Wednesday, December 9, 2020

Dining Out - A Great Source of Ideas

 As I pretty much shelter in my own home, only going out for necessities like food and medicine, sometimes it's been difficult to come up with new gags for cartoons. I find that I need to get out of the house and experience things to come up with new ideas. In these difficult times, I do a lot of reading - at home.

 One of my favorite places to get ideas is restaurants. Maybe because I like to eat and really enjoy the atmosphere of talking to the people I'm dining with, eating out has a special place in my heart. The experience of eating out, to me, is also a great source of material: snooty and/or inattentive waiters, demanding customers, high prices, small portions, cold food that's supposed to be hot, hot food that's supposed to be cold. We could go on and on. Restaurant dining is just a great place to get ideas for cartoons. 

 When I write restaurant gags, mainly I write about myself. I'm one of those people who will take home a doggie bag and ask for extra napkins and silverware. Not that I don't have napkins and silverware at home. I just would like to use their napkins and silverware and save my own. Into the doggie bag I've been known to throw extra rolls left on the table and pats of butter or jellies. My husband jokes that maybe I should take home the ketchup, mustard, and salt and pepper shakers left on the table as well. When I write for the Lockhorns, I'm able to use many of these ideas. I'm really writing about myself.

I miss going out to restaurants. I miss going into New York City and observing people. I miss cultural events. I miss going to parties and hanging out with my writer and cartoonist friends. 

Things will get better. I long for the day when I can walk safely around my neighborhood or into a store and not wear a mask. 

Stay healthy!

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


Wednesday, December 2, 2020

The Benefits of Re-Reading Old Entries

A reader recently asked for assistance on how to connect with cartoonists. I directed them to the very helpful online publication, Gag Recap, which lists magazines that run cartoons,  giving a description of the setting, the punchline, the cartoonist, the date it ran, what the publication pays and information on how to submit. I believe the reader was able to obtain a copy, or copies, of Gag Recap, but had a few more specific questions about the gag submission process. I was able to look at old entries of this blog and give the reader specific entry dates for more information.

This motivated me to reread old blog entries myself. I started with the first entry, June 17, 2015, and read forward from there. Gee, I had a lot to say! I had a lot of information to share! I wrote at great length about how I get my ideas, what my daily routine is, how I'm constantly reading and jotting down ideas, single words and phrases. I touched on the importance of networking. How I learned to come up with single-panel cartoon ideas and captions by studying cartoon collections. How I motivated myself to keep writing even when all I saw was rejection. 

And then the strangest thing happened. As I'm reading these old entries, I got motivated! I'm reading about how to get ideas for cartoons and suddenly I'm coming up with new ideas for cartoons (which I promptly wrote down). With the world we're living in right now and the inability to network in person with people in the field, I was getting motivated! I was writing new gags! I was getting excited about following my own advice and creating something new. Amazing!

I don't know about you, but I'm ready to write!

Any questions, or comments, send me an email to: gagsbyhelene@gmail.com.



Thursday, November 12, 2020

We Press On!

Sales are down, my speaking engagements have all been postponed for the near future, and my husband and I are home together, every day...driving each other nuts. But, we press on!

I'm still writing full time. I haven't seen any of my writing/cartooning friends in eight months, which always motivated me to do better work, but we press on! 

It's easy to get discouraged. It's easy to feel you're working in a vacuum. I try to stay in touch with people through email, which is very helpful. I also find that going through New Yorker cartoon collections always gives me inspiration and new ideas. Right now I'm going through "The New Yorker Encyclopedia of Cartoons, Volumes 1 and 2." It reminds me how great these cartoons are...and how I can strive to come up with new ideas for more sales to that publication.

Years ago, when I was just starting out, I went through multiple New Yorker cartoon collections. That's how I learned how to write short, to-the-point, cartoon captions. I also learned which situations are used over and over again, who's talking to who, and so on. They were my textbooks then...and still are. 

Right now I'm writing for three syndicated cartoons and I supply gags to a few other cartoonists who submit to various publications. Unfortunately, the markets for single-panel cartoons have shrunk. For me, the fact that many business publications no longer accept cartoons has been a big loss, so I'm constantly looking for new markets for my work.

Things will get better. There's plenty of material out there.

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






Wednesday, May 6, 2020

Nothing...and Everything...Has Changed

As most everyone I know is working (or not working) from home, I am, of course, still working from home. My daily routine has not really changed. I still get up early and start reading newspapers, watching news on TV and checking some favorite websites for the latest news online. I still have my group of cartoonists I write for and I adhere to a regular schedule of reading and writing gags for specific people on specific days.

The difference is there is almost no human interaction. Almost all upcoming cartoonist (and non-cartoonist) events have been cancelled or postponed. Presentations I was scheduled to give to groups have also been postponed until who knows when. I speak to friends and relatives on the phone and I email my regular cartoonists and always end with "Stay healthy!" The libraries and bookstores are closed. So are the restaurants except for takeout and delivery. It's very quiet. Once a week or so we treat ourselves and order takeout. This is definitely the highlight of our week.

I keep saying that I'm going to write down my thoughts and observations during this pandemic, but I haven't done so yet. I also think that I should take my camera outside and record the following scenes: in the village where I live, which is almost deserted; the park where my husband and I visited on a few warm, sunny days recently where some people were wearing masks and many weren't. Some were adhering to six feet apart rules, and some weren't; Oh, and the supermarket. I could write volumes about how the experience of going to a supermarket has changed during the pandemic. I really should be writing all this down!

I admit that there's a lot of material out there right now about sheltering in place, working from home, wearing masks and too much togetherness. These are the topics I'm writing gags about right now.

On a positive note, everyone in my family is healthy. I'm so grateful that we're all safe and in our own homes.

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

Stay healthy!

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.