In Collaboration with This Asian American Life: The Making of “My Journey with Journals”

So as I had mentioned last week, I have never written a comic book or a graphic novel before… but as of this week, I can say that I have written a web comic. I teased this project back in February, but for those who missed it, on Thursday, my collaboration with This Asian American Life (TAAL) was released, in the form of a comic commemorating 20 years of journaling called “My Journey with Journals.”

Just to give some background context, TAAL works with community artists and historians to present Asian American and BIPOC experiences through visual guides (i.e. comics) and lesson guides for educators. Through the comics in particular, subject matter from honing in on historical events and figures otherwise not taught in school, to founder Katie Quan depicting the little moments in her life through the context of being Asian American, it’s all both informative and fun to read.

Katie is no stranger to doing collaborations with other creatives, and having known her for several years now, we’ve toyed with the idea of doing one together for quite a while. But with life being life, the possibility was dropped yet revisited again and again. At the top of this year, I made a decision: any person within my network that I wanted to creatively collaborate with, I would reach out to and say, “Hey, I’d love to work with you on something someday. Let me know if the feeling is mutual.” Katie was one of the people I reached out to, and that conversation began again.

She asked for ideas of what to do a comic on, and I came up with the idea of doing one on my 20-year journaling journey. I didn’t know what she would think of it, seeing that’s it’s an experience not specific to the Asian American or BIPOC communities at large. I was thrilled when she said that she liked the idea and work commenced on it.

She had me pull quotes from some of my journals that stood out to me (and let me just say, it was more so easier to do so from journals from more recent years than the past, without turning this into a full blown cringe-fest). She had me write up a personal essay about my experience and incorporated some of the quotes into it, before sending it her way. I even sent photos of the journals I pulled them from as a visual guide.

Katie’s style with her comics reminds me a lot of the “Peanuts” comics from Charles Schultz; very adorable in appearance, but thematically nuanced. She pulled from both some of the quotes from my journals and passages from the essay itself, and incorporated them all into the comic. In doing so, I curiously yet thrillingly saw her artistic take on me over the ages and expressions, getting to the core of the context that was made available to her.

She showed me rough sketches of her drawings and I already loved them. The only note I had was for the panel where my hand is writing down the first words of the first entry of the first journal. She had me right-handed originally, before pointing out to her that I’m actually left-handed. It was an easy fix to an otherwise flawless (in my opinion) set of comic art.

“My Journey with Journals” has been out for almost two days, and it’s been getting a pretty good response. TAAL has become a valued platform, particularly within the Asian American community, and I’m glad to see people taking it in so positively. I really enjoyed working with Katie on this and I hope the feeling is mutual on her end too. I hope we get to do more collaborations like this again.

Scroll back up to see the full comic on the official TAAL Instagram, and consider following if you’re not already. Also, to read the full personal essay, you can read that here on the TAAL website.

NOTE: Okay, I’m well aware of how many projects I’ve worked on have come out in recent time. I hope this proves to be a bit of an indicator of just what I’m capable of as a writer, and that I’m often involved with several things at once. I have no other projects coming out for now, but what I will say is that I’m almost always working on something.




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