We had the good fortune of connecting with MariNaomi and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi MariNaomi, what’s one piece of conventional advice that you disagree with?
“Stay in school.” This may be good advice for a person who isn’t sure what they want or how to get where they want to be, but I don’t think it’s necessary if you’re an ambitious self-starter who isn’t afraid to seek out an informal education. Sitting in a classroom has never been for me. Nor has leading one (I’ve taught a few college classes), as each student has a different set of needs. How can you expect to get a valuable education if you’re in a classroom of twenty or fifty students? On the other hand, I’ve found mentorships invaluable. If I’m focused on an individual, I can easily target their strengths and give them what they need to improve and flourish.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
My career in comics began as a hobby, in 1997, when I discovered the work of kick-ass ladies making autobio comics (Mary Fleener, Ariel Bordeaux). I was happy to self-publish zines in batches of twenty or fifty or a hundred, hand them out to friends and family, and sell them at zinefests. Comics are just another way to express myself, to tell my stories, and are one of many art forms I’ve enjoyed over the years, some more lucrative than others (writing, painting, collage, podcasting). I never expected comics making to become a career, so when that happened after the publication of my first graphic memoir KISS & TELL: A ROMANTIC RESUME, I was both surprised and mortified (given that my stories are quite personal, and I didn’t anticipate such a large audience). I don’t believe I’m exceptionally gifted as an artist. Probably what got me to the level of success I’ve achieved thus far is my ambition to create something special and connect with readers, my consistent work ethic and constant need to grow, my low expectations as far as fame and fortune are concerned, and my immense love for the craft. It also helps that I’ve had some great day jobs over the years, jobs that didn’t drain me creatively and paid me enough to support my art habit. Some of those jobs include proofreading, copy writing, video game writing and production. At the time I make a modest living, and am lucky to have a partner who makes a bit more than I, plus has health insurance. If it weren’t for him, I might still be able to live comfortably, but probably not in Los Angeles.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
In non-pandemic times, I generally try to wow out-of-town guests with visits to Los Angeles’s many wonderful restaurants, pop-up and small art galleries (Human Resources!), museums (The Broad! The Japanese-American Museum!), and live music and other performance venues. I’m also a fan of visiting all the different supermarkets and stores, especially Asian ones. At the moment, outdoors is the place to be, such as hiking quiet Malibu trails and the hills of Griffith Park.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
Rob Kirby! In the early nineties, long before I was a cartoonist myself, I was a fan of Rob’s autobio strips. When I eventually met him at a comic convention decades later, I’m pretty sure I fan-girled out on him to a level of obnoxiousness, yet still he reached out to me and we eventually became friends! His dedication to community and warm acceptance, patience, and encouragement to all showed me how valuable that can be to one’s fellow artists. He is a wonderful role model, and goes against the old saying that one should never meet their heroes.
Other: Cartoonists of Color Database: CartoonistsOfColor.com Queer Cartoonists Database: QueerCartoonisits.com Disabled Cartoonists Database: DisabledCartoonists.com Ask Bi Grlz podcast with Myriam Gurba: AskBiGrlz.com