Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Another Source of Ideas

As a cartoon gag writer, I spend the majority of my time coming up with gag ideas. To generate ideas, one of the things I do is a lot of reading: newspapers, magazines, online news services and so on. For example, if I'm writing gags about shopping, spending money, saving money, etc., I'll read books or articles about how to save money when shopping, or tips for living below your means.

 But, what about personal experience? More and more that's what I'm writing from. Lately, looking at myself, the people around me and the situations I find myself in, is where I get more of my ideas. In order to write gags, you have to be able to see the humor in yourself and those around you. You have to have a skewed way at looking at things. More and more I look around at what's going on around me...the people I interact with, what's on the news, what's going on at the supermarket, in the parking lot, at the library (a great source of humor!), at restaurants (another great source!) and just write down what's going on and what people are saying and doing. Hopefully, others can relate to it.

People ask me where I come up with ideas. Lately I tell them I look at myself.

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

A Happy, Healthy and Prosperous 2019!

A New Year...2019...an opportunity to start over...to do things differently...and better.

For me, a full time writer of cartoon gags, the past few days have been a time of going over what I did in the past year, who I sold to, who I no longer sell to, and coming up with goals for 2019. (I'm a 'to-Do' list person!)

About a week ago I sat down and wrote out a list of gag writing-related things I want to accomplish in the new year. I began by making a list of the people I write for and made a sales goal for each one of them. I also came up with a total goal for the year. I also wrote down the fact that I want to work with new cartoonists, both syndicated and non-syndicated, and came up with a plan of how I would accomplish this, reaching out to those I'd like to collaborate with.This is surely a work in progress.

Writing this blog every week is one of these goals. So is reading the right newspapers, magazines, books and online news outlets. Attending events where I can meet people who might want to hire me is another one...and is probably one of the most important ones.  I also have my ledger ready for 2019, where I record every sale and can easily see where I am at any point during the year.

This year I plan to speak to a group of people about what I do. My family and friends know what I do. Most of them think I sit in a room all day and isolate myself. Mostly, they're right. Other people I know have no idea what I do other than I'm a freelance writer. This year I plan to speak to people who might be interested in what I do. Right now I don't know who these "people" are  (I have a few ideas) but I intend to find them...and speak. I think I have a story to tell.

I wish all my readers a Happy, Healthy and Prosperous 2019. The time is now. Why wait?

Any comments or questions, you can reach me at: gagsbyhelene@gmail.com


Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Books I've Found Helpful

Over the years I've read a lot of books about writing comedy and joke construction and, specifically, about cartoon drawing and gag writing. Some I've bought. Some I've taken out of the library and renewed over and over again.

I submit this list of books that have been helpful to me over the years:

* "The Cartoonist's Muse: A Guide to Generating and Developing Creative Ideas" by Mischa Richter and Harald Bakken.

* "The Complete Cartoons of the New Yorker" (2004) edited by Bob Mankoff.

* The New Yorker 75th Anniversary Cartoon Collection" edited by Bob Mankoff.

* "Cartooning: The Art and the Business" by Mort Gerberg.

* "The Cartoonist's Workbook. Drawing, Writing Gags, Selling" by Robin Hall.

* "The Essential George Booth" compiled and edited by Lee Lorenz.

* "The Wall Street Journal Portfolio of Business Cartoons" edited by Charles Preston.

* "The New Yorker Book of Business Cartoons" edited by Robert Mankoff.

* "Poking a Dead Frog: Conversations with Today's Top Comedy Writers" by Mike Sacks.

* "And Here's the Kicker: Conversations with 21 Humor Writers About Their Craft" by Mike Sacks.

* "Funny On Purpose: The Definitive Guide to An Unpredictable Career in Comedy" by Joe Randazzo.

* "The Naked Cartoonist" by Robert Mankoff.

* "Drawing on the Funny Side of the Brain" by Christopher Hart.

* "Comedy Writing Workbook" by Gene Perret.

This list is just scratching the surface. There are many more books that will help you to write and draw funny.

Happy Reading!
********

Any comments or questions? Email me at: gagsbyhelene@gmail.com



Wednesday, October 17, 2018

The Best Humor is the Truth

Where do I get my gag writing ideas? I read...a lot. Mostly I read newspapers, both daily and weekly. I like to think of it as getting paid to read the papers. I also read business and general-interest magazines, new books, old books, coupons that come in the mail, advertising inserts, all kinds of things. To be a writer I believe you have to love to read.

I also watch TV news about four times a day and listen to news radio when I'm in the car. I'm just trying to keep up with what's going on in the world...and there's a lot.

Over the past 25 years or so that I've been writing gags I've read many books about cartoon gagwriting and comedy, but, most importantly, I taught myself how to write single-panel gag cartoons by studying cartoon collections. This has given me priceless information about what subjects to write about and how to write a concise caption. Of course I have some favorite subjects. Besides husband/wife and business gags, I really like to write gags and help create cartoons about heaven and hell, the Grim Reaper, desert islands and prisoners.

Where else do I get my ideas?  I write about people I know and their quirks, but mostly I write about myself. I write a lot of self-deprecating humor and then have the words come out of the mouth of one of the cartoon characters I write for. The best humor is the truth. You just have to be able to see it, realize it, and then get it down on paper.

Any questions or comments? Write to me at: gagsbyhelene@gmail.com.


Wednesday, June 27, 2018

My Advertising Background

I currently write cartoon gags full time at home, but my career was in the newspaper business, selling print advertising for daily and weekly newspapers. I was always interested in working for a newspaper, starting in high school. I loved the fast pace of it, and honestly, sometimes I miss it.

A few years ago I decided to write gags full time, from home, after writing part time for about 20 years. My newspaper background and, specifically, my advertising background, has greatly helped me come up with ideas for gags. First of all, I consider myself a news junkie and read several papers and magazines regularly. I don't find this a burden. I need to know what's going on. Reading news and feature articles has provided me with lots of material that can be used in my gag writing. So has my background in print advertising.

In my career selling advertising space, I had to be very aware of upcoming holidays and special events. For example, I know that advertising peaks during Back-to-School and Graduation season, Christmas, Thanksgiving, Valentine's Day, New Year's Eve, Halloween, Mother's Day, Father's Day, July 4th, the Super Bowl, Labor Day, Memorial Day and this is just a sampling. In addition to writing gags that could be used any time of the year, I try to slant gags for specific holidays and events, and my background in advertising makes this easy. I also know that you have to write these event-specific gags many months ahead, but the extra effort does pay off.

Any questions? Send me an email at: gagsbyhelene@gmail.com.

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Still Writing Those Gags

I'm sorry it's been so long since I posted anything new. I've been very busy writing gags. I spend a lot of time reading newspapers and magazines, watching news on TV and listening to news on the radio. I also read news online and the stories on newyorker.com. I try to keep up with what's going on in the world and that's where I get a lot of my material. I'm also trying to focus more on personal experience, because the best humor is based on truth. I take my writing very seriously.

Of course there's rejection. Plenty of it. The fact that I keep persevering, coming up with new material, editing it, slanting it, perfecting it, sending it out again and again, it all must be very important to me.

I also read books about comedy writers and how they work and come up with material. A book I'm reading right now is "And Here's the Kicker," by Mike Sacks. I really like reading non-fiction books about comedy writers. It gives me ideas and lets me know I'm not alone.

I'm also grateful that I can write gags full time. It gives me the freedom to devote large chunks of time to read and write without feeling rushed. It's a luxury in a way.

Well, that's it for now. I wish great success to all my readers. Any comments, email me at: gagsbyhelene@gmail.com.

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

What's Funny to You

If you're going to be a successful gag writer, you have to be flexible. You may be asked to write gags about husband/wife relationships, doctor's visits, the Grim Reaper, heaven and hell, job interviews, science fiction, monsters, corporate earnings, trips to the pumpkin patch, animals, holidays, gardening, golf...the topics are endless. Some topics will be easy for you to write about; others you may have no interest in or knowledge of. It's not so easy. I know for myself, when given the freedom, I tend to write about topics I'm familiar with, have an interest in, or feel strongly about. This makes life a lot easier. It's when I'm asked to write about a topic I have no knowledge of or interest in that things may get a bit difficult. And, you have to get the approval of the cartoonist first. I try to write for syndicated cartoons that I have an interest in. That I can relate to. As far as slanting my gags for specific publications, I try to write for magazines that run cartoons I enjoy.

After writing gags for cartoons and, to a smaller extent, comedians, for over 20 years, I know there are topics I have no interest in and there are topics I can write about very easily. I guess that's because there has to be a connection between the writer/cartoonist and the subject matter. You have to feel strongly one way or another about the subject. Usually the humor comes out more easily when something drives you crazy...when you have very strong feelings about something. And, of course, the greatest humor is based on truth.

Some cartoonists give the writer feedback. Helpful hints. These are greatly appreciated and I try very hard to follow the cartoonist's suggestions. But, at the end of the day, you have to submit what you think is funny.

Any questions or comments? Write to me at: gagsbyhelene@gmail.com.