7.5 x 9.8
200 Pgs
$25.95 CAD/$22.95 USD

Writing exercises and creativity advice from Barry’s pioneering, life-changing workshop

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 an Accidental Professor is the first book to make her innovative lesson plans and writing exercises available to the public for home or classroom use. Barry teaches a method of writing that focuses on the relationship between the hand, the brain, and spontaneous images, both written and visual. It has been embraced by people across North America—prison inmates, postal workers, university students, high-school teachers, and hairdressers—for opening pathways to creativity.

Syllabus takes the course plan for Barry’s workshop and runs wild with it in her densely detailed signature style. Collaged texts, ballpoint-pen doodles, and watercolor washes adorn Syllabus’s yellow lined pages, which offer advice on finding a creative voice and using memories to inspire the writing process. Throughout it all, Barry’s voice (as an author and as a teacher-mentor) rings clear, inspiring, and honest.

Praise for Syllabus

[In Syllabus, Lynda Barry] continues her investigation of what an image is. This book is charming and readable and serves as an excellent guide for those seeking to break out of whatever writing and drawing styles they have been stuck in, allowing them to reopen their brains to the possibility of new creativity. Readers can pore over the exceptionally gorgeous graphic mixture of collage, inking, and watercolor for hours.

Publishers Weekly, starred review

An unusual and unorthodox book that refuses to fit squarely into any category (is it a syllabus? graphic novel? memoir?), Syllabus: Notes From an Accidental Professor, is a talent-filled examination of how the arts and humanities can provide relevant and powerful thought within the university setting...Barry’s art is a mix-up of comic, Brunetti-styled figures, gorgeous handwritten text, and colorful designs that cram everything her mind can hold onto the page.


If the syllabus is any indication, Lynda Barry’s class at UW-Madison… must be fantastic.

Syllabus is …the cartoon equivalent of free-form jazz; there is a structure, but that structure is just something on which to hang big philosophical questions, such as “If the thing we call ‘the arts’ has a biological function, what is it?”… This is a fun, playful, colourful volume that also provokes thought.

London Free Press

In recent years, Lynda Barry – half cartoonist, half guru, and entirely irrepressible – has created her own genre, handcrafting inspirational guidebooks about how and why to be creative… Scrawled out and doodled all over the page, collaged together with snippets of schoolwork, snatches of poetry, and drawings of weird-looking monsters, Barry’s notes [in Syllabus] double as dispatches from a fertile unconscious, and testify once more to the unfathomable depths of human invention.

The Globe and Mail

Lynda Barry [is] one of the greatest visual artists of our time… Syllabus makes not only tangible but also practically attainable the idea that keeping a notebook or a diary, whether visual or otherwise, is one of the most consciousness-expanding ways of bearing witness to our experience and our journey through this world.


Barry offers a glimpse into her creativity and teaching process in this enlightening and absorbing collection, which encourages cultivating creativity through experimentation, memory, and mindfulness. Terrifically illuminating.


There is something profoundly dream-like in Syllabus– like you’re mainlining Barry’s bizarre and fertile imagination, and tapping into your own via a kind of contact high.


Lynda Barry has spent the last few years blazing new trails in nonfiction cartooning with a series of books dedicated to illuminating the mysteries of the creative process… Once you pick [Syllabus] up, it’s not easy to put it back down again.

AV Club, Best Comics of 2014

The book is presented as Barry's own thoroughly illustrated composition notebook; it packs so much practical advice and passionate exhorting and beautiful drawing into its 200 pages… Lynda Barry [offers a] relentless life-affirming insistence on surrendering to your imagination and creative passions.

Austin Chronicle

What It Is, Picture This: The Near-Sighted Monkey Book, and Syllabus— ... weave dense, brightly colored collage, narrative comics, and expressionistic drawing into philosophies of memory, pedagogy, and storytelling ... groundbreaking: Richly graphic, and moving, they invent a hybrid genre that generates from within the comics universe but totally transcends known categories.

Hillary Chute, Artforum
Share on Facebook
Share on Tumblr
Share via Email