Aha Moment: “My New York Diary”

Studio 360

Julia Wertz grew up in her public library. She had always loved reading, but when she reached her late teens it became physically difficult. At the age of 19, Wertz was diagnosed with systemic lupus. The medications she took to treat the illness made it difficult to focus on text. Wertz continued visiting her local library, but she started checking our videos and audiobooks --- and graphic novels.

Wertz grabbed a copy of Julie Doucet's "My New York Diary" on a whim during a library visit. And when she opened the graphic novel, the black-and-white drawings seemed immediately familiar. "She's kind of surrounded by her own squalor," Wertz says. When she first read it, Wertzrealized she was sitting in a room that was almost as messy as the illustrations.

"I just thought, if she can draw her room and make it into a book that everyone can look at, I can do that too," Wertz says. "If she can do it, I can do it. So then I did." Her first drawing was of her own room. Then she kept going. Now she's published five books.

Wertz's drawings are simple; she never went to art school or studied comics in any formal way. "I like to write and I like to draw and I couldn't do either of them well," she says. "But when I put them together on paper, I'm passable at it. Once I'm forced to put it in boxes, it just makes sense."