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How SPEAK became a Graphic Novel: 3 Questions with Laurie Halse Anderson


I recently finished the graphic novel adaptation of Laurie Halse Anderson’s modern YA classic Speak. Boy is it well done. It’s illustrated by Emily Carroll. I’m always curious about how a novel becomes a graphic novel so I asked Laurie a few questions about it.

Me: Hi Laurie. How did the idea to adapt the book into graphic novel form come up? How long has it been in the works?

Laurie Halse Anderson: I first brought this up to Macmillan in 2011, when the paperback rights to the novel reverted back to
them. I was very excited about the then-emerging YA graphic novel field, and felt that Speak was the perfect story for the format, particularly because the main character uses art as a tool for healing. I wrote the script in 2015 and Emily got to work shortly after that. It’s been a long haul, but totally worth the wait!

Speak 1

Me: How did the process go with Emily Carroll? Did you two have conversations, and if so what were they like?

L.H.A.: Emily first created thumbnail sketches for all the scenes to figure out things like perspective and pacing. Those thumbnails were reviewed by our art director and editor at Macmillan, and then passed to me. My comments went back up the chain to Emily. We used this process through all the drafts, always working with and communicating via our peeps at Macmillan.

In the early drafts, I had too many words. I had to learn to peel away every extraneous word and trust what the art would show. Over the course of the drafts and revisions, Emily learned, too, and broke out of her early vision of lots of traditional panels, storyboard style. There are spreads with profound power because she broke the frames and crafted images that will make your heart stop. Emily and I met (and talked) for the first time at NYC ComicCon in October of 2017, where we spoke on a panel. She is an utterly wonderful and extremely talented person and I am thrilled with her work.

Speak 2

Me: What is one way that Speak has changed your life that people might not expect?

L.H.A.: It made me a better mother. One of the greatest gifts of my life has been the opportunity to talk with countless teenagers, all over the world. Those readers helped me understand what their lives were like; the extraordinary stress and confusion that they have to navigate, often without adult support. Those conversations made me change the way I talked with my children and showed them how much I loved them.

About Travis Jonker

Travis Jonker is an elementary school librarian in Michigan. He writes reviews (and the occasional article or two) for School Library Journal and is a member of the 2014 Caldecott committee. You can email Travis at, or follow him on Twitter: @100scopenotes.


  1. I had no idea Speak is now a GN. This book is so popular w/my students and I think the GN novel is going to be very well received. Can’t wait to read it.

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