photo credit: May Tomine

For over thirty years I’ve had the incredible, unexpected pleasure of putting work out into the world and receiving feedback, in the form of cards and letters, from a very engaged, opinionated readership. (Actually, sometimes it wasn’t exactly a pleasure—some particularly harsh criticisms and a few borderline stalker-ish packages spring to mind—but it was still, unquestionably, a privilege.) In addition to publishing the most interesting letters in my comic, I also made an effort to respond directly, usually with a hand-written postcard. As a young fan, my mind was completely blown when I received a response from a cartoonist I wrote to, and I’ve been determined to carry on that tradition as much as possible.

But things have changed over the years. It’s been a while since I’ve published an issue of Optic Nerve, and I’m not sure when I might do so again. People are generally less inclined to write letters and postcards these days, and I’ve been annoyingly resistant to opening a direct line of email correspondence. But most importantly, I’ve gotten busier, both with work and family life (see above photo).

In recent years, my p.o. box has become mostly a vessel for political campaign flyers, shipping supply catalogs, and books in search of a blurb. For better or worse, most of the comments and queries from readers now come to me via Instagram. And to be honest, I haven’t been able to keep up with my mandate to respond to everyone--and certainly not with the level of detail and insight that I used to strive for.

When Substack invited me to be a part of their writers’ residency program, I thought that it could be a great opportunity to get back on track, at least for a month. I had the idea to address the most common questions and comments I’ve received recently, and to do so with a greater level of attention than I’m usually able to do while quickly scrolling through the messages on my phone. Hopefully this will lead to something like a permanent record of answers to some of the most frequently asked questions--including, perhaps definitively, how to pronounce my last name. I’ll also be talking about the art supplies I use, my work with The New Yorker, upcoming film/tv projects, and, thanks to some of the questions that have already come in, some fairly in-depth “process” stuff about creating comics and illustrations.

Questions can still be sent to me throughout the month of October, either via direct message on Instagram (@adriantomine) or in the comments here, and I’ll do my best to respond to as many as possible. I’ll try to post at least twice a week, and the subscription will be 100% free of charge. Thanks for joining me in this experiment, and please subscribe so that Substack doesn’t regret their generous invitation.

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Adrian Tomine was born in 1974 in Sacramento, California. His books include Sleepwalk and Other Stories, Summer Blonde, Shortcomings, Killing and Dying, and, most recently, The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Cartoonist. Since 1999, his comics and illustrations have appeared on the cover and in the pages of The New Yorker. He lives in Brooklyn, New York with his wife and daughters.

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cartoonist / illustrator / writer