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The Wednesday Waffle - Issue Ten: A declaration of Independents, Part One - Wired up Tea Shops

Comics are perhaps the most democratic medium of expression - bar none. All you need is an idea, a sheet of paper and a pencil and you too can be a comics creator.

Of course, it's not quite as simple as that. It's true that literally anyone can make a comic, but if you want people to actually pay money to read your work you need to be genuinely good. In fact, you need to be better than the folks published by the mainstream companies because you don't have the economies of scale, so your work is likely to be more expensive, and you don't have brand recognition - everyone knows who Batman or Captain Marvel are, your really cool Ninja Ferret? Not so much. Nobody's looking for that, if folk are going to notice it, let alone buy it, it needs to be something very special.

So, over the next few weeks we're going to take a look at some of the amazing work from people who just sat down, made their thing and made it very special indeed...

Rachael Smith on her table at Thought Bubble 2017

First up, the wonderful Rachael Smith, creator of Flimsy Kitten, I am Fire, House Party, The Rabbit, Artificial Flowers and the unutterably brilliant Wired Up Wrong. When I took over Destination Venus in 2016 I put out a call on social media for small press creators to get in touch and sell me their stuff. Rachael was the first person hit me up.

Based in the surprisingly bohemian West Yorkshire town of Hebden Bridge (which so far as I'm concerned makes her a local author), Smith has a real talent for depicting emotion with breathtaking honesty - there's a humanity in all of her work that sets it apart, whether she's telling the story of a young pyromaniac in I am Fire or a chaotic party thrown by disillusioned twenty somethings in House Party, her characters live and breathe - the realities that she creates in her work are, well, real - there's an emotional energy that almost audibly crackles as you read.

The pinnacle of her creative achievement (so far, at least...) has to be Wired up Wrong. We're very big on mental health here at Desties, but we're all too painfully aware that an awful lot of books that describe the experience of people with mental ill-health are, how shall we put this? "Astonishingly disheartening" is probably the best description.

Which is why Wired up Wrong is so good - and so important.

It's a genuine feat of genius - an autobiographical book about living with anxiety and depression which is funny and engaging, does not belittle the issues and leaves the reader feeling good.

If I hadn't read it, I wouldn't believe it could be done.

But that's Rachael Smith for you - it really shouldn't be possible to make a book about anxiety and depression funny and uplifting while also avoiding cliche and cheap stereotypes and getting across some serious and uncomfortable truths about conditions people don't really like to talk about. But when you're as good as she is, you can do the impossible, and she has.

In all seriousness, if you have experienced anxiety or depression you should read this book because you'll recognise so much and know that you're not the only person going through it. If you know somebody with anxiety or depression you should read this book because it will help you understand how they feel and why they react to things in the way that they do. And if you're lucky enough to not be living with anxiety and depression, and don't know anyone who is, you should