Episode 47! The NCTE Panel That Went VERY Wrong: Conversation with Tillie Walden, PART 2


Welcome to episode 47 of our kidlitwomen* podcast! Usually, this podcast features an essay about an issue in the children's literature community (Monday) and a discussion about the essay (Wednesday). 

This week’s episode is different, it’s another time-specific as well as event based topic. In this 2-part interview Grace Lin talks with graphic novelist Tillie Walden about Tillie’s experience as a panelist at NCTE “Disproportionately Censored: A Conversation with YA Authors Who Write About Race, Gender, and Sexuality.” This episode is Part 2.

Episode 46 includes and in-depth intro about what happened at this panel as well as Part 1 of this interview. Listeners are strongly urged to listen to Part 1 to understand the context of this conversation.

This is Part 2, please listen to episode #46 for Part 1.

Read all the kidlitwomen* essays shared in March

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On today's podcast you will hear:


Tillie Walden is a cartoonist from Austin, Texas who has released six graphic novels, including THE END OF SUMMER, a gorgeous story of a family who is about to lock themselves into a giant, maze-like mansion at the beginning of a three-year winter, A CITY INSIDE, a dreamy comic that manages to feel loose and airy, while displaying her trademark laser-guided drawing chops and almost feels like a guided meditation through the artist’s mind, SPINNING, a 400pp memoir of her experience as a competitive figure skater through grade and high school. Her newest book is, ON A SUNBEAM which has two interweaving timelines: A ragtag crew travels to the deepest reaches of space, rebuilding beautiful, broken structures to piece the past together and two girls meet in boarding school and fall deeply in love—only to learn the pain of loss. And was a Washington Post 10 best graphic novels of 2018.


Grace Lin, a NY Times bestselling author/ illustrator, won the Newbery Honor for Where the Mountain Meets the Moon and the Theodor Geisel Honor for Ling and Ting: Not Exactly the Same. Her most recent novel When the Sea Turned to Silver was a National Book Award Finalist. Grace is an occasional commentator for New England Public Radio and video essayist for PBS NewsHour (here & here), as well as the speaker of the popular TEDx talk, The Windows and Mirrors of Your Child’s Bookshelf.  Grace's new picture book,  A Big Mooncake for Little Star is now available. 

 TRANSCRIPT (part 2)

Grace:                      That's really weird. I have not heard this part. So that's a very strange scenario. So let me recap just so I understand. So the moderator presented a scenario, I guess an imaginary scenario?

Tillie:                        Yes, imaginary. She was like about an imaginary person who she said ultimately she was trying to create a situation where it would be the most marginalized person of any kind. And then trying to show that that person is deserving of books, of reading. And I was very confused.

Grace:                      So I guess the intention of Joan, I'm completely just going to guess. I'm guessing the intention was for her to show that even the most marginalized of people deserve books. Would you say that's true?

Tillie:                        Yes. I would absolutely agree that that was the intention, but the execution was like a bomb. And there were at the, so she presented that and then we did not get much more done. The talking had ended up in this weird stand still. People in the audience then started to talk and ask questions, usually in shouting out. A woman, a black woman did stand up and address Joan to say that what she had said was just so deeply offensive and triggering. And then Joan got very defensive, and the room really could not have been more tense.

Grace:                      So what was Sarah Cortez's, were you able to observe her at all during this? Especially Joan's dialogue.

Tillie:                        Yeah. From what I could tell, and this is just my observation. Is I think she was seeing all of us, everyone except for her as this very stereotypical social justice warrior, politically correct. Talking about these issues that, like whining basically. And I think that was probably how she took in Joan's, but it also didn't seem like she was paying attention that much. And she didn't react. When Joan was talking, and there were audience members who mentioned this to me after that they noticed my face. I was having an extreme reaction to the story Joan was telling. I was so shocked and confused, and was not hiding it. And Sarah looked like she just was hanging out, this is fine. Whatever. Because maybe this, I also don't know if it mattered to her the words that were being said.

Tillie:                        It seemed like she only really got involved when she felt personally offended by something. It seemed as if talking about LGBTQ issues, were an a specialty sore spot for her. And that was just my observation. I don't know what she would say in response to that. But I noticed. And it seems like the scenario Joan was talking about was primarily about race, I think. So it didn't seem to be as much of an issue to her.

Grace:                      Okay. So you talked a little bit about the audience reaction. So I guess, was there anything specific that anyone did that helped make the situation better? I guess I was trying to think of something that somebody could have done to make this better.

Tillie:                        Yeah. It did get very, because spirits were so high. There were a few times where when I said something in response to Sarah, people just stopped to clap. I did appreciate that the audience was clearly showing support for me, Sabina, Bill, and Michael. They were showing support for our perspective. But we really needed help, and all of us as panelists. Ultimately, I tend to let the moderator be in charge of orchestrating the conversation. And we were all really struggling to keep it together. I think also because we weren't expecting it. There was one audience member too. I can't recall her name, but she was lovely and she was a representative of an organization that deals with censorship. She had spoken. I forgot about this. She had spoken right before we all began to talk.

Tillie:                        Oh, one other thing just came to me that I completely forgot about. I'll mention that afterwards. But she was just making eye contact with me and nodding when I spoke, and clearly showing support. Which at the time, was very appreciative. But now I remember what got us all talking about cops. It just came back to me. At the beginning of the presentation before we began to speak, three students I believe from local high schools came up to speak about a book that meant something to them. And I believe the first girl, and I'm assuming her gender. Let's say first person, spoke about Angie Thomas's The Hate U Give, which is a phenomenal book. And that I think almost everyone in the audience was familiar with.

Tillie:                        And at one point, Sarah actually went after this young person for talking about The Hate U Give, because Sarah was saying that that book and books like that are responsible for the murder of cops and responsible for violence against police. And not only did I think her perspective was unacceptable. I thought it was unacceptable to talk about a child in that way. This is a child talking about a book that meant something to them. You should not go after a child's perspective. That was very upsetting. And that was actually what I believe got us on the subject of the cops, of law enforcement. And lead us in this direction of her saying that as law enforcement, she had faced more discrimination than any of us had as either people of color or people from the LGBTQ community.

Grace:                      It's so fascinating, the victim mentality there. Because it's such an interesting idea for them to latch onto, because it's always about power. Who has the power? The cops have way more power than, anyway.

Tillie:                        I wanted to not have to talk about this on this panel, because we were supposed to be talking about censorship. But I couldn't let it go because I was like, "You're talking about someone with a gun and someone with the court's behind them. Then you're talking on the other side usually about a child or a young unarmed innocent person."

Tillie:                        And I was like, "This is so unbalanced." And also I feel a little, I don't feel great about what happened. But at one point an audience member raised their hand to mention that they had worked in law enforcement, and she was I'm assuming a woman, a white woman. She basically somewhat came to the defense of what Sarah had said about how law enforcement's perspective had not been honored in books, that books were focused on instead, the things cops do wrong. I jumped down her throat. I was like, "We can't talk about law enforcement's perspective until we deal with the fact that they're getting away with crimes." I basically said, "I don't think their perspective is as important right now, because they're not getting murdered. They're children are getting murdered." And I said, "You're white, I'm white. And when we're having a dialogue about law enforcement and the consequences of their actions, I think it should be a dialogue led by people of color, people who are actually faced with this." We just agreed to disagree.

Grace:                      I can see how the panel completely exploded.

Tillie:                        It completely exploded. And talking about law enforcement in our current political situation is tough, and honestly talking about politics is tough. We weren't talking about censorship, and I was so disappointed in the ability of the people from NCTE there and the moderator in keeping us on the topic. And at the same time, it did feel good. It did feel good to say those things out loud because it's something I really believe. But it was also not what we prepared for. It's one thing to have this conversation in a room with your friends. It's another thing when there's an audience there. We were all working out these issues and trying to deal with Sarah's disrespect in front of people. And it was very challenging.

Grace:                      So how do you wish, specifically the moderator I guess. I guess because you mentioned how you really needed help from NCTE. What do you wish they had done?

Tillie:                        I wish because it was clear, that we were all myself included, on the verge of tears. And I think when it's clear that your panelists are crying, that we need to take a break. I really wished that someone from NCTE had just, even if it hadn't fixed anything. Even if I just could have had five minutes to step, I was sitting right next to Sarah Cortez. I was sitting right next to someone who I felt like didn't see me as human. And I was having to deal with that on a stage in front of people. I needed to cry. I needed to get away from that. We just needed a break. We needed time to regroup, especially since the panel had so left the subject of what we initially had planned there.

Tillie:                        That was what I was hoping for, just a minute or two to have a drink of water and take a breath away from this tension. Because it was clear that Bill and Sabina as well, were in pain. We were suffering up there and we all felt this duty to be there because we're authors. And we had been asked to be there and we needed someone in charge to help us and say, "Let's take a break." Because none of us really felt like we could. We didn't feel like we were in positions of power.

Grace:                      Yeah. I guess that's what it always comes down to, this power thing, right? So many people have accused the organizers for not vetting the authors well. And since the panel, Joan Kaywell the moderator put out a letter which I will post in full on the Kidlet Women website. Which she takes full responsibility for inviting Sarah Cortez on the panel. And in that letter-

Tillie:                        Okay I wasn't aware of that.

Grace:                      Were you not aware of the letter?

Tillie:                        I wasn't, no.

Grace:                      Okay. So in that letter, I will show it to you later. In that letter, she says that Sarah Cortez was actually a later addition to the panel who was invited after Sarah called Joan out of the blue. So do you have any thoughts about that? Is this just an example of how much more due diligence organizers must, they have to have now?

Tillie:                        Yeah. So I'm surprised, and I don't think last minute additions are really ever a fantastic idea. But knowing what I know about how comic festivals and book festivals work, all the time things get mixed up right at the end. Someone's plane is later, someone else wants to be on the panel. So I know that happens and I know it will always be a part of it. It's tricky for me because I don't know how much due diligence can be done to understand that the situation would go just like that. Because I do think yes, maybe someone could have identified the fact that Sarah might not have been a perfect fit for the panel on censorship. But also, who knows? She's a Mexican American woman who's written some interesting poetry and some interesting novels.

Tillie:                        I could easily see doing research on her and not knowing that she was going to come with these views. I think that the responsibility has to be that there is someone in the room with the power to help the authors, and to put a stop to a situation that is no longer working. Because I do think that it is, there's a certain alchemy to when you get people together in a room and certain questions are asked. Things go in weird directions. I'm sure it's something you've experienced. And there's also, there's microaggressions and there's things sometimes that aren't apparent in a person's personality online. So I don't necessarily blame NCTE or the organizers for not doing research beforehand, but I am very disappointed in the fact that there were NCTE people in the room, and not doing anything about it.

Grace:                      Speaking of microaggressions, the ELATE commission released a letter about which I'll also post in full on the website. The ELATE Commission on Social Justice and Teacher Education, GSEA Gender and Sexuality Equality Alliance. They released a letter that said racial microaggressions from both Kaywell and Cortez were reported during the presentation. Further adding a hostile environment that discouraged participation from marginalized audience members. So do you think the microaggressions was the scenario that Joan Kaywell was talking about, or was there something else? And how do you think they effected the audience?

Tillie:                        I think it was most likely the scenario, and also perhaps I noticed that Joan was attempting to, I don't even know how to describe it. Sort of unite us and see both perspectives and not outright say that like one person is wrong, one person is right. I think that fueled this feeling that Sarah could just continue to say whatever came to her mind. And the audience. I have done a lot of panels in my career which has not been that long, but my good Lord have I done a lot. And I have never seen an audience react like this. People were shouting out at certain comments. Groaning. One woman stood up at one point to debunk the facts that Sarah had said earlier to say that, "I found the facts that you said about gay people dying and they're from this fraudulent website."

Tillie:                        So the audience was totally and clearly aware of what was happening, and they felt the microaggressions. And I wouldn't even necessarily call them micro. They were aggressions. They were reacting. Interestingly enough, they were reacting along with Bill, Sabina and Michael and I. So in a way it felt weirdly communal because we were all shocked together and reacting very immediately. But yeah, it's hard to parse out.

Grace:                      Yeah. It sounds strange. It sounds like it was weirdly heartening yet it was such a terrible situation that you don't want it to be heartening.

Tillie:                        It was. I was happy that I felt lifted up when I said, and I don't know where this came from. I was a competitive figure skater for 12 years. So I do have some bones in my body that urge me to stand up for myself and to speak out and be competitive. At one point I did say, and this wasn't productive, but it made me feel better. I said to Sarah after we had had some spat, and I felt very violated by what she said. I said, "After this panel, your career is going to go nowhere." I even said, "I make more money than you do," which I don't know if I do, but it really felt good to say that. I felt really violated. And I also know that she picked up on the fact that I'm quite young, and she felt like I was some little kid on the panel spouting my social justice warrior views. And she treated me like that, and I didn't want to be treated like that. I wanted to be treated with respect like the author that I am. And it was difficult to find a way to come back to that.

Grace:                      So Joan also said in her letter, which I'll read an excerpt here. She says, "As much as I hated what this author," meaning Sarah Cortez, "Had to say. I recognize irony that she was speaking on this particular panel that promotes intellectual freedom and opposes censorship. Anger can be good after reflection. Please be mindful of the things you can say that might be hurtful to the NCTE community. There is room for real growth here." Now ELATE GSEA letter also addressed Joan's comments saying, "We wish to note that reserving anger for a particular space time is a privilege only afforded to some. To those in the audience, particularly those from marginalized groups, including those who identify as LGBTQ. It may not have been possible to regulate anger to a particular post reflection space." So would you agree with that? What do you think about that?

Tillie:                        Yeah, it's tricky, right? Because they're talking in such a weird, it's a very weird tone for me because it's all very polished. It feels like they're hiding. It feels a bit defensive. I recognize the fact that this was a panel about censorship. So ha ha, we're talking about how we didn't like someone's views, but isn't it a panel about censorship? I don't think that works here, because it was very clear that Bill, Sabina, and I. And I wasn't sure about Michael because he was on the other side. I couldn't see him as well. It was clear we didn't feel safe, and I didn't feel like I was a human in her eyes. So I felt like all this stuff about voice and voice as being acceptable, we had moved into a space beyond that almost.

Tillie:                        And I almost don't want to hear from Joan and NCTE leadership about their opinions about this panel because what I really am curious about and what I really think is important is our perspective as people on the panel and the audience members. The educators who were there. There were a lot of people experiencing that with us, and they were the ones who I felt like could really speak to how it affected them and how they could have possibly been offended.

Tillie:                        I don't think that saying what that what Sarah said was unacceptable and she should have been taken off that panel. I don't think that's censorship. I think that's general good practice for ineffective panel, and for making people feel like humans.

Grace:                      Yeah. Because I think what Joan calls the 'irony' of the situation. It's what a lot of conservatives often call liberals closed minded.

Tillie:                        Yeah, exactly.

Grace:                      And those who share Sarah Cortez's views might say the same thing. This is about censorship and you're trying to censor her. But I think there is a line between discourse and hate speech.

Tillie:                        Absolutely, that's what I was trying to say. There is a line and I felt like that line was crossed. And I think that line is different for each person. Right? Different people have different places where things start to feel like hate speech to them. But we have to recognize those feelings and honor them. Because if Sabina as a woman of color I think was having a very different experience than I was as, as a white female on that panel. So for her, she could've felt past that line faster than I did, which is rightfully so, you know what I mean?

Grace:                      So I guess just for our listeners, why do you think we need to draw that line between discourse and hate speech?

Tillie:                        Well, because I think nothing gets done with hate speech. I think it leaves a people hurt and somewhat traumatized, and I think it makes it harder and harder to speak out the more you are faced with that. Whereas I think with discourse or a conversation, even if there's different views, people can leave that conversation still feeling like they have a voice that is recognized and that is worthy. And I left that panel wanting to never talk again about my books, and I have since recovered and moved on from that feeling and I'm happy to talk about anything.

Tillie:                        But it left me feeling a stepped on and completely taken down. And I think that is the fundamental issue where it becomes a situation of winners and losers. And the person who ended it, it takes power away, right? I think hate speech takes power away from the people it attacks. I don't think it's acceptable, especially in a situation that is official. It's a festival. We have educators here. These are supposed to be conversations. They're supposed to be a dialogue, and we had left that space.

Grace:                      I guess that's what it is. I don't think this sounded like a dialogue. Do you think Sarah Cortez's views were ever going to change no matter what you said?

Tillie:                        No. And it wasn't so much that she was presenting her views because that would've been one thing. She was presenting her views and then using them to attack us. That was it. It wasn't like she was just saying, "This is what I believe, but that's just what I believe. You believe what you want to believe." She presented it and we used what we said against us in order to say that, to take our power with her rather than recognizing we each have our own power.

Grace:                      And I think that's probably where the line between discourse and hate speech happen here, where that line was crossed in this panel it sounds like.

Tillie:                        I think so. And it's hard too pinpoint to, because it did take some catching up for all of us. Because at first we really didn't recognize what was going on because we were so surprised.

Grace:                      Yeah, I can imagine. So three days after the incident, NCTE social media accounts put out a couple of statements with sentiments of regret and information gathering. And they immediately came under fire for not responding in a stronger way. And, what I thought was really interesting by not naming Sarah Cortez. In fact Bill Konigsberg did not name Sarah Cortez in his speech at ALAN afterwards. Which I understand. So what are your thoughts about NCTE doing the same?

Tillie:                        Yeah, it's hard for me because it's difficult for me to imagine being an organization. I don't know very much what comes with that. I can really only speak for my author perspective. And for me, I don't care. Because it's like so what? This woman's gonna hate me now or be against me? It's the pro of speaking openly about what happened, and speaking honestly and not wrapped up in this really frigid, bureaucratic dialogue. I think that's what gets me is I don't think that kind of bureaucratic talk actually does anything. It sounds like the whole, we give our thoughts and prayers or we are thinking about this. I feel like an honest discussion is important, and I don't understand why they wouldn't name Sarah when it was all our names are publicly on that panel. It's not like this was a private event.

Tillie:                        So I don't feel any trepidation about naming her, but I also genuinely don't know what goes into running a festival or what that could possibly require. So I'm a little conflicted because I feel like I don't have enough information, but I'm also like grow up and have some in this situation. If you really don't want something like this to happen, then talk clearly about why you don't want this to happen.

Grace:                      I think what's interesting in this is that by ignoring, the ELATE GSEA says ignoring and not naming the incidents is a form of censorship. Yet I also saw Bill's point that he didn't want to give Sarah Cortez anymore publicity, or thought, or acknowledgement than he felt she deserved. He didn't feel she deserved any more attention. So it was an interesting-

Tillie:                        That's a good point.

Grace:                      Me myself, I was like that's a really good point. Yet I also see what they said about not naming it is a form of censorship too. So it was a very interesting thing. I wasn't really sure which side I was leaning towards.

Tillie:                        Yeah, it's hard because I feel both of them actually. I totally get both sides, and I ultimately don't know what, I don't think either one is perfect.

Grace:                      Yeah. And I guess it's just trying to feel it out situation by situation. And I guess for this situation like you said, it's not like people couldn't figure out who the people were.

Tillie:                        I know. And for our situation that's public, I really feel no. It's like come on, the information is out there. There's no need to hide. But I do also totally respect Bill's decision and I'm totally proud of him for what he did and spoke speaking out at ALAN.

Grace:                      Yeah, I think that was an amazing speech.

Tillie:                        It was lovely.

Grace:                      Yeah. So on November 26, NCTE officially made a statement about the panel. And they outlined three opportunities to address this beyond the 2018 NCTE convention. And these are the three guidelines that they suggested.

Grace:                      "One, we will reexamine our processes surrounding program selection and how presenters are informed of an agree to our mutual respect and anti-harassment policy."

Grace:                      "Two, we will create a guide for panel moderators that articulates what can and should be done to create safe learning spaces for both presenters and participants."

Grace:                      "And three, this topic will be an important part of the next in person executive committee meeting in February 2019."

Grace:                      So what are your thoughts on this statement? Is there anything further you would want the organizers to do to make sure this type of thing doesn't happen again?

Tillie:                        That sounds good to me. And I was on many other panels at NCTE that were fabulous and it felt very well organized and very safe. But I always struggle with statements and things like this because I'm always asking myself, will it turn into action? Because I don't know. I can only hope that it does because I don't want anyone to have to experience this. It sounds right. It sounds like what needs to be done, but I still struggle with understanding how it will actually play out in future conventions.

Grace:                      Yeah. I guess it's like what you're saying. It's like this administration speak that sounds good. But at the same time, it's hard to-

Tillie:                        It sounds really nice and respectful. But what does it mean? What's going to happen? What are you going to do tomorrow or the next day? I know that that's the way organizations talk and that's the way they have public relations. But it's difficult for me to decide whether or not it's effective. It's hard for me to make a decision on that.

Grace:                      I guess that's actually one of the reasons why I'm doing this podcast is trying to cut through all these things and just talk about the things that we talk about.

Tillie:                        Yeah. I so prefer that and I really appreciated that when we first got in touch that it seems like you really wanted to just, like what happened? What's going on? How do you feel? That's the way I feel like the conversation should be.

Grace:                      And actually to be completely transparent, I asked many other participants of the panel to come on the podcast. And all of them declined except for you.

Tillie:                        Except for me.

Grace:                      Some of them really just felt it was too hard to relive the event. And here you are, you're on this podcast, which I so appreciate. And you're even recording this while you're in Scotland in a completely different time zone. And like I said, I truly appreciate it and I bet our listeners do too. But was there a specific reason or a reason why you felt that you needed to talk about this or that was important to talk about, that made you willing to come on?

Tillie:                        Yeah. It's important to me as an author, I think especially just because so many authors, we all go through something so similar. We're often experiencing this hardship with trying to write and create, and also be this public persona. And when it goes wrong, it goes really wrong. I didn't want it to just be swept under the rug. I really didn't want to talk about this. When I did finally get off the panel and leave the room, I was just crying and felt a mess. And really didn't feel okay. But now with some time in reflection, it really feels like that's important. The fact that I left there and I didn't feel okay is significant. I know that when people experience homophobia, when they experience racism or sexism. Taking the road where you say I'm just going to move on only does so much for me. I think taking the time to actually talk about it and face it, and understand it. I think in my mind does a lot more, even though it's painful.

Tillie:                        I would've loved to just disappear from this and been like, "Yeah whatever it happened, I'm moving on." But I don't think that's effective and I don't think that'll spur any real change. So it was. I wanted to do this even though it didn't feel comfortable. And I totally understand where the other panelists came from in not wanting to relive it, and I totally respect that. But when I found that out as well. I felt even more like okay, then I really do need to talk about this because someone has to. Someone has to, or people like Sarah Cortez can just keep doing this and organizations can just move on.

Tillie:                        If people really do care about diverse voices and they don't care about it just as a fad, then they have to actually protect the people they're asking to speak. And if they want me to come on there and bare my soul about being a lesbian and the things that I faced in that situation, then I have to know that I'm going to be safe in doing so. And I wasn't, and I didn't feel that way. So it's important to talk about.

Grace:                      I agree. I think it's so important because it's so easy just to forget that this happened. So if anything, if only for posterity. I'm so glad.

Tillie:                        Yeah.

Grace:                      I just wanted to ask one more question that came up when you were talking about how you left the panel. Did anybody from NCTE contact you after the panel or-

Tillie:                        They did. They did. And actually, a few people I think were coming towards me to talk to me after the panel. But at that point, one of my publicists in the audience had surreptitiously gotten in touch with everyone at my publisher to mention that, "Oh my God, Tillie's in a crisis. This horrible thing is happening. We need help. Get the backup, get the calvary." So my beloved editor showed up very quickly as soon as she heard at the end of the panel, and whisked me away because I needed to go. I didn't want to talk to anyone. I just needed someone's arm around me and to cry. But then shortly after, I think the next day I received an email from someone from NCTE asking me to talk with them as soon as possible about what had happened, just because I think they were in that information gathering stage. And I did appreciate that and I did talk to them, but I don't know how effective it was because to be honest, I was still reeling. I couldn't wrap my head around it yet. But yes, they very quickly got in touch and I'm pretty sure were in touch with my publishers as well.

Tillie:                        So the word spread, they were aware, and I did appreciate just how quickly they jumped on it. But it's this funny thing, right? Where when something like this happens, it sucks that you as a victim also have to be the one to help people figure out how to deal with it. It's just another layer of something you have to do to help these people understand you and see you as a person. So I felt tired, but I was very happy with how quickly NCTE did get in touch with us. And it wasn't just me. I believe they also got in touch with everyone else.

Grace:                      Great. That's good. I'm glad to hear that.

Tillie:                        Me too. I was really happy to get that email and like I met with them like 30 minutes after I got that email. I said, "I'm in my hotel, but can you come to my hotel?" And they're like, "Yes, we'll be there. We'll work with you." they were really, really efficient and understanding.

Grace:                      That's wonderful to hear. I'm glad. Okay. So was there anything specific that we didn't talk about that you want to share?

Tillie:                        No, I think you covered it. It was just a *** panel.

Grace:                      And I actually think that you are putting it lightly when you talk about, after hearing more details. Yes, that's a pretty, actually a kind adjective to use for it.

Tillie:                        Yeah. It was intense.

Grace:                      But I really, really appreciate you coming on to tell us about it. So I think I've taken up enough of your time. So let me finish this conversation by asking you the two questions that I ask everyone that have nothing to do with the panel, but just being a creator of books in general. And the first question is what are you working on? What's your newest book? Something that you want to share with the audience so they can go see your work.

Tillie:                        Well, I had a book that just came out called On a Sun Beam, which is a graphic novel about this found family of queer people living in outer space. But I don't like space books normally, I don't really like Sci-Fi because it's usually very male and very white, and very just modern, white space ships and then they blow up and I have to save a princess. But this is a book about relationships and trying to live together and work together, and create a home out of nothing. So that's On a Sunbeam. And all my comics and all my drawings and stuff are around social media. Just @TillieWalden. And the book I was speaking a lot about on the panel was spinning, which is a graphic memoir about my 12 years as a competitive figure skater.

Grace:                      I'm actually kind of jealous of that. I always wanted-

Tillie:                        It wasn't as fun as it sounds.

Grace:                      But On a Sunbeam, that was originally a web comic. Is that right?

Tillie:                        It was. It was a web comic because I'm way too impatient and publishers are slow. So I just published it as a web comic and then they caught up, and now it's a book.

Grace:                      Awesome. Okay, great. And the second question, this is what I ask everyone. Is what is your biggest publishing dream? And when we ask this question, we want the listeners. Sorry, we want the guests to dream big with the idea that whoever comes on this podcast, we do not need to be ashamed of our ambitions. No one's judging you. We want you to say the biggest dream that you can dream up, that you're almost embarrassed to say out loud. So Tillie Walden, what is your biggest publishing dream?

Tillie:                        My biggest publishing dream, and I think it's a direct reaction to the fact that I've had a short career and I have published many books very quickly, and done a lot of publicity for them. My dream would be to get so much goddamn money with an advance, that I could have enough to live on for 10 years and only work on one book. Right now, I'm working on three books at once and it's a thing. So just oodles of rich's, one book. And I do one interview for it. Or I'll even go bigger and say I do no interviews, and I never talk to anyone. And I can live in a cabin in Vermont and chop firewood, and the book is published. And that's it. It just goes out into the world. People can experience it, and I can just move on.

Grace:                      That actually sounds heavenly.

Tillie:                        Doesn't that sound heavenly?

Grace:                      It sounds absolutely heavenly. I think I might make that my biggest publishing dream too.

Tillie:                        Let's do it. Let's do it. Let's get paid and then work really slowly on a book.

Grace:                      Exactly. Well thank you so much Tillie. I really, really can't tell you how much I appreciate you coming on.

Tillie:                        And thank you for noticing this event and wanting to talk about it.

Grace Lin