Nomi Kane is a member of CCS’ most recent graduating class, the class of 2011. It is a very close knit and ambitious class, and it made history as the first CCS class to have each graduate pass their thesis requirement.
Nomi left White River Junction shortly after graduation to persue a teaching career. She took some time out of her busy schedule to share memories of her time at CCS and her big plans for the future.
You just graduated from CCS, congratulations! How have the last two years been for you, and how does it feel to have earned a MFA in cartooning?
“Let me just start by saying that my diploma has a SPACE SHIP on it, so it feels that awesome. I’m sure everyone’s sick of hearing it but, the two years I spent at CCS have been the best two years of my life. I’ve never been so engaged academically or part of such a unique and nurturing community. It’s a hard thing to quantify but, how many people really need to express themselves by drawing pictures in boxes to tell a story? When you bring a bunch of us together to hone our craft, the best I can describe it is feeling completely at home for the first time. That dissolves some of the self doubt, increases the focus, frees you to take creative risks and push yourself further than you could have in any other environment. Long story short: it’s the kind of place that inspired a bunch of us to get ink bottle gang-tats before we left town – for the record, no cartoonists were shanked during my time at CCS.”
I know you developed some close friendships at CCS. Could you describe the community you found in White River Junction?
“There’s really no place like White River – don’t get me wrong, anyone who’s ever met me can tell you how dearly I love Chicago, but there’s something to be said for being able to turn to someone and say, “I’ve got six pages to ink before Friday,” and seeing a look of actual recognition on their face. At CCS we’ve got one fundamental thing in common, even when we’ve got little else; we’re cartoonists, and that’s huge. To be fair, most of us have more in common than being cartoonists – at the house I shared with four other CCS she-toonists (known as Lady Acres) you could usually find us not only drawing but laughing, baking, expanding our cinematic horizons and frequently dancing together.”
Tell us about your thesis project, Sugar Baby. What compelled you to chronicle your experience as a child diagnosed with type 1 diabetes?
“Y’know, I spent a lot of time as a teenager defying my diabetes and then ignoring it as a young adult, and just in the last few years finally grew to accept it as a part of myself and, in doing so realized how formative the experience really was for me. I think having to realize my own mortality and take responsibility for it at age 8 definitely shaped who I am in some ways. It’s always bothered me that there’s so much type one diabetes literature on the science and treatment of the condition but there’s mostly just a huge void when it comes to finding any personal, honest accounts of the emotional aspects of it. I wanted to create a piece that gave readers a chance to identify with the personal side of learning to live with chronic illness.”
There is an educational aspect to Sugar Baby (I, for one, learned about some of early warning signs if type 1 diabetes). You also authored Nomi Kane’s Quick Guide to Type One Diabetes. What message did you most want convey with these comics?
“The audience for Sugar Baby isn’t limited solely to type one diabetics and their families – it’s really for anyone who’s ever had anyone in their life with a chronic illness – which is almost everyone. At the wise suggestion of my thesis advisor, James Sturm, I chose not to dilute the emotional impact Sugar Baby with too much hard science. But, I figured that some readers would come to the end of the book and have some lingering questions about type one diabetes and its causes, symptoms and treatment. I created the quick guide as a simple overview. I think I also had the ulterior motive of wanting something I could hand to people I meet who have a lot of misconceptions about what type one diabetes is – pretty much all type ones are driven completely insane by being confused with type II’s, who outnumber us exponentially.”
How does diabetes affect your life today?
“Diabetes affects my life every day, but after 20 years it’s kind of like breathing, it’s just part of how I stay alive. I have to think about everything I eat and calculate insulin dosages based on my carbohydrate intake, I have to check my bloodsugar every couple of hours and I have a needle perpetually lodged in my abdomen. I spent enough time resenting the inconvenience, at this point I’m just thankful for all the technology that allows me to live a mostly normal and healthy life.”
You just started a new job, can you tell us about it?
“Yes! I’m teaching cartooning to 5th-8th graders at Galileo Learning in the Bay Area! This is the first time I’ve really worked with kids in this age range and I’m so incredibly impressed by both their focus and their imaginations. It’s really amazing to watch them have those “ah-ha!” moments and then see the pride they take in their work as it improves. I’m sure some of them are future CCSers!”
What drew you to teaching comics to kids?
“I think comics are a really powerful medium and, the great part is that anyone can create them! I used to think I wanted to be a filmmaker but, in film you need all this expensive equipment, you need locations and actors and a production crew and an editor to all come together and share your vision so that if you raise a quarter million dollars you can make something that vaguely resembles the original idea you had that thirty people at a college film festival in Iowa will see. Comics, all you need is a pencil, a pen, some paper and the story you want to tell – it’s a lot more satisfying, and it really makes you feel like you have a voice, and a voice makes you feel empowered. I think kids need that; to feel empowered, like they have voices and that someone is listening. I can teach them to make comics and they can take that skill everywhere they go for the rest of their lives. That’s pretty great.”
What’s your next project?
“What’s NOT my next project is more the question! Currently I’m editing an anthology with fellow cartoonists and two best friends, Jen Vaughn and Caitlin M. titled Lies Grown-ups Told Me. It’s a collection of short comics about the ridiculous things we were duped into believing until we were old enough to question them. The submissions have started rolling in and they look FANTASTIC! I’m collecting one-sheet comics for the website I created with some help from Michelle Ollie dedicated to the love of one-sheets, so if anyone has those, please send them to me! AND, I’m about to start thumbnailing my next personal project – a fictional story called Heartland and it’s going to be loosely LOOSELY based on some experiences I had living in rural Illinois for a year after I graduated from undergrad – but trust me, it’s fiction.”