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Toonfest, 2016!

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In just a few weeks, I’ll be speaking at the Toonfest in Marceline, MO. This is the hometown of Walt Disney, and they have a big cartoon festival that takes place annually. This year, Toonfest will be Sept 17. It is family friendly and open to the public. Click here for the speaker lineup. Fittingly, there will be several Disney animators presenting. I’ll be in great company!

“UH Rainbow Babies and Children’s Hospital” Cartoon Collage

This has been a looong time coming. Almost a year and a half, to be exact. Bet you’re wondering what I’m talking about. Well, let me provide the back story…

Last October, my younger daughter celebrated a Bat Mitzvah. Part of reaching this milestone included performing a charitable service of her choice. She chose to gather a large group of friends and paint small canvases (with cheerful, “outdoorsy” themes) to give to patients at Cleveland’s renowned Rainbow Babies and Children’s Hospital. In addition, each friend also contributed a new stuffed animal to accompany these paintings. The party was a big success.

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(above: our daughter, Nikki, painting away last June)

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(above: a few results from the party)

In addition, my husband, Mike, suggested we do an adjoining project for the hospital. We would ask professional cartoonists to donate small character sketches that we’d collect together to form a large, collaborative “collage.” This could be hung in the hospital for patients and visitors to enjoy.

I agreed it was a great idea. I put a call out for b/w 5″ x 5″ character sketches, and over the next few months we received a steady stream of contributions. The artwork included a variety of media, from Sharpie drawings, to pencil sketches, to ink washes, to a full-on painting.

The collage mainly features work by professional comic strip and panel cartoonists. I tried to include local cartoonists as well as those whose work appears in the comics section of the Cleveland Plain Dealer newspaper; we thought these would be readily recognizable to local families.

Here is the list of contributing artists, whose work is hung in alphabetical order:

Jim Allen, Mark Anderson, Sunny Artanis, Tom Batiuk, Jim Borgman, Charles Brubaker, Jenny Campbell, Dave Coverly, Brian Crane, Rich Diesslin, Scott Ebisch, Hy Eisman, Jan Eliot (2 pieces), Graham Harrop, Bill Holbrook, Scott Jensen, Polly Keener, Rick Kirkman, Jeff Knurek, Terri Libenson, Mike Lynch, Jef Mallett, Mark Parisi, Jeff Parker, Stephan Pastis, Lincoln Peirce, Hilary Price, John Rose, Pat Sandy, George Schill, Maria Scrivan, John Steventon, Mark Tatulli, Bill Watterson, Wayno

And here is our fantastic result (unframed)! So much thanks goes to all the wonderful creators who contributed.

(click to enlarge)

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Here is a photo of the final piece, beautifully framed and ready to hang soon in the hospital. [Couldn’t get a straight on image because of the glass]. I can honestly tell you that photos don’t do it justice.

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Finally, here is our Nikki, who did us proud on her Bat Mitzvah. Mazel Tov, kiddo. Look what you started.

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Truth or Dare

 

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Having a comic strip that’s semi-autobiographical often brings up questions from friends, family and readers. “Did that really happen?” “Don’t your husband and kids get mad/embarrassed/want to send you to Siberia?” “How do you put yourself out there all the time?”

Well, first of all, rarely do I write anything that is exactly true or verbatim. I take many artistic liberties. Yes, I often use real life as a starting point, like my kids’ Bat Mitzvahs, driver’s ed, and situations like attempting to scale back work hours. But most of the time, these stories veer off course and take on new paths of their own. That’s a beautiful aspect of writing: continually surprising yourself.

As for the reactions of my family…well, they’ve been good sports forever. Also, they read almost everything in advance. My husband is like me, he has completely lost all shame. Anyway, he’s pretty cool and lets good-natured ribbing roll right off him. There have been times when my kids have put the brakes on certain story lines (like one where Amy gets her period), but for the most part, they couldn’t care less are pretty relaxed about it.

And how do I put myself out there all the time? This is an interesting one, because I grew up very shy and closed off. I suppose I’ve always expressed myself through art and storytelling, so this is where I feel most comfortable. True, ten years ago, I was much more wary of “exposing myself” to a public audience, but the more I did it, the more I relaxed and didn’t worry about it so much. I guess it’s akin to how comedians grow in their field. Besides, the more “honest” and “exposed” I am, the more my work evolves and the more my audience appreciates it.

And — I won’t lie — I get a certain thrill from pushing the envelope. We all get our kicks somehow.

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Note: the above cartoon is one of the few I wrote verbatim. (*immature giggle*)

 

 

Those strips about Ben

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If you’re a frequent Pajama Diaries reader, you’ve noticed an ongoing storyline about Nanci’s young son, Ben. Ben has been displaying some troubling signs, and Nanci and her husband David are trying to find out whether or not Ben has autism. Stay tuned.

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Obviously, I’ve been doing a fair amount of research on the topic. While I don’t know firsthand what it’s like having a child with special needs, I know a bit from having friends with autistic kids or friends and relatives who help these kids (including many occupational and speech therapists). I’ve wanted to introduce this topic in the strip from the parents’ perspective.

I’ve also been getting a fair amount of helpful feedback from readers who know firsthand. I appreciate the advice and information. Please keep it coming!

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I’d especially like to give a shout out to my incredible and caring aunt, Connie Molecke, who is a retired speech therapist and helped start a camp in New Mexico for kids who are on the spectrum. She’s been a fountain of knowledge and has helped me tremendously with this series. Thanks, Aunt Connie. You rock!

 

 

That moment I got a %$@# Reuben!

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Well, some things are hard to top. This just may tie with my wedding and the birth of my children (but don’t tell that to my family).

It all started this past Memorial Day weekend at the National Cartoonists Society’s 70th annual Reuben Awards Ceremony, held this year in Memphis, TN. Originally, I was going to skip this year’s event and catch up on napping and Netflix, but I got “the call.” I was nominated for an NCS Reuben Award for Newspaper Comic Strip.

Well…..fine, I’ll go.

Hubby Mike and I packed up the kids (since grandma wasn’t around to watch them) and headed south. Many cartoonists arrived a day early to draw for patients and their families at St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital. My only regret is not being able to make it in time for that event. Heard it went beautifully.

Friday morning, Mike and I went to register for the weekend, when suddenly I was wrestled to the ground and forced to don a pig costume. That’s how they greet you at the Peabody Hotel. Not really. You see, the Peabody in Memphis is famous for its morning and evening Duck March (read about it here). There is even a designated Duckmaster. Today, the children’s book author/illustrator, Mo Willems, was the guest Duckmaster, and he needed someone to dress up as Piggie — from his popular “Elephant and Piggie” books — to help greet the kids.

Was I ever in the right time and place. NCS prez and Simpsons/Futurama comics extraordinaire, Bill Morrison, was already slated to be Gerald the elephant. I must say, we rocked our roles. Here are a few scenes.

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That’s Bill and myself flanking Mo Willems. He looks pretty astounded by our amazing ability to fit in the elevator.

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Greeting the masses.

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Yeah, those are my kids in the above photo. Look at those expressions. It was worth that sweaty, clunky hour just to embarrass them.

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And here’s one of the fabulous Jenny Robb, curator of the Billy Ireland Library and Museum, escorting me so I don’t fall on my rather large face.

I thought THAT would be the pinnacle of my weekend. But it kept going. Saw some great presentations, and then Friday night was the annual welcome cocktail party (a.k.a. cartoony boozefest). Here are a few photos from the evening.

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Large banner for cartoonists to sign for St. Jude’s.

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That’s me with the ever-sweet Lincoln Peirce (Big Nate).

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With the always enthusiastic Mike Peters (Mother Goose and Grimm/editorial cartoonist). Mike was the first professional cartoonist I ever met — in 1990 — and he hasn’t aged since.

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With fellow nominee, Mark Tatulli (Lio). Not sure why this photo is in black and white — but don’t we look elegant.

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With Jeff Knurek (Jumble), Wayno (WaynoVision), Rick Kirkman (Baby Blues), and Dave Blazek (Loose Parts). Truly nice, funny guys.

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And there’s Bill Morrison and me in our “after” shots. A bit easier to hold drinks now.

Many long, boozy, karaoke-filled hours later, we finally collapsed. Saturday morning, our family took a detour and spent some somber hours at the National Civil Rights Museum. If you haven’t been there, I urge you to go. Deeply moving experience.

On a different note, I’ll spare you the full tragic story of Hair vs. Humidity. Let’s just say I learned a lesson about trying to get my hair done (for the awards banquet) in a humid climate and then walking 15 muggy minutes back to the hotel. I think we know who won.

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Bye-bye, $$.

So, yes, Saturday night. I redid my hair, Terri-fashion (up), and hubby and I attended the banquet. What an evening. The Comic Strip category was announced toward the end. I heard my name, Mike mentioned I gave some kind of “yippy squeal” (fitting for a former piggie), and almost bawled. I didn’t, but I think I came close.

Here are a few scenes from that glorious night.

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Pre-banquet cocktail hour (cartoonists have a lot of cocktail hours). Standing next to the board that showcases the comic strip nominees (Pajama Diaries, Pearls Before Swine, and Lio) . I refrained from drawing Sharpie mustaches on my competitors’ cartoon characters (you didn’t hear that, Mark and Stephan).

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Hey look, there’s Mike Peters again. Not sure why we’re pointing at the other comic strips. I decided to make sure I always look as enthusiastic as Mike in photos from now on. His energy is pretty contagious, anyway.

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With two wonderful people, Jan Eliot (Stone Soup) and Mark Parisi (Off the Mark).

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With the incredible MAD cartoonist, Tom Richmond. Yes, that’s a light-up tuxedo in the background. Best photo bomb.

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Looking a little like fashion twins, with Maria Scrivan (Half Full).

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With good friend, Sandra Bell Lundy (Between Friends).

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With two prolific nominees, Stephan Pastis (Pearls Before Swine) and Ann Telnaes (editorial cartoonist). Ann won the Reuben for editorial cartoons.

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And finally, one with hubby and myself. Mike joked that I was going to bring the award to bed and impale him. I assured him it would have its own pillow and stay on my side.

As usual, there were many other photos that were simply too blurry to post, but hope you enjoyed these. It was an incredible night and still feels like a (good) dream.

For some extra reading pleasure, here is a list of this year’s winners and some other fun stuff (side note: Anton Emdin got the record for 3 wins. Well deserved!):

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Cheers!

-Terri

 

 

 

 

Toronto Comic Arts Festival, 2016

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I’m really excited to be part of a wonderful panel of cartoonists at the Toronto Comic Arts Festival on Saturday, May 14. I hope you Northern dwellers will come to see us.

To prove how busy–and lazy–I’ve been…rather than tell you about it myself, I decided to rip off my friend Rina Piccolo’s fabulous blog post. (For her full post, complete with nice pictures, click here.) Here it is:

Readers and comics lovers, I’m excited to tell you about how I’ll be spending the weekend of May 13, 14, and 15…

What is TCAF? In their own words, straight from torontocomics.com :

TCAF is The Toronto Comic Arts Festival. It is a week long celebration of comics and graphic novels and their creators, which culminates in a two-day exhibition and vendor fair featuring hundreds of comics creators from around the world. Other Festival events include readings, interviews, panels, workshops, gallery shows, art installations, and much more. Since 2009, TCAF has been held at Toronto Reference Library in Toronto, Canada, and presented by Toronto Public Library.

What: Panel “Newspaper Comics in a Digital World.”
When: Saturday May 14th, 1:30 pm – 2:30 pm
Where: Toronto Marriott (Bloor/Yorkville) Forest Hill Ballroom
Who: Sandra Bell Lundy (Between Friends), Terri Libenson (The Pajama Diaries), Jonathan Mahood (Bleaker, The Rechargeable Dog), Paul Gilligan (Pooch Cafe), and Dana Simpson (Phoebe And Her Unicorn).

For more details and information about the entire festival, click here.

Hope to see you there! I promise there won’t be snow. I hope…

A little announcement…

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I’m so pleased to announce that Pajama Diaries is up for a Reuben Award in the “comic strip” category. That’s a pretty big deal in the cartooning world.

Click here for a fun article about it by Michael Cavna from The Washington Post, including the complete list of nominees in each division. Good luck to all the contenders (and send me good vibes next month)!

 

 

 

Comin’ to MA!

Hey, New Englanders! I’ll be presenting in Framingham, MA (outside of Boston) on April 10 at 4 pm. The event is open to the public. Book signing afterward. Hope to see you there! Info below:

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TERRI LIBENSON, CARTOONIST OF THE PAJAMA DIARIES, COMES TO FRAMINGHAM FOR SPEAKING ENGAGEMENT ON APRIL 10

Terri will speak at Temple Beth Shalom, 50 Pamela Road, Framingham, MA, Sunday, April 10, 2016 at 4:00 pm

Terri will be signing her books (for sale at the event), “The Pajama Diaries: Deja To-Do,” “Having It All,” and “Bat-Zilla.”

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Admissions at the door: adults $8, Under 18 years free

Co-Sponsored by the Guardians of TBS and The TBS Sisterhood

For more information, contact Temple Beth Sholom, 508-877-2540, ext. 205

Terri Libenson is the cartoonist of the internationally syndicated comic strip, The Pajama Diaries, which is distributed by King Features to newspapers in print and online in the U.S. and abroad. She was also an award-winning humorous card writer for American Greetings for 22 years.Terri has three Pajama Diaries book collections: Déjà To-Do, Having it all…and no time to do it, and Bat-Zilla. She is also the author of an upcoming illustrated middle grade novel by Harper Collins called Invisible Emmie.
Born and raised in northeast Pennsylvania, Terri lives with her husband and two daughters in Cleveland, Ohio. You can find her work online at www.pajamadiaries.com The Pajama Diaries comic strip appears Monday-Saturday in the Boston Globe.

 

Pajama Diaries hits the big 1-0!

My apologies for the long delay between posts. If you read my last one, you’ll know why. I’m currently in the midst of illustrating my book…and wow, is it slow going. Kind of the opposite of illustrating the strip. I’d gotten a little spoiled there.

Speaking of which…

There are many giant milestones in history…civil rights…man on the moon…the internet… Yeah, this isn’t one of those. But hey, it’s still a pretty big deal for myself. Ten years of syndication! To celebrate, here’s my very first strip (also one of my more embarrassing ones in retrospect).

(click to enlarge):

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That’s right, this very day a decade ago, PD launched in papers across the country. It’s steadily gained a following, and I’m grateful to all my readers then and now for keeping up with the Kaplans.

To give you some time perspective, the following are illustrations of a few PD characters in 2006 and today.

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My, how they’ve changed. Stylistically, anyway. Looks like the only ones who actually aged are the kids. Funny how that works.

Anyway, this post wouldn’t be complete without a top 10 list about the last 10 years. So without further ado, here are the 10 reasons I love creating Pajama Diaries (in no particular order except #1):

10. I get to draw and color most of the time. Cartoonists and kindergarteners have a lot in common.

9. I get to write funny things. Well, things I find funny, anyway. If they make other people laugh, that’s icing on the cake.

8. Writing funny things and coloring can pull anyone out of the doldrums. Seriously. It’s hard to be depressed when you’re busy cheering yourself up.

7. Nice reader feedback. What more can I say?

6. Not-so-nice reader feedback. Because sometimes any feedback is better than no feedback. In case you’re wondering why I occasionally stir the pot.

5. I’m always on my own schedule. No, that’s not true — I’m on my kids’ schedule. But this is pretty close. (Also, pajamas till 3 pm rocks.)

4. I don’t have to talk for 8 hours straight. On the flip side, when I do start talking, I tend to have diarrhea of the mouth. But still, it’s nice.

3. I get to meet — and even become friends with — other cartoonists. This is a seriously cool fringe benefit. I still pinch myself. Ouch.

2. I have great fans. By the way, having “fans” makes me feel awkward. But I do have great ones. They encourage me and keep me motivated. I’ve even made friends with some of them. That is another seriously cool fringe benefit.

1.  This last one needs no elaborating and is the perfect way to end this list:  I love what I do. 

Thanks again to all my readers. For those whose local paper doesn’t carry PD, I urge you to call or email the editor and ask that they add it to their lineup. It truly helps.

In the meantime, here’s to another ten and beyond!

-Terri, March 27, 2016

 

 

Big news!

I’ve been keeping this under wraps until the contract was signed, but here goes…

I am extremely thrilled to announce a book deal for my illustrated middle grade novel, “Invisible Emmie.” This is a separate project from the comic strip. “Invisible Emmie” is part of a two-book deal with HarperCollins (Balzer + Bray imprint). The book will be published in 2017, with a second book coming out in 2018.

I’ve been working on “Invisible Emmie” for about a year and a half. It’s been a complete labor of love. I hope young readers (and their parents!) will thoroughly enjoy it. More info as this unfolds.

You can check out my blurb in Publishers Weekly

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