Terri Libenson (pronounced LEE-bensun) is the cartoonist of the internationally syndicated comic strip, “The Pajama Diaries.” She was also an award-winning humorous card writer for American Greetings Corp. She has written for AmericanGreetings.com, Egreetings.com, and BlueMountainArts.com as well.
Terri graduated from Washington University in St. Louis in 1992 with a BFA in illustration and a minor in art history. She developed her first comic strip, “Got A Life,” in 2000, which was distributed by King Features Weekly Service. “The Pajama Diaries” was launched with King in 2006 and currently runs in hundreds of newspapers throughout the country and abroad. “Pajama Diaries” was nominated twice for “Best Newspaper Strip” by the National Cartoonists Society and won the coveted award in 2016.
Terri has three book collections: “The Pajama Diaries: Deja To-Do,” “The Pajama Diaries: Having It All–And No Time To Do It,” and “The Pajama Diaries: Bat-Zilla.” She is also the author of two upcoming middle grade novels by Harper Collins called “Invisible Emmie.”
Born and raised in northeast PA, Terri lives with her husband and two daughters in Cleveland, OH.
Frequently Asked Questions about Terri and Pajama Diaries:
How long does it take to do a comic strip?
I don’t create one strip a day from start to finish. I like to make sure the content of an entire month’s worth of strips balances out. With that in mind, I’ll divide up each artistic process. I start off by writing about 50 strips in a week. I write more than I should so that I can weed out the weaker ones (or save ’em to publish if I get desperate for material).
This was my next process until 2013: I would select a month’s worth, draw them out in pencil, ink them in with Micron pens and scan them into my computer to add borders, text, and shading (or color). Now I use a digital drawing tablet from start to finish. All this takes about two weeks. Afterward, I email the strips for publication.
What’s your favorite part of the process?
I love working on the strips in Photoshop. It’s actually relaxing. I’ll put on the TV or radio in the background and just color. I feel like I’m in the third grade again.
I enjoy writing, too, but it’s much more intense. Once I get into a writing mode, it’s hard to turn it off. My poor kids will be demanding attention, and I’ll be thinking of punch lines in my head. That’s why I can’t suddenly switch gears from writing to illustrating during a typical day.
Are your characters based on you and your family?
My characters are originally based on us, but they’ve slowly evolved into their own personalities. In real life, I’m a little introverted. My husband is gregarious. The wife/husband characters are reversed – Jill is definitely more outgoing, and Rob’s the quiet one. Ways that we’re similar: Jill and I are both incredibly antsy, type A people. The character Rob and my husband are very practical, left-brain thinkers.
The child characters only partially mirror my own kids. I just take aspects of their lives/personalities and channel them on paper. PD is really about Jill rather than her kids (or her viewpoint of them), so I mainly focus on Jill’s interactions with them.
The Grandma character was derived from my own grandma-in-law, but only from one aspect of her personality. In real life, she was a sweet individual, a constant worrier. The character, Grandma Sophie, is more of a pill. She likes to complain and pick on Jill a lot. My real grandma-in-law didn’t do that, but she did worry that I didn’t cook ten-course meals for my family.
Who is Perfectville derived from?
Perfectville is a conglomeration of different families I have secretly admired or envied even as I’ve proclaimed not wanting to be anything like ’em.
Where do you get your ideas?
I think this question really means: Where do you get your inspiration? In that case, I glean a lot of ideas from my family and friends. The strip is about a coping working mother, so the ideas come very naturally. My husband and friends have actually provided me with some very funny concepts, and my kids have unwittingly provided quite a few punch lines.
I keep a voice recorder or post-its with me so that when the muse strikes, I can get down ideas before they disappear (which happens too often).
Where did the name “Pajama Diaries” come from?
Twofold: It stems from Jill working from home, which means she can theoretically work in her pj’s. I also think the name suggests an air of intimacy.
What are some things about you that most people don’t know?
When I was younger, I was a Star Wars fanatic. Yes, I fully admit this.
I once had a cat named “Bubbelah.” When I had to give her up due to my husband’s allergies, I gave her to a friend who shortened her name to “Bubbles” — thereby going from Jewish feline to stripper.
I minored in art history in college. It was accidental. I just took so many AH classes, I garnered enough credits to make it my minor. Also in college: I created my own cartoon independent study course. It was the first of its kind at the school.
I’m a neat freak. I’m not bragging, I actually consider it a sickness. The TV character I’m most similar to is Monica from “Friends”—but without the hyper-competitive streak.
I’m an avid jogger. I’ve run 5Ks, 10Ks, and enjoy nothing more than being outside listening to my playlist and the sound of my own wheezing breath. I also enjoy kick boxing, cycling, and hiking.
I’m creative, but I’m also analytical—which means I’ve probably gone over each strip ten times before it’s published (and still manage to offend people on occasion).
© 2006-2012 Terri Libenson, Dist. By King Features Syndicate, Inc.