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Sean Michael Wilson on The Garden

This is a special guest post by Sean Michael Wilson, author of our graphic novel The Garden. With illustrations by Fumio Obata, The Garden is a story of healing through mindfulness and gardening.

In this blog post, Sean shares some background on how the book came about, as well as how gardening and mindfulness have benefited his life.

The Garden is published 21 May. Pre-order from our webshop.

I was inspired to do The Garden by a ‘non-comic book person’ (those poor people!) who was interested to try reading one saying to me ‘are there any graphic novels on gardening?’, and me being unable to think of any! So, as a joke, I replied to them ‘maybe I’ll write one myself’. Then I thought, ‘well, why not?’ And it was just one of those lucky phenomena that creators have sometimes that, once I’d focused myself, the whole idea to mix gardening and mindfulness came out very quickly and smoothly. Again, by good fortune I had just heard of Liminal 11 shortly before that and I thought they would be a good publisher for the idea. They liked it right away, and so within 4 weeks of having that conversation I was writing the book. Normally things aren’t so quick and easy!

As to why there are no comic books on gardening… It struck me as an odd thing. It’s such a popular subject, so why is that? Over the last 20 years or more we have seen a very considerable increase in the range of subjects that comic books are about, and also the range of creators making them. Both of these developments are very good, of course. But it began to dawn on me that the the subject matter has increased, basically, from a very narrow range to only a moderate range. Most graphic novels by indie UK and US publishers are in one of these areas: someone’s war experience, coping with disease, exploring aspects of gender or race, adaptations of classics, biography or history. All important topics, of course (and many of my own books fall into those areas).

My own little garden and pond is a daily delight to me. Tending these has become one of my main pleasures in life and a source of calm and meaning.

But how about golf or cooking or transport, or the environment or football or politics or sewing or pets or… many other subjects?! Most of these topics have little to no comic books made on them in English – not even football nowadays, which used to be a common subject until the 1980s, and reminds us that in some ways the subject matter of comics has actually decreased. So, our book The Garden is an effort to extend the range of subjects that comic books are made on yet further.

Gardening has a rather nerdy image, in a middle class, middle aged way associated with Alan Titchmarsh, etc. But gardening can also be seen as a form of mindfulness or meditation, of good old-fashioned connection with nature. Gardens are inherently visual, of course, therefore this subject lends itself well to a graphic novel. Also my own little garden and pond is a daily delight to me. Tending these has become one of my main pleasures in life and a source of calm and meaning (and food, since i grow some vegetables and fruit too). As to the psychological aspect: I did a degree in psychology in university and went on to get a postgraduate diploma in clinical hypnotherapy. Key aspects of that are deep breathing, physical relaxation and mindfulness. Learning all that in my 20s made me a much more calm, confident and focused person.

So our book, with its wonderful illustrations by Fumio Obata, shows the beauty of the garden… the grass, the flowers, the trees, the pond and the newts in it… The Garden presents the calm, mindful quality of how the main character, Joanna, relates with nature, how it helps her deal with other pressures in her life as a busy business person who fell sick and had to take leave. In focusing on the garden, learning about mindfulness and realising how the mix of the two can be so helpful, Joanna finds her way to recovery and to a more calm, creative, purposeful life.

The Garden is published 21 May. Pre-order from our webshop.

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