Years ago I attended the Salt Lake City Comic Coventionn. One of the panels I went to had a number of hosts who had worked in young adult fantasy novels. One of them said something that I remember more than anything else that was said that night, and it's stuck with me ever since. Unfortunately I don't remember exactly who it was who said it, but if memory serves he was the illustrator for either the 13th Reality or the Leven Thumps series.
He said, "Tell the story you most need to tell."
It was simple, and not very specific. But it just made me think about the intentionality of the storytelling process. Any one of us could tell any number of stories for any number of reasons. We might tell one story because we think it sounds fun, another because we think it will be popular, and another because we think it will sell a lot of copies and make a lot of money. But which is the story we most need to tell?
At the time, I was already in the early stages of writing Aww, Feathers! A handful of the earliest pages had already been released. The story so far was based on a few my own experiences going to college. But asking myself what was the story I most needed to tell broadened my idea of what the comic could be.
Five years and two books later, Aww, Feathers! still draws from my personal experience, but it's also evolved into something more. My vision is for it to explore diversity. Not just diversity of appearance, but also a more nuanced look at diversity of experience and background, and how all these things come together to influence who we are.
I have every intention of keeping the heart and humor that readers of Aww, Feathers! have come to love. But I'm glad I took the time to develop a more deliberate approach to storytelling.