Kelly Sue DeConnick, Comic Book Writer
Cool Tools Show 294: Kelly Sue DeConnick
Our guest this week is Kelly Sue DeConnick. Kelly Sue is a writer best known for comics like Marvel’s CAPTAIN MARVEL, PRETTY DEADLY (with artist Emma Ríos), BITCH PLANET (with artist Valentine De Landro), and DC Comics’s AQUAMAN. DeConnick and her husband, Matt Fraction, also consult on feature films and develop television as Milkfed Criminal Masterminds, Inc. You can find Kelly Sue on Twitter @kellysue and on Instagram @kellysued.
“Talk to the Duck” methodology
I am someone who has a tendency to process things best out loud or verbally, and the best tool I have for this is something we call in our house Talk to the Duck. Talk to the Duck is one of those apocryphal stories, like the Lady in the Elevator, or it’s one of those things where it’s like, “Oh yeah, this was a friend of mine’s aunt or whatever.” And it turns out no, no it was everybody’s friend’s aunt. We first heard the story from a friend of ours who worked at Apple who had been promoted to overseeing several other engineers. And what he was finding was he wasn’t able to get his work done because the people he was overseeing would come in and interrupt his work in order to talk about problems that they were having. And it was part of his job as their manager then to be available for that. But he found that very often, he said nothing and that they would end up solving their own problem in formulating the question. And so he instituted a policy wherein they needed to stop outside of his office, where he had a decoy duck and before they could interrupt his work, they needed to first ask the duck the question. And if the duck was not able to solve the problem, then they were more than welcome to knock on the door and interrupt him. And the idea is that in trying to describe it to this inert duck, you’ll actually maybe even realize what the solution is and then you don’t have to knock on his door? I don’t actually talk to an inert duck, But I will go interrupt my husband and I will say, “Will you be my duck for a minute?” And he will just sit and listen to me and let me try to articulate the problem. So that’s a really great trick. I like that anybody can do that. It’s real easy. You don’t need anything. You don’t need to buy anything. You just have to do it.
I use something called Novamind Pro and it is a mind mapping software. And I will use it to brain dump when I am planning books or projects. And I like it because I can get everything out. I think that mind mapping is one of the most direct routes to creativity for me. When I talk to students, I talk about how there’s this thing that happens when you have an idea in your head and you think that idea is so good and it’s so perfect. We have this tendency to overvalue ideas and undervalue the labor involved in making those ideas into projects. So when you take that idea out of your head and you put it on paper, well, now you have some perspective on it. It’s like a foot from your face now. As something moves away from your eye, you start to be able to see it better and you can see the problems, and you can see that that idea in your head wasn’t maybe as perfect as you thought it was. And that can be painful. I think this is a good way of overcoming the reticence to put the thing on paper. And it’s a good way then, once it is on paper, or on a screen as I have a tendency to do it, because I like to drag and drop and rearrange and erase and rebuild, and that’s easier for me to do on screen than it is with a pencil and paper. I think that helps overcome that initial, “I don’t want to put it on out of my head because I know once I actually start this, I’m going to find the problems.” Because it’s just like a shotgun blast of getting it out and I find that really effective.
I have a fairly substantial collection of houseplants at this point, and I very much enjoy them, but they’re a lot of work and it is difficult to keep track of what needs what, and when, and so I have discovered this little app called Planta. And I will say this in the negative column, it takes a little while to set it up. I think it took me the better part of a Saturday to enter my whole collection. What you do is you go over to your plant and if you know the name of it you can just enter it directly into My Plants. If you don’t know the name of it, you can take a picture of it and the Planta app will help you identify the plant. And then you answer some questions about it, including where it is, and the Planta app has a light meter. So it helps you determine what the light is in the location that you have the plant in. And it may tell you, “Oh, this plant needs more light than what you’ve got here, or less light, or this is a great spot for this one.” It’ll also tell you, “Oh, this is a difficult plant. We don’t recommend this one.” Once you have them all entered in and you answer questions like, did you repot it? When was the last time you watered it? What kind of pot is it in? Because if it’s in a clay pot that breathes it probably needs to be watered a little more often than if it’s in a ceramic pot that doesn’t breathe as well because it’s sealed. Once you have everything done, every day you get a little to-do list. So rather than having to go around and check all of my plants, I have a list of plants that need watering, a list of plants that need fertilizer, a list of plants that need misting, and a list of plants that I might want to take a progress photo of.
Bernina Edgestitch Foot #10
I am an amateur sewist, which I do to relax a couple evenings a week. I really, really enjoy it and was thinking if I could recommend just one thing, aside from the obvious, you need to have a sewing machine, it would be an edge stitch foot. Almost any modern machine that you buy you’re going to be able to change the foot. And there are all kinds of specialty foots that you can do. And I have a decent collection of them. I have one that’ll hold a button and then the machine will actually sew the button on, which is pretty incredible. But the one I use as much as I use the regular straight stitch foot is the edge stitch. And what that is is frequently, you will need to stitch right next to a fold or another seam like a millimeter away. A presser foot on a sewing machine looks a little bit like a spatula and the edge stitch foot looks like a spatula that on the side of it has at a 90 degree angle to it — another spatula. And that acts as a guide. And that runs a long whatever you’re trying to stitch next to. Making it very easy for you to guide your fabric and stay really, really close, a millimeter from, or even in the ditch. So it’s just fantastic. It saves a lot of time, a lot of pulling out stitches that you messed up. It’s really, really great. For new sewists and those craving sewing community, I also love https://www.seamwork.com/ — an incredible resource for tools, classes, discussion, inspiration and advice.
The Ember coffee mug
I drink coffee all day. I’m a fast metabolizer of caffeine so I don’t have a problem with caffeine keeping me up unless I’m literally drinking it right next to bed. But I will nurse a cup for a while. And so I have a tendency for my coffee to go lukewarm and lukewarm black coffee is really nasty. And so my husband, who is always trying to give me coffee presents got me this Ember mug, which I was like, “I don’t know how this is different from a hot plate. It’s just going to burn the bottom of my coffee. This is ridiculous. I don’t need this.” I love it. It looks like a coffee mug that has a matching saucer. It has a little light at the bottom so that you can tell it’s actually an electronic device. You can’t put it in the dishwasher. You do have to hand wash it. But it syncs to my phone. I put in what temperature I like to have my coffee at, which is 135 degrees. And then it adjusts so as I’m drinking the coffee down, rather than just applying a consistent level of heat to the coffee, it adjusts to keep that coffee at 135 degrees. So it doesn’t burn it. And when you get down to the bottom, it doesn’t get really hot. You know, it stays consistent exactly where you want it and it’s magnificent.
About Wonder Woman Historia: The Amazons
I’m doing a book for DC Comics with Phil Jimenez that is a history of the Wonder Woman Amazons as told by the Amazons. It’s called Wonder Woman Historia and the first 64-page issue is out October 19th. You can find your local comic book shop here. But if you don’t have a comic book shop, there is a store here in Oregon called Books With Pictures Eugene, and if you order a copy from them through the mail, I will sign it and/or personalize it for you for free.