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The Glossary

One of my favorite formulas utilized in PD is “The Parents’ Glossary of Terms.”  These are fun and challenging to write.  Here’s one from July:

Glossary of Terms - Perfectioning

I usually throw in one “Glossary” strip per month for a couple of reasons:

  1. Typically a single panel format, it breaks up the 3 or 4-panel ones that are usually published during the week.
  2. It’s verbally playful. In fact, much like my regular dialog/narrative combo, the Glossary also contains two jokes in one.
  3. It’s easy to illustrate (most of the time).
  4. If I get really stuck incorporating an idea into a longer strip, I’ll try it out with the Glossary, and often it works.
  5. I’m hoping if I create enough of ‘em, someone will want to turn them into a book or calendar (hint, hint, publishers). I probably do have enough by now.

This month, I threw readers for a loop (um, did anyone notice? anyone?) and created my first “Glossary of Proverbs” strip. It was fun to step outside the box a little with the verbiage. Glossary of Terms - Provebb

Here are a few personal favorites from the not-so-distant past:

Glossary of Terms - Jobcation

Glossary of Terms - Stressting

Glossary of Terms - Vacation Duaration

I got downright mathematical with that last one. You should’ve seen me refreshing my algebra skills. It wasn’t pretty.

Anyway, as long as writing the Glossary strips continues to challenge and tickle me, I’ll continue. If you have any ideas, feel free to share some!

Going Once…

My original art/color print from the “Team Cul de Sac” book is up for auction until Sunday, June 10. The money goes to the Michael J Fox Foundation. Since it’s hard to see the final image on the site, here it is.

CuldeSac_art

 

There are wonderful pieces by so many cartoonists up for auction. Bid on one or more. The book itself is gorgeous and a portion of the proceeds goes to the MJFF.

Reubens!

It’s been a couple of years since Mike and I ventured out to the Reuben Awards, and it was definitely due time. This year it took place in Vegas, which was both fun and decidedly tiring – more so for the time difference than anything else. Note to self: stay on your own coast unless you want to fall asleep in the NCS-sponsored buffet.

Anyway, as usual, we were pleased to see some old friends as well as make some new ones. Unfortunately, we forgot to bring along a real camera, so Mike faked it by playing paparazzi with his cell phone. I apologize for the poor quality of these photos.

  

 

 

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Here’s a shot of the resort we stayed at. Not bad, eh?

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With Michael McParlane, who was nominated for newspaper illustration. He also mentioned he recently completed two marathons. Sheesh. (excuse my red eyes – extreme jet lag).

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With Hilary Price (Rhymes with Orange) and King Features editor, Brendan Burford.

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With Greg Cravens and Mark Parisi (who won the cartoon panel division — go, Mark!)

 

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With Stephanie Piro, another mega-talented nominee for cartoon panels.

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One of my many hair-in-the-face photos (the wind was blowing something fierce) with Dan Thompson.  Hey, will that wine glass ever be set down?

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Holy crap, it’s a bad pic of me with Mell Lazarus, one of my childhood heroes!

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With Chris Sparks. I’m signing my page in Richard Thompson’s copy of the “Team Cul de Sac” book. Pick up a copy if you can. The book is absolutely stunning.

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A glimpse of Jim Davis after his presentation.

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Yes, hubby finally made it into a picture! At the NCS banquet.

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With John Hambrock, always a sweetheart.

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With Dan Collins, Jan Eliot, and Susan Camilleri Konar. Excuse the demon eyes.

We took many more photos, which unfortunately didn’t come out so well. Hopefully next year!

Bat-zilla…

BatM_Zilla_c    

Lately, you may have noticed a certain theme cropping up in the strip. If you’re wondering whether I’m going through similar drama in my own household, the answer is a big fat SORTA.

I’ve been waiting literally years to write about the process of planning a Bat Mitzvah. It’s an obvious rite of passage for this Jewish cartoon family – not only for Amy, but for anal-retentive, neurotic Jill. Other train-wreck scenarios: monetary conflict for the parents, a learning struggle for Amy, and a left-out sibling, Jess. A wealth of material….and my family’s living it!

But…

I write about 4-5 months ahead, so I’m predicting a lot. I’m also taking a few creative liberties (think Perfectville as the party planner). Still, it’s remarkably on-track. My own daughter is already nervous, and her mitzvah is still a year away. My husband and I have been scouring the city for a venue, DJ, and photographer (and trying sooo hard not to turn this into a wedding-like event). Meanwhile, we already got the date for my younger daughter’s Bat Mitzvah in 2015. Help!

BatM_80s_c

If you have a few Bar/t Mitzvah stories of your own that you’d like to get off your chest (which could possibly be turned into comic fodder), send me some. I accept ideas, stories, and free counseling.

Funny but true…

People often ask whether Pajama Diaries is based on real life. It is in the most intrinsic sense. It was originally born from my own experiences. That said, now it kinda takes on a life of its own. Stories that stem from real life tend to deviate or become exaggerated for the sake of the punch line. The characters’ personalities, too, get stretched. And most of the strips I write, in fact, are equally inspired by other people’s experiences. I do a lot of research online, in books and magazines, and from listening to friends’ stories. The “Lice” series, for example: didn’t happen to me, but I heard enough horror stories to make it a relatable topic.

Once in a while, though, my own stuff sneaks in. Just in case you ever wondered which strips were specifically “true to life,” here are a bunch of recent examples with brief explanations for fun:

Broke

This is practically verbatim. My kids get so jealous of all the “cool” gifts I buy for their friends. And I get mad when the girls start demanding expensive birthday gifts after the privilege of being A-list party goers all year round.

DARE

Also happened. Hubby and I were enjoying rare alcoholic drinks with dinner the same evening our younger daughter had a “DARE” program. She let us have it.

Interpreter

No, this isn’t verbatim. But it is SO true that working from home has made my social skills completely deteriorate. Warning: I now come with no filter and a totally backwards grasp of the English language. I’m great with emails, though.

ParentSite_color

Guilty! I check my older daughter’s online grades practically every hour. Yup, I have no social skills and I’m a compulsive freak. It’s amazing I’m let out of the house.

SUN_LikeBetter

My older daughter pulled this one on me and I turned it right around on her, just as Jill does in the strip. The only made-up part is the last panel. In real life, my daughter just stood there, dumbfounded, like Amy in the second-to-last panel.

SUN_Text

Also true, right up to the very last panel. Since this incident, we’ve worked out our texting system.

GuiltKeep

It is true that if hubby and I were to go back in time, we would totally elope. I really did wait forever to replace our old, crappy furniture. I would’ve taken the wedding money and gone “extreme makeover” on our house.

BatMitBegin

Yes, I have a Bat Mitzvah file folder that size. And it’s now overflowing into File Folder #2. Told you I was compulsive.

That was fun. I’ll have to post more down the road. In the meantime, if YOU have any true life experiences that you think would make great comic strip material, don’t hesitate to send ‘em my way.

L-L-L…nope, can’t say it

Aside from, well, real emergencies, there’s probably nothing else that horrifies parents quite like the “L” word. No, no, not that “L” word. I’m talking about:
Lice
 
Fortunately, I’ve never had to deal with these ghastly creatures from hell (or from other kids’ hats and combs). But I’ve heard enough horror stories to know when I’ve got a relatable topic. For this series, I talked to several friends and consulted blogs and articles. I have only one word: YEEEECCCCHHHH.
In some cases, I read that parents would get rid of the pests, only to discover that they’ve returned with a vengeance. This is after disinfecting every household possession and shaving each family member’s head. I think I’d call FEMA, declare my home an emergency zone, and then move to the nearest hotel. Bedbugs can’t be as disgusting…right?
Lice_Distract
 
Anyway, hope you enjoy the series. Or – realistically — I hope it gives you a laugh and doesn’t make you relive the horror or retch your guts out. If it does, I apologize. Please don’t curse me with lice.

Hot Man of the Month

Forget “People,” “Redbook,” and “Cosmo.” Today I present you with MY Hot Husband of the Month. Consider this an early Valentine’s Day love letter to my guy. In the 15.5 years we’ve been married, he’s been my cohort, support system, inspiration, web developer, and– most recently – book manager. I don’t think I could’ve asked for a better partner in every sense of the word.
He’s not perfect. He has a short fuse and often uses sarcasm as a means of discourse. He’s pig-headed and rivals me in Type A pickiness. He uses apostrophes where they don’t belong. He’s also practical to a fault. And the dude can’t do laundry without turning everything tie-dyed.
But these things – although, yeah, they bug me – are so trivial compared with his better qualities. And like most nit-picky wives, I don’t tell him nearly enough.
So here are just some of the reasons why I think my guy deserves to be HOT HUSBAND OF THE MONTH:
I’ll start with the basest of all reasons: he’s cute. Okay, he’s middle aged and follically-challenged (it practically makes his lower lip quiver when friends good-naturedly tease him), but he rocks the shaved dome. Anyway, throw a baseball cap on him, and suddenly he looks like he stepped out of a frat house. He’s been carded more times at the grocery store than I can count. And those shoulders…wooWEE!
He’s smart as a whip. I don’t exaggerate when I say he’s one of the most intelligent people I’ve ever known. Not just in his IT-geeky kind of way, but in so many other facets. It really bugs me that in many practical aspects of life, he’s usually right. I’ll never say so to his face, though.
He’s a domestic god (aside from laundry). The man can cook, clean, and is handy around the house. I’m never upset over his lack of laundry skills because the guy has saved us mucho dinero by installing speaker systems, lighting, as well as building our entire finished basement. Plus his homemade mac-n-cheese and pad thai would put The Food Network to shame.
He’s practical to a fault. Yeah, I know this was in my negative list. But did I mention the mucho dinero saved? And yeah, it pisses me off when he puts the kibosh on my urge to furnish the entire house at once. But I admit, it’s kept us out of the poor house. Now if he could only rein in my shoe habit.
He’s a hands-on dad. He didn’t bat an eye when – during the strip’s launch — my work schedule switched from part-time to 6-days-a-week. He just picked up the pieces (which included my tear-sodden tissues) and hauled the toddlers off to wherever they needed to go. Still does that to this day, without complaint. Anyway, I kind of gringe (cringe-grin) when friends or family tell me how they have to beg their husbands to help them. Sure, I do that, too, occasionally. But he’s no slouch, and admittedly he’s done more than his share of the parenting. It makes me feel both proud and guilty at once (but then, what doesn’t make me feel guilty?). In other words, he’s no amiable-but-clueless Rob Kaplan. There are similarities, but not when it comes to parental laziness.
And last but not least (and pertinent to this type of blog), he’s always been an advocate and number one supporter of Pajama Diaries. He’s literally put his more lucrative career on hold for this dream of mine. He’s turned down higher-paying travelling jobs in order to be there for myself and the kids. I owe him a great deal, yet he never lords it over me. In fact, he’s been bending over backwards helping me put together book signing gigs and presentations.
So this is my way of thanking the HOTTEST HUSBAND OF THE YEAR (see? He already got promoted). I love you, Mike! This Valentine’s Day, I’ll try to stay awake past nine.
MikeCropped
C’mon, ladies, isn’t he a dreamboat?

My Favorite Things…

JillAtChair_santa

This is that time of year we either stress out completely or find things to be grateful for…or both. I have enough things to stress about all year, so at the moment I will take a deep breath and think of positive things until I gag. As a not-so- subtle nod to the late Oprah show…here are a few of my favorite things about cartooning:

Being hit with the proverbial bolt of lightning. It’s not often I don’t scrape the bottom of the barrel for that one great gag that makes people hit the side of their heads and exclaim, “Why didn’t I think of that?” That’s why those exceptional ideas are like manna from heaven. It doesn’t happen often, and when it does, I perform a little mental victory dance. Better yet, that one great idea often spawns several more…and that just makes my day.

Coloring comics. Yes, I know there are cartoonists who hire interns or family members to do their coloring or inking in order to save time. I don’t know if I’m just a control freak or what, but I’d hate to turn over my pen and Photoshop software to someone else. Besides, coloring my comics is my ultimate joy. I find it relaxing. It’s usually when I get to turn on the TV or radio in the background and void my brain of thoughts. Who knew it could be so zen? I enjoyed coloring in grade school and apparently I still do.

Getting nice feedback. Yeah, I’m a sucker for it. I love seeing emails with subject headers like, “I love your strip!” The ultimate antidote to hater emails (which, thankfully, I don’t receive too often), these are usually full of general praise or praise for specific strips. (Then there are the ones that make me cringe — that start off with “I love your strip, but…” and ultimately end with a grievance about a particular one.) But the love mail gives me a huge boost. What can I say, flattery gets me everywhere.

Getting in a new paper. (or clawing my way back into a newspaper that once dropped me – either works) It’s like a tingly little thrill when I hear about a new paper that’s picked up the strip…especially when so many papers are shutting down. Most of the time I try not to think about drops/pickups (it gives me an ulcer), but it’s always a treat when it works out.

Meeting other cartoonists. Whether it’s in person or on Facebook, it’s wonderful to be part of this tight-knit community. Most cartoonists are such lovely people, it’s hard to believe I’m often competing fiercely with some for spots (again, I try not to think about it…ulcerville). I’ve made some wonderful new friends because of this job. The tough part is only getting to see them once every other year or so. But it’s always enjoyable…and often rowdy. Did I mention these people can drink?

So there it is. On that note of positivity, I’d like to wish everyone happy holidays and a wonderful, stress-free new year. Enjoy!

Calling all future cartoonists…

It’s once again the annual Jay Kennedy Memorial Scholarship!

Do you cartoon? You could win a $5,000 scholarship and a trip to Las Vegas to meet the top names in cartooning. Don’t delay – the deadline is December 15. Applicants must be students at a 4-year college in the United States, Canada or Mexico who will be a Junior or Senior during the 2012-2013 academic year. Applicants do not have to be art majors to be eligible for this scholarship.

The annual Jay Kennedy Memorial Scholarship, in memory of the late King Features editor, was funded by an initial $100,000 grant from the Hearst Foundation/King Features Syndicate and additional generous donations from Jerry Scott, Jim Borgman, Patrick McDonnell and many other prominent cartoonists. Submissions are adjudicated by a panel of top cartoonists and an award is given to the best college cartoonist. The recipient is feted at the annual NCS Reuben Awards Convention attended by many of the world’s leading cartoonists.

My Dirty Business…

It’s no secret that I’m a writer for American Greetings. I’ve been with the company for – eek – almost 19 years now. I was hired full-time to be an in-house humorous writer/illustrator. These days, I have a part-time contract, and I exclusively write (no illustrating, which only sucks for the sheer fact that I can’t enter the Reuben Award card division. Eh.).

Anyway…I say this because I just ran a story series based on my kids discovering a few adult-themed cards lying around my desk. Normally I’m pretty careful about keeping them hidden, but occasionally I slip. These weren’t X-rated cards per se – not like some I wrote in the 90’s (my nickname? “Dirty Terri”) — but “unclean” enough for young eyes. One positive thing came out of it: it sparked this idea:

Cards_Jail

Cards_Trust

It’s like I always say: if you can’t be a model parent, then write a story arc about it.

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