It's that time of the year again where I share my entry for the Guardian Graphic Short Story Prize. For those who don't know, it's an annual competition for 4-page comics here in the UK. You can read this year's winning entry by Rebecca K. Jones here (congratulations!).
Even though my submission wasn't succesful, I'm really excited to share it with you guys - last year, many of you enjoyed my short story Pepito.
This year, it's something quite different.
The story was inspired by a real-life experience - my girlfriend and her mum took me to a gong bath. I was reluctant, yet somehow interested in giving it a go. After losing my dad I was strangely up for trying new things to make sense of it all. Well, the gong bath didn't lead to me having a spiritual encounter with myself, but it did make me think - what if I had? And so I wrote this story.
I was extremely fascinated by the way that all these adults congregated like they were at a sleepover, carrying in pillows and blankets solemnly. The fact that this was a group activity, with people's mats arranged around the gongs in the middle, yet everyone was having individual, separate experiences. The way that we all came together and then broke apart again. There is something about that experience that is naturally like a story - beginning, middle and end. That's reflected in the colours, which end in the same place they started, but our main character is not the same.
On a deeper level, I wanted this story to question to what extent our experiences are real and "not real", and what "counts". For example, if you have a revelation through or find comfort in a piece of fictional work, does that matter less than something that came from an interaction with a real person? I am a vivid dreamer and find it interesting to think about my dreams - I have had conversations in dreams that I still think about - even though they never happened. Or did they?
But of course, you might have read this story and not thought about those things at all! And that's the wonderful thing about art - the interaction between the piece and the viewer can be so different from what the artist could have ever imagined.
This was meant to be enjoyed as full pages, but at some point soon I'll break this down into Instagram-friendly bites and share it there, too.
Just one more thing - if you are also a comic artist and entered a story into the competition, please send it to me - I'd love to read other entries. This year, the competition received 200 entries, and I think it is a shame that many of those will never be read by anyone! I always do a search on social media after and can at best find a handful.
Thanks for reading.