Hi, and welcome to the blog for The Virgin Project. Stasia and I are very excited to be a part of the Fanny Press family. This is our first book, and we are enormously proud of it. We are also working actively on getting “Volume 2″ ready for publication.
My publisher sent me a nice note, telling me about this page and asking me to “start blogging”! Huh? I’m reminded of the time my grandfather “taught” me and my brother how to swim by deliberately capsizing the rowboat the three of us were in, and then shouting, “Swim, God damn you! SWIM!!”
Actually, Grampa had a point: when your life depends on it, it’s amazing how quickly you pick it up.
So, let’s talk a bit about how all this got started.
I was invited by my friend John Justig (of “Last Kiss Comics” fame) to participate in a project called “Comic Biography Theatre,” an interactive art project created especially for Seattle’s Bumbershoot Festival. Visitors would sit down and write down true stories from their own lives and then we cartoonists (there were five of us on staff at any given time) would scoop them up and turn the stories into cartoons.
The average cartoonist managed to crank out one story during his shift. I did five. And I fell in love with the idea of doing cartoons “based on a true story.”
From there, it was a short shift to “How did you lose your virginity?” Maybe it’s just the circles I run in, but this seems to be a popular ice-breaker at parties, and it occurred to me that it might be a good candidate for cartoons. I collected some stories from friends and family, started drawing, and saved the cartoons in a folder.
Then came the Seattle Erotic Arts Festival, or SEAF (as it is commonly known). Stasia Kato and I had visited SEAF the previous year and were so impressed with what we saw that we made a pact that we would submit artwork for the jury the next time it came around. When SEAF announced that it was accepting applications for the 2006 show, Stasia and I dutifully drew up some artwork and sent it in.
Almost as an afterthought, I noticed that my $10 submission fee also allowed me to submit a “performance piece” at no extra charge. I suggested my own version of Comic Biography Theatre, where SEAF visitors would tell me true stories of their first time, and Stasia and I would create the art right there in the gallery and tack it up on the wall as we went. It didn’t seem fair to pirate CBT’s name, so I struggled for something really catchy and brilliant to call it.
“Catchy and brilliant” was eluding me that day, so I wrote down the first thing that came to mind: The Virgin Project.
To my utter astonishment, SEAF emailed me back with, “We love it!! We especially love the fact that it is interactive!” Stasia and I were formally invited to set up our drawing tables in a room devoted to the purpose, and we got to work. “The Virgin Project” was born.
And it took off. I was hoping that we might be able to convince a few dozen people to participate, but I didn’t need to worry. Stasia and I were stampeded. We were there every single hour of every day that SEAF was open, and we each had people lined up to share their stories. The gallery room was packed. People were lined up, four-deep, to read the stories. We were interviewed by reporters. A representative from an erotic festival in Canada implored us to take “The Virgin Project” to his show. We drew cartoons as fast as we could and the pages started to fill every available space on the walls.
In other words, we were a hit.
SEAF invited us back for their 2007 and 2008 shows, making “The Virgin Project” to be the only performance piece to be at the festival three years running.
Almost from the start came the question, “so what are you going to do with all these cartoons? Is it going to be a book?”
Stasia and I hadn’t really thought too much about “what next?” but turning VP into a book certainly seemed the next logical step. Once we made the commitment, we started working at turning it into a reality.
Stasia and I had a choice: work hard and make a book happen or let the idea slip into oblivion and exchange the title of “author” for that of “wishful thinker.”
And we did it. My grandfather was right: once you make up your mind not to drown, swimming is the next logical step, and it comes naturally.