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Cartoonist Lynda Barry and Her Near-Sighted Monkeys

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How do you beat writer's block? Do you thrash your head against the wall? Down a fifth of Jack and start muttering atonal Bob Dylan songs? Do you give up and start selling insurance? Next time a blank page inspires a panic attack, try doodling. That's the advice of famed writer/cartoonist Lynda Barry, who appears this Sunday at the Miami Book Fair.

In her latest graphic memoir, Picture This: The Near-Sighted Monkey Book, Barry writes: "The worst thing I can do when I'm stuck is to start thinking and stop moving my hands." The book, published by Montreal-based Drawn & Quarterly, is the story of two monkeys, one of which -- the Near-Sighted Monkey -- is Barry's alter-ego.

Barry is such a believer that the visual part of you brain also holds

the keys to sussing out narratives, she holds fiction workshops called "Writing

the Unthinkable" throughout the country. The cartoonist, who's been

described as equal parts Dalai Lama and Gilda Radner, is acclaimed for

her Ernie Pook's Comeek series, which ran in weekly papers in the '80s

and catalogs the day-to-day struggles of lonely, snarky pre-teens.

Her book The Good Times Are Killing Me, which was adapted as an

off-Broadway play, won the Washington State Governor's Award, and her

bestselling creative writing-how to-graphic novel, What It Is, won the

2009 Eisner Award for Best Reality Based Graphic Novel as well as an

R.R. Donnelly Award.

And she's also rubbed shoulders with a little posse of creative geniuses, suggesting you are indeed the company you keep. She went to high school with graphic novelist Charles Burns (author of Black Hole who was

supposed to appear at the Book Fair); she met future Simpsons creator

Matt Groening at Evergreen State College, who later proposed to her; and she

also dated Ira Glass.

See Lynda Barry with fellow graphic novelist Vanessa Davis this Sunday

at 11:30 p.m. in Miami Dade College's Centre Gallery (300 NE Second

Avenue, Building 1, 3rd Floor, Room 1365, Miami). Admission is included

with the $8 charge for the street fair. Visit miamibookfair.com. Check

our full Miami Book Fair Guide here.

Here's an excerpt from

Picture This: The Near-Sighted Monkey Book:

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