who is Jessica Abel?
If you’re reading this page, you probably already know I make comics.
But did you know that I’m a super narrative geek? In a lot of ways, my story is all about investigating story. I love finding systems, strategies, and tools that allow me to make the strongest stories possible. It helps that I’m intense and long-sighted, with a gift for understanding deep narrative structure.
As an artist with a head for organization and systems, I’ve put my abilities to good use exploring how to make better stories. I’ve been making comics and (non-comics) books for 25 years, and that’s not because the muse whispers sweet nothings to me every day. Sometimes it’s more of a brutal wrestle with the creative beast. Day-to-day, my productivity comes from a set of tools and strategies that allow me to turn sparks of ideas into real pages.
I’ve found that a period of confusion and a feeling of being overwhelmed by choices (I call it the Dark Forest) is intrinsic to any worthwhile project. And if you have access to someone with the skills to give you the right support, there are surprisingly effective ways to find a way through.
After 15 years of teaching storytelling to hundreds of students, I know how to find the center of almost any narrative, and bring that truth to the surface. While writing my two books on narrative nonfiction radio (think: This American Life) I discovered that the radio producers I interviewed use the same technique I do to make my stories stronger, and doing the work easier: creative collaboration (by which I mean I talk things out).
Now I use this tool to help others to crack open their narratives and create great stories.
We all can find ourselves deep in the dark forest of creative crisis when in the midst of making an ambitious story, and I work together with narrative artists to find their own, unique path out of the forest and to a brighter, better, stronger story. To find out more about how I use collaboration to foment great work, get in touch.
I’m currently getting my feet wet in a new venture: podcasting. It’s pretty scary to dive into the territory of all these experts I’ve been talking to the last few years. More than anyone, I know how hard will be to do this well, but I’m doing it anyway.
I live in France with my husband, cartoonist Matt Madden, and our two kids, who speak French better than I ever will. Oh la la. (I have trained them to be kind to me when they correct me.) We’ve been here on an artists’ residency at La Maison des Auteurs in Angoulême since 2012, and have one year left before we head back to the USA. I used to grow lots of food in my garden, build furniture, and go dancing, and perhaps I will again one day.