Wednesday, April 1, 2020

A Few Rambling Thoughts About My Day-To-Day

I've been writing gags for cartoonists from home full time long before the virus, so I know what it's like to work from home. Keeping a regular schedule is really important to me. Writing gags, constantly coming up with new ideas, is something I need quiet for, so I write at my desk in the basement or another quiet place I can find in the house. Planning out my days and weeks, knowing who I'm writing for on what days, is key for me

What is different is that now I can't go to a library to read, write and take out books. Another thing that's different is that I can't socialize with other cartoonists and/or writers because almost all events and get togethers have been cancelled. I hesitate to go to the post office for stamps, so now I'm ordering stamps online. I'll probably be doing the same for office supplies, the few I use.

I had recently started speaking to groups about cartoon gagwriting. I was able to get in some important speaking engagements before the virus really hit and cancelled almost everything where I live. One upcoming event was cancelled right away. Another, tentatively scheduled for June, may or may not happen in June.

Since I rarely see anyone I write for (as I send my ideas/gags through email or snail mail) my writing schedule has not been affected. I'm still getting up early (as I'm a morning person), reading the newspapers, checking email and beginning to write. I'm still making sales and cartoonists are still paying me. I guess the biggest change is that people are staying in their homes, non-essential businesses have closed and restaurants are closed except for take-out and delivery. I always looked forward to having lunch with a friend to catch up and, of course, this has stopped for the immediate future.

I will say this. If you're writing topical gags, there's plenty of material out there right now, from the TV, newspapers and, of course, online.

I've noticed that it's very quiet where I live now. I live near an airport and there are very few planes flying these days. I also live near a train station and a highway. Normally it's very noisy where I live. Not so much right now.

One other thing I've noticed: my street is on the end of a mail route. In normal times I get my mail very late in the day. I'm getting mail much earlier now, as there's almost no traffic to speak of.

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

Be well.

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

I Keep Writing

It's been over three months since I posted anything. Life happens. Rest assured I am still writing like crazy.

Sometimes writing alone can be very isolating. One of the things I do when I lack motivation is to reread some of the books that gave me inspiration in the past. So, today I ordered a bunch of books from the library that I've already read (some, multiple times) because they keep me going. They are:

* "Peter Arno: The Mad Mad World of the New Yorker's Greatest Cartoonist" by Michael Maslin.

* "I Read It Only For the Cartoons: the New Yorker's Most Brilliantly Twisted Artists" by Richard Gehr.

* "How About Never? Is Never Good For You?: My Life in Cartoons" by Bob Mankoff.

* "The Naked Cartoonist" by Bob Mankoff.

What can I say? Re-reading these books lets me know that there are other people out there who are doing the same things I'm doing. I am not alone.

*****

Recently I started speaking to groups about cartoon gag writing. After coming up with ideas for cartoons for the past 25 years, working alone at my typewriter or computer, or with paper and pen in hand, I decided I wanted to talk to people about what I do. So far, the audiences have been very receptive. Maybe I'll inspire just one person to become a gag writer and/or work in a creative environment. In the meantime, I'm having fun with it.

Any questions or comments, email me at: gagsbyhelene@gmail.com

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

New Books To Enjoy

Besides all the reading I do to get material for single-panel gag cartoons (for example, newspapers, magazines, online news and features, books, flyers and anything else that comes in the mail), I try to get my hands on new cartoon collections. Several new books featuring cartoons have recently been published and I look forward to reading all of them. They are:

* "Have I Got A Cartoon For You! The Moment Magazine Book of Jewish Cartoons," edited by Bob Mankoff.

* "Senior Moments. Older But No Wiser," by Tim Whyatt.

* "The Peanuts Papers," by Andrew Blauner.

* "Everyone's A Critic. The Ultimate Cartoon Book," edited by Bob Eckstein.

I just picked up a copy of "The Peanuts Papers" today and hope to begin reading it tonight. The others I will hunt down.

One of the ways I come up with cartoon ideas, besides finding words and phrases that can be used in my captions plus observing the world around me, is to go through cartoon collections for inspiration. I always seem to be able to come up with new ideas for cartoons by immersing myself in published cartoons. Studying cartoons in "New Yorker" since its inception helped me teach myself how to become a gag writer.

I hope you get a chance to read some of these cartoon collections. I'm certainly looking forward to it.

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

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Making Presentations...A New Career?

I spoke to a group of approximately 60 people recently about my journey to becoming a cartoon gag writer. It was the first time I was the only speaker on a program and the group was not in the cartooning business, although a few members of the Long Island Chapter of the National Cartoonist Society attended! I think it went okay! I started off telling the group which syndicated cartoons I write for currently and in the past, and which publications have bought cartoons where the idea and caption were mine.

I then gave the audience a timeline, starting with writing news and features for my high school and college newspapers, and how I got into selling print advertising for weekly and daily newspapers, which became my career. Then I told them how I started writing jokes on the side while working full time for newspapers, and how it evolved into coming up with ideas and captions for cartoons. The people in the audience knew me, were friends of mine, some knew I was a writer, but most had no idea what I actually did.

I guess a lot of people were intrigued because, after the talk, the overwhelming comment to me was, "Who knew?" Other wonderful comments were, "I really enjoyed your talk" and "You are a role model for other women."

I enjoyed talking to the group. It was fun and an important thing for me to do. From that one talk I've had offers to speak to other groups. I just have to refine my microphone skills and become somewhat more computer-literate.

What can I say? We writers work alone. It was freeing to speak about what I do. In all honestly,  I consider myself a ghostwriter.


Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Putting Ideas on Paper...Before I Forget Them

I admit...I've been AWOL for awhile. But, I have been busy keeping to a regular schedule, writing gags and trying to make more sales. The whole process can be frustrating, with all the markets that have stopped publishing cartoons and the competition to sell to what is still here.

Right now I'm preparing for a talk I'll be giving in about a month about cartoon gagwriting. I just went through many years of published cartoons that contain my gags and chose what I consider to be some good ones to display at the event. It was very good for me to do this and I highly recommend this to other gag writers. It reminded me that over the years I've come up with some good ideas that sold, specifically to The New Yorker, Harvard Business Review and Barron's, and that I have the ability to do it again. Sadly, some of the publications I've sold to over the years no longer buy cartoons. The markets for business cartoons, specifically, have really dried up.

So, I continue supplying material to the syndicated strips I currently write for and continue to seek new ones to contribute to. I keep up with what's going on in the news, read constantly and go through old gags and try to update them. Also, studying published cartoons always gives me ideas for new ones.

But, sometimes the best ideas come from just looking around, listening to people talk, being aware of what's going on around you. There's humor everywhere...and, as a writer, I need to put these ideas on paper, and quickly...before I forget them.

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


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