Please explain what just happened.

It was on fire when I got here.


What is your earliest memory?

A seashell on the windowsill in the kitchen of the house I grew up in. I still love my mama’s kitchen.


If you weren’t a graphic novelist, what profession would you choose?

Cocktail waitress – serving you drinks. And resenting you because you have a better job than me.


Please describe the current contents of your refrigerator.



What verb best describes you?



What would you say to yourself if you could go back in time and have a conversation with yourself at age thirteen?

Besides “Please, for the love of God, change that haircut”? Um, that things get better. Then worse, then better again. But mostly, “That is a stupid haircut. And I can’t wait until you find punk rock next year.”


What are the steps you take to regain your composure?

Who said I have composure to regain? I suppose if I did have any to begin with, and lost it…I would make self-deprecating jokes until people thought I was cute/smart/graceful again.


Define “success”.

The ability to do what you love in your life without starving to death. That, and the understanding of kindness and love. Call me a hippie and I will punch you in the throat.


From what or whom do you derive your greatest inspiration?

Well, given that my comix work is about my own life: me. But, my true inspiration comes from everyday life. It’s a little bit of a struggle sometimes, honestly, because while I don’t think my silly little comix are world changing, I think they’re important. Sometimes I get into this thing where I feel like I should be making more “relevant” stories, but these are the stories I want to tell. I think that art (visual, music, writing, etc) is the true measure of history. The tiny stories, and moments, and thoughts that people experience every day and then translate into their work. In this way, my work is relevant. And, I think the reason people respond to my work as well as they do is that it is usually quite simple, and the emotionality in it is very real and palpable.


What change do you want to be in the world?

I’m not trying to change the world. I use all my change for pool games.

However, if I can effect change in the world it is simply by trying to be kind. All the time. I think kindness really can make a difference in the world.


Are you pro- or anti-emoticon? Please explain.

When I even tried to answer #11, every key I typed turned into an emoticon because you simply added one at the end of the question. Anti. But I like this one “;)”


How are you six degrees from Kevin Bacon?

Kevin Bacon was in a movie called “Trapped” with Courtney Love. I carded Courtney Love once when I was bartending in Seattle. She actually said, “Do you know who I am?” I said “no.”


What makes you feel most guilty?

When I know I’ve been hurtful to anyone. I can’t stand that, as snarky as I am. I twist myself in knots apologizing once I realize I have been hurtful.


Please list three things you never leave home without.

1. Keys, for one, because I have to lock my door in this neighborhood.

2. Thoughts. You know what’s weird? My manicurist told me the other day that my wanting my nails filed round instead of flat was “out of style.” How can the shape of a nail be out of style? I don’t want my nails to look like flat-head screwdrivers. It’s weird. How can liking my nails round be “out of style”? Doesn’t that fall under the realm of taste? What the hell? I got them filed round anyway. Fuck society. I’m a rebel. What were we talking about? Oh, right.

3. Pants.


What is the worst piece of advice you’ve ever gotten?

At the risk of sounding cliché, “Just be yourself.” I’m always “myself.” Even when I’m totally faking it like a jerk and trying to be someone else to please another person or persons, It’s still me being that idiot. Right?


What is the best advice you’ve ever given to someone else?

I give people advice all the time. This could be why all these lawsuits are popping up.

But, to be serious, I think the best advice I’ve given people is to relax. People take themselves entirely too seriously. One reason my work is often very self-deprecating and that I often draw myself as a very puzzled girl is that I am trying to reflect the inherent silliness and bewilderment in life. There are times to be serious, but most of the time, I laugh at myself and the world. Suck it, World! And thanks for the good time. [winking eye emoticon]


What do you consider the harshest kind of betrayal?

This is a hard one. I can’t stand it when people disappear from my life without explanation. For some reason this drives me crazy and I feel hurt, betrayed and confused.


Of all the game shows that have graced our TV screens throughout history, which one would you want to be a contestant on and why?

Jeopardy. Carry on.


What do you want to know?

Why this mosquito won’t leave me alone. I’m trying to answer questions. Gaw! Aaaaa! Go Away!

I also want to know how to be a better artist. I think that making art is one of the most important things to do with one’s life, and I am proud to have developed some small talent for it. There is no life without art.


What would you like your Last Words to be?

“Huh? Oh! Cool!”


Please explain what will happen.

I can’t. The universe has me under a gag order. But I’ll give you a hint: Octopus sandwich.


SARAH C. BELL is a graphic novelist, painter, illustrator and freelance book editor living in San Francisco. Her comix range from the wildly absurd, that will leave you chuckling for days, to the piercingly morbid. From deeply personal autobiographical pieces to the completely fictitious, all of her pieces hold a brutal honesty and sharp wit that create immediate bonds with the reader through caricature and a highly voyeuristic glance into the depths of one girl's sweetly whimsical yet eerily honed dark mind. Her work has been described anywhere from sexy to deranged to narcissistic. She achieves this intimacy by using herself as the main character, and as she explained to me over coffee, "Even though many-or, most-of the things didn't actually happen to me, or are imagined (although some stories are completely true), I think that using myself as the character gives me license to tell the stories in a more personal way. And, that for me, gives them more depth."

Sarah is the author of La Nina: Urban Fairytales, the second volume of which is forthcoming. She Illustrated El Repelente (Or the Anti Nuke Antics of Anabela), a graphic novel by Jennifer Heath. She is the illustrator, co-publisher and co-editor for Baksun Books as well as the staff cartoonist for Absurdist Monthly Review, online literary magazine. She has been the recipient of five arts grants and her work has been exhibited in alternative to mainstream spaces, from galleries to cafe’s. Sarah has been published by UC Berkeley Press, Nerve House, Fantagraphics Books, Fairytale Review Magazine among others.

Currently, Sarah's graphic essay, Nubo, can be seen in The Veil: Women Writers on It’s History, Lore and Politics and her short piece titled Bug Soup is awaiting publication in Peanut Butter, Gooseberries and Latkes: Writers Invent Creation Myths for their Favorite Foods. She is currently a Master's candidate in Illustration at the Academy of Art University, San Francisco.

15 responses to “21 Questions with Sarah C. Bell”

  1. You are hilarious and thoughtful and completely deranged.

    I can’t wait for the second edition of La Nina to be released. Looking forward to hearing more from you and seeing more of your work.

  2. Greg Olear says:

    Cigar smoke keeps the mosquitoes away.

    Alex Trebek: are you pro- or anti- mustache? I haven’t watched the show since he shaved.

    Nice job with the 21.


  3. Terri says:

    What Megan said. Love Sarah’s work. Love Sarah. Love Megan’s description of Sarah. She is captured quite nicely in this article. Now, no one let her out! (Unless she’ll draw some new things for us. Well, I guess we could just bring supplies to the article for her…)

  4. Kevin Shamel says:

    This is a great interview. I like Sarah even MORE than I did before and now I like The Nervous Breakdown, too.

    Round nails are totally cool, too. Take it from a dude.

  5. Sarah Bell says:

    Thank you all for your kind thoughts. I promise more new work is coming very soon. And then it will explode and maim you all beyond recognition and we can start a club of The Maimed and Deranged.

  6. Chris Ledbetter says:

    Great job on the questions Sarah. I love your irreverence!!

  7. Sarah Bell says:

    Thanks, Chris. I try as hard as I can to take nothing seriously ever.

  8. Deanna Blair says:

    I don’t care what anyone says…. rounded nails are not uncool. Squared off nails are just wrong. And, as you said, weird.

  9. Kimberly says:

    I think your manicurist is a Shapeist.

    How can a nail shape be out of style?, indeed!

    Thanks for being such a sport and playing with us, Sarah! Welcome to the Madhouse! Would you like a glass of Kool-aid?

    • Sarah Bell says:

      Thank you. I would enjoy some lime flavored Kool Ade, but only if it’s personally delivered by the Kool Ade pitcher man himself.

  10. Phat B says:

    Octopus sandwich. I knew it! Start the reactor…

  11. “Just be yourself.” I’m always “myself.” Even when I’m totally faking it like a jerk and trying to be someone else to please another person or persons, It’s still me being that idiot. Right?”

    Boom. Right there. I’ve totally had that thought as well.

  12. Sarah Bell says:

    You did! I couldn’t be more proud of you.

  13. […] our lives and I love geeking out on that sort of thing. So that and the incessant nagging of Sarah C. Bell is what keeps me […]

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