Comics / Comics News

Home Girl Makes Good: Megan Kelso Returns to Seattle

By Leroy Douresseaux
July 18, 2006 - 15:57


WHAT: THE SQUIRREL MOTHER book signing and author talk
WHERE: Ravenna Third Place Books, 6504 20th Ave. NE, Seattle, WA
WHEN: Thursday, August 24th, 7:30PM

Meet author and Seattle native Megan Kelso, returning to Seattle for 
her first public appearance since moving to New York City in 2001, at Ravenna Third Place Books on August 24th. Kelso will talk about her new book, the acclaimed Squirrel Mother, showing panels from the book  that were inspired by her memories of Seattle, followed by and Q&A  with the audience.


Megan Kelso was born in Seattle, Washington in 1968. She began drawing comics 15 years ago in her final year at the Evergreen State College in Olympia, WA, as an independent study contract for which she produced a 10 page mini-comic called Girlhero. After graduating, Kelso moved back to Seattle where she soon met the cartoonist Jason Lutes (Jar of Fools, Berlin) and other young cartoonists who introduced her to the world of mail-order mini-comics, zines and  Factsheet Five. In 1993, she applied for and was awarded a Xeric grant to self-publish and distribute her own comic book. Kelso went  on to publish six issues of Girlhero between 1993 and 1997. During  this time, she worked at Sea-Tac International Airport installing and  maintaining the airport’s art/exhibition spaces. In 1998, Highwater Books published a collection of her short stories taken from the six issues of Girlhero, titled Queen of the Black Black. In 1999, while making the post-Girlhero transition, Kelso collaborated with a non-profit environmental group on an educational comic book titled Lost Valley about waste management and recycling. It was funded by the Washington State Department of Ecology. She then began writing and drawing her first graphic novel, Artichoke Tales. At the end of 1999, she co-curated a book arts and mini-comics exhbition at Sea-Tac Airport with Canadian artist Jason McLean called "Low-Tech Time Capsules: Book Art for the Millenium."

In 2000, Kelso published the first chapter of Artichoke Tales as a minicomic published by Highwater Books. Early in 2001, she and her husband moved to New York City. She attended the Small Press Expo arts festival in 2002 with brand new mini-comics of Chapters 2 and 3 of Artichoke Tales and won two Ignatz Awards, one for “Best Mini-Comic” (Artichoke Tales #1) and one for “Outstanding Artist.”  Between 2000 and 2005, in addition to working on Artichoke Tales, she contributed short stories to Fantagraphics annual Comics Journal Special Edition. She wrote articles about comics for The Comics Journal and Indy Magazine and illustrated a handbook on political activism for teenagers called Hey Kidz, Buy this Book, authored by Anne Elizabeth Moore. Over the years she has had illustration and comics work  published in The Stranger, Pulse! Magazine, Venus, Yoga Journal and Arthur. In 2005, she co-curated an exhibition of work by female cartoonists with Ellen Lindner at Smith College. The Squirrel Mother, her second collection of short stories, was pubished in July.  Her third book and first graphic novel, Artichoke Tales, will be published by Fantagraphics in 2007.



The Squirrel Mother is a collection of graphic short stories by Megan Kelso, all of which originally appeared in various magazines and anthologies between 2000 and 2005. Kelso’s work is characterized by subject matter that fits roughly into two disparate camps: personal and semi-autobiographical stories that draw heavily on the details of her childhood and adolescence and stories about the idea of America  and American history, such as a trilogy of short pieces about Alexander Hamilton. Her work is distinguished from many of her contemporaries as much by her spare, elegant, calligraphic linework, leisurely pacing, and psychological acuity as it is by the absence of nihilism, scatology, pedantry, and formal experimentalism. Her work is charming, witty, nuanced, slightly elusive, and sharply observed.

The Squirrel Mother features 15 stories, including two stories, “Meow 
Face” and “Aide de Camp” done especially for this volume. The 
personal stories are each self-contained but in a sense take place in 
the same world where similar characters inhabit different stories. 
The "America" stories are broader in subject matter, taking on events 
of political and historical significance and wrestling with ideas 
having to do with the American experience. Kelso’s first collection 
of short stories (1996), Queen of the Black Black, is sold out and 
will be reprinted by Fantagraphics in 2007; her new graphic novel 
Artichoke Tales is also scheduled for 2007 release. Kelso lives in 
Brooklyn, NY with her husband.

PUB. DATE: JULY 19, 2006 • 152 pp. • ISBN 1-56097-746-9 • $16.95


“Kelso draws figures and faces as abstract as those in Bil Keane’s 
hardy single-panel strip Family Circus, but she deploys her 
reductions in stories more like high-brow prose short stories than 
those of any other alternative comics creator.” — Booklist

"Like the short stories of Charles Baxter or Alice Munro, Kelso’s 
stories resonate long after you’ve read the last line (or, in her 
case, panel). She’s one of the surprisingly few cartoonists who 
understand that visual metaphor is the medium they work with, and 
knows how to use it with subtlety and force. " — Baltimore CityPaper

Last Updated: September 6, 2021 - 08:15

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