to Tsawassen where he has a cottage. I have begun to look forward to this four-day journey – for the scenery and for the experience. I love a good road trip!

There were fewer fires. Firefighters and some much-needed rain had lessened the threat and the smoke had dissipated. We were able to see the great walls of rock, vast mountain meadows and deep winding gorges of B.C’s interior highways. We listened to “books on tape” and enjoyed staying in out-of-the-way hotels and cabins. I didn’t want the trip to end.

Lynn’s Thoughts on 2018’s San Diego Comic Con

I have just returned from Comic Con in San Diego. I was invited to be a speaker this year, and to sit on a couple of panels. It was great to play the role of cartoonist again! Even though I continue to draw and create funny designs and patterns, I miss spending time with friends who are still doing the dailies and Sundays; still working to deadline. I miss being one of them! Having said that, I don’t wish to return to the work I did for so long. The fact that FBorFW is still remembered so fondly fills me up and makes me proud of the work I’ve done. It’s a great feeling.

The first time I went to this unconventional convention, it was a relatively small gathering of cartoonists who wanted to share their work, have their folios reviewed, buy and sell stuff, and drink beer. We all walked from table to table, enjoying new ideas, seeing how artists drew and coloured — all before the magic of computers. This was magic on its own! You could see the entire exhibition floor in less than a day and I don’t remember anyone wearing costumes.

Today, the “Con” attracts tens of thousands. There is no age limit. Everyone, from the new kid in a carrier, to granny with a cane, is there– along with hordes of twenty-somethings who line up for hours, some sleeping on sidewalks in the hopes of scoring tickets to an event, a talk, or a workshop. People are friendly. People are reunited, and new friends are made. It is a seething, bustling, colourful crush of fans and foragers. Many people come in costume, looking for headgear and hardware, buying everything from space suits to makeup — whatever it takes to become a superhero. Whatever you can dream up, you can be.

The convention hall is shaped like a massive cruise ship. Each day it took at least half an hour to work my way through the comic book stands, graphic novels, animation exhibits, and original art to wherever I needed to go. Fortunately, I had a volunteer guide who took me directly to meeting rooms and signing tables or I’d have been lost! Everywhere, I was greeted by folks who read my work as children and were now reading it to kids of their own. They would appear and then dissolve again into the dense river of people. I was grateful to sit in the National Cartoonists Society  booth with Greg Evans, Maria Schriver, Steve McGarry and crew, safe and out of the way. I also spent time behind the desk at IDW publishing, signing the new collection books. Having somewhere to be, somewhere to stand, made the massive crowd easier to manage. Moving bumper to bumper with aliens, robots, rubber chickens, and the undead, is wonderful — but in small doses.

It’s over for another year. I’m home again, looking at photos and sending messages to folks I met. It was four days of fun and freedom; of harmless fantasy in a celebration of comic art at its best. At a time when the world outside seems stark raving mad, I’m grateful for the kind of craziness that brings people together in spirit and solidarity. That’s Comic Con.

Lynn J.