Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Bonnie Burton

Craft Queen Bonnie Burton loves Star Wars, Betty Page, and of course comics! Well known among Star Wars fans for her work online and her popular Star Wars crafting book, she also wrote the non-fiction novels "Girls Against Girls: Why We Are Mean to Each Other and How We Can Change" and "Never Threaten to Eat Your Co-Workers". But when it comes to her work, she is a giddy, sleep-deprived, die hard fan, just like the rest of us. As Bonnie has said, "May the glue gun be with you!"

How did you get into writing?
I've been writing ever since I've been reading! Growing up in a VERY small Kansas town, I didn't have a lot of friends, so books were like magic portals to me. At a young age I wanted to become an author. I would write short stories about mud monsters, killer possessed tractors, talking pastries -- anything that made me laugh! I published my first piece when I was 7 -- it was a poem about gunslingers in the kids section of a Canadian agricultural trade newspaper called The Western Producer. From then on I had a serious addiction to seeing my name and words in print.

I'd enter every essay or poetry contest I could find. In junior high and high school I'd get the Writer's Market book every year for Christmas and send every single magazine and book publisher my writing until one of them finally published my work. I also wrote for my school's newspaper, yearbook and literary magazine. Then I started getting published in teen magazines. I can't stop writing. And I never turn down a writing gig, ever!

How has journalism influenced your writing and writing process?

The more you read, the better you write. In addition to books, I love reading magazines that hire creative journalists to write for them -- whether it's mainstream magazines like Vanity Fair or indie publications like Giant Robot and Bust. Journalists who get their subjects to reveal something new and special about themselves are priceless. But you also have to interject some of your own personality into everything you write. I know that whenever I write feature interviews with actors, directors, authors and other celebs I try to keep them relaxed and talking and entertained. The last thing you ever want is for someone to clam up.

Do you prefer writing non-fiction?

I write a lot of non-fiction -- from interviews with celebs to craft books to teen girl advice books. I love writing non-fiction because it's what I'm most interested in reading. I enjoy reading books on a variety of subjects like forensic criminology, DIY crafts, celeb memoirs, art history, and so on. Whenever I'm writing a book, I always have half a dozen other book ideas spinning around in my head!

Why was it important for you to write Girls Against Girls, a book that hits the touchy subject of bullying?

I grew up in a very mainstream kind of environment. I had a hard time making friends with other girls because I was such an oddball. I was tall for my age and a klutz. I had zero fashion sense other than wanting to dress like Princess Leia for an entire year. I loved Star Wars and Doctor Who. I preferred to stay home and write stories or make crafts, rather than go to a slumber party full of girls who I knew didn't like me.

In high school when I decided to be Goth (we called it Death Rocker back in the day), I'd get shoved into lockers, books knocked out of my hands, untrue rumors started about me, and so on. But at that point, I didn't care if I was part of the popular girl group. I just wanted to survive high school by doing my own thing and go on to the next adventure of college. I dealt with mean girls by channeling my inner bitchy Bette Davis. My comebacks would get wittier and quicker. I would have made a great drag queen!

I wrote the mean girls advice book I wish I had when I was dealing with this kind of thing as a teen. Many of the books that are out there are either for parents or teachers. The books that are written for girls seem to talk down to them or just say "ignore it." Girls need better advice than that. They need to know why girls act mean, and why you should be careful not to turn into a mean girl yourself. I also asked my favorite women like Jane Wiedlin from The Go-Go's for their advice on how to deal with mean girl behavior. 

Would you write a story based in the Star Wars universe?

I'd love to write a Star Wars comic about Ackmena -- the Cantina bartender that Bea Arthur played in The Star Wars Holiday Special. She has sass and moxie. I could imagine writing something like "Cheers" with Ackmena and a Sam character. Not sure who would play Norm… maybe Hammerhead?

Considering your experience with Grrl Zine, would you recommend self-publishing to anyone trying to get into the industry?

I always take the Felicia Day Approach to things. If things don't go your way, make the magic happen yourself. Self-publishing is how you get your work out there for editors and publishers to see. Start blogging your work -- whether it's writing or art. Network with other writers and artists to collaborate on a comic or web comic, art project, novel, zine, web site, screenplay and so on.

I started Grrl Zine because I wanted to take a break from writing online and do something fun with print. It was a great experience to make a magazine from top to bottom -- design, writing, and editing. I ended up making 8 issues of Grrl Zine with a different theme for each issue which included - Alice in Wonderland, Puppets, Drag Queens, Evil Kids, and Lucha Libre. But by creating a zine, I ended up making a lot of friends who also made their own zines like the mad geniuses behind Giant Robot -- Eric Nakamura and Martin Wong. When you create your own zine, you belong to an elite, talented group of creators who take media into their own hands and do something special.

How did you hear about Womanthology and what drew your interest?

My friend and brilliant artist Jessica Hickman asked me if I would be interested in being one of the editors of Womanthology, as well as a contributor. I jumped at the chance! This was a comic book anthology project that touched me personally. I love any project that not only has so many talented women working together for something positive, as well as a project that inspires young girls to follow their dreams. The fact that all the profits go to a charity make it even cooler.
What will you be contributing to the book?

In addition to working on Womanthology as the one of the editor to an amazing group of ladies who I think you'll be seeing a lot more of, I got to contribute a comic! For my comic "Lost Treasure," I worked with singer and songwriter Samantha Newark to use lyrics from one of her songs with an ocean theme. Her lyrics inspired me to write a comic about a pirate lady who was on search for something very special. Artist Jessica Hickman took it a step further with her beautiful interpretation of the story. Letterer Rachel Deering gave it that finishing touch that made the comic really pop!

Finally, what would you like to say to up and coming creators?

Never give up on your dreams! If you want to be a writer, WRITE! If you want to be an artist, CREATE! If I listened to everyone who said I could never make it, I would never have published 6 books, written for magazines like Wired and SFX, or landed jobs with companies like AOL, Apple or Lucasfilm. Always remember to be professional, treat others with respect and learn from your mistakes. You have to believe in yourself, keep practicing your craft and try new things. Your life is an adventure, so treat it like one!

In honor of the show that inspired this blog, we'll end with the questionnaire developed by Bernard Pivot:
I love that questionnaire! ;-)

What is your favorite word?

MOXIE! It's the "ability to face difficulty with spirit and courage" as well as having "verve and know-how." I like to think I am overflowing with moxie. I believe in myself and can think on my feet. Challenges can be fun if you approach it with humor and excitement.

What is your least favorite word?

NO! When people say no to me, I always want to figure out another way to turn it into a YES. Life can be full of negativity, so the last thing you want to do is add to that bad vibe. Be positive, laugh in the face of danger and ignore the haters!

What turns you on?

CREATIVITY! I love to see people make extraordinary things out of felt, googly eyes, scraps of fake fur, old socks, pipe cleaners, milk cartons, etc. I am impressed by people who see recyclables as craft supplies. I like to think of life as a giant, non-stop episode of Project Runway. Make it work!

What turns you off?

STATUS QUO! I hate it when people remain content with the usualness of their lives. We're on this planet for such a short time and you should grab every opportunity that presents itself. If someone asks you to collaborate on a screenplay, do it, even if you've never written a script in your life. If someone asks you to help design an evening gown for a horror film, do it! If someone wants you to write dialog for their motion comic, do it! Always try new things!

What sound or noise do you love?
My dog snoring! I know it's funny to say that, but a happy dog means a happy ME! My dog is my stress reliever, and she's a great muse. I've made so many wacky dog toys because of that pup! She inspired me making the Jabba the Hutt body pillow for my Star Wars Craft Book. She even sleeps with it!

What sound or noise do you hate?

Car alarms! I swear there's a parking lot in Hell full of car alarms. Those alarms are distracting, loud and useless. If I was a car alarm creator I'd make an alarm that sounds like a pit of snakes. I really should have been in Slytherin.

What profession, other than your own, would you like to attempt?

Writing and creating art is part of who I am and who I've always been. But if I could do anything else in the world and be good at it, I would love to act. My improv skills are great, but the minute I'm asked to memorize anything I suddenly forget how to read. But I think it would be so much fun to be part of a web series. So who knows? Maybe you'll see more of me online!

I'm also a fan of so many cop shows that I think it would be interesting to be a detective. Though I'm sure I'd be rather queasy seeing a dead body in real life.

What profession would you not like to do?

Nursing! I have a huge respect for nurses. They need to keep their cool with people who are in severe pain. I don't know if I am good in a crisis. I can think of all the ways to outrun a zombie, but I don't know if I can deal with real life traumas.

If Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates?

"Did you bring the glitter?" After all, we know God likes to craft -- look at us! ;-)

Bonnie writes a monthly column for SFX magazine! Don't believe me? Check out the announcement here and grab a magazine at a local retailer today!

For everything StarWars and, best of all, more pearls of wisdom from Bonnie, find her as an editor at!