On this week’s episode of Unleashing YOUR Great Work, we dive into the worlds of Mat Heagerty, a rad graphic novelist creating Great Work one Lumberjack Vampire at a time (A Lumberjackula, if you will). Growing up dyslexic and, what he considered himself back in the days, a “bad” student, Mat shares his mission in making funny, light-hearted stories about acceptance. From his middle school punk rock days to his serious writing journey beginning at age 22, Mat has always been in touch with a creative identity. And what comes along with pursuing a creative life, you may be asking? A whole lot of hearing the word “NO”. However, the word “NO” is what Mat describes as a “rebound word” that continues to propel him into new creativity. Listen in to this week’s episode and hear how Mat makes his work go wider and farther than he himself is able to go.
Join us as we discuss:
02:37 Synopsis of Lumberjackula Book.
04:01 What is it about the story of Lumberjackula that is so special?
06:33 The mission of writing books about acceptance.
09:28 Mat’s path from middle school creative to working writer.
12:20 How to conquer the fear of rejection and bounce back quickly after getting those Nos.
17:26 Mat’s other published books.
19:24 Collaboration can make your ideas so much better.
22:12 An overview of the upcoming book “Indoor Kid”.
About the Guest:
Mat Heagerty is a comic book writer and all around chipper dude living in Boise, ID. Mat’s dyslexic, and struggled a bunch in school, but now he writes rad graphic novels like ‘Lumberjackula’, ‘Martian Ghost Centaur’ and ‘Unplugged and Unpopular’.
Martian Ghost Centaur: https://www.amazon.com/Martian-Ghost-Centaur-Mat-Heagerty/dp/1620108496/ref=sr_1_1?crid=ZMLA78LH7J22&keywords=martian+ghost+centaur&qid=1667706290&sprefix=martian+ghost+cen%2Caps%2C97&sr=8-1
NOTE: Mat does mention his new book coming out in 2023 called “Indoor Kid”.
About the Host:
Dr. Amanda Crowell is a cognitive psychologist, speaker, podcaster, author of Great Work, and the creator of the Great Work Journals. Amanda’s TEDx talk: Three Reasons You Aren’t Doing What You Say You Will Do has received more than a million views and has been featured on TED’s Ideas blog and TED Shorts. Her ideas have also been featured on NPR, Al Jazeera, The Wall Street Journal, Quartz, and Thrive Global. Amanda lives in New Jersey with her husband, two adorable kids, and a remarkable newfiepoo named Ruthie. She spends her days educating future teachers, coaching accidental entrepreneurs, and speaking about how to make progress on Great Work to colleges and corporate teams. To book Dr. Crowell to speak or inquire about coaching, check out amandacrowell.com or email email@example.com.
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I had a lot of learning to do. And then I just kept on hammering away at it for years. Like I'd say it was really 10 years until I was really getting good publishing contracts.Dr. Amanda Crowell:
Welcome to unleashing your great work, a podcast about doing the work that matters the most to you. I'm your host, Dr. Amanda Crowell, a cognitive psychologist, coach, author of the book, great work and the creator of the great work of journals. Every week on this podcast, we're here asking the big questions. What is your great work? How do you find it? And why does it matter whether we do it? What does it actually take to do more of your great work without sacrificing everything else? And how does the world change when more people are doing more of the work that matters the most to them? Stay tuned for answers to these questions, and so much more.Dr. Amanda Crowell:
Welcome, everybody to unleashing your great work today. I'm super excited because we have Mat Heagerty on the show. He is a comic book writer and an all around chipper dude who lives in Boise, Idaho. Mat's dyslexic and struggled a bunch in school, but now he writes rad graphic novels, like Lumberjackula, Martian ghosts Centaur, and unplugged. And unpopular. Thank you so much for coming on the podcast, Mat.Mat Heagerty:
Thanks for having me. Good job with the intro. Some of those titles are inevitable.Dr. Amanda Crowell:
Well, I've been saying that a lot, because I of course, ordered all of them and my son won't stop reading. I think his favorite is LumberjackulaMat Heagerty:
mine too. I mean, I love all my books. But that's the one that I'm feeling like the most excited about recently.Dr. Amanda Crowell:
Well, that makes sense. Because it's your most recent book. When did it come out?Mat Heagerty:
It came out in June, I have to think about that. And, you know, it's it's always the one that is the most recent is the one that I'm always most excited about. Not that I look back on work as anything less than but as time goes, goes on. And as you're working on the newest thing, it's always the most exciting, but I feel something different with Lumberjackula than I did with some of my other work where it's, it's still the thing I'm most excited about as I'm working on stuff, as you know, with graphic novels. I mean, I wrote it two years ago. Wow, more than actually. So to still feel as excited about something that long ago me, I think makes it special for me.Dr. Amanda Crowell:
It Well, it's a special book. So tell us if you don't mind because maybe others are not on the cutting edge of graphic novels and haven't yet read lumberjack isla. Can you give us a quick synopsis of it? Because I want to ask you what's so special about it? But I think we probably need to know a little bit about the story before you can answer that.Mat Heagerty:
Sure. Um, so Lumberjackula is about a kid Jack who is half lumberjack half vampire. His mom is a lumberjack. His dad is a vampire. And in his world, when you get to middle school, you have to decide a path you have to go to one school or another. He's deciding between his parents schools and he figures with whichever one he goes to, he feels like he will let them down. Despite the fact that he's in a very supportive loving family. He still feels this pressure, it becomes even more complicated. Later on when he realizes he doesn't want to go to either school. He wants to go to a dance school instead. Isn't spooky like a vampire? It isn't tough like a lumberjack. So he worries he'll be disappointing his entire family if he chooses this new route and won't feel that closeness. So it's really just about Jack battling himself and getting the strength to tell his parents, this is what I want to do. And spoiler, it's very encouraging. And at the end, they supportDr. Amanda Crowell:
what's the name of the dance school? It's one of my favorite names ever.Mat Heagerty:
Tippy Tap Twinkle Toes AcademyDr. Amanda Crowell:
so what is it about the story that feels so special to you? Why do you think it's still resonating two years later? One,Mat Heagerty:
I love the messages in it in general, just like I you know, you never lead with a message in a story. That's not how I started. I started with the idea of a lumberjack vampire. That's funny. From there, but I like what it ended up saying that I was able to say it properly. And just I feel like I finally hit the tone that I really want to be hitting with stories of these, like comedies that have have something else to them. So I think what why it's special is I feel like, like I don't look back at it and think, Oh, I would have changed that. Or some previous work. Maybe you know there are there I'm like, Oh, I wouldn't do that differently now. And I don't think I would do anything different with this book. Now. I feelDr. Amanda Crowell:
so I love it. So it's about your experience of doing the work you feel like you've sort of hit your stride. You've gotten to a level of artistry that you're happy with? I mean, obviously, we'll continue to grow. So that sounds about right.Mat Heagerty:
For sure. Yeah, absolutely. We continue to grow. I mean, that's the hopes is to always be like stretching, pushing getting better. But I feel like more proud of this than I do previous things that I look back on and think, Oh, I can't believe I didn't really realize that about story or I dropped that are nothing, nothing giant. But I feel like, this is my true voice. I also feel like part of that was having this confidence by the time I got there to actually work with editors, and not just say yes to. And, I mean, I have wonderful editors all along the way. But like No, having strengthened myself to to be able to guide the story more than what I would have done earlier on in my career.Dr. Amanda Crowell:
Yeah, having that the courage of your conviction. What do you think has changed, that makes it possible for you to sort of hold that line or redirect that feedback that wasn't there before.Mat Heagerty:
Doing it a little while certainly helps having other books and not having it be my first book, and I might not ever get another one. I don't feel that anymore. I don't feel like this is going to disappear tomorrow thing that I used to feel. And also I think probably just being a parent, I grew up so much by having taking care of my kids, and I just stopped caring as much. Because it's like, Oh, I know what's important. It's this and this, you know, that perspective? Yeah, my perspective switched. I think I just grew up. Wow,Dr. Amanda Crowell:
that's so interesting. Let me ask you, what is your great work? Mat? How would you actually umbrella? what it is you're hoping to do with this work with your life? Like, through this work?Mat Heagerty:
Sure. Um, so I think my my, like, if I had a mission statement, as an author, it's to make funny, light hearted stories about acceptance, widely. A very broad, broad topic, but just about acceptance of people's neurodiversity. Its acceptance of diversity in general, and just acceptance of self. Every story that I have is really about like, be yourself, be yourself. As I probably can, I think that that, yeah, that's, that's my hope that my great work is to continue to do that as much as possible. I think part of my new mission is getting out into classrooms as much as possible and visiting with kids to kind of just share this, this message.Dr. Amanda Crowell:
You know, why is that the message that, that pours out of you, when you sit down to write these novels? You know,Mat Heagerty:
I think part of it is a growing up, I'm dyslexic, and I struggled like a ton in school, I was definitely like, super low self confidence was the bad student. And just like, just didn't think too highly of myself. Until I started creating things. I started a band. And then all of a sudden, I was like, being seen as a peer by these kids who, you know, they were, they were honors students. They were like, the smart kids. And they're looking to me being like, Oh, wow, you really know this creative stuff. And I started to just build so much off of that, that I had, I was always going to make things but it really became my, my identity, my family, my life once I realized, like, Oh, this is like, this is this is my thing. This is my my space. Hmm.Dr. Amanda Crowell:
So you said you like to write books that are about acceptance? And would you say that that was the moment where you accepted an important part about yourself and you're trying to reflect back that experience to encourage that and others?Mat Heagerty:
For sure, for sure. I think I think just basically always, always being yourself is such such an important thing not not being free to who you are. And yeah, acceptance I think just a broadly like, I want that for everyone. As I've seen what's happened the last the last however many years I see some, some scary stuff all around being less willing to accept everyone and I want so much for kids to to continue to see awesome. Have an awesome outlook on the world. That's my hopes.Dr. Amanda Crowell:
Awesome. So I love that so much. And I wonder like, what it's been like for you. You know, you said it was in high school that you started a band.Mat Heagerty:
Um, it's actually middle school. I started young. Oh, really? Yeah.Dr. Amanda Crowell:
What do you play? Or do you play the drums or like,Mat Heagerty:
I play guitar when I was younger, I was like, playing bass and I always sang. We sang. And it was always punk bands.Dr. Amanda Crowell:
punk bands. Awesome. And then what was your path from middle school creative to working writer?Mat Heagerty:
Sure. So a long a long one. I mean, I I was always like comics were always in the background when I was making in the band. I would like magazines and always have like my comics as part of my life. I drew a lot more back then. And I started like, taking it really seriously. Maybe when I was like, 2223. And I started being like, Oh, I really want to write comics, I'm gonna step away from the band thing. It's not, I'm not that good at it, I like it, but I'm not very good at it.Dr. Amanda Crowell:
We're trying to do professionally, you're we're trying to professionally do musicMat Heagerty:
kind of thing. Like, not even enough foresight to know what I wanted, but putting a lot of effort into it. And a lot of shows played, and then just kind of realizing it's not, it's not doing it. It's not it wasn't what I wanted. So then I started, you know, taking, writing seriously, specifically writing comics. And, you know, it was a long, it was a long haul I did I did an early Kickstarter, like maybe one of the first Kickstarter is for comics. And I got that, right. Yeah, my brother told me about Kickstarter, when it was just just starting the novelty of being a comic on there when there was maybe like, you know, maybe five or six comics on there. Yeah, we having a, like very good art, I found a great artists, we got funded right away without me having any fan base, any readership or so that was really cool to cool to jumpstart it. But I wasn't ready for that. And I tried to make like a big, big story that I really should have made smaller. And it wasn't really publishable. It was like, I was able to get it off of the knob, novelty, but I had a lot of learning to do. And then I just kept on hammering away at it for years. Like I'd say it was really 10 years until I was really getting good publishing contracts. And during that time I'm bartending and then writing whenever I can fit in time. And I did that for a while, submit, get told no. And then you Asli there's that's one thing that I'm sure most people who have approached publishing in any way No, there are so many knows, but I just don't know what else to do. So I just keep on going. It's like what I need to do. So I'm just gonna keep on doing it. And I tend to rebound kind of fast from the nose and be like, so goes back to it. And I think that's why I'm, I'm at it. I think everyone who's at it and doing it for a job has done it because they just kept on going among many nos.Dr. Amanda Crowell:
What is it that you think helps you bounce back so much? I do think that that is the that's a lot of the fear people have about a creative life is that it's going to be full of many more nose than yeses. And how you know, I, when I talk to people about it, it's you know, the questions are like, what if I never hear yes, what if I waste all of my life and time on this? And how did you? How were you able to stay sort of inaction with those fears? They must have haunted you too.Mat Heagerty:
Yeah, I think there's a couple things like one is always I always had every point and like weighing it. Like how much time can I actually put into this? Because yes, you might always get nose. Like you have to get some yes is to continue going, you have to look at reality still, yeah, there's a if there's a goal of mine, but I just at each time I'm looking at it, looking at it with my wife to it's always very important to like, if you're doing something like this and devoting this much time to discuss it with the people who would actually affect you very much. So. Okay, I'm like, this is happening, this is happening. Okay, we can allot this time for this, because these responses are getting back. And that's more much more. So now that I have kids. You know, when you're single, it's a little different. But anyways, how I bounced back quick is one I think I'm just lucky in that I I tend to be a pretty happy person. I think it's like a in Ohio. I don't know a gift. I'm lucky with that. But more than anything, if I when I get those knows I so of course get down. And there's been some big ones, some ones that were like, Oh my gosh, that was like so close, like, heartbreaking or Yes. And then they pulled away the car, they pulled away that license, ah, look like things like that, that are just like, ah, Crusher. But what I do is like, it's kind of known that, okay, something like that happens, I'm going to work, go work on something for at least the next day or two, like try and put as much into just creating something new, almost always that I go in and go to writing. But sometimes if I'm really mad at writing, it's I'm gonna go play guitar for a little while and I'm gonna go draw something, just something to get something out because a lot of times what it is, is it's people saying no, you can't create like me your story can't get out in the world. It's like, well, I they can't prevent me from doing this. No, no, we're making a painting that no one can stop me from going and writing more. That's my my loveDr. Amanda Crowell:
that. I love that so much. So what was your big break? Like? What was it that that first got you whether it was something you self published or your first publishing contract, like what do you think of as the turning point?Mat Heagerty:
I think of it is kind of, I think there's kind of two The first one was a public Your called oni press had something called Open submissions. They normally did not allow people to submit it was really just a competition. And look I wrote called unplugged and popular God taken him from that from that it was like my first like, okay, a legitimate publisher is I had published with some small publishers, but it was a little different. And this is like, okay, like a real publisher saying, Yeah, you got it that started opening up doors and making it more a real thing. And then I'm starting to get a little more books. And then I think my next big break was finding my agent, Maria Sanjay. And I did that through something called Hitman that doesn't exist anymore. It's a thing on Twitter. That is like you would pitch a logline. And then agents would say, if they if they liked your tweet, send us your query. So it was your way to like you put your logline up and some art from from your story that you're working on. And then they come to you as opposed to you going to them, which is very different than how it normally is with Agent hunts.Dr. Amanda Crowell:
Yeah. And a logline is just the just for people who don't know is the one sentence description of your book.Mat Heagerty:
Exactly, yeah. Yeah. The like the one to two, like really quick, a description of the book. So a tweet length of my book is, and yeah, and once I was paired up with Maria, my, it felt more much more like a career that I had like two books, or three books going at once. And then another book on submission, it was very like, started roaring, it felt like soDr. Amanda Crowell:
do you have more than one project in the works at any time?Mat Heagerty:
Yes, it's there's such a long tail on graphic novels. I don't I don't write them. So I'm able to do more at different times. So I don't write them, I don't draw them. So I'm able to do are different times. Because if you're drawing it, you know, it's 200 pages, that takes a very decent amount of time. So that could take, you know, two years, or even more, depending on the publisher and what they're able to pay and how it's able to work out for the artist. Yeah, during that time, I'm writing one book, then looking at edits from another one. And pitching another one. It's always like, trying to line up the next thing after the next thing. Mm hmm.Dr. Amanda Crowell:
Yeah. And your most recent book is longer Dracula, which we talked about. Yes. But you have how many other books do you have? Lik e, how many published books do you have right now?Mat Heagerty:
So I have technically, for my first one, I never really like push as much it was such a learning experience. And so from my work, it's it's more adult, even though it's not. It's aimed at adults, but it really has my middle grade sensibility. So it was a really success. And I have I have two other two other books besides that. So for total, butDr. Amanda Crowell:
And am I right that unplugged and unpopular just got translated into some other language or something?Mat Heagerty:
It did? Yeah, it got a publisher in Spain called nueve nuevo published edition, just just earlier this month. It's really exciting. I haven't seen it yet. They said they mailed them to me. I'm excited to get to see it.Dr. Amanda Crowell:
They translated it. And did they use the same drawings? Is that how thatMat Heagerty:
works? Yeah. So basically, they handed them only press, the publisher facilitated the deal, and then handed them the files without lettering, and then they go, okay, so it's exactly the same. So all of the sound effects or anything that Tintin ventola drew into it. That is still in English. Cool. And then But then anything that is, you know, the actual word blends they did, but it's so so cool to see but really big, like, goal for me is seeing go wider than I go like, I haven't been to Spain. go to SpainDr. Amanda Crowell:
has has more travel credit than you do. Exactly. That's so cool. I love it. So what is it about drawing these graphic novels? So one of the questions I really like to ask is like, what where's the joy in this? Because of course, there's like all the knows, and it's like this long history, but it must be something pretty joyful if you continue to return to it. So what is that joy for you?Mat Heagerty:
Oh, God, like everything. Yeah, I genuinely genuinely love it like so. I love the creation process. I love working with other people and how they can make my ideas so much better. When we work together and then something that I started with becomes something so much better. I certainly feel like that happened with my book Martian goes Centaur is we were meant to collaborate together. It's a good project when we work together. It's like definitely her building very much on what I what I had initially said there but um, I think I think what I love the most if there's the most it's literally having handing a story to a kid and having them love it, which is a very simple answer. But when it does have been like, you know, a kid comes up and wants to, like, take a picture with you and says that it's their favorite book. And it's like, like mind blowing. To me. It's such a great feeling that I want to get as much as possible. It's reallyDr. Amanda Crowell:
I bet and you're doing more and more of that. Now. You said you're doing school visits.Mat Heagerty:
Yeah, I had, I had done school visits. For a while now I really enjoyed talking with with students specifically, I really liked talking with middle schoolers about like creating. And I used to do it, do it. And then of course, the pandemic, pandemic happen and things got weird. And I was doing like, virtual here and there. But lumber Jack EULA. That opened up a door in a very different way, where it's like, all of a sudden, instead of like, oh, some schools being like, hey, sure, come. It's now like, like, I'm booking like week long trips at a time, which is what I've been doing before. So it's exciting.Dr. Amanda Crowell:
It is exciting. So actually sounds like lumberjacking was going really well.Mat Heagerty:
It is yeah, it's exciting. Responses is different than other books. I mean, yeah. I'm not a New York Times bestseller. No way. But it's people are people are coming to it. So it's exciting.Dr. Amanda Crowell:
Yeah, I feel like lumberjack ILA, too. Is like a real can. Can we see him actually in his school?Mat Heagerty:
I would love it. I don't know. I'm still waiting to find out.Dr. Amanda Crowell:
I love that so much. My son loves lumberjack isla. And so I would love to see that set group of characters. He was so sweet. And he's so fun. And his family so lovely. And I really like as a parent, I thought it was a great book toMat Heagerty:
thank you so much. Yeah, I got a publishing publishing very soon. We'd know which is can be months in publishing. So you have another one coming soon. You said, Well, we'll find out if we get to do the second one very soon. Oh, really? But yeah, that'sDr. Amanda Crowell:
okay. So everybody listening has to send out good vibes for lumberjacking lead part two. Yeah, exactly. So great. So do you have another book that's coming? Soon for you out in like that's ready to come out into the world and hit the ground running? Yeah. Um, soMat Heagerty:
in 2023, I have a book called indoor kid that's coming out from oni press. That same publisher I talked about before that said wha drawing it and it is about a kid with sports abilities. He he has like sports superpowers basically, the bad athlete who ends up being given these abilities to stop these jocks from taking over a there's a really cool Park in town. And only the jocks like, jocks play there. And so he gets these sports abilities. But um, it's, it's really at its core about how you can love something and don't have to be great at it, because he, but isn't good at it. And then he realizes at the end, you don't have to be great at sports, you can just enjoy it.Dr. Amanda Crowell:
You know, it's so interesting. So many of your books have these these characters who are the sort of the underdog or the the odd one out, and there's a lot of like, very accept yourself, but also find your tribe, I feel like in a lot of your books, for sure.Mat Heagerty:
And that's that's how I always felt I I've become more more social as I've gotten older, and gotten come more into myself. But I was incredibly awkward when I was younger, just incredibly, just probably perceived socially strange by many, many people.Dr. Amanda Crowell:
Imagine that you're so friendly and awesome.Mat Heagerty:
Thank you, I was always smiley, but I just beat to my own own drum. And I feel like as I've gotten older, that's become like, cool. Everyone likes that about me. When I was younger, I was a little off. So I think that's where a lot of it comes from. And then I see I mean, so much of my work. I have a child who's autistic, and I see so much of the world through her view and how my how she experiences things. And you know, she is someone who I spend so much time with and love so, so much. So so much of my work really is talking to her.Dr. Amanda Crowell:
So that's lovely. Yeah, IMat Heagerty:
mean, it's, it's, I would just assume like if you have children in your writing, like it's, that's your main audience, right? You know?Dr. Amanda Crowell:
Yeah. And you want her to have these books so that she has examples of people who are the odd ones out or the, you know, they start a little behind the eight ball or they are perceived as different by others, and they do find their tribe and they do discover their truth and accept themselves.Mat Heagerty:
For sure. Absolutely.Dr. Amanda Crowell:
I love it. I love it. I love it. Well, I want to know how we can help you we as a podcast listening community, what can we do? Obviously we're gonna send good vibes up for lumberjack Isla part two, but how would you like us to learn more about you? Get a hold of your books like invite you to our elementary Schools. What can we do for you, Matt Haggerty,Mat Heagerty:
any of those things, but I mean libraries. I love them. Ask them to get lumberjack Killa. It's an easy thing that costs no money. Yep. And if you read it, tell people you liked it. Whether that's on social media or in person,Dr. Amanda Crowell:
and maybe write it in a review on Amazon. Is that helpful to you? Sure. Yeah,Mat Heagerty:
reviews anywhere, Amazon Goodreads. All of that is is incredibly helpful. But I think the biggest thing Yeah, is if you like the book telling someone about it, that's my that's my big favor. Okay.Dr. Amanda Crowell:
Tell at least three people, ya know, about the Tippy Tap Twinkle Toes Academy. Exactly. Exactly. Okay. Well, we will do those things. And in the show notes, I'll be sure to put the link to all three of your books, which is lumberjack isla. Hilarious. Martian, go centaur, which I personally really liked. I don't even think Alex has read it yet. But like, I couldn't stop reading I was this is amazing. And then unplugged in our pocket, which I also really enjoyed. And now if even if you speak Spanish, you can get it or soon. So almost all the books. And if somebody does want to book you to come to their school and talk to their kids about acceptance, which we badly need, who do we reach out to you you have a publicity person we reach out to your agent reached out to you, how do we do it? school visits, I'mMat Heagerty:
doing all myself right now. And if you're just to go to my name.com, you'll see there's a school visit section. All rates, contact and everything like that. Perfect.Dr. Amanda Crowell:
I'll put a link to that too, as well. That's great. Awesome. Thank you so much. You are welcome. Because you know what I really love the work that you're doing. I think it's needed. I think it's well done. And you know, Mat was actually he teaches sometimes if you can find it, and he's teaching it, you should take it a graphic novels class because I'm really striving to work write a graphic novel right now. And he taught the class and he was so gracious and helpful. He actually helped me rewrite my logline and appears to be just like, the like this force for good in the world. And so anything we can do to get you on the New York Times bestseller list. Thank you. So the world needs as much of you as you can put out there.Mat Heagerty:
Wow. Thank you. That's very kind Amanda.Dr. Amanda Crowell:
Thank you. You're welcome. So everybody goes support, Mat. And we will, we'll do all the things. Thank you so much for taking the time to be on the podcast. That was really lovely. Thank you.Mat Heagerty:
Great, great catching up.