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Sophie’s Saga


“Grandma Sophie” is based on my late grandma-in-law. She was still alive when I came up with the character. She lived a full life and died well into her 90’s. Toward the end, she began to experience dementia.

I hadn’t really considered what direction to move Sophie in as an evolving character. I developed her to be a challenging/opposing figure to Jill. Over the years, she’s been that and then some. She has had moments of softening, too, but for the most part she has remained her traditional, feisty self.


Lately, though, I’ve thought more about her, and about her place in the Kaplan family realm. I decided Sophie needs to experience a natural aging progression of her own. After all, if the rest of the characters get older, she should, too. Unfortunately, this means she’s entering a new domain…one of physical and/or mental ailment, and the decision-making that surrounds it. It’s a sensitive and frequently inevitable subject.

This week’s story line is based on that type of scenario. Sophie takes a fall, and consequently the family needs to decide if she should continue to live alone. All we know is that the fiercely independent Sophie will not take to it lightly. Neither did my own grandma-in-law, as well as some of my blood-relative grandparents who also lived independently into their 90’s.


We’ll see how this continues to develop. I’m sure there will be many more “Sophie moments” to come.


Book signing

Clevelanders! I’ll be selling and signing copies of my new book, “Pajama Diaries: Having It All…And No Time To Do It” on Saturday, April 19, 2 pm at Eton Barnes & Noble on Chagrin Boulevard in Woodmere, OH.  Stop by and say hello!



Lake Erie Ink: Kids’ Comic Con

I’m pleased to announce a wonderful upcoming local event: Lake Erie Ink’s second annual Kids’ Comic Con in Cleveland Heights on Saturday, March 8. I will be one of many speakers/workshop instructors participating (see flyer below). This is a great kids’ event (ages 8 -18) and I hope to see you and your families there!  P.S. I’ll also be selling copies of my books at the event.




So a few weeks ago, I jumped on the bandwagon and took one of those quizzes posted on Facebook. Normally I hate those things, but I admit that curiosity got the better of me. Plus I needed a break.

This one was called, What career should you actually have? It was a fun, two-minute distraction (and, by the way, no contest: Star Wars, bitches).

Anyway, my answer was “writer.” Not too surprising. After all, I’ve been a cartoonist for 10 years and a humorous card writer for 20.

But you have to understand how I grew up. I was a fine artist. I drew, painted, sculpted, and, yes, cartooned. I majored in illustration and minored in art history. I had inherited this artistic gene from both sides of the family. My mother’s hobby was painting (and she’s spectacular). My dad loved graphic design, and his mother painted. My brother’s professional hobby is photography. I also have countless other relatives who have pursued fine arts  — I even have a cousin who is one of Turkey’s most prominent painters.

Growing up, I thought my career path was set. I would be an artist. That’s what I told myself. That’s what others told me. And goodness knows I have an overwhelming appreciation for it.

Imagine my surprise when things started to veer.

I discovered along the way that art is no longer my main passion. I started noticing this when I began illustrating my college assignments in a cartoonish fashion. That is, I began to inject some humor and writing into my projects. I wrote comic strips and humorous graphic novels. I also documented in a journal and did some poetry and song writing on the side.

Later, when applying to greeting card companies, I was denied a position as an artist but accepted as a humor writer. I’ve grown to love that aspect of the job. As a professional cartoonist, I adore tinkering with words and writing mini-scripts.

Some days I really do identify more as a writer, and I gladly accept that. I notice that many of my colleagues can’t help but carry a sketchpad and doodle when the mood strikes. I used to have that desire, but now I find myself less interested in doodling and more interested in playing with words. Yes, I still love going to museums and galleries, and I enjoy drawing my strip. But I no longer have the desire to sketch for “fun.”

You could say I’m a writer who happens to draw, or an artist who happens to write. Of course, “cartoonist” is a wonderful blend of both and sums up this dual nature.

And who knows. Maybe I’ll eventually circle back to the fine arts and take up painting or sketching again. Maybe not. Maybe I’ll remain happy frequenting galleries and reading about art history.

In any case, for the moment I’m satisfied taking up pen (or keyboard) in hand and jotting down my thoughts…whether they make it to the strip or to this blog.



Comics Kingdom Twitter Contest


So this could be fun.

Comics Kingdom announces the “Royal Archery Tournament.” Here is the overview:

“Laughter is meant to be shared with others. We use social media as a way to spread our cartoonists’ work all around the Kingdom.

Now we are giving comics fans a chance to get in on the action – for prizes!

When you see a strip that you just know a brand or celebrity would love to see, send it to their Twitter account with a link to the using the “Share on Twitter” button. Editorial cartoons, puzzles and blog posts are all fair game, too. The person whose tweets get retweeted by the account with the biggest number of followers is this week’s winner!

We will announce the winner of the biggest retweet In each Friday’s blog post and weekly newsletter. The winner will win a free one year subscription to Comics Kingdom Royal – so you can enjoy longer archives, vintage comics, and so much more! And if you have already joined Royalty, we will add the prize onto your existing subscription. The King may also hand out some one month memberships to worthy competitors.”

For all the rules and details, click here.

The Process

Recently, King Features posted pictures of cartoonists’ work spaces on the KF blog. Really enjoyed seeing everyone’s studios. Included was this photo of myself that my husband took on the spot.

TerDeskI liked the picture, so I also posted it on my Facebook page. I got lots of ribbing for being a neat freak. But it’s true. Even though there’s a huge pile of papers to the right that were cropped out, I am pretty tidy. I know that’s unusual for a creative type. But I honestly can’t work among clutter. I’d rather spend half an hour cleaning up first than diving into a project amid papers and breakfast remains. In fact, I usually start the day by straightening up the kitchen and living room, too. It’s a sickness, I know.

In any case, that blog led me to this post. I thought it would be fun to show the evolution of my creative process. Here’s my routine — brace yourself for more pictures!

In the beginning (2006), there were Microns. And Bristol board. And large rulers, pencils, legal pads, portable light table, and a kitchen table. But the first few processes haven’t changed. I start off by sketching out cartoon ideas on plain old legal paper.


Then I polish up my roughs (sample below). I do this with about 40-50 sketches at once. I then narrow them down to a month’s worth of strips to publish.

Rough-2I did this next step until the beginning of 2013. I penciled out all the selected strips on 14 X 17 Bristol (3 daily strips per sheet), and inked them with various sized Micron pens. All this was done on my kitchen table using a portable light box that I propped up with the Yellow Pages (remember those?).


(Note: This was a publicity shot for an interview — normally my hair is in some kind of messy ponytail and I’m decked out in 10-year-old fleece.)

Anyway, I would then scan the images into Photoshop and color them on my computer using just a mouse. Yes, I tried styluses in the past and found an awkward disconnect between the digital pad and the screen. I was always more comfortable with the mouse.

Last year — after many recommendations — I bit the bullet and bought a Wacom Cintiq, which is a digital drawing pad/computer screen. Once I got used to it, it saved me so much time. I probably earned back 3-4 days/month from penciling and inking (which wasn’t my favorite process, anyway). Now I draw directly on the screen, color the images, and email my work electronically.


So here are examples of a finished strip, created fully using the Cintiq. Now that I’ve gotten the hang of the device, I see no difference between these and my old hand-drawn-and-scanned originals.


These days, cartoonists do both black/white and colored versions of their dailies because more and more daily newspapers are printing in color. Shading/coloring strips is still my favorite part of the job. I find it extremely relaxing.

And that’s it in a nutshell. I’ll spare you the extra little details, like how much cereal milk I splatter on my keyboard after I clear my clutter (and the subsequent cursing).

Some things are just routine.



Menorah Park

526e828467fe3.preview-300Come one, come all! I’ll be speaking locally at Menorah Park in Beachwood, OH, on January 14 at 7:30 pm. Q & A and a book signing to follow. Free and open to the public! Click here for details.

Looking back on lice

It’s Flashback Week here at Pajama Diaries, and we’re looking back at the “lice” story line of 2012. Remember this?


Yechhh. Knock wood, I never experienced it personally (I’m sure I jinxed myself). But I have plenty of friends whose kids have contracted it. There’s only one word used to describe the process of getting rid of these vermin: nightmarish.

For research, I rounded up everyone I knew who had dealt with it and asked them to tell their stories. It became an anecdotal dumping ground. By the end, I felt I had enough material. To further the tension, I thought it would be fun to boot Rob out of the scenario and have Jill deal with it herself. I know, not nice.


Famous last words, girl. Anyway, Jill was left to nit-pick and sanitize while emotions ran high. Of course, while Jess was afflicted, Amy managed to make the situation about her.


Meanwhile, Jill had no idea what she was doing and was trying to find ways to de-bug Jess while avoiding poisoning her with toxins. She finally settled on the flat iron method.


The result?


Granted, this is a condensed version of a two-week series. No picnic. It’s a tribute to everyone out there who’s had to deal with lice. Hats off to you.

And if I may — don’t let anyone share that hat.











Comics Kingdom


Here’s some great news for comics fans: It’s the new Comics Kingdom — a free site from King Features Syndicate. You’ll be able to read Pajama Dairies plus all of King Features’ comics in one place every day for free.  Comment on comics just like you do here, and get to know other comics fans.

There’s a small annual subscription fee to join Comics Kingdom Royal, the premium service. With this service, you can make your own custom comics page, have daily email delivery, and keep a scrapbook where you can save your favorite comics, vintage comics, and more.  If you were a DailyINK member, your account is waiting for you at Comics Kingdom Royal, with all of your favorites saved just the way you left them.

Please check it out!

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