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UHV/ABR author's graphic novel comes alive

Feb. 18, 2016 at 10:36 p.m.
Updated Feb. 18, 2016 at 10:40 p.m.

"The Diary of a Teenage Girl," by Phoebe Gloeckner

"The Diary of a Teenage Girl," by Phoebe Gloeckner

Before the 2015 critically acclaimed movie "Diary of a Teenage Girl" was released, Phoebe Gloeckner already had watched an adolescent version of herself portrayed in a play.

The story revisits the diaries Gloeckner kept as a teen, which she found and reread decades later.

"When I saw the play for the first time, it was incredibly moving. I was crying," Gloeckner said. "It was a real out-of-body experience. It felt like I was watching ghosts of my past walking out on stage. By the time I saw the movie, I already had that experience. It wasn't as emotionally jarring. I'm happy with the film. It's different than the book, but as a work of art, it's a good one."

Gloeckner is the next author in the University of Houston-Victoria/American Book Review Spring Reading Series. She will read at noon Feb. 25 in the UHV University West Alcorn Auditorium, 3007 N. Ben Wilson St.

The reading is free and open to the public.

Gloeckner will either read from her graphic novel, "Diary of a Teenage Girl," or an upcoming graphic novel about a neighborhood in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico. For the past decade, she has traveled to Juarez several times a year gathering facts, artifacts and experiences. The book will be a hybrid novel, which she is producing in two different forms - printed and electronically interactive.

"I've been producing work, but it's been in pieces," she said. "I didn't know where it will go until I had the whole experience. Right now, I'm putting the pieces together. I've stopped making research trips. Hopefully, it will be out in a year."

Gloeckner has received offers for publication, but she's held off because she is working concurrently on the printed and electronic versions.

She said it's complicated because it's not a book of text. It has animated parts and is around 300 pages.

"There's not an immediate place to distribute it," she said. "The Apple Store does not take books that big that are animated and for adults. I'm focusing primarily on the print one, but the transition is tricky. A still image does not equal an animated image. It has to be written differently to mean the same thing."

Gloeckner's books have been published in multiple languages, and her artwork has been exhibited in galleries and museums across the U.S. and Europe.

Gloeckner has long experimented with the form of the novel. She fuses prose, illustrations and comic art of several different styles to fictionalize her experiences, and the results often are intense.

"Phoebe Gloeckner has a gift for connecting visual and written language with spectacular results," said Jeffrey Di Leo, ABR editor and publisher, and dean of the UHV School of Arts & Sciences. "While some of her content can push the envelope, it's done in a manner that is appropriate for the setting. I think audience members will be in for a fascinating hour."

The book "The Diary of a Teenage Girl" was first released in 2002 and then re-released in 2015 a few weeks before the movie came out.

It is about Minnie Goetze, a 15-year-old girl longing for love and acceptance, and struggling with her own precocious sexuality.

After losing her virginity to her mother's boyfriend, Minnie pursues a string of sexual encounters while experimenting with drugs and developing her talents as an artist.

Unsupervised and unguided by her aloof and narcissistic mother, Minnie plunges into a defenseless, yet fearless, adolescence.

In 2010, actress Marielle Heller adapted the book and starred in a New York theatrical production. Heller went on to direct the film. Heller originally contacted her a year or two after the book came out to inquire about turning it into a theatrical production.

"I feel like I've been living with the possibility of a film for quite some time," Gloeckner said. "I feel sort of liberated now that it's not something I have to attend to. After the movie came out, I had lots of interviews. It was almost like having another job."

Gloeckner spent several weeks on the set of the movie. While she had an opportunity to be more involved in the script, she turned that down because it would have prevented her from doing much of anything else.

The movie also was a family experience. Gloeckner's older daughter was an intern for the play and a production assistant for the film. While she has a degree in cognitive science, she's now focused on a career in film and has moved to California, Gloeckner said. Gloeckner's younger daughter appeared in the movie a couple of times, including a brief speaking part. She said they both had fun being in the movie.

Gloeckner began cartooning after moving to San Francisco in the 1970s. Her early work appeared in anthologies, including Wimmen's Comix, Weirdo and Twisted Sisters.

Both her 1998 collection, "A Child's Life and Other Stories" and "The Diary of a Teenage Girl" received notable recognition and controversy for its honest portrayal of teenage sexuality.

Gloeckner said while a lot of comics are written by one person and drawn by another, she could not operate that way. For her, written language and visual language go together.

"They are inextricable in my work," she said. "I don't think I could ever do one without the other. When people have that characteristic of naturally joining image and word, you have to develop those skills concurrently."


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