Wednesday, April 5, 2017

My Interview on Readersvoice.com

Hello, Everyone! Happy Wednesday. I thought some of you might enjoy reading an interview I gave recently to Simon Sandall's website, www.readersvoice.com. Once a month Simon interviews someone around the world and asks them about their creative process and which books have inspired them. If you go to this website you'll find out something about my process and how I reached this point in my writing career.

Any comments, contact me at: gagsbyhelene@gmail.com.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Sad News from the Cartooning World

I just got the news that Jack Ziegler, a cartoonist whose work has appeared in The New Yorker since 1974, has died. You can read an interview Michael Maslin conducted with Jack Ziegler in October on Michael's website, www.michaelmaslin.com and click on "Inkspill."

As for me, I'm always looking for new people to write for and ways to improve the writing I send out to my regular cartoonists. I guess you can say I'm focused. This entails studying the cartoonist's published cartoons to figure out what they really want. Sometimes I can figure it out. Sometimes I can't. In the end, I send out what I think is funny. I'm lucky that I can work at home and it's quiet here (usually) during the day which is good because I work best with no distractions. Then, after spending too much time by myself, I need to get out and see people, which is good because I get ideas based on real life, interacting with the outside world as well as with family. And, recognizing the humor that's right in front of me as I observe the interactions between family members gives me plenty of material.

Truth is the basis of the best humor.

Have a productive week.

Email me at: gagsbyhelene@gmail.com.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Last night I attended a party at the Society of Illustrators, where the Manhattan Chapter of the National Cartoonists Society celebrated the 88th birthday of its member, Arnold Roth. It was a wonderful gathering of syndicated and non-syndicated cartoonists, writers, friends and family of a very funny, warm and talented person. There was food, cake, beverage and lots of laughter and good times which comes naturally with being with good people. My husband and I even won a very special raffle prize!

After being away from the group for several months, it was an especially happy occasion for me to be back together with creative people in the industry. I work alone, as so many of the people there do, and it was great to trade stories, meet new people and just enjoy being together in a lovely venue with wonderful people. Gatherings like this keep me going.

Any comments, contact me at: gagsbyhelene@gmail.com.

Have a great day!

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Still Writing

I've been absent from writing this column for several weeks but, rest assured, I'm still writing! Still reading newspapers and magazines. Still writing down words and phrases to use in my gags. I seem to be more determined than ever to have my ideas appear in a published cartoon. I seem to be more focused lately, getting rid of a bunch of time-consuming stuff that leads nowhere and concentrating on the project at hand. There's humor all around. I truly believe that the best humor is based on the truth. I just have to figure out the best way to get it down on paper and then I have to go with what's funny to me.

Continued success to all my readers!

Now it's back to work!


Wednesday, January 4, 2017

A New Chapter in My Life - 2017

A Happy & Healthy New Year to All!

Every new year is like a blank slate. It presents all kinds of new possibilities. "Anything is Possible!" is one of the slogans I keep at my desk. Here are a few things I plan to do to make 2017 better than 2016 as far as my writing career is concerned. Hopefully, these items will help you generate your own list.

* I look back over 2016 and see where I had the most success...who I wrote for, how many gags I sold, how much money I made. What worked and what didn't. Because I keep records of every sale to every publication and with every cartoonist, I can easily figure out where I should spend my time and effort for 2017.

* I set monetary goals for 2017. I list the cartoonists I worked with in 2016 and set a specific goal of how much money I plan to make with each of them in the new year. I guess you could call this forecasting. I also set goals like "I will find three new cartoonists to write for in 2017," or "I will regularly read The Wall Street Journal," or "I will start submitting gags to so-and-so cartoonist on a weekly basis" or "I will join such-and-such writing organization."

* I continue my writing routine. For example, I send gags to a certain cartoonist on Mondays, I read the Sunday New York Times on Tuesdays, I write new gags for another cartoonist on Wednesdays, I write my blog on Wednesdays.

* I make to-do lists. In every creative job I've held, both full time in advertising for various publications and full time as a freelance writer, I've always made a to-do list in the afternoon for the next day's work. Believe it or not, I get a great sense of accomplishment when I can cross an item off my to-do list! Because I work on so many things on any given day and I don't want to forget anything, to-do lists keeps me focused. (I understand, it's not for everyone, but it works for me.)

* I'm continuously looking for new markets for my writing. I search the Internet for cartoon writing opportunities, keep in touch with other writers and cartoonists (networking!) and just generally be willing to try new projects. I also do proofreading and editing for a local direct mail firm. Another marketable skill!

* I try to keep focused on what I want to accomplish with my writing. For me, I enjoy making people laugh and hope that the cartoons that contain my gags will bring a laugh to someone. I also keep copies of published cartoons with my gags and keep them in a portfolio. Periodically it's helpful to look over these cartoons. It lets me know I can do this. It's also something I'd like to leave for my children.

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


Wednesday, November 30, 2016

The Library - My Second Home

When I'm not working at home (reading, writing, re-writing, staring at the wall) you can usually find me at one of the area's libraries (reading, writing, re-writing, staring at the wall). I use the libraries to read newspapers and magazines that I don't subscribe to (Harvard Business Review, Barron's, Wall Street Journal and others). I also use the library to find books on the subjects I'm writing about. When I want to write gags about cooking or food, I borrow books about cooking and food. When I want to write business gags, I check out new books about how to succeed in business, prepare for job interviews, avoid getting fired, etc. I also seem to check out a lot of new books about money and finance (saving money, saving for retirement, not having enough money, etc.)

I'm also always looking for new books about cartooning (developing ideas, writing great captions, etc.). If I find a new book of cartoon collections, these go home with me as well.

I have to say that working in the library has its ups and downs. Usually I can find a comfortable chair in a reading area, where I can get comfortable, with a pad of paper next to me and my reading material in hand. Of course, other people have the same idea. Most are quietly reading like I am, trying to find a spot with minimal noise. However, there are some people who will use these quiet areas of the library to make and receive phone calls. There are others who find a comfortable chair and take a nap, snoring so loud that it's almost impossible to concentrate. When that happens I usually leave the area and either find another "quiet" area or get a study room to myself.

Here are a few books I seem to read again and again for inspiration:

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

* "How about Never - Is Never Good For You" by Robert Mankoff.

* "The Complete Cartoons of the New Yorker" from 2004, edited by Robert Mankoff.

There are many, many others I go back to when I need some inspiration. Now it's back to work!

Have a great day!

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Getting Together with Like-Minded People

As a cartoon gag writer, I spend most of my days looking for material. To find this material, I read a lot of newspapers and magazines, watch a lot of TV news, read stories on specific websites, read relevant books, etc. All this is pretty much done alone, either at home or at a library. But I realize more than ever that it's important to get together with others who understand what you do, are encouraging, can offer suggestions and help, and may be able to hire you. I've received some of my best leads concerning who I could write for from like-minded creative people I've met at social gatherings. It's really important to get together with others who do what you do, who even if they don't do exactly what you do, can be supportive of what you do. People who tell you you're a good writer or a good artist. This encouragement is necessary to keep on going when sales are down and the confidence level is at an all-time low.

So, I plan to follow my own advice. I know I have to get out of the house and be with people! I used to regularly attend events of the National Cartoonists Society in my area but, because of the distance and time involved, I've slowly drifted away from it. I plan to go back. The Long Island chapter of the NCS will be holding its monthly luncheon later this month and I plan to be there. The Manhattan chapter of the NCS will be holding their annual holiday party in December and I plan to be there. The New Jersey chapter is having a large get-together in January and I plan to be there. The relationships you make in pursuing any creative endeavor cannot be underestimated. I'll let you know how it all goes.

Comments? You can email me at: gagsbyhelene@gmail.com.