Following two successful Kickstarters collecting the comics work of classic Canadian cartoonists, this year sees writer and editor Hope Nicholson return to crowdfunding for a completely new project, The Secret Loves of Geek Girls. Gathering a varied collection of thematically-linked pieces, including comics, illustrated stories, and prose, the anthology --- now running on Kickstarter --- will feature work from creators including Mariko Tamaki, Sam Maggs, Jen Vaughn, Irene Koh and, yes, Margaret Atwood.

The Secret Loves of Geek Girls will focus on just that --- real and imagined stories on the topics of dating, love, romance and (whisper it!) sex. Nothing more, nothing less; love is the best. This is a huge undertaking, but one that Nicholson is certainly qualified to bring together. To find out more about the project, ComicsAlliance spoke to her about what we can expect from the collection, how Margaret Atwood got involved, and the story that Hope herself will write for the anthology.



ComicsAlliance: What’s the basic premise of the anthology?

Hope Nicholson: It's a collection of true stories about love, dating, and sex by female fans and creators from all walks of life.

CA: What was the genesis of the project? How long have you wanted to get this up and running?

HN: It's been a germ for I'd say a few years now; over the last few months I've been talking about it more to my friends, who have been very supportive, and recently with the ending of my last project I decided it was time to put it into gear full-speed. I had originally wanted a similar concept, but focusing on the lives of fangirls, to be a docu-series, but there was low broadcaster interest at the time. I've learned since that I'm a much better publisher than I am a producer anyways so this was what it slowly turned into!

CA: You’ve worked on several Kickstarters over the last few years. How did you decide on this as the next one you definitely wanted to start up?

HN: I want to tell stories that aren't being told. I like to examine fan industry and creations and see where their are holes and if any spark my interest. In the past that was Canadian Golden Age comic books, reclaiming our lost history. It will be so again, I do have a few characters licensed and slowly being restored, but I didn't want to be stuck as being known just for my archival work.

Really I'm a curator of lost experiences, if that doesn't sound too pretentious! Moonshot, an anthology of aboriginal comic book stories that I served as an editor, gave me the first taste of curating a collection, and it really proved that this was something I could do and that I had an interest in.


Docu-Series Artwork by Adam Gorham


CA: The anthology collects not just comics, but other similar forms --- illustrated stories, prose, and so on. What made you want to bring together different forms into this collection?

HN: Most of the women I know aren't artists, but they are damn good writers. So at first this began as just a prose collection. But it turns out I know more artists than I thought and a few pitched really great comics and illustrated stories to me, so I adapted it from there!

CA: How did you find people to join you for the anthology? Who'll be part of the project?

HN: About 50% of the contributors are from my local pool of talent here in Toronto. They're women that I interact with on a regular basis and know and respect their talent, enthusiasm, and work ethic. Others are creators I've met either on social media, or at conventions, and have been dying to work with. A few more responded to my open call for submissions and impressed me with their pitches! There's a wide range of talent.

Many contributors have never been published and I'm excited to be able to give them their first physical work. Others are more experienced, like Margaret Atwood, Trina Robbins, Roberta Gregory, Marguerite Bennett, Mariko Tamaki, Kate Leth, and Sam Maggs. I like the idea of having a collection like this to help bring newer writers up, and to inspire them with the names attached to the project.

CA: Margaret Atwood in particular is a name that might surprise some people. How did she come to join the anthology?

HN: Ha! Well, we met on Twitter. She liked my Kickstarter projects --- she's a very quick adopter of new technology and social media, more so than anyone I know --- and we chatted about crowdfunding and comics a few times. She was a kid in the Golden Age before comics became super gendered, so she was always a fan of the classic heroes, the Canadian ones like Nelvana, and American ones like Batman, Superman.

Once we met up over sausages and vodka at some awful, overly fancy business-man bar downtown near us, where the waitress was a huge fan of hers and was beside herself. I remember the waitress was very self-conscious and kept pulling on her short skirt and I kept thinking, "Don't worry, neither of us is going to judge you for wearing what you need to wear at work. We all have been there."

Anyways. Margaret mentioned that she had read about Sam Magg's book about Fangirls, and was excited about it, so when I was developing this project I thought I'd ask her if she'd like to contribute cartoons.

I'd seen her work on her website and liked them, so it seemed like a good fit. She was curious about Kickstarter and interested in doing more art, so it worked out perfectly in terms of her interest.

CA: You’re also going to be writing a story in the anthology. What’s your piece about?

HN: I am! It's a bit scary because I've never written anything other than introductions or research essays, so this is my first work in this format. and I've definitely never written anything this intimate and personal.

I'll be writing about a subject dear to my heart, which is about late bloomers. I didn't start dating regularly until I was about 26, for no real reason other than it seemed awfully frightening and complicated.

Which, it is. It really, really is!

But my first steps in order to dive into this pool was to talk it out. And I did, first with very close friends, then with a therapist, then...with pretty much anyone I shared a drink with anywhere. I remember being in a taxi cab after TCAF and boring this poor comic writer with the details of my neuroses and worries about dating and intimacy. I never caught his name until a year later when he reminded me of it after I reintroduced myself thinking we'd never met before.

What I found though when I started talking about it very openly was that many women and men had the exact same situation. And each one of us thought we were unique, alone. Because no one talked about it. It was incredibly comforting and reassuring. Had I known that years back, I probably could have just skipped the therapist and saved some money.


Nicholson's previous Kickstarter for Nelvana, by Adrian Dingle


CA: Why take this to Kickstarter?

HN: Simple reason: I really like the process of publishing and Kickstarters bring me great joy. But it's also great for the contributors, they can promote it to their fans, they can interact directly with us during the campaign and publishing process, and I can make sure that every single contributor is paid a fair wage. And I don't have to answer to anyone on why 'so and so is included'. If I want to include a writer because their tweets make me laugh, then I can.

CA: How have you found using crowdfunding over the years? How do you think your approach has changed with time?

HN: One thing I've changed is that I used to have a lot of reward levels; with Nelvana I had a ton of physical rewards like prints and calendars; with Brok Windsor I had about 30 artists creating original artpieces. And it gets very very unwieldy to manage. I'm already including over 40 contributors in this book, I didn't want to make it more complicated. In addition, I've stopped doing a lot of stretch goals.

For this project I want to make it clear that funds over the target get divided up among the contributors, but there really won't be extras given to the funders aside from signed copies of the book --- which I did for Brok as well, and though it's a fair amount of work, it's definitely worth it in my opinion! With Nelvana and Brok I also reached out to a lot of print newspapers/magazines for press coverage, but for Secret Loves I'm depending more on social media outreach than traditional press.

CA: What stage are you at with the anthology? How much has already been completed?

HN: Very little has been completed, other than the cover art, thanks to Gisele Lagace and Shouri! I want to make sure that I have the funds raised to pay everyone before I ask them to do any work, since if the goal isn't reached, the project won't get made, and I don't want a lot of frustrated artists and writers with stories that won't be published.

CA: Should you achieve your goal, what’s your estimated delivery on the final anthology?

HN: I'm aiming for a December release at the latest, though I will be working my best to deliver earlier as I did with Brok Windsor (Thanks to the printer it came in a few months ahead of schedule!)


The Secret Loves of Geek Girls will run on Kickstarter until 25 July 2015, and has already hit its initial target of $37000. You can read more from Hope here!