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Respond 17 Scroll Excerpt: Rachel Nabors

If you went to one of our conferences in 2016, you will have seen Scroll. Some might think it unusual for a web / digital conference organiser to publish a print magazine. We think it fits. The thing is, we don’t see it as a binary option, either/or.

This year, we’re publishing one Scroll magazine to cover the Respond and Code conferences. Attendees will get a print copy, there will be a digital version, and there will be other ways to get your hands on a copy.

This is the first of a series of excerpts that aim to give you a bit of insight into our Respond speakers, and hopefully make you want to read the rest in Scroll.

Rachel Nabors

Respond 17: Rachel Nabors

At first glance, a word portrait of Rachel Nabors would be that of a web animation and motion design guru – a highly successful, accomplished web developer and designer with a range of high profile projects to her name, an international reputation as an expert of the highest standing in her field, and in demand for consulting, speaking, writing, courses and workshops.

But there is a back story to Rachel’s career that shows it hasn’t always been an easy path for her, one in which a personal crisis forced her to switch from one livelihood to another.

That’s not unique, of course – lots of people go through rocky times that change their lives. What makes Rachel’s story so interesting for us is the intersection of web tech and professional creativity.

Award-winning comic artist

Rachel grew up in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Pennsylvania, USA. After seeing the movie Chasing Amy (a quirky 1997 romantic comedy with young comic artists as the main characters) when she was 14, Rachel started creating her own comics.

By the age of 17, Rachel was focusing seriously on comics. She was getting freelance work with gURL.com, and then a weekly contract. When she was 19, she self-published her first graphic novel, 18 Revolutions, and comics were helping her out of rural poverty. Another graphic novel and mini comics followed, and Rachel won several awards for her work.

An interview she gave to Silver Bullet Comics in 2006 is still available via the Wayback Machine:

“I spent a lot of time learning [Adobe] Photoshop and Illustrator before putting together 18 Revolutions. One of the handy things about being home schooled was that my curriculum was very flexible. During my last few years of education, I was able to focus on practicing with software.

I did not anticipate how difficult it would be to get my books to stores. I remember securing an order for 18 Revolutions from a chain bookstore only to learn that I had to locate an approved distributor who would not only carry graphic novels but who also would work with a self-publisher. It was utter madness, so I decided to stick to a strictly online sales model.”

If you’d like to explore Rachel’s comics work, she maintains an archive at her Rachel the Great website.

Respond 17: Rachel Nabors

In working on comics – not just drawing and writing them, but also marketing them and distributing them online, Rachel was acquiring a skill set that would become useful in other ways. In a 2016 interview for Origin (“an interview series on how awesome women in tech got their start”), Rachel said,

“What I didn’t realize was that the web was actively replacing print publishing, and that the skills I was using to share my comics were about to become the new lingua franca.”

And a little further along,

“I’d always loved Flash animations, and I secretly hoped that one day I’d be able to make my comic a cartoon. So when Flash died, I was a bit sad that that was the end of that. But I was learning and using JavaScript, and when one day I found myself reading the CSS Animations spec, I realized I could make animations with the tools I already knew so well!”




That’s the end of this excerpt from Scroll magazine. Come and see Rachel and the rest of the amazing line-up at Respond 17 in May.

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