Welcome to week seven of the #WritersQuick5 series - where we learn about writing from fellow writers.
There are some people with innate gifts - ways of doing things or seeing things that can’t necessarily be taught or learned - that continue to bless the world with their talent. One of these people is my dear friend Alex, who has been sketching, drawing, creating basically since leaving the womb. There are many ways he has taken this to the next level, whether it be through bringing drawing to the stage through Live Action Cartoonists, to The Adventures of Captain Hare Borne and The Space Squadron, to his political satire, to his most ambitious and impressive endeavor - marrying his career as a doctor with his command of words and his love of drawing.
Alex and his friend Gary Ashwal started Booster Shot Media, a creative firm that creates health education materials (comics, whiteboard drawing videos, animation) for - and with - the healthcare industry to produce results-focused content. Alex and Gary are perhaps best known for Iggy and the Inhalers, a Pokemon-style education program for kids with asthma. Iggy was the “Best in Show” award winner for the 2016 Health Information Awards and the 2015 winner in the multimedia category of the American Public Health Association’s annual Public Health Materials Contest. Alex and Gary also showcased Iggy as panelists at the 2016 San Diego Comic Con.
As you can imagine, his particular brand and style of writing is unique and I’m so honored he’s agreed to share some insights with us. Let’s see what he has to say…
Question #1: Where do you write and why do you write there?
I usually write (and draw and sketch) in my basement art studio. It's a nice dedicated work space for my art supplies, drawing table, computer and digital drawing tablet. My wife recently got me a mobile drawing tablet so I can work anywhere, but I do like having a place where I can leave work out and just pick up where I left off.
Question #2: What is unique about writing for your particular genre?
Writing health education comics is very collaborative. Gary and I will write scripts for comics and videos together. We'll then create storyboards that we review with our clients (typically a group of researchers or clinicians). They may have certain technical details they want included or certain requirements needed for what we are creating to be used in a research study, so their feedback is very important. At the same time, we are also mindful that the intended audience still needs to be entertained and we never want to lose sight of the fact that what we create also needs to be fun and both narratively and visually engaging.
Question #3: What are some of your grammar or punctuation pet peeves?
I really don't have any. I'm sure this entire thing is full of errors. Also this spell check is telling me that "narratively" is not a word. Are we in agreeance that it is a word?
Question 4: At what point in your writing process do you start to bring other people in to review your work?
As I mentioned before, our work as Booster Shot Media is very iterative. We rely on feedback from the experts as well as the audience to make sure we are communicating (often complex) information effectively. On several projects, we conducted focus groups where we got feedback on storyboards before we created the video or comics. The focus group members never have any idea that the people conducting the focus group actually created the storyboards they are picking apart. The feedback can be pretty brutal at times- it teaches you to grow a pretty thick skin and not lose sight of the communication goals of the project.
I recall one woman from a focus group looking at my sketches and saying to me (not realizing that I was the artist), "These drawings need a lot of work. Let's just say this guy ain't Walt Disney." Ouch. But, you learn to get over it. YOU HEAR THAT, CARLA?? I GOT OVER IT!! I KNOW I'M NOT WALT DISNEY, OKAY??!
Question #5: What advice would you give to a new writer about the writing process?
I think I have had my most creative and successful work when I didn't excessively plan or outline things out in the initial stages. So don't be to precious about your ideas, and just put ink to the page and write (or draw) and make something!
Thank you Alex for these incredible answers. I love "don't be to precious about your ideas, and just put ink to the page and write (or draw) and make something!" Such great advice. Plus, I’m just glad you finally got to put Carla in her place.
Please visit the Booster Shot Media website and follow Booster Shot on Twitter. Also check out the Iggy and the Inhalers website and don’t forget to check out their store where you can order Iggy Products.
PS… A few weeks ago I featured filmmaker J.C. Reifenberg in a #WritersQuick5 and mentioned that he was in my prom group. Well, to up the ante - Alex WAS MY PROM DATE. BOOM! Represent 1999 GBN Prom, represent!
If you would like to be featured as a writer in the #WritersQuick5 series, please just reach out and let me know. I’d love to promote your work as well!
For updates on #WritersQuick5 and other info from me, please follow me on Twitter or check back with this blog for all the latest.