In Svetlana Chmakova’s graphic novel Awkward, readers experience the first day of school with Penelope “Peppi” Torres as she wends her way through the halls, finds a group of friends, and looks for a way to survive the rules of middle school.
Our own Kristin Standley was able to chat with Svetlana about school clubs, favorite characters, and advice for fellow artists. Check out their conversation here!
Everyone knows that middle school can be awkward, no matter who you are. But was there any one thing that inspired you to create Awkward?
When I was in school I loved being in clubs. I was in the art club, the writers’ club, and the newspaper couldn’t get rid of me, ever, so they ended up making me the editor of the “Arts-In-Action” section. I even started a club myself—the animation club! We mostly had passionate discussions about anime and the size of Homer Simpson’s brain instead of animating, but the sense of community and belonging was still there in full force. I wanted to capture and bottle that feeling for others to experience, so that’s a large part of why Awkward was written.
Who was your favorite character to write or draw and why?
There are so, so many great characters in the book, I have trouble choosing. I loved drawing/writing Peppi and Jaime, of course, because they’re so adorkable! I would’ve loved to have them as my friends back in middle school. But I also had a lot of fun with Mr. Ramirez and Miss Tobins, because they are such polar opposites and really fun to play against each other in a scene. I really wish I could’ve snuck in more scenes of Miss Tobins caring for her carnivorous pet plant, or of Mr. R. losing his art supplies all over the place.
Pencil drawings for AWKWARD
What advice do you have for kids who want to write/draw comics like you or Peppi?
The best advice I can give for drawing comics is the one that was given to me once upon a time—draw from the heart, and tell stories that matter to you in some way. I started by illustrating our family life in one-panel stick-figure comics! It was an immediate hit (with just my parents and sisters, granted, but hey, still more than no one). And even now, though I draw stories for a much wider audience, I always hold on to that rule of telling stories that matter to me. So start drawing stories that matter to you, even if it’s stick figures! You never know where they might take you.
You can find Awkward in Reading Club flyers and online now!
book.box (bukboks) n. A cardboard receptacle, typically rectangular in shape
with lid, containing words, pictures, ideas and dreams, often
accompanied by excitement, anticipation and the love of reading.