Here is the second blog posts from our first Scholar-in-Residence — Ms. Štěpánka Jislová, a comic book author/illustrator from Prague. Ms. Jislová will be joining us in October as part of the prestigious “Getting to Know Europe” grant that Wilkinson College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences was awarded from the European Union. We are excited to get to know Ms. Jislová and meet her in the Fall.

My Summer Before California
By Štěpánka Jislová

You know what makes a visit of the American Embassy feel like ages? Trying to study art history while waiting. In fact, it didn’t take four hours, which is something I expected my phone (taken by the security) to tell me, but a mere forty minutes. And if I didn’t try to persuade the clerk to take all the documents I brought with me, it would probably have been even shorter.

So a few days later, my passport came back in mail and I have an official permit to go to US! In the past two months I have became an expert on dropping subtle hints in conversation that I am going to California. ‘It’s next to the street with all the Embassies. Do you know which one?’ ‘Oh, I would know! I’ve been to one of the Embassies recently.’ ‘So hows your summer?’ ‘Not very adventurous, I am working, so I haven’t really gone anywhere. On the other hand, in fall…’

Well, not that subtle I suppose.

This summer is very different from previous ones. I usually spent my holidays on the move, between festivals, hiking trips and visiting friends, but this time I have a comic books to work on. A great opportunity for a big publisher, for sure! It’s a part of a series about the most important events of Czech history in 20th Century and my story describes the events just before the the Second World War and the political decisions that led to the Munich Agreement. I really like history and being commissioned to do comics, is a fair price for spending the warmest months at home while being showered by my friends’ photos from their exotic trips.

And yeah, the vision of sunny sunny California surely helps as well!

Recently I started digging out the old files I had accumulated for this project I want to do. How often does it happen to you that you overhear a conversation with a Shakespearean level of wittiness? Isn’t it just lovely when you happen to think of the perfect remark and insert it into the dialogue when the time is just right? We are capable of coming up with wonderful anecdotes but once we are rewarded with a wave of laughter, they wash away, forgotten.

I started collecting little one-time pieces of human interactions. Even though I carry my notebook around at all times, I still managed to already forget so many. Do you have any? I would love to include them! Just leave me a comment.

My idea is to take these dialogues and tie them together in a story about having a home and leaving it. I was always very torn between the warmth of home, the familiarity of one’s community and the adventurous and insecure life on the road, the life of a wanderer. I would like to piece together a road-movie-like story about two friends and a ghost (dogs as traveling companions are just a bit over-used), trying to put together enough money to buy a van and finally leave. Leave the lives they weren’t satisfied with to see new places and meet new people, but eventually still finding out that leaving unsolved things behind is just escapism.

But still, I hope I manage to keep it lighthearted, without any patronizing undertones. I have already made so many grim and dark stories so it might be time to bring something positive into the world.