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Interview | Hazel Newlevant on ‘No Ivy League’

Hazel NewlevantJust before Small Press Expo, which took place two weeks ago, Hazel Newlevant sent me a copy of the first issue of her new comic, No Ivy League. It’s a memoir of her first job as a teenager—I’ll let you tell her more about it below—and she plans to publish it in three issues and then as a graphic novel. When I met her at the show, I asked her to tell me more about it.

If Hazel’s name sounds familiar, it’s because she has been busy since graduating from the School for Visual Arts: Her graphic novel If This Be Sin, a collection of three stories about musicians, won the 2013 Prism Comics Queer Press Grant, her mini-comic Ci Vediamo won a Xeric Grant, and she is also the editor of Chainmail Bikini, a collection of stories about women gamers.

Here’s what she had to say about No Ivy League.

Briefly, what is No Ivy League about?

It’s about the summer when I was 17 and I got my first job pulling ivy in Portland Parks and Recs. It was really an experience for me because I was homeschooled and I had sort of a sheltered upbringing, and I felt like this job forced me out into the real world. I wanted to make friends, but I made a lot of missteps and generally didn’t fit in. I was living in a very white community, but this job involved working with a lot more kids who went to high school, and more people of color, so yeah, I learned a lot about my own privilege. Also I had a big crush on my boss, who was 32, so that’s a sub-theme.

It seemed like you were setting up several different storylines in that first issue.

Yeah, absolutely. There’s that romance, there’s—what ended up happening is that I got sexually harassed, and I reported the co-worker who harassed me, and then he got fired, and all of this stuff went down.

It’s all going to be in the comic?

Absolutely. I feel like the interesting thing about that is how it plays out. I was really surprised by the people who stuck up for me and the people who kind of stabbed me in the back, like, “Oh, you shouldn’t have said anything.”

It’s really interesting that you have chosen to do a comic about that.

You mean about harassment? Yeah, it was a really interesting intersection, because of course I was getting harassed as a woman, but my co-worker was black, and maybe if he had been white, he wouldn’t have gotten fired, or maybe the power structure would have reacted differently to this whole event. … It was just this interesting experience of feeling outcast, as a woman and also as this weirdo homeschooled person, but recognizing all of the power and privilege that I had in this situation. It really, that whole summer just complicated my view of life, so that’s why I wanted to do a comic.

NoIvyLeague_Cover_trim-500x773What kind of a schedule do you have for the single issues?

I’m trying to put them out at least every six months. We were trying to do four, but I have ended up doing some revisions that are making it take longer. I want it to be the best it can be, more than I want to stick to a schedule, but it’s all upcoming. This is my only project and I’m super serious about it. It’s happening as soon as possible, basically.

And then you are going to collect it into a graphic novel?

It’s really cool that I’m working with this micro press on the single issues, but my plan is to find a bigger publisher for the graphic novel. I think it could have a big YA audience. My agent actually said that she gave it to her nine-year-old daughter, who is this really socially aware kid, and she was like, “I really like this, is this going to critique white privilege?” I was like, wow, I didn’t realize that nine-year-olds for one wanted to read about all this messy sexual puberty stuff, and for two were so socially aware.

So you are looking at young adults as your audience?

Yeah, I think so, teens and young adults. Of course I want people older than me to take an interest in my work and to find that the themes are rich, but I guess it’s easier to write for the ages I’ve already been, like how old I am now, or younger. But here you are, and you like my work.

Would you think of doing it in color?

No. The cover is actually in color. For cost reasons, my publisher wasn’t able to print it. In terms of the interiors… it’s faster, and it’s easy for me to think about this purely in tone.

Are you doing this digitally?

It’s watercolor. It’s all by hand. I guess I could digitally color what there already is, but I think it’s going to be black and white I’m happy with that.

When will the next issue of No Ivy League be out?

I love that you are clamoring for it! Maybe January or February, but it kind of depends. I want it to come out in issues, but I’m also really concentrating on the whole graphic novel angle, so if I need to take the time to thumbnail the entire book or whatever before I go forward, then I’ll do that. Probably this winter, I’d say.

Brigid Alverson About Brigid Alverson

Brigid Alverson, the editor of the Good Comics for Kids blog, has been reading comics since she was 4. She has an MFA in printmaking and has worked as a book editor and a newspaper reporter; now she is assistant to the mayor of Melrose, Massachusetts. In addition to editing GC4K, she writes about comics and graphic novels at MangaBlog, SLJTeen, Publishers Weekly Comics World, Comic Book Resources, MTV Geek, and Good Brigid is married to a physicist and has two daughters in college, which is why she writes so much. She was a judge for the 2012 Eisner Awards.

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