READERSVOICE.COM: You attend meetings of chapters of the National Cartoonists Society, in Manhattan, Long Island and New Jersey. What happens at these meetings exactly? Do you drive there from where you live and stay at a hotel, or do you return the same night?
HELENE PARSONS: I live on Long Island, just east of New York City, so I usually drive to these events, or take a train, and return the same night. Because cartoonists and writers usually work in isolation, these get-togethers are a way for people to socialize, network, get others’ opinions on work in progress, give each other referrals, tips, etc. Sometimes there will be a speaker, sometimes a showing of someone’s artwork, sometimes a birthday party, or a retirement party.
RV: Do you still stick to the routine you have of writing for particular cartoonists on particular days, and reading certain newspapers on other days? What has been your daily routine for the last week each day for example?
HP: I’m at my desk at 8am Monday through Friday and usually work till 4:30 or 5. First thing Monday morning I send out a group of gags to a few specific cartoonists which I’ve been working on the past week. I either then begin working on a series of ideas for another specific cartoonist, or I go to a local library and spend the morning there reading the Sunday New York Times and Barron’s. I return home for lunch and then either go back to the library in the afternoon for more reading, or I write at home, using the words and phrases I jotted down from reading these magazines and newspapers. I try to maintain a regular cycle of reading, writing, going through old gags that I can slant to fit others’ needs, typing up gags, sending them out, looking at old cartoons to get fresh ideas. I have a calendar in front of me where I know what I’m working on when. I also write a blog about my gag writing experience on most Wednesdays. You can read it at: www.cartoongags.blogspot.com.
RV: How would you recommend people start in the field of gag caption writing?
HP: I would say start by looking at published cartoons, getting an idea of how the thought is conveyed in one single panel, discovering what topics are covered, looking at how short the captions are. I would also recommend reading as many books as you can find about cartoon and comics creation. It was and still is very helpful to know that other people are doing the same thing I’m doing, day in and day out. I would also recommend getting together with other cartoonists and writers and asking how they started, how they work. Hanging around with people who are doing the thing that I do is very motivating to me. I would also say that you have to believe that you’re a cartoon gag writer and visualize what you would be doing if you were. You have to act ‘as if.’
RV: What are some of your plans?
HP: I plan to continue doing what I’m doing, only doing it better. I plan to have more sales to syndicated and non-syndicated cartoon markets. I plan to get together with cartoonists I’ve never met and introduce myself to them. I plan to attend more events where I will meet these people and let them know what I do.
– For more insights on cartooning, see Helene Parsons’ blog at cartoongags.blogspot.com
– copyright Simon Sandall