Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Why I'm Qualified To Write Single-Panel Gag Cartoons

This entry will be like a job interview. The hirer asks me why I think I'm qualified for the position and I tell him or her.

But first, let me start by saying my career has always been very important to me. I worked for over 20 years in the newspaper business - something I cared and still care deeply about. For years I've asked myself, 'Is this what I should be doing?' as I sold print advertising full time and wrote cartoon gags on the side. I was always questioning - always wanting to do more - always wondering if I had found the thing I should be doing.

Almost two years ago I left my full time advertising job and began writing gags full time. Since then my writing has improved as I now devote so much more time to it. I'm very committed to my work and take this writing gig very seriously. I have to say that I believe I have found what I should be doing.

Here's 10 reasons why I believe I should be writing cartoon gags:

1. I must keep up with what's going on in the world - reading newspapers, listening to news radio, watching the news on TV - you get the picture. This is really important if you want to write topical material.

2. I like being able to make characters say things to each other that I wouldn't or couldn't say to someone in person.

3. I like making fun of arrogant bosses, snooty waiters, demanding diners, nasty know what I mean.

4. I read all the time - and not just newspapers. I also read non-fiction books, magazines, menus, shopping circulars, junk mail, etc. If I'm not reading several books at any given time  I get really nervous.

5. I have to say I'm interested in things - not every thing, but I enjoy going to museums, restaurants, shopping malls, flea markets, weddings and gala fundraisers. I love being with people (but not all people) and listening to what they say to each other.

6. I like to see my work in print (but online is okay, too).

7. I like to think that someone is getting a good laugh from reading my work.

8. I have pen and paper with me wherever I go - and I actually write down funny things that people say to each other.

9. If you saw my desk, you'd say, 'This is the desk of a writer!' There are piles of paper, index cards, calendars, to-do lists, pens, markers, notebooks, a computer, a typewriter, paper, paper and more paper, of course, in neat and not-so-neat piles...definite signs of a writer!

10. Things are getting better for me. I can honestly say I love what I do.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

What I've Been Doing Lately and Where I'm Headed

My husband and I attended the Manhattan Chapter of the National Cartoonists Society's holiday party this past Saturday night at the Society of Illustrators. What a wonderful evening! It was great to catch up with cartooning friends from the city, Long Island, New Jersey, Connecticut and wherever else they were from, meet new people, share lots of laughs and eat some great food. The Society of Illustrators is a wonderful place to have a party. Lots of great artwork line the halls of this welcoming spot. The holiday decorations just added to the whole scene. Our thanks to chapter president, Ed Steckley, and his team for putting on such a terrific evening.

Recently I saw the documentary "Very Semi-Serious" at the School of Visual Arts in the city, which focused on The New Yorker cartoonists and their journeys to get their cartoons accepted into the magazine. I enjoyed this film so much and plan to see it again.

I've been seriously thinking of doing some speaking to groups about cartoon gagwriting. Not being very computer-literate this could be a major project as I need to prepare a presentation where I can show published cartoons that contain my gags. My children are quite computer-literate and I plan to ask them to assist me in doing this - when they have the time. My goal is to start by speaking at area libraries and, once I know what I'm doing, speaking at bigger libraries! If anyone does this I'd like to hear from you. You can send me an email at:

Now that 2016 is just around the corner, it's time to write out lists of goals I have for the new year. I include such things as monetary goals, events I want to attend and specific people I want to meet. What can I say? I'm a writer. One of the things I write is lists. It works for me.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Letting The Humor Out

In order to write funny stuff - whether it be cartoons, comedy skits, screenplays or slogans on buttons and magnets, I think you have to have a skewed way of looking at things. I think you have to recognize the comedy and craziness in everyday life and, then, take the risk of putting it on paper. Sometimes this makes you appear to others as "odd" or "strange." I've watched how people interact with each other, argue, stand their ground, and once said to someone in the middle of a heated exchange, "You have no idea how funny you are." This was met with stares of disbelief and anger, which was funny in itself.

But while you're looking at the world differently and seeing the humor in everyday situations, you have to be able to put this "funny" on paper, or online, or however you want to make a record of it. You have to be willing to let the humor out - you have to be willing to put things down on paper that you would never say in public. You have to take risks. It's what I call "letting the humor out."

Recently I was at an event where I struck up a conversation with another writer, someone who wrote news and features (my background) and seemed interested in how I came up with ideas for cartoons. I told her I try to see the humor in various situations. In the case of human relationships, I have the characters say things to each other that I would  never say to someone in real life. The surprise of people saying these things to each other (speaking the truth when it's hard to do so in real life) is what creates the connection and the humor. You have to be willing to take the risk of putting these thoughts on paper and not just thinking about them.

The funniest thing in the world is the truth.

You have to let the humor out.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Handling Rejection

I won't lie to you. The cartooning business is filled with rejection. If you can't handle constant rejection, you should try another career.

I've written tens of thousands of cartoon gags over the years. These gags have circulated to many, many cartoonists, been rejected again and again, been revised again and again, and hopefully, someday, maybe, will actually sell. Sometimes a gag will sell that has circulated for over ten years. And then there are other gags you send out and they're bought almost immediately. Such is the ironies of the cartooning business. Anyway, rejection is the norm.

I wouldn't be telling the truth if I said that rejection doesn't bother me. I can take repeated rejection of my writing. I really can. However, there are times when the constant rejection does get to me, especially if I think I wrote something BRILLIANT AND IT'S STILL REJECTED! It's like, 'What does this person WANT?' Don't they realize how much I'm much time I've put into much this MEANS TO ME??? It's like the straw that broke the camel's back. I can take 15 rejections all in a row but when the 16th rejection comes...WATCH OUT! I can't deal with this anymore! Then I tell myself that I'm STILL A GOOD PERSON...EVEN IF THEY DON'T LIKE MY GAGS!

Of course, then, after a long bout of constant rejection and the urge to give up, a letter arrives with a check in it. Or an email arrives with news that something just sold! Then everything is right with the world again. My writing is good...THEY DO LIKE ME!

Does any of this kvetching sound familiar? How do you handle it? Tell me about it at

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

A Question For My Readers

This week I'd like to pose a question to my readers, who are mostly made up of writers and cartoonists. I'd like to ask where you get your cartoon ideas, specifically, what is the most reliable way you get them. Over the six months I've been writing this blog I've shared many of my ideas with you. Now I ask that you share some of your ideas with me and I will then try to compile this information and share it with you.

Send me an email at: and let me know what works for you.

Thank you in advance.


Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Much To Be Thankful For

I want to wish everyone a Happy Thanksgiving. There's much to be thankful, friends, a warm home, a career that I enjoy. The list could go on and on. It's a time to sit down and reflect on all the good things that are right in front of you. To focus on what is really important.

 Be well and enjoy the day.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Focusing On What You Want

Years ago I read a book called "The Secret," by Rhonda Byrne. It changed my life. Its simple message of focusing on what you want and not on what you don't want is something I can relate to. I spend just as much time as everyone else complaining and kvetching about what's wrong in my life. Really getting into it. Focusing on it. Getting mad about it. What I should be doing, and what the book keeps repeating, is focusing on what you want and making it happen.

This simple theme can be applied to my personal life but also to my professional life as well. For many years I worked in the field of advertising and wrote gags on the side, on weekends and evenings. Now I write full time for many different cartoonists. I've developed a routine, a regular schedule, of who I write for on which days, sending gags on a regular basis to many people. I need this structure, but I also need a direction - I need to have a goal - and a plan to get there.

This writing business is full of rejection, but it's also full of accomplishment and seeing your work in print and/or online. You try things. Some work. Some don't. It's important for me to constantly re-evaluate what works for me and what doesn't. What's easy for me to do and what isn't. And, then it's important to focus on what I want - on the goals I've set - and perhaps give up some of the projects that don't work.  When you figure out what it is that you really want you can make definite plans to get there. And, when you finally are working towards this goal you'll know it and the still, small voice inside you will be saying, 'This is what I should be doing.'

Any comments? Contact me at:

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

A Few Things I've Learned

A Few Things I've Learned As I Write Cartoon Gags Everyday:

1. Cartoon ideas breed more cartoon ideas. Just looking at published cartoons gives you ideas for new cartoons. It's very important to familiarize yourself with the cartoons in the newspapers or magazines you want to write for. The situations and gags will lead to new situations and new gags.

2. I write about what's easiest for me to write about. I use my background, interests and opinions to create new ideas all the time. For instance:

a. I spend a lot of time alone writing gags. Therefore, I find it easy to write gags about prisoners. Same reason for being able to write about being alone on a desert island.
b. I come from a crazy family and can therefore easily write gags about therapy.
c. I've been married  a long time and have two grown children. I can easily write about husbands and wives and all the craziness that goes along with long term relationships.
d. I see doctors more than occasionally. I can easily write gags about doctors and imaginary illness.
e. And, the lists go on and on.

3. I've begun to realize the importance of writing about the things that drive me crazy, for instance:

a. People trying to sell me things over the phone
b. The lack of help I often receive from customer service representatives
c. Rude customers in restaurants
d. The way bosses intimidate their workers

These issues are ripe for humor.

4. I've learned to get my ideas on paper, take a break and then go back to my ideas to try to create something meaningful.

5.  It's really important to try to familiarize yourself with what's trending in technology, fashion, entertainment, etc. Many publications want their cartoons to be about what's on trend now.

6. It's very important to get your work out there and let people know what you do.

7. It's also very important to meet the people who can hire you.

8. Writing a blog is a very effective way of communicating on social media.

That's all for now. There's a lot of other things I've learned but I'll go into that in other entries.

Comments or questions? Email me at:

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Valuable Website For You To Check Out

As a follower of the New Yorker magazine for many years, I read every issue cover to cover. I also study the cartoons. Going through every cartoon in its collection, from 1925, has made me a better gag writer. For those who read the articles and study the cartoons, there is a terrific website I'd like to make you aware of if you don't know about it already.

Michael Maslin, a long time New Yorker cartoonist, has created, since 2008, a very informative section of his website called Ink Spill, which gives information about past and present New Yorker cartoonists and their work. In it, you'll find news about book signings, exhibits, interviews and appearances. You'll find a short bio section and links to the cartoonists' websites and blogs. There's a library section which highlights books written and/or illustrated by the cartoonists. There's also a section of essays about the magazine and its cartoonists.

I read Ink Spill every day (as it's updated constantly) and I find it very informative and well-written.  Because I write so many cartoon gags with the New Yorker in mind, I find it very helpful to find out more about the cartoons' creators and their processes.

You can find Ink Spill at

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

The Joy of Networking

I'm a firm believer in the power of know...meeting people through various means for the purpose of building your business. Whether it be connecting online or in person, networking can be a very effective way of making contacts which can be beneficial to both parties.

I'm an associate member of the National Cartoonists Society, a professional organization with chapters all over the country. Through this organization I've made hundreds of contacts. They have open meetings which means even if you're not a member you can attend their local get-togethers. I live on Long Island, which has a very large chapter of the NCS. I've attended their luncheons on and off for about 16 years and have met wonderful people. Living close to New York City, I now also attend the monthly get-togethers of the Manhattan chapter. I'm even invited to the summer barbeque of the New Jersey Chapter!

Since most writers and cartoonists work by themselves it's really important to get out and talk to people who do the same type of work you do. If you're a 'people person' like me, it's a necessity. It's a great opportunity to let others know what you do, show your work, get tips on how to improve your work, find out about markets for your work, and maybe even find someone to collaborate with.

Online I have profiles on LinkedIn and Facebook. I'm a member of several groups on both of these sites. Because I know about the power of the written word, I started this blog four months ago to share some of my insights about cartoon gagwriting with others. It's been amazing how many people have written to me through this blog, saying they do the same type of work I do and really appreciate my suggestions. Through this blog I've gotten new work and let people know what I do. Networking at its finest!

I also enjoy talking about what I do. I've spoken to groups about cartoon gagwriting. Many people have come up to me and said they never realized that some cartoonists have writers coming up with ideas for them. Made me feel like a rock star!

I cannot stress enough the power of networking, whether in person, online, on the phone or through the mail (who writes letters anymore?). You have to let people know what you do. You have to show enthusiasm for your work and other's work. You have to be willing to help others, be encouraging, answer questions, congratulate people on their accomplishments and above all, always stay positive.

Any comments or questions, email me at:

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Writing Cartoon Captions - 102

As I continue to come up with ideas for single-panel gag cartoons and, specifically, come up with effective captions (going on 19 years now), I continue to see the value of making lists of words and phrases. If I were a painter, it would be like having more paint colors to choose from. The longer the lists, the better the writing. And, it's not just the words that everyone would think of. You have to make lists which include small things, minor things, that maybe no one else would have thought of.

Let's say I want to write gags about food. It's not enough to list beef, chicken, fruit, vegetables and potatoes. You have to get specific: Beef Stroganoff, Chicken A La King, Kung Pao Chicken, papaya, mango, smoothie, organic, fat free, gluten free, sugar free, tofu, fish taco, meatball sliders, quinoa, cucumbers, winter squash, summer squash, spaghetti squash, eggplant, seedless grapes, bok choy, cloves of garlic, iceberg lettuce, Romaine lettuce. The list could go on and on. Think of walking through a farmer's market and the fruits and vegetables you'd see. Write down the odd items - the ones you don't see everywhere. Think of walking around a large supermarket and the various departments: meat, fish, cheeses, the bakery, the bulk foods aisle, the dairy aisle, the frozen food aisle, the prepared food aisle (items to grab and go). All these items can go on your list.

If you're writing about Chinese food, think of the various foods on the menu: the Hot and Sour Soup, the eggrolls, the Lo Mein dishes, the Sweet and Sour Dishes, the Chow Mein dishes, the fortune cookies, the chop sticks, the fried noodles and duck sauce. Kind of makes you hungry, doesn't it?

The thing is, you have to get specific. You have to make lists of things that people identify with, and also the obscure, the things that only someone "in the know" or "on trend" would know about. That's why I try to keep up with the latest trends in food, fashion, digital devices, etc. That's why I read a lot of contemporary magazines and newspapers. I make lists.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Song Titles, Book Titles, Movie Titles, etc.

A great source of gags for single-panel cartoons is song, book, movie, television and Broadway show titles. If you pick a familiar title (current or in the past, although current is better) and change it or do the reverse of it, you can many times come up with an idea for a cartoon.

My local library loans movies and I've been known to go down the rows of movies, with pen and paper in hand, and jot down titles that I think would lend itself to a great gag. Same for what seems to be thousands of books in my house, many from my college days as an English major. These titles, well known because they're classics, can also be used, as can song, television and Broadway show titles. Try doing the reverse of the title and see if it becomes funny. Then visualize how it can be illustrated.

Of course for those who use the Internet for all kinds of information, you can find titles of almost anything online. Just Googling "Top songs of the '60's" will get you all kinds of good stuff. (It will also bring back all kinds of memories, hopefully good ones. You might spend so much time singing to the oldies that you'll forget about the gagwriting).

Good luck with these ideas and let me know if they help you. You can send me an e-mail at:

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Keeping A Regular Schedule

Even though I work at home, I consider my gagwriting a full time job. I try to keep a regular schedule. Most of the thought behind planning my day has to do with the fact that I'm a "morning person."

I'm at my desk, which is located in the office I created for myself in my finished basement, at 8am Monday through Friday. This isn't difficult for me because I've realized I'm much more productive at that time in the morning than I am at 5pm. So, if I really want to tackle something important, I do it at 8am. Of course I scan my e-mail first thing. Of course I check how many people are reading my blog. If I'm starting a new project and need to get writing right away, I won't answer e-mail other than something very important. I want to get started at whatever project is at hand.

Monday is mostly a "reading day." I go to one of the well-stocked libraries near my house and read Barron's and several sections of Sunday's New York Times. If a new issue of Harvard Business Review has come out I read that, too. I should say that before I even leave the house I've read my local daily newspaper, Newsday, while eating breakfast and watching local news. While at the library, I scan the new non-fiction books and check out at least a couple, which will help me to create new gags during the week at home. My favorite book topics are business and food. But, I'm always pleasantly surprised when I read something that's on a totally different topic, like travel, or fashion, or what's trending, and I'm able to create all kinds of new material.

Tuesday and the rest of the week are generally writing days. I use the words and phrases I've written down on Monday to, create new gags. I have a regular schedule of which cartoonists are sent gags on which days. Almost all the cartoonists I work with allow me to send my gags online, which is wonderful because it's instantaneous and there's no postage involved. My week is a regular schedule of writing gags and pieces of gags in my notebook, then typing them on index cards (with a number assigned to them), compiling them for the right cartoonist, and finally, sending the gags either online or typing them on thin gag slips and mailing them to the cartoonist. Of course I write on the back of my copy who I sent it to and the date. When they're "held" I mark them "held" and by which cartoonist and the date. The gags not being "held" are then available to be sent elsewhere.

Let me say that I try to keep a regular schedule but you also have to be flexible. Sometimes a cartoonist wants a specific type of gag and wants it right away. You make time to do it, especially with a cartoonist you just started writing for where you want to make a good impression and let that person know you're serious about what you do.

I'm constantly editing and updating my gags as well as writing new ones. This is what I do. This is the work. There's a lot of rejection in this business but when you see the cartoon in print with your idea and your caption it's wonderful.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Getting Help with Word Association

I write about all types of subjects and I have my favorites:  business, relationships, eating out, heaven and hell, the Grim Reaper, prisoners and desert islands. Gags on these topics are pretty easy for me to write. However, sometimes I'm asked to write about subjects I don't have that much knowledge of, for example, biology, farming or horse racing. When that happens I have to do some research.

Usually, making a list of words off the top of my head that relate to this unfamiliar topic is not so easy and doesn't give me great results. That's when I need some help. I can try using the Internet to find words and phrases about the subject. Another idea is to find a magazine or book which deals with the topic (I spend lots of time in the library and take out books I can read at home). Anyway, I study these magazines and/or books and jot down words and phrases that could be used in writing gags. A lot of times this is boring if I'm not interested in the topic. Other times it's baffling, because I don't understand the topic. That's when I wish I were writing about business, relationships and eating out. But ultimately I plug away and do what I have to do. If the subject is technical and boring to me, many times the end result is that I won't write much worth sending to anyone. It's just not easy for me. That's when I have to revert to the simplest words and phrases, which is what I came up with before I read the magazine or book.

You do what you can do.

I must say that I've surprised myself many times as I've come up with gags about topics that I never wrote about before. When you try writing for new markets you'll soon find out what works and what doesn't. What's easy for you. And, in the process you might find a whole new area of writing that you can be great at. Anything is possible.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Breaking Through a Writing Slump

There are times when the ideas just aren't flowing. For those of us who need to come up with a lot of ideas on a regular basis, this could be problematic. I help myself, first of all, by keeping a regular schedule, which entails a lot of reading followed by a lot of writing. I read several publications on a regular basis. First of all, I read my daily newspaper, Newsday, for national and local news. I also read the Sunday New York Times. Because I write a lot of business gags, I read Harvard Business Review, Barron's and the Wall Street Journal. Because keeping up with trends is so important, I read a Long Island regional magazine, called Long Island Pulse. It's filled with feature stories about trends in cooking, fashion, dining out and sports. For the same reasons I read Reader's Digest and USA Today because they regularly discuss what's trending.

Because I write a lot of gags about restaurants, food and cooking, I read books about restaurants, food and cooking. Words, phrases, expressions, trends...all this "stuff" goes into my notebook and is the raw material for future gags. I guess it's like having a large variety of paint on your canvas before you paint anything.

When I get really stumped, I go through books of cartoon collections. For me, this has always been a sure-fire way of creating new ideas. For example, I'll see a published cartoon about a boss and a worker talking about the fact that there will be no pay raises. This leads me to keep the same setting, but write my own, original caption about the fact that there will be no pay raises. Or maybe I see a cartoon about an applicant talking to a hirer about his qualifications, or lack thereof, and I'll write a new caption about the same topic. You have to keep all kinds of resources available to you.

At this moment I have thousands of gags on my desk. Most have been sent to various cartoonists and rejected. I regularly go through these "rejects" and send them out to other cartoonists. I'm also constantly editing them and slanting them toward other markets. For example, a gag about a child and his parent can easily be slanted to be about a worker and a boss.

So I guess I can say that when I get in a writing slump I read. I read something interesting to me, take notes and, later, come back and do the actual writing. But going through cartoon collections, especially collections of New Yorker cartoons, has been a great source of inspiration.

I hope this has been helpful. Any comments or questions about this entry, contact me at:

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Just Rambling on About This Blog

People are reading this blog. I know it. They're sharing stories with me about their journey as a writer or cartoonist. They're asking questions. They're asking for advice. They're thanking me for sharing my thoughts about ghostwriting, how I get my ideas, how I got to this place in my life.

I love what I do. I love being creative. I never thought of myself as creative because I don't draw. I don't paint. I never even took an art class. But, I write, and I work with people who are amazing artists and can take my ideas and create something fresh and funny. So, I guess I am creative. I find that the funniest things are based on reality. I use past experiences and opinions about things to create cartoons. Hopefully, they'll wind up in print (or online) and that will mean that others will also be able to enjoy them. Maybe they'll make someone laugh. I get a lot of satisfaction seeing my work in print. I don't get my name on the work, but I know that the work is mine. I created it. If I look at my portfolio, which contains hundreds of my ideas published in the form of cartoons, I immediately know what the origin is. The best ones are based on my life or the lives of people I know.

Being a writer, I can work almost anywhere. I've written jokes at the beach, on my backyard deck, in the cold basement in the dead of winter where, even with the heat on, it's still cold. Right now, writing this in the basement of my home, where my office is, where the temperature outside is over 90 degrees, it's warm in here, even with the air conditioning on. I've written in coffee shops, the library, in the den of my home, in the car, on the Long Island Rail Road. I don't leave the house if I don't want to, but after several days of staying inside, I want to. Being with people gives me energy...and ideas.

I keep a regular writing schedule. I consider what I do a full time job. I'm very fortunate that I'm able to do this. I take this writing business very seriously. I finally found my niche. This is what I'm supposed to be doing.

If any of you have any comments or questions, please email them to:

Thank you for reading this. Hope it's been helpful.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Knowing a Little About a Lot of Things

I write for quite a few cartoonists, each with their own needs and requirements. I have to change directions all the time. One morning I'll be writing husband and wife gags. In the afternoon I'm writing about the business world. The next morning I might be writing about kids; that afternoon I might be writing about the things that go on in restaurants. I guess you have to be willing to be flexible. To change gears. To do the research.

I have lots of personal favorite topics. I love writing gags about desert islands, heaven and hell, prisoners, the Grim Reaper, people sitting on a beach and reading a message being dragged by a plane overhead, the dynamic between wait staff and customers in restaurants. I could write these gags all day. They seem to come easy to me. But not every cartoonist wants gags about heaven and hell, prison, the Grim Reaper and the beach. I get asked to write about topics I have no real opinion about, or rather, not much interest in. Then I have to do some research. I'll study the publication where the cartoon will, hopefully, someday, appear. This usually means going to the library and studying back issues. Sitting down in a quiet area and copying down phrases and topics I can write about. Studying the cartoons already published. If I can't get to the library, I can get all kinds of information about any topic on the Internet. I may not know a lot or have a great interest in science, for example, but I have to write gags about scientists so I do my research. Needless to say, I have better luck with some topics than others.

Some cartoonists let me write about any topic I want, as long as it's funny and, in the opinion of the cartoonist, can be drawn up by him or her and has the potential to sell. Obviously, what is funny to me may not be funny to someone else. This is the reality of the business. We all go through this.

I guess you could call me a generalist. I know a little bit about a lot of things and keep learning more every day. I read newspapers, listen to news radio, watch television news, trying to keep up with what's going on in the world. This is a requirement of a writer. I think of it as getting paid to read the newspaper.

Any comments or questions, send me an e-mail at:

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Focus on What You Want

I read a lot of motivational-type books. In fact, I read them over and over again. Two of my favorites are the classic, "Think and Grow Rich" by Napoleon Hill and the more contemporary "The Secret" by Rhonda Byrne. "Think and Grow Rich" has to do with thoughts being things and how your thoughts and beliefs determine what actually happens to you. The theme of "The Secret," in my opinion, is to focus on what you want, not on what you don't want. I read these books over and over. "Focus on what you want" has become my guide.

In my own experience, sometimes I've taken on too many projects at once, juggling between many and not putting 100% of my attention to one thing. I've become much better at sorting these things out, prioritizing what needs to be done first and focusing on the one project I'm working on. I try to be organized, make a to-do list for myself every day, get assignments done in advance so that I don't have to be in a panic to produce gags at the last minute. This works for me.

I guess you have to constantly ask yourself what's the most important thing you need to be working on at that moment. Once you identify what your priority is you have to focus on it. If you're working on your own strip, or someone else's strip, or non-syndicated single-panel gag cartoons for a specific publication, you have to live and breath it; make it a big part of your life, look at it from all angles, put all your energy into it and believe that you will succeed at it.

Focus on what you want - not on what you don't want.

And, don't work completely in isolation. Get out and talk to people in the same field if at all possible, or correspond with people by e-mail or phone. Show people what you do. Send your work out to the world. Be proud of it. Here's another one of my favorite sayings: "You won't catch fish if you don't go fishing." 

Finally: Enjoy what you do.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Identifying with your Characters or Write What You Know

It doesn't really matter if you're writing a novel, a magazine article, a cartoon strip or poetry. It's easier to write about something you know than what you don't know anything about. If you've spent your life working in education, writing about students, parents, teachers and homework should come easier than if you've spent years working in construction.

As I write and submit cartoon gags, thousands of them, I often ask myself what should I be writing about? What should I be focusing on? What's easy for me? For the cartoonist or gagwriter, if you can find the subject you know and have opinions about, it'll be a lot easier for you to succeed. I spent many years working in offices, so I can relate to the whole boss/worker situation. I know about job interviews, having gone on many of them over the years. I know about salary issues, co-worker issues and all the other crazy things that go on in offices. I write a lot of business gags and they seem to come easy to me.

I also write for the syndicated strip, The Lockhorns. This very long-running strip shows, with great humor, the conflict between husband, wife and wife's mother, with a marriage counselor, friends, doctors and shopkeepers added to the mix. The thing is, I can identify with this couple, drawing from my own experience, my husband's, my father's, the fact that I now am a mother-in-law, etc. Some of these issues are: my lack of cooking ability, my tendency to spend money, my tendency to not spend money, to not have enough money, laziness, family issues, etc. There's plenty of material I can find  right around my house. It's easy for me because I can relate to it.

I guess if you're thinking about creating a cartoon strip or just submitting cartoons to various publications, you should ask yourself what's easy for you to write about, what opinions do you have, what's funny about your life. It will be much easier to write about these things for the long haul than to write about something you know nothing about. You have to be honest about it, but once you find what you should be writing about it gets much easier.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

A Few Books To Enjoy

This week I'd like to mention a few books I've read which may be of interest to you. They've motivated me and helped me write better. They're so full of relevant information that you can read them again and again and always learn something new.

Besides many New Yorker cartoon collections, my list includes:

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

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

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

* "I Only Read It for the Cartoons" by Richard Gehr.

* "How About Never - Is Never Good for You?" by Bob Mankoff.

* "Hand-Drawn Jokes for Smart Attractive People" by Matt Diffee.

There are countless others I've read over the years.

Send me an e-mail to: if any of these books have been particularly helpful to you and if there are others you'd like to recommend.


Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Ideas Are Everywhere!

Where do ideas come from? From everywhere. From observing what's going on around you, from overheard conversations, from reading current newspapers and magazines, from news radio, from watching TV. I carry a pad of paper and pen with me to jot down ideas. I watch people from benches on the boardwalk. I walk around New York and take in the sights of Times Square, the High Line, tourists gazing up at buildings with their cameras, signs on restaurants and in storefront windows. I also get out to more rural areas and observe what goes on in small towns, in diners, in parks, on long stretches of highway, listening to what the locals say. City vs. country. I've lived in both places. Lots of humor there. Because I often write in the library, I look at books which list cliches, proverbs and catchphrases. After several hours of writing down ideas, I let all this settle for awhile. Maybe later the same day or the next day I'll start writing. Common phrases can be twisted by substituting one or more words, especially at the end, creating a surprise. You can also use the opposite of the phrase. Finally, you can have these phrases spoken by someone in a new, unexpected setting. Again, a surprise. 

It's important to get a lot of ideas. More than you'll need. Some will become great cartoons; some will stay, untouched, in the notebook. I can't say how the mind works but having a lot of ideas to work with (I work with words) can lead to great ideas.

I think it's important to follow a regular schedule and not wait for inspiration to strike. I know I'm more productive in the morning. I'm at my desk early and because I write for many cartoonists, I have a regular schedule for who I send ideas to and on which days. I also write to-do lists. (You won't believe how much satisfaction I get when I get to cross off items from my list!) This may not work for everyone but it works for me.

To write humor, I believe you have to have a skewed way of looking at things. This is really important. You have to be critical and you have to be able to see the humor in what's going on around you. And then you have to take the big step of putting your ideas on paper and sending them out. Many won't be used. But when you get a great idea and see it in print, or online, it's fantastic!

Any questions or comments, e-mail me at:

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

A Few Words About Motivation

This entry is not about writing, per se, but about motivating yourself to write and create when your confidence needs a boost.

I'm sure everyone already knows this, but you should make yourself a portfolio. Because my background is in print, my portfolio is sort of a book, a scrapbook, of published cartoons which contain my gags. (NOTE: I ALWAYS ask the cartoonist for permission to place their cartoons with my gags in my portfolio. If they say no, their cartoons are not included). There's a couple of reasons to create a portfolio. First of all, if someone asks to see your work (this might actually happen!), you can hand them your portfolio so that they'll get an idea of what you do. This can actually lead to you getting new business. The second reason for this is to motivate yourself. When you've run out of ideas and you think your work is awful and you'll never come up with the great gags you've come up with before, going through your published work can be very motivating. It'll prove to you that your work was good enough to be published before and will be published again.

For those who work primarily online, you can also go through your work to see what you've done in the past. This will let you know that you've created good work before and will inspire you to come up with new work.

I think it's very important to keep hard copies of your accomplishments. For example, when you let someone know, by e-mail, that you just sold your first cartoon, or your 400th cartoon, and they reply and congratulate you on your accomplishment, you should print this out and keep it in a folder. Same with letters or notes from people you deal with who write, "That was a great gag!" There's lots of rejection is this business. I'll send a batch of 35 or so gags to a cartoonist and they'll take nothing. NOTHING! And, then the following week, out of a batch of 35 more gags they'll hold one. I'M IN HEAVEN! Or, when someone pays me for a small sale (with a small check enclosed), if that's the only check I've received that week (or that month) I've been known to say to myself, "It's better than a sharp stick in the eye."  When I send off a batch of gags which I believe to be brilliant and they're all rejected, I usually say something to myself like, "Well, my family still loves me. (I also keep photos of my family on my desk for the same purpose, but only those family members who love me). Going through this folder of congratulatory e-mails and notes will boost your confidence. It will show that you accomplished something before and will accomplish something again.

I think it's important to thank people who help you. Thank the people who consider your work and buy it. Thank the people who give you leads. Thank the people who are a pleasure to work with. Thank the people who encourage you to do more - to work in areas you've never worked in before. And, then, when people thank YOU or congratulate YOU, keep a copy of these precious e-mails. Refer to them when your confidence needs a boost.

Any comments or questions, please send an e-mail to:

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

A Few Shortcuts To Cartoon Creation and Writing Great Captions

I've mentioned in previous posts that it's important to study collections of published cartoons. There are many reasons to do so. First, you get to see what's already been accepted by that publication. You'll discover what situations they focus on and the quality and tone of their published cartoons. And, guess what? You'll see these situations again and again. If it's a publication that runs business gags, you'll see cartoons where the boss is harassing a worker, where co-workers are hanging out at the water cooler, where an applicant is exaggerating his or her qualifications for a job opening, where a worker is getting fired. If the publication runs cartoons about relationships, you'll see cartoons about husbands and wives arguing...everywhere...the bedroom, the kitchen, the marriage counselor's office, in a restaurant, on a desert island. I read somewhere that the most effective  cartoons are about bad situations: getting fired, getting divorced and dying.

You can make lists of situations that you'll use in your cartoons. Besides writing about business, people in restaurants and couples arguing at the marriage counselor's office, I like to write about:

* Prisoners
* People on Desert Islands
* People in Therapy
* Heaven
* Hell
* The Grim Reaper
* Desert Crawlers

Because I'm a writer and work alone most of the time, I can relate to most of these situations.

I also have lists of caption phrases that are used again and again in cartoons. I'm sure you've seen them. Here are a few examples:

* You had me at _______.
* WILL WORK FOR _______.
* Someday, all my _______ will be yours.
* Thank you for not _______.

I'd suggest as you look over cartoon collections, make your own list of these phrases. When I'm reading, which I do all the time, I carry a notebook with me where I jot down words, phrases and clichés which I can plug into these blanks. These phrases are so well known in cartoon captions that they are instantly recognizable and can effectively be used in your caption writing. They make for funny captions and "funny" is what you're striving for.

As I end this week's entry, I'd like to suggest a couple of blogs written by cartoonists which might give you some added inspiration. Marc Bilgrey's blog can be found at his website, Mike Lynch's blog can be found at: Both are very informative and well written. Enjoy!

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Connecting with Cartoonists

Back in the day, when I started writing for cartoonists and comedians, the Internet was not the amazing source of information it is today. If I wanted to contact a cartoonist whose work I saw in one or more publications, many times I had no way of contacting them except through the publications where their work appeared. Many times I wrote a letter (a real letter!) asking if the cartoonist used writers and offering my writing skills to them, listing my credentials, where cartoons with my gags had already appeared. I'd address this letter to the cartoonist in care of the publication. Somehow these letters were forwarded to the cartoonist and most of the time I received a reply. This is how I found out if the cartoonist used writers or not and if they'd be willing to consider my work.

With the vast amount of information available on the Internet, this process is much easier now. When I find a cartoonist I'd like to write for because I think their work is professional and also because their cartoons match my interests, I can usually find them on the Internet. Many cartoonists have websites and/or profiles on LinkedIn and Facebook. I send an e-mail listing my desire to write for them and wait for a reply. Quick and easy. I have a profile on both these sites and have joined groups of people who are interested in cartoons and writing. It's a great way of promoting yourself.

I'm a firm believer in networking. I think meeting people face to face and talking about what you do can be very effective. For those serious about cartooning and illustration as a profession, there's an organization that probably most of you know about: the National Cartoonists Society (NCS). There are chapters across the country and non-members can attend their meetings. This is the perfect opportunity to network, especially those who might aspire to join the NCS. If you go to their website, and click on "Chapters," you'll see where they're located and who the contact person is. There's also lots of information about joining the organization.

A publication of great value is Gag Recap by Van Scott. Gag Recap is a monthly online publication which lists approximately 50 publications which buy cartoons. It describes each cartoon in the issue, who the cartoonist is, what the pay rate is, who the editor is and in what form to submit cartoons. There are also articles about gagwriting and cartooning, lists of publications no longer publishing cartoons and additional markets for writers and cartoonists. Gag Recap's website is:

If there are cartoonists out there who wish to collaborate with a gagwriter I'd be happy to list your names and e-mail addresses in a future entry. Same goes for gagwriters wanting to work with a cartoonist. Personally, I'm always looking for professional cartoonists to work with on creating cartoons and other related projects.

I hope this information is helpful to you.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Still Getting Ready To Write

I'm a cartoon gagwriter. I work with cartoonists because I don't draw - at least not well enough to get published. Working with cartoonists has given me the ability to create something that I couldn't have done on my own. My goal is to create something funny that wasn't there before. I also want to leave behind a body of work that brings some humor into this world.

That said, I can't pin down how I come up with my ideas. Word associations, jotting down phrases, expressions and clichés all help. I also study published cartoons, especially those in The New Yorker, going way back to the magazine's inception. Studying thousands of cartoons shows me what has worked in the past. What settings were and still are used. What subjects are covered. How a caption is written. It's not just a matter of taking a very old cartoon and updating it with current references. Or taking an old cartoon and changing one or two words. I don't know how the mind works, but when I study these old cartoons they give me ideas for completely new ones. Maybe a situation in a cartoon brings to mind times I've experienced the same situation. Maybe a word in a caption sticks with me and I write a totally new cartoon springing from just that one word. The mental process that goes into creating something new cannot necessarily be followed. You have to be willing to take a risk and write down what you mean. The truth is always the funniest.

You can write about things that infuriate you. Things that drive you nuts. Write about something that you know, familiar settings, familiar people. That should make it easier. Why try to write about things you know nothing about? I guess in order to be a writer you have to read a lot but also you have to experience life. You have to get away from your desk/computer/typewriter and experience things. Then make comments about it.

A reader of this blog asked me about whether or not I ever question whether I've created a caption and then wondered if I've seen the same caption elsewhere. Sometimes I do. And, if you've looked at thousands of published cartoons like I have it's inevitable that you'll think that something you created is the same as what's already been published. Sometimes I'll try to find that cartoon and compare it to what I've just written. If that's not possible and I'm really concerned about it I'll change my caption before I submit it. Or I'll just not send it out at all. There's an old newspaper adage: "When in doubt, throw it out."

I write gags full time and am interested in collaborating with cartoonists, both syndicated and non-syndicated. Any questions or comments, please send me an e-mail. If you'd like to be notified when I post a new entry send me your e-mail address to:

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Getting Ready To Write

Like I mentioned in another post, I write a lot of cartoon gags about business. To help me do this I study the business cartoons in The New Yorker, Harvard Business Review, Barron's, Wall Street Journal and Reader's Digest. I see what topics these cartoons cover. Popular topics are: job interviews, the dynamics between bosses and office workers, salary issues and laziness. I don't draw, but by studying hundreds or even thousands of these cartoons, I can visualize the settings that are used over and over again: Boss at desk speaking to worker, applicant at a job interview, co-workers speaking to each other about how unfair it all is. I also study the captions  and see how few words are needed to form a good one. Sometimes you can see the set-up and punchline. The caption should take you along one route and then the last word or two should take you in an unexpected direction.

Another exercise you can do is to make a list of phrases and single words that pertain to the subject. Let's say you want to write about job interviews. You can make lists of words that you'd associate with this topic, such as: applicant, hirer, salary, benefits, job security, motivated, overqualified, resume, what can you offer us?, salary requirements, when can you start?, retirement package, hourly rate, salary commensurate with experience, etc. These words and phrases can be used in your captions. Their opposites can be used as well.

One of the things I do each week is read current business publications such as the ones mentioned above. I don't subscribe to all of them so I spend time at my local library, with pen and paper in hand, writing down phrases from the articles. I also look in the "New" books section. I bring home new business books and write down phrases that are current for use in my captions.

I've mentioned that I like to write gags about eating out. The whole dining out experience is ripe for humor: demanding diners, snooty waiters, high prices, awful service, lousy food. Just eating at a restaurant and being aware of what's going on can give you ideas for cartoons. I supplement this with books I read about restaurants, waiters, food trends. I also look at cookbooks. Anything to add to my list of words and phrases. I also like to make the setting a food truck or hot dog vendor and have the customer talk to the owner as if it were a high priced restaurant.

Let me know if any of this is helpful to you. Any comments? Send me an e-mail at: Have a great holiday weekend!

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Writing Captions - 101

In last week's post I mentioned that I started writing one-liners for speakers, comedians and broadcast personalities. Eventually, after writing thousands of them, I could see where they could be illustrated and become a cartoon. I don't draw at all, but I went about learning everything I could about single-panel gag cartoons by studying cartoon collections, especially "The New Yorker" cartoon collections. At the same time I read every book I could find about comedy writing. I soon discovered that a cartoon was a moment in time. It either had no dialogue or one or two short sentences of dialogue spoken by one person. The shorter the better. Usually the drawing and the writing fit together. Sometimes the drawing was simply an illustration of a speaker and a listener and the setting could be almost anywhere.

From reading books about joke or gag writing, I learned that they almost always had a set up and a punch. The set up is the straight, or factual part. The punch is the unexpected part and should come at the end. I also learned that certain words were funnier, specifically, words that had the "k" sound in them. Also, that there was something called a series of three, where the first two items were the set up and the third item was the punch at the end. After looking at thousands of cartoons in publications such as The New Yorker, Barron's and Reader's Digest, I could see that fewer words had a greater punch. I became familiar with the situations these cartoons focused on. For example, cartoons in Barron's mostly focus on the business world. I felt I could write business gags  because after working in offices for many years I had opinions about things. I could see the humor in the relationships between bosses and workers, workers and co-workers, salary issues, lazy workers, lazy bosses. You get the picture. I also realized that I liked to write about restaurants (snooty waiters, demanding customers, lousy food) and relationships (husband and wife gags, mostly).

I regularly read the magazines whose cartoons I identify with. I see the type of cartoons these publications buy. I also read these magazines and newspapers to pick up phrases, jargon and slang that I will use in my cartoon writing. I guess you could call me a news junkie. I try to stay current on what's going on in the world. I listen to news radio constantly in the car, much to the frustration of whatever family member I'm riding with.

I'll conclude by saying the best humor has an element of truth in it. In writing cartoons, or any type of humor I guess, if you can say something that other people are too afraid to say, you might have a winner. A sense of humor and a skewed way of looking at things also helps.

Comments? You can e-mail me at:

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Just To Introduce My New Blog

I'm really excited to launch a blog concerning cartoon gagwriting! I plan to share my experience over the past 18 years and, hopefully, give my readers some valuable information about this type of writing. Just to tell you a little bit about my background, I've been writing gags for single-panel gag cartoons, syndicated and non-syndicated, for the past 18 years. Currently, I write for the syndicated cartoons "Dennis the Menace, "The Lockhorns" and "Bliss." Over the past 18 years I've worked with many non-syndicated cartoonists who submit to the most prestigious publications. I seem to specialize in business, relationships, medical and food gags. Cartoons, with my gags, have appeared in The New Yorker, Harvard Business Review, Barron's, Wall Street Journal, Reader's Digest, Better Homes and Gardens, First for Women, Good Housekeeping, Playboy, Hustler, the Chicken Soup for the Soul series of books and many other publications.

Just to let you know how it all began, my background is in the newspaper business. I started writing news and features for my high school newspaper and, in college, spent four years working on the campus newspaper, writing, editing, doing layout, proofreading. Everything but advertising. After college, mostly because I needed a job, I took a position selling print advertising for a group of suburban newspapers. I found out I really liked it. This became my career: selling ad space on daily and weekly newspapers. About 20 years ago I decided to get back to writing. I was always interested in humor, and started writing one-liners for speakers, comedians and broadcasters on a freelance basis, while working full time. Eventually, I could see that some of those one-liners could be turned into cartoons, with the one-liners becoming the captions. A whole new world opened up to me.

I taught myself how to come up with ideas for cartoons by studying cartoon collections and reading everything I could find about comedy and cartoon writing. I specifically looked at The New Yorker cartoon collections which were very helpful. I still read and study The New Yorker today. I also read the other publications I slant my gags toward. Honestly, I read all the time.

Next week I plan to start offering valuable information about how I come up with ideas and captions for single panel gag cartoons, how to write good captions, how to contact cartoonists and more. I can be reached by e-mail at: