Gabrielle Wenonah Wriborg is hoping to get funding for her self-illustration project on Kickstarter.
When I first walked into my therapist’s office, I was drowning in a sea of depression so vast I could no longer see the shoreline. That day she became a lighthouse far off in the distance; thus began my swim to a shore that did not yet exist. She soon determined that I had post-traumatic stress disorder due to the numerous trauma inducing events I had experienced during my lifetime. We tried a variety of therapeutic methods, but in my opinion, the most helpful was art therapy, because it uncovered thoughts, feelings, and memories that did not surface through dialoguing and journaling. The use of art as a therapeutic tool made my thoughts, feelings, and memories visible which in turn made them tangible. This tangibility made it possible for me to explore, accept, and eventually cope with these concepts. I fondly remember kneeling on my kitchen floor over long sheets of craft paper and pots of paints documenting my childhood traumas in vibrant colors or sitting in therapy sessions creating
intricate mandalas representing my inner emotions of the moment. I still uncover these artifacts of my healing from time to time and marvel at their intense emotional symbolism and remember how each of these made that metaphorical shoreline slowly come into view.
After many years of therapy, I started working on my Bachelor’s degree. It was during my junior year that I wrote an autobiographical fairy tale for my Women’s Studies class as a final project titled “Gabrielle and the Seven Curses: A Suburban Fairy Tale.” It tells the fantastical story of how I was cursed, the traumatic events I endured due to the curses, and how I found my happily ever after through therapy. Part of the final grade was to present the project to the class. That was the first time I told my
story to a stranger, let alone a room full of them. I was terrified, but afterwards, I felt a sense of relief, accomplishment, and most importantly, a sense of closure. For years, I wanted to do something more with the story, because I knew it was a powerful tale of survival. In 2010, I started turning the fairy tale
into a comic book. I changed the title to “Zenobia and the Seven Curses” and began to rewrite the story. I kept the basic framework, but I changed the names of the innocent and the not so innocent and added more colorful descriptions and created illustrations. This version remains unfinished, but it was one step closer to the present incarnation of the fairy tale.
Last summer I started working on my M.Ed. in Mathematics education. At that time I was also creating a bi-weekly digital comic strip and working on a series of self-portraits using photography as my medium. Then one day, I could not create. I had an artist’s block, and this loss of creativity lasted for months on end. As I suffered creatively, Zenobia came back into my thoughts as she often does when I feel sad. Around the same time, I became enamored with Kickstarter, an internet based crowd-funding platform for creative projects. The two thoughts became enmeshed. I realized instead of illustrating the story, I should allow the reader to illustrate the story, and I could raise the money to publish the “illustrate-it” book through Kickstarter. It originally occurred to me that this would be an excellent tool for artists who were suffering creative blocks like I was, because it is a guided sketchbook. Then I realized, due to the subject matter, it would be extremely beneficial in an art therapy setting with PTSD patients like myself or any variety of survivors.
While I am not an art therapist and my only real experience with art therapy is as a patient, I really think that other patients would benefit from “Zenobia and the Seven Curses” because they would be able to relate to the subject matter. The seven curses that Zenobia suffers and ultimately survives are seven types of traumatic events with which many patients would be able to connect. Furthermore, I feel “Zenobia and the Seven Curses” could help a patient feel some form of companionship through the therapeutic process. Besides occasionally being in a group therapy setting, I often felt alone in my therapy because no matter how hard they tried, my friends and family had no clue what I was really going through. It would have been nice to have had the reassurance of a peer like Zenobia, even if she was fictional. Since much of my trauma was based in my childhood, I think the fact that this story is written in the style of a fairy tale, it speaks to my inner child, Little Gabi, as my therapist often referred
to her. Therefore, I truly feel “Zenobia and the Seven Curses” could really help art therapy patients as they traverse the often murky process of healing.
“Zenobia and the Seven Curses” follows Zenobia DeHaven-Reynard from birth through her early adulthood. Shortly after her birth, Zenobia is bestowed six blessings by the Fair Matriarchs and seven curses by the Not-So-Fair Matriarchs of her family. Zenobia begins her suffering at the tender age of three with the curse of innocence lost due to an unknown early childhood trauma understood to be of a sexual nature. A year later she suffers the curse of a witch which represents separation of parents, specifically due to infidelity on the part of her father. At the age of five she suffers the curse of fire where she narrowly escapes a house fire which destroys everything inside the home. She then enters her early teenage years and suffers the curse of silence which is invoked by being sexually abused by a trusted family friend. Around the same time period, she suffers the curse of poison which symbolizes drug addiction. She also suffers the curse of failing health due to a congenital heart defect which leads to open-heart surgery. Finally she enters early adulthood and suffers the curse of a loveless union where she finds herself living in a physically and emotionally abusive relationship which is steeped in drug and alcohol abuse. She eventually finds her way into therapy, learns how to cope with her curses, and ultimately finds her version of happily ever after.
I launched the “Zenobia and the Seven Curses” project on Kickstarter on June 11. The project is running for 42 days, ending on July 23. Kickstarter is an all or nothing funding platform. My goal is to raise $3500 in order to print 500 copies of the finished book. There are donation levels ranging from $1 to $1000. Every donation is rewarded with items related to the book. If the project is successful, I am donating 50 books to the organization through which I received therapy services, SAFE Homes Rape Crisis Coalition of Spartanburg, SC. They will be using these copies in their therapy program with current and future patients. There are donation levels which allow project backers to donate extra copies to this same organization. I have already started laying out the book. Every odd page is blank yet framed for the purposes of illustration. It looks like the final product will be a paperback book about 50 pages in length with the dimensions of 8 x 10 inches. You can find more information on my website or on the project page.