STL-SPEx participant Alex Nall talks to us about the creative process. You can view his work at alexnall.tumblr.com andalexnall.com.

Tell us a little about yourselves; what makes you tick and what makes your publications tick?

My book ‘Teaching Comics: Volume One’ is a collection of comics focusing on my experiences as a first-year teaching artist working in Chicago Public Schools. The comics range from conversations with students, scenes from inside the classroom, and discussions with other teachers.

What drew you to creating, publishing, editing and presenting your projects?

I enjoy creating these comics because I get the opportunity to explore my relationship with my students and ask myself what it means to be a teacher.

What do you think of the relationship between publishing (what you do) and reaching an audience of readers?

I’m proud to be a self-publisher. I enjoy the freedom and range of decisions I have control of when I put out a book or a zine. Self-publishers are allowed to voice their stories to a world without fear of being censored. As someone who wrote about working in a public school, I realized that not many teachers are afforded the opportunity to speak earnestly about their experiences working with children and the pros of cons of educational administrations. My book allowed me the chance to speak from my experiences and learn from them as I was reflecting on them. Publishing the book hopefully will allow others the same opportunity.

Can you tell us about your creative, editorial, and collaborative process?

Most of the comics are created the day of or shortly after an experience has happened. I’ll usually know in the moment that something is happening that it is going to be a comic. I try to work as quickly as I can so that the memory of the moment stays fresh and is untainted by time or overthinking how it should be depicted. The best comics are usually the most honest ones, written in the moment without hesitation or fear of stepping over boundaries.

How didyou get into working with small press publishing?

I got into small press publishing through countless efforts to see my work published by others and failing to achieve that. The only route was to publish it myself- online and in print form. I’ve had a lot of fun seeing my work change since creating zines, mini-comics, and other work. I’ve started publishing my students’ comics in an effort to share their work with a wider audience and show them that even if one person enjoys your work, it’s worth creating.

What advice would you give to someone starting a small press or publishing project?

Don’t be afraid to publish it. Whatever “it" is. A short story, an 8 page mini-comic, a zine about your favorite pair of underwear. Whatever it is that you have created, someone will find it and read it. Will they always enjoy it? Maybe. Either way, your first step to finding some foot traffic with your work starts by making stuff and putting it out there for the community to see. You’ll only grow in your work quality and quantity by the amount of work you’re willing to give life to.

How long have you been at it (by "it" I mean publishing)?

I moved to Chicago in 2011 to pursue creating and publishing comics and have been doing so ever since.

What would you have told your younger self about what you are doing? and What do you hope your older self might tell the you of today?

Don’t ignore your old work. You may look at it is as lazy and unfulfilled now, but it’s that work that led you to creating the stories you’re making today- no matter how radically different it may read, appear, or be presented. The moment you doubt your past accomplishments is the moment you start letting yourself be suckered into thinking ‘I’m no good at this’ or ‘Why bother doing this?’ There is no valid answer to these questions. You either make the work because it fulfills you, or you don’t.

Other than your own projects, what are some other presses and publications that inspire you to keep reading and supporting the small press community?

There are almost too many creators and small press publishers that I admire and hope to work with some day. I’d have to say that I’m always floored by the amount of creators, publishers, and distros that showcase their work at Chicago Zine Fest, as well as other zine fests and small press expos around the country. The fact that there are zine fests happening in places like Omaha, Nebraska, Boise, Idaho, and Iowa City makes me feel that the community is growing larger and faster than ever before. I think the shift is happening because many creators and artists are being told to for-go traditional publishing and try the self-publishing route. While I honestly don’t think there’s much of a difference to the financial success of either option, I do believe that the self-publishing community places an emphasis on fostering one another through words, outreach, and opportunities to connect. Hopefully it continues to grow.

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