Writing for Illustration: Graphic Project and Book Cover Designs.

For NMIT’s writing for illustration I chose to create a comic through Bitstrips based on the short story Too Much To Lose, one of the stories I self-published in the Behind Closed Doors collection that can be found on Smashwords here. Too Much To Lose takes readers into the reality of life with anorexia; the obsession, the isolation, the silence…

With any luck it might just burst into flames and I could leave, or the building might burn down and I could die. It is hard to feel anything about that thought. Wanting to die isn’t something I really do- it’s just a vague thought, almost a joke. I hear the creak of a chair and spy Carroll’s legs under the desk as she sits back in her seat. Her thighs spread out before her looking ready to burst from her stretched skirt. I’d bet anything that her thighs touch even if she stands with her feet apart. I glance down at my own thighs, poking at the hard bones that define them. I look up and meet Carroll’s eyes, my mouth twisted to the side in a smug smile – Too Much to Lose.

To see Too Much To Lose follow the links below:

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Part 5

The intention behind using this short story as a comic series published online is to counteract the massive online presence of pro-ana (pro-anorexic) websites, particularly those appearing on sites such as Tumblr. I wanted to illustrate the control an eating disorder can have over your life and the isolation. It was difficult making the comic appear as dark as I wanted it as I was really limited by the graphics provided on Bitstrips. I was only able to manipulate and edit so much. For example, I had very limited backgrounds on offer and to create a dark background I had to use the same gradient frame. If I could draw, I’d have made Ana (Ana being a personification of the protagonist’s ED) look like a hollow eyed, ghostly figure at times and as your stereotypical beautiful model at others. This would highlight the opposing sides of the image of an anorexic. In reality, you end up being skin and bones and look sickly. Your hair falls out, you’re constantly dizzy and pale. However, in the pro-ana forums there is this desire to see it as a lifestyle and beautiful. Many anorexics end up with a certain attachment towards starvation. Basically, the opposing images of Ana would illustrate all this. With more time, I would have fine tuned the dialogue too.

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Followed

There is a gap between the shelf and wall where she stands bent down low and squinting at the books. She drops to her knees and pries one free, turning it over in her hands and, I assume, reading the blurb without so much as glancing at the cover. Here is a real reader-­‐ interested in the description rather than the cover art. A smile tugs at her mouth as she flips the book open and gazes intently at the open pages. I imagine her getting a feel for the writer’s style, a brief sense of the story from whatever random chapter she has discovered. She closes the book and tucks it under her arm before returning to gaze at the shelf. I have to smile. Her actions are as clear as her turning toward me and declaring “Yes. This book is a definite yes”. I glance down at my own book-­‐ a boring thing on psychology. Stuff studying, I think as I continue to watch Book Girl. She stays for ages intently searching the shelf, even pulling a few more books out and reading them at random, before finally heading toward the main desk to check the first book out. I wait a moment before packing up and leaving the library, to wait for her outside.

I lean against a tree outside the building watching a mother push her child past in a pram. The mother is young, and pretty. I meet her eyes and smile warmly. Startled, she blushes and quickens her pace. I shake my head. Some women are so nervous. I bet Book Girl isn’t like that. She appears before me, her dark hair lighter in the sunlight, and her tan pleasing against the white of her denim shorts. She heads toward the station directly across from the library and I follow. She must be local to the suburb-­‐ if she wasn’t wouldn’t she borrow her books from her local library? So she must be. Where is she going by train then? To visit a friend…or a boyfriend? My heart thumps hard as I imagine her in a boys lap. I imagine her soft kisses, the feel of her skin sliding against…mine.

She pays for a ticket and goes to sit on a seat halfway down platform two. I do the same and wait near an elderly couple arguing over how to use the ticket machine. In a matter of minutes the train heading to Flinders St arrives. The old woman starts screeching at her husband that he

forgot the spare change. I laugh quietly to myself. They’re going to miss this train. I am careful to make sure I saunter down to the same carriage as her. The train is practically empty at this time of day so it is easy to choose a seat directly across from her. I pull out my phone and pretend to be absorbed in it whilst flickering my gaze to her at every chance. Should I take a photo? I feel my pulse quicken and my cheeks burn. How could I do it without her noticing? I could just lift the phone higher and take one and she would never know. She might suspect though. She might shift uncomfortably in her seat, maybe even turn away or get up. She starts rummaging in her bag. This is my chance. I hesitate, my phone shaking in my hands, before quickly opening the camera app and snapping a blurry photo. She pulls out the book from the library and I can read the title easily, Cold Comfort Farm. What’s it about? It sounds like one of those spooky thrillers…cold comfort farm. Maybe an old guy has this sick farm where he has sex slaves or something. I like the idea of Book Girl reading something like that. She smiles as she reads and even laughs quietly to herself. What could possibly be so funny about it? It is a Penguin Classics and I have never liked them. They’re the books were forced to read in school, definitely nothing to do with sex slaves. I like that she reads and that books can make her laugh. She is probably one of those intense, thoughtful girls. Those are the best kind, I think. She bites her lip as she reads and reaches up to run her fingers through her hair dozens of times. She probably does that in bed too, the biting her lip thing. I’d bet anything that she’d bite me too. She tilts her head to one side, shifting her hair out of the way, to expose the delicate skin of her neck. A slice of light cuts across her bare throat.

“Now arriving at Dennis”, the voice announces over the speaker.

Book Girl jumps slightly and stuffs the book back into her bag. She gets up quickly only to stand at the doors to wait as the trains pulls to a slow, shuddering stop. I get off close behind her, close enough to smell her and breathe in her delicious scent as deeply as I can. My mouth waters slightly at the smell of her hair-­‐ coconuts and strawberries. I feel myself harden slightly beneath my jeans as her bag brushes across my arm. Now is not the time for that, I tell myself firmly.

Together we leave the station and walk a short way down a main road. Then she makes my breath quicken by turning into an alley. I follow as close behind her as I can, wondering if she is at all spooked by my presence. She hardly seems to have noticed me apart from a brief, distanced smile as we got off the train. Where is she is heading? She walks with purpose, swinging her hips. She even waves at two punk kids with hair dyed bright blue and pink, carrying guitars. They wave back but don’t stop to talk to her. We walk down two more streets, crossing a road and coming to a highway, passing several more kids. They are all unique in a similar way, with their messy, unnaturally dyed hair and black and torn outfits. Many have piercings and walk staring at the ground with their music blaring faintly from oversized headphones as they pass.

“Hi Paul,” she yelps to a tall guy with a pierced brow as we stop at the lights. She inclines her head in his direction, smiling hopefully at him as he lopes past. I glare at him, happy that he doesn’t seem to hear her. He had better not notice her, ever…

The lights turn green and we stroll across the road. Where are we going? We pass a sign that reads Yarra Bend Rd. it’s much quieter than the main road we’ve left behind. As we walk I notice dozens of other kids around and some much older people. Most of them are carrying papers and bags. I suppose that’s why she didn’t get nervous about being followed. She probably thinks I am a student here too. We pass a red bricked fence emblazoned with a large blue and white NMIT sign making a right turn and entering the campus grounds. So, she is a student.

“Hey,” I say and nod at her as we head down a path toward a small cluster of tables and chairs shaded by large umbrellas. She looks at me quizzically for a moment. I’m afraid she won’t say anything back.

“Hey.” She smiles warmly at me “What are you here for?”

“Oh. I’m…um checking it out. Y’know thinking of enrolling here…you?” I stammer. I cringe inwardly as I feel heat sting my cheeks. Hopefully it doesn’t show.

“I’m here for photography.” She answers, lifting a small camera case I hadn’t noticed tucked into her handbag. “What course were you thinking of doing?”

“Something in Psych,” I answer, praying they do that here.

“I didn’t know they did Psych courses here!’ she exclaims. She seems so excited about it and so happy to be talking to me. If only we were somewhere more private. “That must be one of the Higher Ed courses, yeah?”

“Yeah,” I nod. By now we have entered a small, crowded café “Anyway, I gotta go. I hope to see you around…?”

“Sophie,” she finishes for me. “Don’t you want anything? The coffee here is pretty good”

I grin at her eagerness and begin to turn away. What’s the point in just talking in a crowded café? All I know is her name…Sophie and the smell of her hair, and the way she bites her bottom lip, flicking her tongue out slightly as she reads. Hopefully she is intrigued by me. Maybe she will wonder about me all day, and go to sleep with me on her mind? Who knows? I can wait for her at the station later. I can wait for her outside the school. I can even wait for her at the library. After all, she will have to return that book someday.