My road to syndication was a winding one, and here’s how it came about.  I’m writing this because I LOVE to read other cartoonists stories.  I just eat that stuff right up! 

I was in high school when Calvin and Hobbes first came out.  I fell in love with it immediately, and soon decided to pursue syndication myself.  Never mind that I wasn’t an artist, I’d never written cartoons before, and I was NEVER going to be as good as Bill Watterson.  I had decided it, and so it shall be.  Ah, youth… 

Anyway, I started writing a cartoon in college that sucked.  Boy, did it suck.  It was called Half Empty (I still like that name!) and it was about a girl named Holly and her best friend Dot and their adventures in college.  It was WAAAAAYYY autobiographical, to the point that now I cringe when I happen upon it and wonder what the heck made me send this out for other people to read!! 

But, send it out I did.  To resounding no’s all around.  And yet, Jay Kennedy from King scribbled a wonderful note at the end of my rejection letter saying that he liked it and to keep trying.  Now, I have no idea if he encouraged everyone, and if he didn’t, what he could have possibly seen in this strip worth encouraging (it really was that bad!) but I was so demoralized and so young, that had he just blown me off too, that would have been the end of it.  That note is the entire reason I kept trying.  I still have it. 

I was going to share one of these cartoons, but I can’t find any.  Perhaps that’s for the best.

A few years later I tried again to get syndicated.  This time I wrote a strip about 6 college age friends, 3 boys and 3 girls who make their way in the world.  The main characters were Wanda and Joe.  It was also called Half Empty, and it was also rejected all around.  But Jay Kennedy once again came through for me.  He graded all the cartoons in my submission so I’d know which one’s worked and which didn’t, and he wrote me a long, encouraging letter that pointed out my strips strengths and weaknesses, told me how to improve on the weaknesses, and asked me to resubmit the strip to him.  To say I was thrilled would be an understatement.  Here’s the first cartoon in that submission.  My female lead in my cartoons always has curly hair like me.  Freud would probably have a field day running through my psyche…

My first strip of my second syndicate submission

My first strip of my second syndicate submission

And yes, I did send it out just like that.  Two boxes over two boxes, because you often see strips printed like that in newspapers.  I did it this way because it fit exactly on a piece of typing paper.  I probably used a felt tip pen to draw it with.  Talk about shooting yourself in the foot!  Sigh…

 I worked really hard on my resubmission and sent it off to King Features with high hopes.  Soon, I heard back from Jay Kennedy again.  Another encouraging note.  Another rejection.  But this time he gave me his phone number and asked me to call him so we could discuss my strip.  And …I never called.

WHAT?!!  You never called?  Why the heck not?!  Believe me, all my friends and my family badgered me daily, but at that time I was almost pathologically shy and I just couldn’t gather up the courage to do it.  I tried and tried until I was sick, and then the television show Friends debuted and it was a very similar concept to my strip and I realized that it would look like I was copying and I let that be my excuse to give up.  I let this opportunity slip through my fingers.  I’m not saying that had I called I would have gotten syndicated.  I probaby wouldn’t have.  But it was stupid, and it’s something I’ve always regretted not doing.  At the very least I would have had an extremely helpful conversation.  I ended up giving up cartooning for about six years.

In that time I had 3 children.  I wrote two unpublished novels.  We moved across the country.  And I started thinking about trying again.  I decided to write about family life because I was kind of immersed in it daily.  I began writing cartoons and I thought they were good.  Much better than the ones I wrote when I was younger.  I gave the family twin girls because I’d always wanted them, and I wrote and wrote and wrote.  And then I got pregnant.  Surprise!  With twins.  Surprise!  Just like my strip.  Talk about being psychic!  So, next I’m thinking that I need to have the Torres’ win the lottery…

I stopped, had my twins, and resumed writing when they were two.  I decided to buckle down and get serious.  I would draw up a strip a day for six weeks until I had enough for my submission to the syndicates.  This would be a test to see if I could produce on the schedule they required.  This would be my last try. 

I’ll write part two tomorrow.