Tillie Walden’s debut graphic memoir Spinning is a sprawling, elegiac bildungsroman of angst, grief, love, and lust—not bad for an 18-year-old. Walden’s book, like her life, is framed through the prism of competitive figure skating, which provided both punishment and structure throughout her youth. Ahead of her Wordstock appearance, Walden discussed her approach to memoir, fear, and writing as therapy. This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
MERCURY: In your author’s note you mention that you purposefully didn’t want to see people, places, or photographs you depict in the book—that the book was about “sharing a feeling.” What drove you toward this approach?
TILLIE WALDEN: I’m not entirely sure... I think it just felt right. Memory is so warped, and the past changes the further we get from it. And I wanted to be honest [about] the twisted way we experience our own stories. I think details often get lost, but the real truth of an experience lies in the emotions we experience. The emotion is what endures. So in order to really capture that, I tried to focus on the emotion over the details.