Thursday, April 26, 2012

Comics & Medicine 2012: Toronto. Be There!

NOW we've got ourselves a party!

Just about everything has come together for the Third International Comics & Medicine Conference I'm helping plan for this July 22-24 in Toronto. Which isn't to say there isn't still a lot of work to do (mostly by people other than me). But as of yesterday we've got a registration website, a semi-final conference program, facilities reserved at the University of Toronto, and a great bunch of events planned.

Everytime I write about this I try to include links to my posts about the 2010 conference in London, where I was a keynote speaker, and the 2011 conference in Chicago, which I helped organize. "Comics and Medicine" or "Graphic Medicine" is a challenge to define and may sound oxymoronic, but most people get it when they see it. I think of it as using comics to convey information or tell stories in a healthcare context that couldn't be told any other way. That might mean cartoon iconography that improves public health, or medical school materials that describe how chemistry and biology work. A big part of it involves doctors, nurses, patients and caregivers using the medium of comics to express their unique points of view. Like Mom's Cancer.

I also always emphasize that these are academic conferences, not comics conventions. We have panels at which people (most of them healthcare pros and academics) describe their work and research, in addition to workshops that provide some hands-on practice. We're also planning booksignings, receptions, and a film screening. What I really love about these conferences is that professors, doctors, nurses, writers, cartoonists and others come together more or less as equals who're all happy to learn from each other. In fact, a little secret: comics creators are treated like rock stars. That doesn't happen too many other places.

We're expecting about 100 people to come, although we really have no idea. Registration is $100, which my wife Karen, who attends a lot of professional conferences, insists is ridiculously low. We're also offering a $50 rate for "students and unwaged," for which we'll pretty much take your word. Show some integrity. Nobody's making a profit on this. Everyone who participates is asked to register (I already bought my $100 ticket) except our invited keynote speakers.

Speaking of whom: our keynoters will be Joyce Brabner (Our Cancer Year) and Joyce Farmer (Special Exits). The year of the Joyces! We've also invited our lucky charm who's appeared at every conference so far, UK critic and journalist Paul Gravett, who'll open the event with his characteristic charm and insight, and I'm sure step in wherever needed.

I really like Paul.

Everyone whose proposals were accepted for the conference should soon get an e-mail explaining what's next. Basically, we've tried to group papers/speakers into 90-minute moderated panels of three or four that have a similar theme or topic. Each speaker will have 20 to 25 minutes; PowerPoint slides are typically shown (every room will have AV hook-ups) but aren't required. Panels conclude with a little cross-talk and Q&A as time allows. As far as public speaking goes, it's pretty painless.

We'll have three or four panels and workshops all going on at the same time, so everyone should find something interesting to do. The most common complaint we heard in Chicago was that we had too much good stuff happening for anyone to see it all. Taking that as a compliment, we packed even more into Toronto.

Now to start preparing for my workshop (tentative title: "Cartooning Fundamentals: Mastery of Time and Space") and hoping people show up. My experience in London and Chicago was heady, exciting, inspirational. All signs indicate that Toronto will be even better!

The 2012 Conference Logo, courtesy of physician-cartoonist Thom Ferrier.

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