The following is an interview with writer/illustrator Karina Shor on the recent release of her debut graphic memoir, Silence, Full Stop, through Street Noise Books. In this interview, Fanbase Press Editor-in-Chief Barbra Dillon chats with Shor about her creative process in bringing the personal narrative about childhood sexual trauma to life on the page, what she hopes that readers may take away from her story, and more!
Barbra Dillon, Fanbase Press Editor-in-Chief: Last month saw the release of your graphic memoir, Silence, Full Stop. What can you tell us about your decision to share this powerful story with readers and to utilize your artwork to detail your own lived experiences?
Karina Shor: I feel as though I never actually made this decision—at least not in a conscious way. It always seemed like life served me loads of lemons, so I’d better get working on the lemonade.
I’m an avid journal writer, I’ve done this consistently almost every day since I was 16. On the first page of my diary from that age, I wrote that I felt compelled to write what I felt because I knew deep down that I would want to remember how this time felt, as opposed to remembering the actual events. And art is all about a visceral expression of how things feel, so that was the best way to document it. When I read my first graphic novel, at the age of 18, I understood two things: 1) That I’m not fucked up, that there are more like me. And 2) That even my little life stories matter and can be interesting or of use to someone somewhere. So, that became my goal ever since. I forgot it many times along the way—as one does while life gets in the way, but the dream kept nagging me.
As for using my trauma as the story for this book—I feel as though it was chosen by a subconscious sense of urgency. I felt as though this story must be the first to be told. I was telling it in every art school project I had. So, the minute that Liz Frances, the founder of Street Noise Books, met me and asked if I have a long-form story—I knew that I would be writing this. Finally, now that my book is out, I can cross it off my checklist. And I have cleared room in my mind, so now I have a big, wide appetite to create many more graphic novels.
BD: In balancing the writing and illustrative duties of the project, what can you share with us about your creative process in bringing this personal narrative to life?
KS: The process of creating this book has taught me a great deal. I have never written something so personal and long, nor have I worked on one project for so long. Through trial and error, I understood that I must give respect to the processes of regenerating creative juices and give myself and my psyche time and space, so as not harm them by overloading with emotions.
I learned that my style of writing is organic ‘over time’ and not a linear ‘I write from 9 to 12’ type of thing. Most of the text I used was taken from the diaries and sketchbooks I created throughout years of my life. When I actually sat down to write the book, I never started from a blank page. It was mostly editing, translating, and rewriting for clarity.
I’ve learned that you can retraumatize yourself when dealing so directly with trauma, but you can also bring healing in that same way. This experience has made me understand that I can deal with everything through the magic of recycling an experience in a sequence of pictures and text. This is, of course, my favorite medium—comics. By doing so I have become an observer of my own life. I have gained a less judgmental point of view, and so I have a better idea of how to forgive myself, to deal with a situation, and to move forward. I don’t mean to make this sound easy, because, of course, no healing journey is. But having said that—I wouldn’t do anything differently. This process has gifted me the clarity of my own life’s purpose, and it has everything to do with my storytelling.
BD: The mental and emotional healing process for survivors of sexual abuse is often a long and challenging process; however, there is hope that healing is possible. For readers who pick up Silence, Full Stop and may still be on their journey towards healing, is there anything that you would like to offer to provide them with the hope that healing is possible?
KS: I believe healing is possible. I do think we should rethink what healing feels like and redefine it as a process and not an end goal. For me personally, healing is being able to balance my emotions, pay more attention the world around me, and live my life without dissociating when feelings rise. And I must admit that I’m still working on all those goals. And I probably will be in the process of bettering myself for the rest of my life. When I was younger, I was chasing goals and thinking that everything had a definite end point and a big cathartic moment of accomplishment. And this was the way I treated my own healing, as well—leaving therapy the minute I felt better. Or defining my life with polar opposites. Needless to say, I was disappointed a lot. And I put myself down each time I “failed” and went back to my bad habits. But now I understand that the bad memories won’t go anywhere, and neither will those bad automatic habits. But change is one hundred percent possible—one tiny step at a time. I’m slowly carving new pathways in my brain to deal with those memories in ways that benefit me. The best advice I can give to anyone surviving trauma, any trauma, is to be nice to yourself. Let the body and mind heal in their time, be gentle, and don’t put all of your energy in escaping your feelings. Quick fixes like drugs, alcohol, doom scrolling—those just delay the coping and later they surprise us with extreme anxiety or health issues when we can’t hold it in anymore. Taking the time to deal, is to do it on your own terms. And regain control over your life. To have a say in how it unfolds.
BD: Given that this is such a deeply personal story, what do you feel made Street Noise Books the perfect home for Silence, Full Stop?
KS: When I first met Liz Frances, the founder of Street Noise, and got introduced to their publishing plan, I felt as though it was made for me. Their tagline is “Nonfiction graphic novels. Unapologetic, authentic, and politically relevant.” That felt like it was a natural fit for my style of storytelling. I love making comics that are drawn from my diaries—my life. I don’t care to please anyone with my art, and I have a lot to say about how the world operates. Speaking to Liz felt right; she’s very politically aware and truly cares and wants to amplify voices that wouldn’t be heard otherwise. I truly believe in her vision. So, Street Noise is my natural habitat, so to speak.
BD: Are there any other projects on which you are working that you are able to share with our readers?
KS: These days I’m writing my next graphic novel. It revolves around relationships. It’s based on my life but will be a bit different than this memoir in how I plan to play with the various characters. In addition, this February, I’ll be launching an art project about love that will be explore all kinds of loving relationships. This project will be open for people to apply to, and it will involve having a piece of artwork created by me, about them, in short comics form. I’ve started this process with some friends, and it has been making me feel very fulfilled lately. I love people and thrive on the interactions that I have, so I’m trying to create projects that will sustain this feeling.
BD: Lastly, what is the best way for our readers to find out more about Silence, Full Stop and your other work?
KS: The best way is to follow me on Instagram on @chick_flick_unlimited—I keep posting short comics and updates. And of course, @streetnoisebooks Instagram that does an even better job at posting updates on a regular basis.
I would also like to add that if you have read my book, I invite you to drop a few words, tag me in a picture with your book, or write me a DM on how this affected you. Art has always helped me connect to others, and you, the readers, are a vital part in my process. I truly cannot wait to hear from you. Every comment, every note, makes me feel that this long and, at times, painful process was worth it.
I hope this book will bring you a long, vital exhale. And to know that you are never alone. We are each part of a whole. Each of us experiencing this magical, painful, sweet, calm, and exhilarating life.