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Syllabus: Notes from an Accidental Professor

4.36  ·  Rating details ·  2,304 ratings  ·  360 reviews
The award-winning author Lynda Barry is the creative force behind the genre-defying and bestselling work What It Is. She believes that anyone can be a writer and has set out to prove it. For the past decade, Barry has run a highly popular writing workshop for nonwriters called Writing the Unthinkable, which was featured in The New York Times Magazine. Syllabus: Notes from ...more
Paperback, 200 pages
Published October 21st 2014 by Drawn and Quarterly (first published September 23rd 2014)
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Roslynn I think it's because it decreases the pressure that sometimes comes along with An Official Sketchbook. It's just a composition notebook--with lines, e…moreI think it's because it decreases the pressure that sometimes comes along with An Official Sketchbook. It's just a composition notebook--with lines, even--so it's not that big a deal to try things and run the risk of it being ugly. Plus it's a nice, compact, portable book that won't fall apart when you've had it in a backpack for several weeks.(less)

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David Schaafsma
Maria Popova’s wonderful review of this wonderful book:

which I am using in my Teaching of Writing in Middle and High School English class this term. The book is actually a kind of syllabus and notes with drawings fromher and her students for you to use as artist or teacher.

The section of the course it particularly pertains to is an assignment for my students to create a visual essay on a topic of their choice using drawing and words. It could be narrative,
Jenny (Reading Envy)
This is an amazing graphic treatment of information about Lynda Barry's classes, from exercises for noticing to actual syllabi. I stole a bunch of ideas for various storytelling uses (giving her credit of course) and plan to pull some in to my storytelling class in May. This is one I need to buy.
Oct 21, 2014 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Teachers, Artists, Writers, Paper-lovers, Lunatics, Gabriel
Caution: This book may make your eyes hurt.

Ok. So. I'm fairly sure this is meant as a Learn/Teach Creativity guide-like piece.

It's Barry's notebook from her time as an art teacher.
This is a book of notes, drawings, and syllabi I kept during my first three years of teaching in the Art Department at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. The chronology is rough and mixed up in places but all kept by hand on pages of either legal pads or in standard black and white marbled composition notebooks" (p.
Brigid ✩
Apparently I forgot to mark this book as "read" after I finished it. Oops. Well, anyway! This is a really, really great book. Very inspirational for creative people of any kind (or anyone who wants to be creative, but is afraid of not being "good enough"). It's really funny and helpful and I highly recommend it!
I cannot even imagine having Lynda Barry as my instructor. I get all tingly just thinking about it.

And have you seen her tumblr ::

Mar 21, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: comix
Life goal: take a class from Lynda Barry. Or just have her tell me what to do with my life in general.
Jay Green
Oct 06, 2019 rated it did not like it
Not for me, I'm afraid. If you want advice on creativity as a writer, look elsewhere. The focus here is on drawing, not writing. There are some small crumbs of inspiration on looking afresh at the world, but not in descriptive terms that a professional writer might use. It's really a beginner's guide to finding creative sources.

It did, however, put me onto the work of Iain McGilchrist, whose book The Master and His Emissary is well worth a read even if you remain sceptical of his hypothesis. Fo
Elizabeth A
Feb 27, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: art, graphix, non-fiction, 2015
Book blurb: For the past decade, Lynda has run a highly popular writing workshop for non-writers called Writing the Unthinkable - the workshop was featured in the New York Times magazine. Syllabus: Notes from an accidental professor is the first book that will make her innovative lesson plans and writing exercises available to the public for home or classroom use.

I have read the entire book, re-read portions, and implemented some of the exercises already. Chock-full of ideas and exercises, ther
Jan 08, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Lynda Barry's Syllabus was not what I expected – but that's a good thing. I bought this soon after it first came out in 2014, really focusing on how it might help me think about how to write and present a syllabus in a way that engaged students. Syllabus has the regular content of syllabi, as in this first photo, although it is somewhat idiosyncratically presented.

If this was all that Syllabus did, it would be interesting, but not worth more than a quick read. Syllabus is as much or more about t
I decided to mark this one as read, because I think I'm actually going to keep reading it forever.

I love Lynda Barry's books, especially Picture This, and I have passively audited some of her classes via her tumblr. This book came out as I was reaching my apex of feeling antsy, uncreative, and tired (at least I hope it's the apex). I feel really renewed in my desire to create stuff, largely unconcerned with how good it turns out. I need to make more. I need to draw more. I need to use materials
Jul 23, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: best-of-2015
I used to fill up comp books with notes from books, scenes from movies, problems I was trying to work out, ephemera, and drawings. The drawings stopped a long time ago. Now I use my phone for the writing part. After reading Barry's Syllabus, I realize I want to go back to comp books. Thanks to Barry, I realized that I miss the tactile, meditative nature of pen on paper.

Syllabus is a book about teaching art, but it's also about the ineffable process of making art. That magic time when thinking di
Aug 27, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: comics, 2016, 2014
I read this first in 2014 and it blew my mind as far as developing a notebook habit. Re-reading it today for my Humanities course and lord, let Lynda Barry watch over me as I try to impart some of this wisdom to freshmen. Fingers crossed!
Dec 24, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Excellent book about creativity and writing and drawing, presented in Barry's signature style of illustration. I've tried some of the exercises and am continuing to work on the 4-minute daily diary. Definitely one I'll be referring to in the future!
Julie Ehlers
This was great--very interesting, with some beautiful insights on creativity. But I can't help but feel that Lynda Barry seems like a total hardass as a professor.
Michael S
Jan 08, 2015 rated it it was amazing
This is a great book, full of ideas and exercises. I will be stealing ideas for my own writing classes and personal practice.
I admit that I'm biased and went in with an abiding admiration for Lynda Barry already in place, but hot damn. This book is brilliant. BRILLIANT. Get thee to a bookstore and buy it. You can check it out from the library, but that is only postponing the inevitable. If it wasn't 9:30 at night, I'd go out and buy a non-photo blue pencil right now. As it is, I'm starting my 4-panel daily diary tonight--I've been bummed that I haven't been able to write as much as I used to, and this method is perfec ...more
Hannah Garden
Aug 22, 2018 rated it it was amazing

this lady is a literal holy figure come down from the spiraling clouds to kazoom the little tin pans of our hearts, buttery cascading waterfalls of salty perfect singular art busting out that you never even would have dreamed omg excuse me but she is INCREDIBLE
Jun 02, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: print, 2016, borrowed, pls
I heard about this book when I listened to the Creative Mom podcast. This is not normally my kind of book, but I really enjoyed it. I was also very taken with the profound insights into the creative process and nurturing creativity. The book is taken from a curriculum from one of Lynda Barry's classes and the content still has those qualities. I liked Barry's idea of a curriculum, clear standards for the class that had more to do with production than perfect drawing. My favorite thing about this ...more
D. H.
Dec 07, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: graphic-novel
This is brilliant and inspirational-- a great source for ideas. BUT I don't necessarily think these syllabuses are the best way to organize information. It takes some training to figure out how to read it and retain the information. I wouldn't recommend reading it all quickly. It'd be better read over time, so that the ideas can find purchase.
Jun 12, 2015 rated it liked it
Very cool. And not just because of the free-form "multimodal" style. I liked the relaxed and introspective approach, however, I had a pet peeve. As fascinating as this was, I felt a little uncomfortable with Barry's reliance on the cold, hard empiricism of the brain, its processes and components, when she was flirting much more with the "mind" if that makes any sense. It affected my enjoyment somewhat.
HOWEVER, this was a really cool visual novel, and if I ever get the notion, I would actually ki
Kim Savage
Nov 15, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This book piqued my interest because I have always thought I wanted to journal but never seem to have the ambition. This is basically a teacher’s lesson plans that she has kept in a comp book. Handwriting, doodles, scraps. The entire book is covered with adorable art work and lessons on how to write and draw. I’ve taken a lot of art classes in college, but I never had a teacher this awesome. 🎨
Kali Oldacre
May 29, 2015 rated it liked it
I am honestly not even sure where to start…
Just staring at the cover of Lynda Barry’s work/notes I was overwhelmed and intimidated. I almost didn’t want to “read” it. Even in the first few pages, I found myself asking “What is this?” While I don’t even know that it can be categorized in one particular genre, I am not familiar with anything like it. This “book” catalogues the notes from a few semesters of Barry’s classes, including her syllabi, in a way that can only be described as a visual expl
Aaron White
Jun 03, 2015 rated it it was ok
As others have mentioned, Barry’s Syllabus is a compilation of, you guessed it, syllabi, notes, and assignments sheets. It’s this kind of messy, exploratory compilation scanned into a neat package à la the Kurt Cobain journals, or something to that effect. It’s very busy, almost schizophrenic at times. I wouldn’t call it a graphic novel by any stretch of the imagination. If its format has an official moniker, I don’t know what it is.

I didn’t really know what to make of it at first glance. The f
Peter Derk
Apr 17, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: art
It's a good book, especially if you focus on the pages from Barry's class syllabuses. Syllabi? Isn't that the oldest joke from college? "Hand out the syllabuses...syllabi...syllabeaux..."

Spellcheck doesn't know the word "syllabi" here. The dictionary does. And Webster's says either syllabuses or syllabi is acceptable.

And get this: Plural of octopus? I'm gonna let you guess.

No, it's not octopi. It's octopuses.

See, octopus is a Greek word. The "i" pluralization is for Latin words. The true Greek
Mateen Mahboubi
Jan 08, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I loved this. As someone who left artistic skills in my past (what little I had to begin with), I found Barry such an inspiring teacher. I found myself wanting to actually follow along with the Syllabus and take months to go through this book. It's an unlikely book. Syllabus isn't just a title, it's a description of what is contained within. The bones of courses that Barry has taught in university are presented, augmented by various examples of students' work, Barry's own notes and doodles and o ...more
Kara Rae Garland
Jul 18, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2015-reads
Do you wish you could take one of Lynda Barry's classes related to interdisciplinary creativity? I do! Fortunately, Syllabus allows us to follow "Professor Old Skull" along some of the meandering paths she's carved out for her students.

Syllabus is absolutely fantastic for creative inspiration. It got me to doodle more seriously than I had for years! The only reason I didn't give it 5 stars is because I didn't think the book came to any particular conclusions; it just raised a lot of philosophica
Jan 01, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: memoir, graphic-novel
My brain looks nothing like Lynda Barry's, but I wish it could look like hers more. And I wish I could take a class from her. Reading her syllabi for her three art/philosophy/brain classes was very intriguing, but maybe not satisfying: a lot was left out, or disconnected, or incomplete. Barry explains a lot along the way about her reflections and struggles of trying to teach art or trying to teaching thinking about art to others, but I had hoped that she would sum up the book with some final tho ...more
Lynda has once again knocked it out of the park. This book made me want to grab some crayons and pens and get to work immediately. In fact, true story -- I hadn't gotten halfway through the book before I ran out and bought some composition books. I used to fill them up like crazy with drawings when I was in high school, then went on to art journals. I missed my old composition book friends and have vowed to never completely turn my back on them again. Boy, have they gotten expensive and flimsy, ...more
Sarah Schantz
Nov 23, 2014 rated it it was amazing
As a creative writing teacher I found this strange book incredibly inspiring. It reinforces the Idea Books I assign and the idea that a notebook should be a place instead of a thing. It is a place for dreaming while I'm awake. I've taken a vow to look at this book every time I feel burnt out as an instructor. I am confident it will rejuvenate me.
Beth Wisniewski
Mar 30, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Freaking awesome!! I've NEVER been what one would call "good at art". (My stick people are crooked) If this book teaches us anything it's that you don't have to know how to draw to do so and you don't have to be "great" at it to be creative! Plus I absolutely LOVE crayons!
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Lynda Barry is an American cartoonist and author, perhaps best known for her weekly comic strip Ernie Pook's Comeek.

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While books about anti-racism are trending on Goodreads and dominating the bestseller lists right now, some of our favorite Black authors are a...
167 likes · 32 comments
“Daily practice with images both written and drawn is rare once we have lost our baby teething begin to think of ourselves as good at some things and bad at other things. It is not that this isn’t true, but the side-effects are profound once we abandon a certain activity like drawing because we are bad at it. A certain state of mind- (what McGilchrist might call “attention”) is also lost. A certain capacity of the mind is shuttered, and for most people, it stays that way for life. It is a bad trade.” 1 likes
“I always start my class with a coloring assignment using crayons to color three pages from a variety of coloring pages pinned to the wall. Pick 3. Color them densely, trying to get as much of the crayon on the paper as possible. Students find it frustrating because crayons are surprisingly hard to work with, but they usually have some fun doing it. Until...when the finished pages were pinned to the wall, all of the pages were colored just the way I assigned— but all the joy was gone. Something went wrong.

What was it?

This: I told them to color hard in order to do it right. And go straight to using force— thinking I was showing them a short-cut—— this took away the way of coloring they would have found on their own. By telling them just how to do it, I took the playing-around away, the gradual figuring out that brings something alive to this activity, makes it worth-while, and is transferable to other activities.

I realize now the best results came when I gave no instructions except, “spend time on this assignment.” That was 3 years ago. Why did it take me so long to figure this out?”
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