Wakawaka Hits an Anniversary
Somewhere in the midst of spending time with friends, planning our move from Northern Arizona to Sonoma, and reflecting on the philosophical implications of a life in wine, I hit my one-year anniversary in wine comics.
Hawk Wakawaka’s First Posted Wine Comic
I knew the anniversary was coming up, but the truth is I was so immersed in the project I’d set out for myself–tasting wine, listening to people reflect on wine, writing about wine, drawing about wine, hanging out with friends in wine–that I missed the day itself when it happened.
Though the particular day has passed, I want to send my love and thanks to a few friends that pushed me into starting all this.
Thank you and Love to Paul
Paul and I in Memphis for New Year’s Eve
My dear friend Paul forced me into drawing the little zine that started it all. He’d come to visit us in Flagstaff, and during his visit I became cranky at some ridiculous national level political realities happening at the time. To express my irritation, I’d written him a sardonic, self-effacing-for-the-sake-of-making-a-political-point paragraph signed under a pen-name meant to capture the mouthy while loving, cranky though charming mood of the piece. Paul took a liking to the write-up and told me he thought I should turn it into a comic in the form of a handmade zine. I laughed and blew him off.
Over the course of his visit, Paul brought the idea up repeatedly. Each time, I nodded and ignored it. Finally, one afternoon Paul appeared in front of me with a bundle in his hand and said we were going to The Wine Loft for a glass of wine to hang out. Immediately accepting that idea, off we went. Then, when we sat down at the bar, Paul put paper, pen and my little paragraph transcribed in front of me, and told me I was going to sit there until I turned it into a comic. I stared at him, but seeing he was in earnest, drew stick-figures to illustrate the story, one waving on each page. Then, I handed it over.
Paul read the little zine, responded that he liked it and told me we were then going to go photocopy the thing. By the time the night had finished he’d pushed me step-by-step through first drawing, then copying, and finally packaging and mailing to everyone I knew, and some I didn’t, a little stick figure comic I’d made under the name Lily-Elaine Hawk Wakawaka. The good Wakawaka name was born.
Love and Thank you to Susan
Susan and I together in Seattle for my birthday
A week or so later, a number of friends wrote, having received the little comic Paul and I had sent out. Among them was Susan, in Seattle, writing to tell me she’d neared collapse at her mailbox laughing and crying while reading the Wakawaka zine until her neighbor came over to check on her, then read the comic and did the same. She asked if I would please do more. Nodding, I thanked and then ignored her, not thinking of it again. That non-response on my part began a series of messages sent to me every few days from Susan, each time with more information and ideas from her on how I could keep doing comics, post webcomics, start a comics’ blog, read other comics to see how other people do them, and generally asking how my Starting-a-New-Project-of-Drawing-Comics lifestyle was going for me.
Susan persisted at me for well over a month until in exasperation I finally drew another comic, that time about the disasters of dating, and mailed it to her, and a few other friends, thinking that would make Susan stop. To that comic she responded again the same–pushing me to draw more. For weeks she kept at it, and I now, with thanks, call Susan the hand of God, she is so convincing and devoted.
Thank you and Love to Katherine
Katherine in Le Cigare Volant, Santa Cruz, on our California tour this June (I have pics of Katherine and I together, but I just love this pic of her so I post it)
Somewhere in here Katherine stepped in, and started asking me to make photocopies of the comics I was drawing so she could hand them out during the monthly Flagstaff Art Walk. A few people then asked where online they could find more and finally to keep them quiet, and get Susan to stop bugging me I started a comics’ blog.
It didn’t work. Dear Susan started sending me notes cheering for me drawing, while Katherine made sure I carried around a notebook to write down ideas, and Paul kept sending links to different people to get them to read what I was doing. In the midst of this, somehow I got obsessed and decided I was going to draw comics on everything.
The thing was, I was deep in the world of philosophy by that point, living a life as a philosophy professor, and as some of us know, philosophy is highly demanding. To succeed you have to give it everything. The best philosophers I know have their career and one hobby, not two. So, by the time I started drawing these silly little comics, I’d almost forgotten I knew how to do anything besides read, think, write and teach all mixed together. Once my friends pushed me hard enough, discovering I could do something besides the read-think-write-teach quadrumvirate was such a relief I really did feel like I wanted to go ahead and comic continuously.
Love and Thank you to Fred and Hillary
Hillary, Fred, and I in Flagstaff
In the midst of drawing comics of everything I came up with the idea of drawing comics of my experience with wine. The idea occurred to me simply as funny–I loved the contrast between people thinking of comics as low brow and cheeky, while wine culture is often taken as snooty and pretentious. Neither is exactly accurate, but the contrast of stereotypes amused me. So, I drew up the three wines I’d had for my birthday then took the comics to The Wine Loft to show my dear friend Fred, just to see what he thought. (We were each others first friends in Flagstaff.) His only response was to ask if I’d like to draw a comic a week for The Wine Loft to be posted on the Facebook fan page. I couldn’t believe it. So, once a week I started sending Fred a comic to showcase a new featured wine for his shop/winebar.
Immediately, Hillary further encouraged the idea, saying she hoped to color the images, and offering to taste wines with me for the project. She encouraged the comics, shared them with friends, brainstormed new ideas, and helped pick bottles I wanted to draw up for my own comic site. I started adding a different wine comic a week to my comics’ blog, then one a day, and the next thing I knew, the wine comics had been mentioned by Vitabella Wines in France, Peter Handzus in Slovakia, Kermit Lynch Wine in the states, and Brain Pickings in London.
To take advantage of my research and writing experience, I integrated writing paired with drawing into the site, and then started receiving emails about sample bottles, potential commissions, and going on wine trips. I’ve since also added photography. This journey from comics to now has brought me all the way to moving my life to Napa-Sonoma, California where I am now building a life writing and drawing about wine, developing an income in an entirely new career. The whole experience has led to so many wonderful connections and friendships, and I continue to travel for this life in wine. I am so grateful.
In her series on love and relationships, bell hooks shows us that love is a practice of freedom–that is by giving ourselves to each other, and to what we do we find ourselves anew, released from the ways we might have thought we were restricted, or defined before. By fully investing in our love for another, we can express ourselves in ways we hadn’t expected, and discover we are capable of more (and sometimes less), or different things than we had believed possible. We can discover, then, too we have the capacity to change.
In addition, we come to see how anything we do becomes something more than ourselves alone. This happens in at least two ways. First of all, in encouraging another person, our love makes something new possible for that person. My friends saw in me something I hadn’t imagined, and by pushing me to do it gave bloom to a whole new life for me and my daughter. Secondly, this shows us too that what we do becomes something with a life of its own. That is, the decision we make to reach our own goals–whether it is something as simple as convincing a friend to draw a comic, or comics in general; or, something more complex like me deciding to give up my life in Flagstaff and throw myself completely into writing and drawing about wine now here in Napa-Sonoma–is an act of love as well. By following through on what we care about, we act in and for our own freedom–creating a life for ourselves that could not exist otherwise.
Paul, Susan, Katherine, Fred, and Hillary are the roots of Hawk Wakawaka Wine Reviews. Through them I got to see myself in ways I never expected, and discover this path that I am now living–listening, tasting, writing, and drawing about wine. Thanks to them, I find myself now so invested in this good life that I missed my own one-year anniversary.
Thank you for your love. All of this I do because of you.
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