Barbra Dillon, Fanbase Press Editor-in-Chief: Congrats on the formation of your new non-profit organization, Creators, Assemble! For those who may be unfamiliar, what is Creators, Assemble!, and what can you share with us about genesis behind this initiative?
Moni Barrette: Thank you to Fanbase Press for your early support and the opportunity to talk about Creators, Assemble! (CA!). My husband and co-founder, Joe, had been pressuring me to do something like this for the past year or so. Once I became unemployed at the start of this pandemic, it felt simultaneously like the best and worst time to follow our passion and try something new.
BD: What can you tell us about the individuals who comprise the organization, and how do you feel that their diverse backgrounds complement one another to enable Creators, Assemble! to make the greatest impact?
MB: Funny story: The majority of our Board met playing D&D together (we are the “Joe Manganiello D&D Pajama Party”) and had originally met through the Comic-Con graphic novel book club I once ran at Escondido Public Library. When people say that comics and shared fandoms unite people, it’s definitely true! Our backgrounds and experiences are so different, from experienced tax professionals, high school teachers, chairmen of successful local comic festivals, and, of course, other librarians, we run the gambit! Our educator committee is made up of K-12 educators along with special education instructors, college librarians, and university professors. All that to say, some of us “know” comics, while others are just casual fans, but every one of us believes in this organization. Anywhere we lack diversity, we’re very strong at bringing the right folks together.
BD: What do you feel are the most important elements to your organization in terms of the programs that you offer and the individuals to whom you are able to offer the greatest support?
MB: Our organization is broad: The Creators, Assemble! side is building a network of aspiring illustrators, comics editors and writers to help them get project experience and paid opportunities. They just completed a 50-page digital e-book that just went on sale (You can buy it here!) for $12, and 100% of the proceeds of which will benefit San Diego African American Museum of Fine Arts and California LGBT Arts Alliance. Our growing relationships with these diverse, amazingly talented humans has really helped us personally to forge on.
Meanwhile, our Educators, Unite! committee is currently working on a digital comics toolkit for use in libraries and classrooms. We have some major distributors and publishers interested in participating to help us get this into the hands of educators. I think, particularly in these changing times, offering fully formed curriculum tools and making it easy, accessible, and affordable is going to make a meaningful impact in comics and literacy.
BD: How has Creators, Assemble! been impacted by these challenging times, and what message do you hope to share with your colleagues and the greater community?
MB: People in our industry, and really all industries right now, need paying work. Comics have been particularly hard hit by the lack of employee benefits, rights, or livable wage which was inherent in this industry but severely underscored by tough political and economic times. Personally, that has been an obvious challenge for several of our Board members, along with the feeling I think we’ve all experienced which is lingering fear and lack of motivation. It’s been difficult to focus and survive much less build something new and thrive. The best advice our team agrees on is just keep going. Be kind to yourself, take frequent breaks for self-care, but also throw yourself into your passions and let them take you where they will. There’s a new day coming, on a global scale, and you will end up where you are meant to be.
BD: What do you feel that the organization is in greatest need of at this time in order to become a success?
MB: Signal boosting! We have great friends and partners in this space, but we need social media shares and eyeballs on our content. We have creators on our website who deserve your attention, we need subscribers to our YouTube channel to catch the amazing content we have coming up, and word to continue getting out about us to potential partners and donors.
BD: Lastly, what would you like to tell readers who want to learn more about Creators, Assemble! and to get involved?
MB: Visit our website (CreatorsAssemble.org), buy the book there, and check us out on Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube. You can reach out to us anytime at CreatorsAssembleSD (at) gmail (dot) com if you want to join our creator network or get help using comics in your school or library.