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So, I wrote and drew up a month’s worth of cartoons and sent them in to UPS for the first month of my development deal. A few weeks later I received copies of them all back with notes on them from Lee. He’d liked most of them (thank goodness) but the notes were just a scribbled sentence or two here and there. It was nowhere near as in-depth as I’d been expecting, but nice feedback nonetheless. The next month I sent in another batch. This time I just heard that they’d arrived, I never got anything back from the syndicate. This was not a good sign… Then Lee called to tell me he was coming to south Florida for a conference of some kind, and he wanted to meet me while he was there. He would go over the second batch I’d sent in person, and I could go ahead and hand him the third installment in person too.
I was a nervous wreck.
After some discussion, we decided to meet at a really nice hotel that’s not too far from our place. Our plan was to meet in the morning, have breakfast while we talked and went over my stuff, and then he’d meet my husband and I at a local restaurant that night for dinner. He asked me to bring all three versions of Half Empty, (my first three tries at syndication from years before) for him to read too. I guess, just because he’d rejected the first two, and he wanted to see how bad they were and how much better I was now, and affirm how right he’d been to reject them in the first place. Surprisingly, he didn’t remember ANY of them off hand! …Hmph.
He didn’t look anything like what I’d expected, but he did look just like himself, if that makes any sense at all. He said he knew it was me right off the bat because of my hair (which is similar to Eve’s). We sat down to breakfast outside by the water, and chatted about his job, about the worst submissions he’s ever gotten, about Calvin and Hobbes and other famous UPS cartoons and cartoonists, and about my work. It was a very cool conversation and in the middle of it, it suddenly dawned upon me that I was being wooed. Me. They wanted ME, they were interested in MY work and they thought I was a good cartoonist. This was an enormously awesome and satisfying feeling that I certainly haven’t had enough of in my life to date.
After breakfast, we got down to business. He handed me back my second batch so I could read his comments, and I gave him all three Half Empty’s (which he kept) and the third month of new cartoons for my development deal. Watching him sit across from me and read that batch of cartoons was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. First of all I had to pretend that I wasn’t completely needy and insecure, which was hard as he was almost completely stone-faced as he read through them. I just KNEW he hated them. He cracked a smile once or twice, but there was no laughing, no enjoyment. I halfway expected him to stand up, point his finger at me and yell, “You, ma’am, are a no-talent, time-wasting fraud! Good DAY! …I said, ‘Good day!’”
Instead, when he finished, he told me which one’s he enjoyed and why. We went over all of the one’s I’d already turned in and he started using words like “when” you are syndicated, and ”when” you appear in newspapers instead of ”if”. We ended up talking for about three hours in all. All he said about my old stuff was that my drawing style had really changed and evolved. Which, I guess, was the only kind thing he COULD say.
That night he met my husband and we had dinner together, and it was a really nice time. I said goodbye to him with the feeling that he really liked me and my strip and he wasn’t just blowing sunshine my way. My husband, however, had a bit of a different take on the situation. On the way home in the car he told me that Lee was great, very charming and likable, but that you don’t become that powerful without a core of steel. He warned me to watch myself. After all, it’s just business. So, I was a bit uneasy as I went to bed that night.
On May 15th, 2003, before I had turned in my fourth and last installment of my development deal, Lee called. He asked me if I was sitting down, and then he told me that Universal had made the decision to syndicate me! This was one of the best days of my entire life. As luck would have it, my best friend and her family were on their way for a visit (they lived far away) so I got to tell her in person that afternoon. Some days just seem charmed when compared to other days, and that was one of them for me.
Clear Blue Water debuted in newspapers on May 3, 2004, almost a year later. Why did it take a year? What was going on in that time? Well, that’s a story for another time, perhaps. This one ends here. I started drawing up my strips to send in the syndicates in mid October 2002, and I found out I was getting syndicated on May 15th, 2003.
Seven months that absolutely changed my life.