25 January 2011

Cartoonists Make the Best of Friends

For twenty-two years, I and best pal Jan Eliot have had lunch once a week to rev up our creative engines and dump anything that causes drag. It’s not easy. Being a creative person in this country is like being given a dog sled and told to compete in Nascar, no offense to dog sledding.

When we started, we didn’t know each other, but we each had a driving need—to be creative again. We had children the same age, had tinkered in our creative fields, her as a potter, me as a painter, both of us with young children and living what some call the hippy lifestyle. Life changed, partners changed. We went to work, both of us echoing each other with similar jobs--visual artists, graphic designers, copywriters—until we ended up at the same place, Lane Community College, again working similar jobs in putting students into the work force.

Then came the day when our children left the nest. That same year, 1988, we both independently found the book Wishcraft, then each other. We did what the book recommended—we agreed to meet once a week to jump start our creative careers, hers in cartooning, mine in writing fiction. She’d already been quite successful with “Sister City,” the forerunner to “Stone Soup,” but she wanted a career in cartooning, something that paid the bills, and that meant syndication.

I had a love of writing, more so than painting, so when another dear friend Susan Glassow said, “You should be a writer,” I thought, Okay. She knew I wrote copiously in journals and that I stayed up late at night, secretly working on a novel. I’d been given permission to come out. Okay, fine. Why not? I couldn’t stop writing, I loved fiction, I wrote when I should have been sleeping, so I couldn’t fool her. 

That’s when Jan and I embarked on our adventure, making goals, keeping up with each other’s progress, working through problems, celebrating our successes with a pint of grog and a mighty Hi-Ho! From there, we learned to stay focused and not wash aground when life's ill winds blew. We didn’t compete because we were working in different mediums. We could empathize because we had children whom at times we wanted to throw overboard. We could celebrate when same children grew into lovely adults with children of their own. We’ve seen a lot, been through more, and still have great respect for whom we are and what we do. And in doing so, we’ve set a course that kept us creative.

And I’m especially lucky with having a cartoonist as a pal. When my agent last year told me five editors rejected my novel, Jan brought the following to our lunch: Chicken Editor Chucker: Catapults Chicken up to 15 Feet!; Stress Weiner “Editor Edition”; Three “Bite Me” Clips; and a tin with a cover of the WWII Poster “We Can Do It!” with an added “Dammit!” for emphasis. 

So, bite me, Editors!
And for you out there, thanks for joining the crew. I'm so happy to have you on board!
In Pirate Solidarity,

Above, top: Photo of me, Jan and Wonder Woman Collection, somewhere around 1990 at Allann Bros. Coffee House, Eugene

Coming Up!
“Why I Hate Writing”
“Sink or Swim: the Dangers of the Writing Life”
"The Fountain of Creative Ideas, or Why My Resume Wouldn't Land Me a Normal Job"