Autobiographical Comics Precollege Summer Intensive

Program Description

From Art Spiegelman’s Pulitzer-prize winning Maus to Alison Bechdel’s critically acclaimed Fun Home (which is now also an award-winning musical), autobiographical graphic novels and comics have gained attention over the past few decades. Both a form of literature and a visual art, the unique combination of word-and-image that is comics can be a powerful, even transformative means of storytelling. In this one-week precollege summer intensive program at Marymount Manhattan College, students will be introduced to a variety of contemporary works of graphic literature, with an emphasis on literary realist and autobiographical texts. They will spend much of the week creating their own autobiographical comic strips and projects, working directly with one of contemporary comics’s most important figures, Gabrielle Bell, as well as meeting with other inspirational contemporary autobiographical cartoonists and visiting relevant New York City-based arts locations.

Students do not need to have any arts background or drawing skills to participate in the program.  What is needed is a willingness to engage with your own life experiences and to experiment with putting images-and-words down on the page. Whether you’re an experienced fine artist, a budding cartoonist, or a person who draws in stick figures but longs to tell “picture-stories,” in this week-long workshop you will have the opportunity to build on whatever your skills to tell absorbing stories.


Program Director: Tahneer Oksman

Tahneer Oksman is an Assistant Professor of Academic Writing at Marymount Manhattan College, where she teaches courses focused on writing and visual media. She received her M.A. in Humanities from the University of Chicago, and her Ph.D. in Literature from The Graduate Center at CUNY. Her first book, “How Come Boys Get to Keep Their Noses?”: Women and Jewish American Identity in Contemporary Graphic Memoirs, was published by Columbia University Press in 2016. In addition to her academic work, she frequently publishes essays and reviews about comics, memoir, and literature in publications including the Los Angeles Review of Books, the Forward, the Guardian, and Cleaver Magazine, where she is the graphic narratives reviews editor. 



Gabrielle Bell, Resident Cartoonist

Photo Credit: Joe RadocciaPhoto Credit: Joe RadocciaGabrielle Bell is the author and artist behind numerous autobiographical novels and fictional novels and comics, both autobiographical and fictional. Born in England and raised in California, her first book, When I’m Old and Other Stories, was published by Alternative Comics in 2003. Her autobiographical series, Lucky, won an Ignatz Award soon thereafter, and the full collection was published by Drawn and Quarterly in 2006. Since then, she has published a number of other full-length works, including Cecil and Jordan in New York (Drawn and Quarterly, 2009), The Voyeurs (Uncivilized Books, 2012), Truth is Fragmentary (Uncivilized Books, 2014), and, most recently, Everything is Flammable (Uncivilized Books, 2017). Her work has been selected to be included in Best American Comics numerous times, and she has contributed to other anthologies and publications including The Paris Review, The New Yorker, Yale Anthology of Graphic Fiction, McSweeneys, Bookforum, The Believer, and Vice magazine. The titular story in Cecil and Jordan in New York was adapted for Michel Gondry’s 2008 film, Tokyo! Bell lives in Brooklyn, New York. 

For more on Bell, and to see some of her work, you can visit her website: https://www.


Guest Lecturer

Liana Finck

Photo Credit: John MaderePhoto Credit: John MadereLiana Finck has a degree in fine art and graphic design from Cooper Union College. Her first book, A Bintel Brief: Love and Longing in Old New York, was published by Ecco Press in 2014. She is a regular contributor of cartoons for The New Yorker, and her work has also appeared in publications including Best American Comics, the online The New York Review of Books, the Forward, Tablet, and the Awl. She has received a Fulbright fellowship, a Six Points Fellowship for Emerging Jewish Artists, a NYFA award in fiction, and art residencies at MacDowell and Yaddo. You can follow her illustrations on everyday life via her Instagram account, @lianafinck, which currently has 114,000 devoted followers

Program Dates

Sunday, 7/8/18 to Saturday 7/14/18 (Inclusive of housing check-in and check-out)


A Typical Day

Each day will include a mix of brief lectures and discussions on contemporary comics as well as workshop time with Gabrielle Bell. In addition, over the course of the week we will visit a local art supply store, look at gallery art, and receive several guest lectures/workshops. At the end of the week, students will have the opportunity to showcase their work in a gallery-style presentation.

Students are asked to read and bring with them two books in advance of the workshop: Scott McCloud’s seminal Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art and Gabrielle Bell’s recently published book, Everything is Flammable (described by Joyce Carol Oates as “harrowing in intimacy, inimitable”). Accepted students will also receive a list of additional recommended reading to peruse at their leisure, for additional inspiration.



All program participants who live outside of a 25-mile radius of Marymount Manhattan College  are required to live in the residence hall for the duration of the program. Participants will be housed in the College’s 55th Street Residence Hall. Housing is available to students accepted for the intensive, and who will be at least 16 years of age as of 7/1/18. 

Click here to view the Housing Information Sheet 

Click here to view the Resident’s Guide to Community Living

The residence hall check-in will take place on Sunday 7/8/18. The residence hall checkout will take place on Saturday 7/14/18. Additional information regarding the check-in and check-out will be provided to each accepted student in May.

Meal Plan

All  program participants who are living in the residence hall are required to participate in the Marymount Dining Dollars meal plan. The cost of this plan for the one week period will be $50. The meal plan is a declining balance card and students may add money to their card throughout the course of the program. Students will have access to the Marymount Manhattan College cafeteria located at 221 East 71st Street from 8:30am to 2:30pm, Monday–Thursday. Evening and weekend meals are not included in the meal plan. Grocery stores and restaurants are located near the 55th Street residence hall. The estimated budget for additional meals, transportation and other personal costs is approximately $100.  This budget will vary depending on student’s individual needs.  


Materials Cost

Please bring $30-$50 cash to purchase your own art supplies.

College Credit

This is a non-credit intensive. College credit is not available. 


Program Costs-Residential Option

Tuition and Housing:         $1,450

Meal Plan:                             $   50

Total Program Cost:           $1,500


Program Costs-Commuting Option

Tuition:                                  $ 950

Total Program Cost:           $  950


Payment Due Dates

Deposit:                                            $    500       Due on or before 5/11/18

Final Payment (Residential):       $1,000       Due on or before 5/25/18

 Final Payment (Commuting):     $  450       Due on or before 5/25/18

Refund Policy

All requests for a refund must be made, in writing, to Jacqueline Noel (

On or before 6/1/18:                               100% Refund

Between 6/2/18 and 7/8/18:                   50% Refund

After 7/8/18:                                                 0% Refund


Application Requirements
  1. Marymount Precollege Summer Intensive Program Application
  2. Marymount Precollege Recommendation Form from a high school teacher
  3. Statement of Purpose: In one-to-two pages, describe why you are interested in attending the one-week Precollege Summer Intensive Program: Autobiographical Comics with Gabrielle Bell, and what you hope to gain from the experience.
  4. Optional: creative sample. You may submit a creative short story (it can be in the form of prose or comics, and either fictional or autobiographical) of up to three pages.

Questions about the program and application requirements can be directed to Professor Tahneer Oksman (


Priority Application Date

All of the application materials are due by April 6, 2018. Applications received after that date will be processed as they are received. Applicants who apply by the April 6, 2018  priority application date will be notified of acceptance into the program by May 1, 2018. Enrollment and registration in any Precollege Summer Intensive Program does not imply acceptance into any degree program at Marymount Manhattan.