Specialized and niche writing
• Organizations and resources for writing niches or specialties (general listings, organized alphabetically)
• Animal-focused writers organizations
• Automotive press organizations
• Cartoonists,comic book writers, and humor writing
• Children's picture books
• Food and beverage writing
• Miscellaneous types of writing gig
• Outdoor writing
• Prison writing
• Sports journalism
• Textbook and academic writers
• Travel writing
• Veterans who write (and military writing)
• Behind the Cartoonist (by the late Sarah Wernick)
Books by and about about songwriting and songwriters
Cartoons, comics, anime, manga, panel stories, graphic novels, humor, and animation
Organizations that help artists with disabilities has moved here, to a website page focused on living with disabilities.
(including animals, autos, bowling, children's books,
food, gardens, family history, jazz,
résumés, sports, travel, Web writing, and wine)
Subcultures within subcultures! An association of Fantasy Sports Writers? the American Night Writers? One could spend all day just looking at websites of people who write about vehicles (why so may auto writers associations, and so regionally organized?). See 6 Questions to Help Nonfiction Writers Find Their Niche (Erica Meltzer on Jane Friedman's blog, 9-11-18)
And why is there no website for the Aviation/Space Writers’ Association (17 S. High Street, Suite 124, Columbus, OH 43215, (614) 681-1900)?. Shouldn't writers about a high-tech industry be on the World Wide Web? Cat writers have a website.
Why are children's books and night writers and sportswriters grouped together? Because the template for this website allows only "50 works" (in this case resources) and I was running out of slots!
• American Night Writers Association (ANWA) (ANWA, a network for writers who belong to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, LDS)
• American Songwriter. Their Legal Corner looks helpful.
• Asian American Writers' Workshop (AAWW, an arts organization devoted to the creating, publishing, developing and disseminating of creative writing by Asian Americans– dedicated to the belief that Asian American stories deserve to be told)
• Association of Literary Scholars, Critics, and Writers (ALSCW)
• Binders Full of Women (Facebook group--name based on a phrase Mitt Romney used during his run for president). See Binders Full of Women Writers: can a secret Facebook group be inclusive? (Caty Enders, The Guardian, 8-5-15) Can an online ‘safe space’ be both selective and preoccupied with inclusivity? That’s a question Binders Full of Women Writers is trying to sort out after a member published an article about the Facebook group.
• Biographers International Organization (BIO), chiefly a U.S. literary organization devoted to biographers and biography (memoirists participate too)
• Black Writers
• Children's Writers. Above all, go to the website of the Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators. See section below on Children's Book Publishing
Criminal Justice Journalists (CJJ), which has an interactive forum/community. Also of possible interest:
---The Crime Report (your complete criminal justice source)
---Crime and Justice News (your daily newsfeed)
--- Cop Link (resource for police writers and others with law enforcement interests)
---Investigative Reporters and Editors (IRE) (a great organization for investigative reporters)
• Dance Critics Association
• Education Writers Association (EWA), with many useful resources, including: news and blogs and other resources, plus interesting book reviews, such as these for The Gift of Failure (a radio interview about the book The Gift of Failure: How the Best Parents Learn to Let Go So Their Children Can Succeed by Jessica Lahey) and If you read one education book this year…. (the book is Visible Learning: A Synthesis of Over 800 Meta-Analyses Relating to Achievement by John Hattie.
• Erotica Readers & Writers Association
• Garden Writers of America (GWA)
• Historical Writers of America (for writers of historical fiction or nonfiction, all genres)
• Hollywood Foreign Press Association (HFPA), best known for its Golden Globe Awards (presented weeks before the Academy Awards are presented)
• Humor Writers of America . Presumably Jordan Carr's New Yorker story would qualify: Can We Try Breaking Up Again, for the Sake of My Memoir? (6-21-16). And this: How to Make White People Laugh Negin Farsad's memoir on race, identity, and comedy.
• Hollywood Network (Warning: I am not really sure what this is about)
• HTML Writers Guild (for HTML design originators, writing for the Web). Provides online training in Web design and development. Absorbed International Webmasters Association.
• International Society of Family History Writers and Editors ( (ISFHWE, formerly Council of Genealogy Columnists), to encourage excellence in writing and editorial standards in genealogical publishing.
• Jazz Journalists Association (JJA) , which has hosted several webinars on jazz journalism, which you can listen to free, online, including Writing Jazz Biographies .
• Legal Writing Institute (LWI)
• Military Reporters & Editors (MRE), to advance public understanding of the military, national security and homeland defense, to represent the interests of working journalists to the government and military; and to assure that journalists have access to places where the U.S. military and its allies operate.
• Military Writers Society of America (MWSA -- authors, poets, and artists drawn together by the common bond of military service)
• Nashville Songwriters Association International (NSAI, "It all began with a song")
• National Association of Independent Writers and Editors (NAIWE)
• National Book Critics Circle (NBCC, and the blog of its board of directors, Critical Mass
• National Résumé Writers' Association (NRWA)
• New York Financial Writers’ Association, Inc. (NYFWA)
• North American Agricultural Journalists (agricultural editors and writers)
• Organizations for biographers, memoirists, and personal historians
• Peace Corps Writers (a division of Peace Corps Worldwide) This isn't really a writers organization but there is material of interest for writers about the Peace Corps.
• Police Writers
• Prison and Justice Writing (PEN America) Download list of writing programs in prisons across the U.S., request a copy of the Handbook for Writers in Prison, find a writing mentor, and/or submit poetry, fiction, nonfiction, and dramatic works to PEN’s Prison Writing Contest. See also section on prison writing on this website (Writers and Editors)
• Public Safety Writers Association (formerly Police/Public Safety Writers Association)
• Scribes (The American Society of Legal Writers)
• Songwriters Guild of America (SGA)
• Southern California Restaurant Writers (SCRWm bestows annual awards, to encourage better restaurant reviews)
• United Nations Correspondents Association (UNCA)
• U.S. Marine Corps Combat Correspondents Association (USMCCCA)
• White House Correspondents' Association (WHCA)
• Women Writing Women's Lives Biography Seminar (roughly 70 women in New York metropolitan area engaged in writing book-length biographies and memoirs). See WWWL blog and videos of past events.
• Writers' Trust of Canada
• Writer UA, the Conference for Software User Assistance
• Washington Biography Group. On that website is a list of Other biography centers, groups, and resources
• The Young Writers Society (YWS)
• Cat Writers' Association (CWA) . See categories for CWA awards.
• Dog Writers Association of America (DWAA). See rules and entry information for DWA's writing competition
• Horserace Writers' and Photographers' Association (HWPA, UK). See Derby Awards
• Making a Living as an Animal Writer (Mary Hope Kramer, The Balance, 6-23-17)
• Writing for Animal Magazines: Publishing Markets (Mary Hope Kramer, The Balance, 6-25-17)
• 9 Publications That Pay You to Write About Animals ( Paula Fitzsimmons, Animal Jobs Digest)
• This Pet Writing Conference Made Me Fall Deeper in Love with Animal Lovers (Jen Reeder, HuffPost, 5-25-17) The president of the Dog Writers Association of America reports pon the three-day BlogPaws conference.
• Resources for finding service dogs, therapy dogs, and other types of assistance dogs (Pat McNees)
• Eastern Motorsport Press Association (EMPA)
• Motor Press Guild (MPG)
• New England Motor Press Association (NEMPA)
• Northwest Automotive Press Association (NWAPA) , for members of the automotive media (newspaper, magazine, radio, media groups, and Internet), representatives of automotive manufacturers, and related industry professionals
• Texas Auto Writers Association (TAWA)
• Truck Writers of North America (TWNA, pronounced "tuna," a Facebook page
• Washington Automotive Press Association
• Western Automotive Journalists (WAJ)
• Contently’s Clients Are Looking for Automotive Writers
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• Publishers rejected her, Christians attacked her: The deep faith of ‘A Wrinkle in Time’ author Madeleine L’Engle (Sarah Pulliam Bailey, Wash Post, 3-8-18) "It took 26 publisher rejections before Madeleine L’Engle could get “A Wrinkle in Time” into print in 1962. The book was an instant hit, winning the Newbery Medal the following year, but despite its wild success, L’Engle still had fierce critics — including a good number of" conservative Christians, who disliked her book for faith reasons.
• Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI). Start here, explore the site's excellent resources, and look up local chapters. This is a specialty you WANT to learn about from practitioners with experience.
• Frequently Asked Questions about Children's Book Publishing (SCBWI)
• The Book: Essential Guide to Publishing for Children (SCBWI) Downloadable free to members.
• Canadian Society of Children's Authors, Illustrators, and Performers (CANSCAIP)
• The Purple Crayon. Harold Underdown's site about the business of writing, editing, illustrating, and publishing children's books, with articles about many topics, including
~The Acquisition Process,
~Children's book genres
~Basic articles (answers typical questions of people getting started in the children's publishing world)
~Resource guide (books, magazines, and other resources for writers and illustrators of children's books)
~Best of the site (including "Getting Started)
~Getting Out of the Slush Pile
~Children's Book Agents and Artist's Representatives: a Guide
• Children's Book Authors and Illustrators: Publishing, Marketing and Selling (Facebook group)
• Josh Funk's Guide to Writing Picture Books
• Creating Picture Books (Debbie Ridpath Ohi's how-to guides, free templates, & resources), including InkyGirl's Reading, Writing, & Illustrating Children's Books. See also newsletter archives. Twitter: @inkyelbows.
• Storyteller Academy (Facebook page) Check out the informative videos, such as 'how to open and close story loops.'
• Kid Lit (literary agent Mary Kole's website on how to write and publish children's and YA books). See also her book Writing Irresistible Kidlit: The Ultimate Guide to Crafting Fiction for Young Adult and Middle Grade Readers
• So You Wrote a Children’s Book—What’s Next? (Carol Fisher Saller, The Subversive Copy Editor, 5--6-17) Excellent basic advice.
• Birth Stories for Books (Dawn Babb Prochovnic) Various authors share the story of their path to publication. She shared her own here.
• Children's Writer's & Illustrator's Market (Cris Freese, Writer's Digest)
• How to Publish Your Children’s Book: A Complete Guide to Making the Right Publisher Say Yes (Square One Writers Guide) by Liza N. Burby. See Author's note and review comments.
• The Business of Writing for Children (Tips on Writing Children's Books and Publishing Them, or How to Write, Publish, and Promote a Book for Kids) by Aaron Shephard
• How to Market Children’s Books Online (Karen Inglis, Self-Publishing Advice from ALLi, 12-17-16) Think like a broadcaster: YouTube, Kids' radio, Popjam, Toppsta.
• Why Print Rules When Self-Publishing Children’s Books (Karen Inglis, ALLi, 10-27-16)
• From Slush Pile to Bestseller: The Story Behind Goodnight, Goodnight, Construction Site (Chronicle Books blog, 2-2-17)The question “how did this come to be?” often arises in the wake of massive success, so we reached out to one of our senior editors, Melissa Manlove, to share the truly heartwarming story of how the Goodnight, Goodnight, Construction Site world was born.
• Mirrors, Windows, & Sliding Glass Doors (Rudine Sims Bishop, Prism). Children need to find themselves reflected in the books they read. (You may have to click on font cues at bottom for it to show up). Bishop refers to an old classic on her theme: The All-White World of Children's Books (PDF, Nancy Larrick, former president of the International Reading Association, Saturday Review, 9-11-65)
• Self-publishing children's books (another page of Writers and Editors)
• Second Sight: An Editor's Talks on Writing, Revising, and Publishing Books for Children and Young Adults by Cheryl B. Klein. See also her book The Magic Words: Writing Great Books for Children and Young Adults
• Soft Skills Needed to Be a Children's Book Illustrator: A Practical Guide (Rowena Aitken, EvnatoTuts, 8-14-18)
• How to illustrate children's books: 7 top tips (Doreen Marts, Creative Bloq, 3-10-17) Professional advice on how to bring your stories to life, and help them find an audience.
• 75 best Adobe Illustrator tutorials (Creative Bloq staff, 11-28-18) Top quality Adobe Illustrator tutorials for beginner, intermediate and advanced levels.
• From brief to book: A guide to book illustration for beginners (Creative Bloq staff, 5-29-12) They explain how the publishing cycle works for illustrators and some leading art directors give some top tips on how to get your work noticed.
• 'Can you illustrate my book?' Some tips for writers approaching illustrators (Sarah McIntyre, Jabberworks, 4-25-16)
• 5 tips for illustrating children's books (Creative Bloq, 9-14-15) Best-selling author and illustrator Rob Biddulph shares his expert tips.
• I believe writing is an act of resistance (the personal is political) (5 On: Amy Tipton, interviewed by Kristen Tsetsi, on Jane Friedman's blog, 11-15-18) Savvy advice from freelance editor and former literary agent Amy Tipton, discussing her love of young adult and middle grade fiction, the role of the "unlikable female character," whether agents who don't want a manuscript will be likely to pass it along to an agent friend, her personal editing style, and more.
• The Next Wave of Children's Bookstores: Part One (Judith Rosen, Publishers Weekly, 12-12-17). And Part Two: Getting Political (12-14-17)
• Children’s Picture Book Authors & Illustrators on Twitter (Tara Lazar's selected list of authors with their twitter addresses)
• 20 great resources for aspiring writers of children's books
• Children's Book Guild of Washington D.C. (as well as Maryland and North Virginia)
• Middle Grade or Young Adult? (Christine Ma, Copyediting, 2-16-17) Middle grade books are geared to readers 8 to 12; young adult (YA) books are aimed at readers 13 and up. But that's not all that helps define the labels.
• Write a Marketable Children's Book in 7 Weeks by Shirley Raye Redmond and Jennifer McKerley
• From Keyboard to Printed Page (basics on formatting your writing and sending it out--SCBWI)
• Making It: Children's Books by Peter Barnes (Elizabeth Chang, Washington Post Magazine, about journalist developing niche writing and publishing children's books about vacation sites)
• Children's Books (JC Publishers, Go for the Gold section). Ted Bowman offers concise explanation of why children's books, which require illustrations, are not good candidates for print-on-demand self-publishing--and there are other good author resources on his site)
• Rachelle Burk's Resources for Children's Writers
• The Institute of Children's Literature publishes a useful newsletter ($20 a year) for children's book writers, but also provides many useful articles and transcripts free onlne, at Rx for Writers (a topical index for articles and transcripts on writing for children)
• Write a Marketable Children's Book in 7 Weeks by Shirley Raye Redmond and Jennifer McKerley
• What Children (and Everyone Else) Need to Read Donna Jo Napoli's excellent TEDxswarthmore talk, 4-3-12. "Children's books often are banned because people feel that the vulnerability of childhood gives them the right and responsibility to protect children. They see books that touch on certain topics as dangerous. Although the motivations of these adults are understandable, Napoli argues that the top 12 reasons why books are banned are actually reasons why books should be read. She will discuss what these books do for the unprotected child and the protected child.
• How to Self-Publish a Children's Book: Everything You Need to Know to Write, Illustrate, Publish, and Market Your Paperback and Ebook by Yvonne Jones
• Write for Kids--Change the World (Children's Book Insider)
• Children's Book Council
• FAQs About Children's Writing (Anne LeMieux, David Lubar and Marilyn Singer, Writing World--the FAQ written for the AOL Chidren's Writers Chat on AOL, which no longer exists). Plus more articles and interviews about writing for this age group (Writing-World.com)
• JacketFlap (connects you to the work of more than 200,000 authors, illustrators, publishers and other creators of books for children and young adults)
• Margot Finke's Monthly "Musings" (guidance to people getting started in the children's publishing world, articles from 2002 to 2008)
• From the Editor's Desk (Bantam Delacorte Dell editor Beverly Horowitz answers the questions most frequently asked by writers of children's books)
• FAQs About Children's Writing (Jon Bard, Children's Book Insider, Right-Writing.com)
• Writing Tips from the Highlights Foundation Writers Workshop at Chautauqua (much material, from several years)
• Children's Literature Web Guide
• CHILDRENS-WRITING (an e-mail discussion list for children's writers and illustrators, and for anyone interested in writing or drawing for kids)
• Children's Book Insider (a $ newsletter) and Children's Book Clubhouse. Video tips from same source: 7 Things Editors at Children's Book Publishers Wish Writers Knew;
• Harold Underdown's fabulous page of links to relevant magazines, organizations, and websites
• Children's Writer's & Illustrator's BlueBoard (discussions, Verla Kay's site)
• Susan Raab's articles on marketing children's books
• SmartWriters website for children's writers
• Children's & YA Lit Resources (Cynthia Leitich Smith's site)
• Children's Book Council (CBC), many helpful reading lists.
• Brooklyn Arden (children’s book editor Cheryl Klein talks about the books and authors she works with and what's going on in her industry)
• Editorial Anonymous (blog of a children's book editor, with entries such as How can I become a children's book editor? (4-19-09) and Do I need an agent?
• Top 20 Picture Book Agents in Publishers Marketplace (Edie Hemingway, As the Eraser Burns, 9-13-10, MD/DE/WV region, SCBWI)
• Small Presses of Color (listing of active small-press publishers or producers of multicultural materials owned and operated by people of color, compiled by the Cooperative Children's Book Center
• “I’m not a writer. I’m a rewriter. I go over and over and over. A million times.”
Writing is work. “I don’t count on inspiration. Inspiration follows pushing yourself, pushing yourself, pushing yourself.”
“When I got my first book published, I was in a state of high rapture for a very, very long time,” she said. “But you’ve got to love the process. . . . Most of what you’re doing is, you’re writing the book. You’re not hugging the book afterward. You have to love that enough.”
From a profile of Judith Viorst, whose popular children's books are often about kids who are grouchy or annoyed, on the occasion of ‘Lulu and the Brontosaurus’ preparing to go onstage in Bethesda.
"Britain and America are the two great cookbook-writing nations, which is not the same as being nations of great cooks. It is precisely because neither country can boast a coherent, admirable, traditional cuisine that cooks have such need of guidance and distraction. Nations with grand cooking traditions produce fewer, simpler cookbooks. Yet things are changing." ~ from a story in The Economist--click here to read it:
Pluck a Flamingo: What Cookbooks Really Teach Us
• Association of Food Journalists (AFJ)
• The Recipe Writer's Handbook, by Barbara Gibbs Ostmann and Jane L. Baker
• Slow Food USA (dedicating to changing the world through "food that is good, clean and fair for all")
• Can a recipe be stolen? (Joyce Gemperlein, Washington Post, 1-4-06) "Copyright law specifies that "substantial literary expression in the form of an explanation or directions," such as a cookbook, can be copyrighted but that a mere list of ingredients cannot receive that protection. The International Association of Culinary Professionals guidelines "focus on giving proper attribution to recipes that are published or taught." The association advises using the words "adapted from," "based on" or "inspired by," depending on how much a recipe has been revised.
• Food and Environment Reporting Network (FERN) , independent, nonprofit news organization that produces investigative reporting on food, agriculture, and environmental health
• Circle of Wine Writers
• Culinary Historians of Washington, DC (members include scholars, cooks, food writers, nutritionists, collectors, students, and all those interested in learning about foodways, culinary history, and gastronomy) Their links page links to Culinary Historians and related groups in Ann Arbor, Austin (Foodways), Boston, Chicago, New York, Ontario, Northern California, Southern California, New Orleans, and more).
• The Deluxe Food Lover's Companion by Ron and Sharon Herbst. A popular reference for food writers.
• GoodFood (BBC food glossary) and BBC recipes
• Food memoirs and biographies (a list of recommended reading)
• Food writing (interesting articles, tips, and books for food writers and aspiring food writers)
• How to Stock a Modern Pantry (Julia Moskin, Cooking, NY Times). For example, "Fragrant leaves like makrut lime and curry (not the spice mix, but an Indian tree with scented leaves) are much more powerful in frozen form than dried."
• International Food, Wine & Travel Writers Association (IFWTWA)
• International Association of Culinary Professionals (IACP) Join at various membership levels. Members-only access to website's best features: excellent resources, for members only.
• "It's a shame to be caught up in something that doesn't absolutely make you tremble with joy." ~ Julia Child, 1991
• 10 Things Every Cookbook Publisher Should Know (T. Susan Chang, cookbook reviewer, in PW, 12-6-10) Five common mistakes that make a cookbook unusable, five things that make a good cookbook great
• The Hidden Risks of Writing a Cookbook (Sierra Tishgart, Grub Street) The cookbook business has a reputation for being strong and lucrative — a smart career move for any chef. The reality burns. "The way these deals are structured protects the publishing house and empowers them to make more and more books." The realities of self-publishing (including a Kickstarter campaign). “Cookbooks are like restaurants — you can’t make money with one,” says Fat Rice's Abraham Conlon.
• Why We Are Self Publishing the Aviary Cookbook: Lessons From the Alinea Book. (Nick Kokonas, Medium, 5-10-17) Real numbers from the opaque world of cookbook publishing--a "how we did it" story. Watch their Kickstarter video for the Aviary Book..
• Designing a Cookbook (Glenna Collett, Book Design Made Simple, 1-11-16) How to on layout, trim size, typesetting, etc. But first, get it professionally edited.
• Jane and Michael Stern, The Art of Nonfiction No. 8 (interviewed by Sadie Stein, The Paris Review, Winter 2015). The delightful authors of Roadfood: The Coast-to-Coast Guide to 900 of the Best Barbecue Joints, Lobster Shacks, Ice Cream Parlors, Highway Diners, and Much, Much More and their memoir Two for the Road: Our Love Affair with American Food. See also their write-ups of road food around the U.S. (on the Splendid Table website). See also Meet Jane and Michael Stern, the Original Culinary Road Warriors ( Sarah Baird, Eater, 12-2-15) and Roadfood.com.
• Jean Patterson's FAQ about food writing
• Names for food in British and American English (OxfordWords) -- for example, eggplant and aubergine, garbanzos and chickpeas, arugala and rocket, navy beans and haricot beans)
• Oldways (not a writing group but a nonproﬁt food and nutrition education organization, with a mission to inspire healthy eating through cultural food traditions and lifestyles)
• Questions for a Cookbook Copyeditor (Q&A about cookbook editing with Karen Wise, Copyediting, 10-27-11)
• Recipe for Fred Hapgood's fabulous sourdough anise bread
• Recipes Into Type: A Handbook for Cookbook Writers and Editors by Joan Whitman and Dolores Simon (a reference book about the mechanics of recipe writing)
• Tea Vendors and Communities (Katharine O'Moore-Klopf, KOK Edit)
• 10 Things Every Cookbook Publisher Should Know (Cookbook reviewer T. Susan Chang, PW, 12-6-10) What not to do in a cookbook, and a list of her favorite recipe books (good for holiday shopping).
• Recipes and copyright. Copyright Office on recipes Copyright law does not protect recipes that are mere listings of ingredients. Nor does it protect other mere listings of ingredients such as those found in formulas, compounds, or prescriptions. Copyright protection may, however, extend to substantial literary expression—a description, explanation, or illustration, for example—that accompanies a recipe or formula or to a combination of recipes, as in a cookbook. Only original works of authorship are protected by copyright. “Original” means that an author produced a work by his or her own intellectual effort instead of copying it from an existing work.
• Cookbook Author Lazarus Lynch Loves an Ugly Tomato “The uglier the better for me.” (Chris Cowley, Grub Street, 8-16-19) Spend a little time with the author of Son of a Southern Chef: Cook with Soul.
• How Big Business Got Brazil Hooked on Junk Food (Andrew Jacobs and Matt Richtel, NY Times, 9-16-17) Excellent investigative piece about how, as growth slows in wealthy countries, Western food companies are aggressively expanding in developing nations, contributing to obesity and health problems. "A New York Times examination of corporate records, epidemiological studies and government reports — as well as interviews with scores of nutritionists and health experts around the world — reveals a sea change in the way food is produced, distributed and advertised across much of the globe. The shift, many public health experts say, is contributing to a new epidemic of diabetes and heart disease, chronic illnesses that are fed by soaring rates of obesity in places that struggled with hunger and malnutrition just a generation ago.
• Michele Anna Jordan on Food and Food Writing (interesting Q&A on Andy Ross's Ask the Agent blog: Night Thoughts About Books and Publishing)
• The Restaurant Where Grandmas Cook to Share Their Cultures (Shaima Shamdeen, Yes!, 2-20-18) A New York City restaurant does more than serve home cooking from around the world. It prepares each dish with the love that only a grandmother can provide.
• Ruth Reichl, James Beard award winners cook up the future of food writing (Dawn Failik, Poynter, 5-25-11). Hear from Ruth Reichl, Dara Moskowitz Grumdahl (“Being a restaurant critic in Minnesota is relentlessly local”), Holly Hughes (“I love the alternative weeklies; they still devote space to longform writing”), Jonathan Gold, Miriam Morgan, Craig LaBan (“You can’t underestimate how the change in technology has changed food writing”)
• Advice for Future Food Writers (Amanda Hesser, Food52, 4-10-12) "Except for a very small group of people (some of whom are clinging to jobs at magazines that pay more than the magazines' business models can actually afford), it’s nearly impossible to make a living as a food writer, and I think it’s only going to get worse."
• Drizzle and Drip recipe index (some of Sam Linsell's recipes are worth making)
• From Bananas to Blintzes: Writing about Diet, Nutrition and Food by Kelly James-Enger (Writing-World.com)
• Haute Cuisine (Doug Brown, American Journalism Review, Feb/March 2004). Food journalism, once a throwaway compendium of recipes and “what’s hot” articles, has gone upscale. Newspapers and magazines are dedicating top talent to the food beat, and they are hungry for sophisticated stories with timely angles. (This was printed in 2004)
• How the sandwich consumed Britain (Sam Knight, The Guardian,11-24-17) A Guardian Longreads. The world-beating British sandwich industry is worth £8bn a year. It transformed the way we eat lunch, then did the same for breakfast – and now it’s coming for dinner.
• This small Altadena press is publishing some terrific L.A. cookbooks (Margy Rochlin, Los Angeles Times, 8-22-17)
• Celebrating with Julienne by Susan Campoy "cost $40. Nobody was buying anything then. But people were buying stacks of 10 as gifts,” says Bates of a cookbook that would end up winning the nonfiction book prize from the Southern California Independent Booksellers Assn. that year. “We sold 8,000 copies in six months with no publicity, no nothing." “A small press only has certain niches available — and my niche is that I’ve lived in L.A. my whole life. I know people in the food world, I know the retailers, I know the media, I know the bloggers,” says Bates, a sixth-generation Southern Californian who as a child was an exasperatingly picky eater but evolved into — much to the amusement of her family — LA Style’s restaurant critic, a post she held for seven years.'
• Why newspaper food writing is bad (W. Blake Gray, The Gray Report, 11-1-11)
• Is Food Writing a Dismal Way to Make a Living? (Dianne Jacob, Will Write for Food, 4-17-12)
• Instagram Your Leftovers: History Depends on It (Laura Shapiro, NY Times, 9-2-17) "With its vast reach and the technological savvy of its users, Instagram could go beyond mere glamour and open up a domestic world that has always been elusive. I’m talking about ordinary meals at home — the great unknown in the study of food....[T]here’s nothing to tell us what a schoolteacher in Connecticut served to her family on a Thursday in 1895. Or what she was thinking when she boiled the string beans for 45 minutes, put ketchup in the salad dressing and decided to try her neighbor’s recipe for rice pudding, the one with a little cinnamon. Could Instagram capture today’s version of that story?"
• Food critics group updates its guidelines and ethics code (Jim Romenesko, 5-14-13) See also Why One Food Writers Group Updated Its Ethics Guidelines (Katie Bascuas, Associations NOw, 5-20-13)
• The Greenbrier Food Writers Symposium (Kurt Michael Friese, HuffPost, 9-20-10)
• Food for Thought (and for Publishing!) (Kavitha C. Reinhold, Chicago Women in Publishing, Feb. 2009). The Food Publishing panel comprised Carol Haddix, Chicago Tribune food editor and editor of Chicago Cooks; Doug Seibold, president of Agate Publishing, whose Surrey imprint publishes books on food, dining, and entertaining; Laura Bruzas, founder and publisher of Healthy Dining Chicago, a community education and outreach effort; and guest moderator Tom O'Brien, of O'Brien Culinary Communications and Kendall College food writing faculty.'
• "There is really no such thing as an original recipe. . . But cooks must feed their egos as well as their customers." ~ M.F.K. Fisher to Julia Child, October 4, 1968
• Food pieces by David Hochman (scroll down to find links to some interesting stories). He also runs Upod Academy (Upod stands for “under-promise, over-deliver”), a workshop at which to learn learn the ropes about freelancing successfully.
Here's a work that's offered free, online: • A Cheerful American Cookbook Memorializing the 1948 Berlin Blockade (Caroline Lieffers and Frederick Mills, Slate, 8-4-17)
BOOKS FOR THE FOOD WRITERS BOOKSHELF:
If you buy any books from Amazon after clicking on one of these links, we get a small commission (which helps support the site).
• Recipes Into Type: A Handbook for Cookbook Writers and Editors by Joan Whitman and Dolores Simon (who was copyeditor at Harper & Row when it first started publishing the big cookbooks)
• “People ask me, ‘Why do you write about food, and eating and drinking? Why don’t you write about the struggle for power and security, about love, the way others do?’. . . The easiest answer is to say that, like most other humans, I am hungry. But there is more than that. It seems to me that our three basic needs for food and security and love, are so mixed and mingled and entwined that we cannot straightly think of one without the others. So it happens that when I write of hunger, I am really writing about love and the hunger for it. . . There is communion of more than our bodies when bread is broken and wine drunk.” ~ M.F.K. Fisher, from The Gastronomical Me
• Will Write for Food: The Complete Guide to Writing Cookbooks, Blogs, Reviews, Memoir, and More by Dianne Jacob
• Food memoirs and biographies (a list of recommended reading)
• Food Photography: From Snapshots to Great Shots by Nicole S. Young
• Plate to Pixel: Digital Food Photography & Styling by Helene Dujardin.
• Jane Shafron's recipes The cooking website of a wonderful colleague and friend, who died far too young in January 2019. Posted there is a tribute to Jane, including a moving farewell note from her mother.
• Florida Outdoor Writers Association (FOWa)
• Louisiana Outdoor Writers Association (LOWA)
• Michigan Outdoor Writers Association (MOWA)
• New York State Outdoor Writers Association (NYSOWA)
• Northwest Outdoor Writers Association (NOWA)
• Outdoor Writers and Photographers Guild, UK (OWPG, writers, authors, photographers, designers, journalists, artists, illustrators, editors, broadcasters, copywriters, content-providers, lecturers, public speakers, consultants, communicators – all specializing in sustainable outdoor activities and the outdoor world)
• Outdoor Writers Association of America (OWAA, writers, broadcasters, photographers, outdoor industry, and more--all passionate about the outdoors)
• Outdoor Writers of Ohio (OWO)
• Pennsylvania Outdoor Writers Association (POMA)
• Professional Outdoor Media Association (POMA)
• Southeastern Outdoor Press Association (SEOPA)
• Tennessee Outdoor Writers Association (TOWA)
• Texas Outdoor Writers Association (TOWA)
• Virginia Outdoor Writers Association (VOWA)
• The WOMA.com (The Women's Ourdoor Media Association, WOMA, the only not-for-profit media group focused on promotion of women in hunting, shooting, fishing and archery)
• The Ham-Handed, Money-Driven Mangling of Sports Illustrated and Deadspin (Louisa Thomas, New Yorker, 11-3-19) Louisa Thomas writes about the massive layoffs at Sports Illustrated, the mass exodus of employees from Deadspin, and the future of sportswriting. How new owners brought about the demise of a leading sports website, and the declin of its media-legacy predecessor. "It seems that not one of the buyers had purchased Sports Illustrated because it valued the publication’s work. What concerned the buyers was how much money they could wring from their purchase. Authentic Brands held the licensing and trademark rights to celebrities like Marilyn Monroe and Muhammad Ali, and had never actually published a magazine." Things went downhill fast. See also, perhaps especially, Inside TheMaven's Plan to Turn Sports Illustrated Into a Rickety Content Mill (Laura Wagner, David Roth, and Kelsey McKinney, Deadspin, 10-4-19)
• What Happens When Athletes Do the Sportswriting? (Amos Barshad, NY Times Magazine, 2-21-18) The Players’ Tribune, a pet project of Derek Jeter’s, allows the stars to tell their own stories. It’s occasionally great — but is it journalism? See for yourself: The Players Tribune ("The Voice of the Game," first-person stories from athletes, providing unique insight into the daily sports conversation).
• Detroit’s game-changing sports reporter on a half-century of work (Anna Clark, CJR, 11-2-18) Mick McCabe spent 49 years covering high school sports for the . His "sportswriting is pioneering for its kid-first approach and its expansive coverage of female athletes." He took girls' sports seriously and covered more than football and basketball. See also Time for a new game plan for covering high school football (Tony Biasotti, CJR, 2-3-17)
• Arena Football League Writers Association
• Associated Press Sports Editors (APSE)
• Association for Women in Sports Media (AWSM), with both male and female members, supports the advancement and growth of women--both sports and professional--in sports media
• Fantasy Sports Writers Association (FSWA)
• Football Writers Association of America (FWAA)
• Golf Writers Association of America (GWAA
• International Bowling Media Association (IBMA)
• International Tennis Writers Association (ITWA)
• Louisiana Sports Writers Association (LSWA)
• National Collegiate Baseball Writers (NCBW)
• National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Association (NSSA)
• North American Snowsports Journalists Association (NASJA), for professional snowsports writers, authors, photographers, videographers, broadcasters and industry professionals (originally U.S. Ski Writers Association)
• Philadelphia Sports Writers Association (PSWA), actual site appeared to be hacked so changed the link
• Professional Basketball Writers Association (PBWA)
• Sportswriters.Net (home to FWAA, USBWA, and NCBWA)
• Track and Field Writers Association of America (Facebook)
• Truck Writers of North America (TWNA, pronounced "tuna," a Facebook page
• U.S. Basketball Writers Association (USBWA)
• "The Catch" and the Birth of a 49ers Dynasty. Can anything capture sports better than this video of Joe Montana throwing a high pass to Dwight Clark does?
• Commentators' Curse (Erik Hoffner's essay arguing for quieter sports experiences. This 2017 essay makes the case for commentary-free soccer coverage, because too often the announcers talk over the most interesting & exciting moments of a match.)
• Writing a Sports Column Far From Print, and the Game (Noam Cohen, NY Times, 11-15-09), About Bill Simmons and sportwriting.
• How the Kremlin Tried to Rig the Olympics, and Failed (Julia Ioffe, The Atlantic, 12-6-17) Is this a sport story or a political story? Either way, it's one not to miss.
• The Best Sports Journalism Ever (According to Bill Simmons) (C. Max Magee, The Millions, 10-12-08)
• 60 Years, 60 Iconic Stories (Sports Illustrated)
• Speed Hurts: Jeff Passan Talks About Baseball’s Arm Troubles (John Williams interview, NY Times, 4-20-16)
• Sports Style Guide & Reference Manual : The Complete Reference for Sports Editors, Writers, and Broadcasters by Jennifer Swan
• Longreads Best of 2017
"Football is not a contact sport, it's a collision sport -- dancing is a contact sport."~Vince Lombardi
• I Will Never See the World Again: The Memoir of an Imprisoned Writer by Ahmet Altan. After a failed coup in 2016, Turkish writer Altan was imprisoned via trumped-up charges and sentenced to life without parole. His self-reflective, short essays written from prison are deceptively graceful and often humorous even as they deliver a blow to the heart. Altan discovers that the power to survive new reality has lurked inside him all along: “I am a writer. I am neither where I am nor where I am not.” Read also When the Urge to Write Is a Life Sentence (Rod Nordland, Reporter's Notebook, NY Times, 10-24-19)
•Writing Behind Bars: The True Tale of Noir Hero Malcolm Braly: From San Quentin to Johnny Carson (Brian Greene, CrimeReads, Literary Hub, 4-8-16) Posted here because Malcolm was a friend of mine when I worked in book publishing, and I knew beans about his criminal past -- he was just a lovely friend, gentle and good-natured. He did adapt to regular life, as far as I knew, and we were all so sad when he died. Read his wonderful novel about prison life, On the Yard and his autobiography, False Starts: A Memoir of San Quentin & Other Prisons.
• What happened during my first visit to a prison since being released from one (Jason Rezaian, WaPo, 3-26-19) "I was reminded of a passage I came across in a copy of the 1960 edition of the Federal Bureau of Prisons booklet: 'These men read more serious literature than does the ordinary person in the community.' Literate convicts, it estimated, read from 75 to 100 books each year." Rezaian wrote of his own experiences in Prisoner: My 544 Days in an Iranian Prison—Solitary Confinement, a Sham Trial, High-Stakes Diplomacy, and the Extraordinary Efforts It Took to Get Me Out
• The 2019 PEN/Barbey Freedom to Write Award will honor imprisoned writers Nouf Abdulaziz, Loujain Al-Hathloul, and Eman Al-Nafjan. The three writer-activists have been subjected to imprisonment, solitary confinement, and torture by the Saudi Arabian government as part of its brutal crackdown on individuals who raise their voices in defense of women’s rights in the Kingdom.
• Prison Writers "Where prisoners have a voice." "What happens in prison doesn't stay in prison anymore. The most forgotten segment of our society now has a voice."
• Teaching Poetry in Prison (Zachary Lazar, LitHub, 2-16-18) Zachary Lazar on a Writing Class of Undergraduate and Incarcerated Students
• PEN Prison Writing Program
• PEN's annual Prison Writing Contest (PEN's annual competition)
• PEN Handbook for Writers in Prison (free for writers in prison)
• Writers in Prison Network Ltd. (UK)
• On Being Invisible: Our Nation's Incarcerated (Ilse Munro, Little Patuxent Review 1-9-12)
• In the Endless Sameness of Prison, Writing Kept Me Human (Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o, LitHub, ) "Paper, any paper, is about the most precious article for a political prisoner, more so for one, like me, who was imprisoned without trial for his writing." From Wrestling with the Devil: A Prison Memoir
• The Prison Letters of Nelson Mandela
• American Prison Writing Archive (Digital Humanities Initiative)
• "Inside" Prison Writing Blog
• Memoir-writing workshops for prisoners
• Free Minds Book Club & Writing Workshop This links to its useful page of resources for inmates.
• American Prison Writing Archive (Digital Humanities Initiative, National Endowment for the Humanities)
• American prison literature (Wikipedia)
• The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander. Carefully researched, deeply engaging, and thoroughly readable."~Publishers Weekly
• Books about wrongful convictions and related issues
• Association of Literary Scholars, Critics, and Writers (ALSCW)
• Association of Writers & Writing Programs (AWP, provides community, opportunities, ideas, news, and advocacy for writers and teachers of writing.)
• Teachers and Writers Collaborative (TWI, a New York group whose volunteers boost the teaching of writing, the educating of imaginations)
• National Association of Science Writers (NASW) , for popular and academic authors (but not about academic publications)
• PLoS, a nonprofit organization of scientists committed to making the world's scientific and medical literature freely accessible to scientists, researchers, educators, and patient advocates. One of PLOS’s goals is to show that open access publishing is a sustainable way to publish peer-reviewed research.
• Open Library of Humanities (OLH), website provides background to, and rationale for, OLH's vision of building a low-cost, sustainable Open Access future for the humanities
• Society of American Travel Writers (SATW, the most exclusive of the travel writer organizations--you must have a substantial portfolio of travel writing to be accepted)
• International Food Wine & Travel Writers Association (IFWTWA) ( a global network of journalists who cover the hospitality and lifestyle fields, and the people who promote them)
• The North American Travel Journalists Association (NATJA) ( “premier professional association of writers, photographers, editors, and tourism professionals dedicated to redefining professional development for the travel industry")
• Bay Area Travel Writers (BATW)
• Midwest Travel Writers Association (MTWA)
• Travel Media Association of Canada (TMAC, for professional travel writers, bloggers, photographers, videographers and tourism industry experts)
• TravelWriters UK
• British Guild of Travel Writers (BGTW, representing travel writers, photographers, editors and broadcasters)
• Australian Society of Travel Writers Incorporated (ASTW, a not-for-profit organization dedicated to promoting ethical and honest travel, and the unbiased reporting of it)
• Outdoor Writers Association of America (OWAA, writers, broadcasters, photographers, outdoor industry, and more--and we're all passionate about the outdoors)
• Outdoor Writers & Photographers Guild (UK) (writers, authors, photographers, designers, journalists, artists, illustrators, editors, broadcasters, copywriters, content-providers, lecturers, public speakers, consultants, communicators – all specializing in sustainable outdoor activities and the outdoor world).
• Travelwriters.com (a professional network of travel writers, editors and members of the public relations community)
• Travel Writers Exchange
• I want to be a travel writer (YouTube video for the delusional)
• How TripAdvisor changed travel (Linda Kinstler, The Guardian, A long read, 8-17-18) The world’s biggest travel site has turned the industry upside down – but now it is struggling to deal with the same kinds of problems that are vexing other tech giants like Facebook, Google and Twitter. It replaced "expert review" with crowdsourced reviews, earning "$ per click" for sites listed, and grew more popular than professional reviews; now it's dealing with paid-for "fake reviews," SLAPP suits (for honest warnings in negative reviews), and backlash when they withhold negative reviews.
• The Making of a Travel Writer (Judith Fein on transformative travel -- the difference between a tourist and a traveler, written for Spirituality & Health Magazine)
• Ask The Chefs: What Travel Tips Have Worked For You? (Ann Michael, Scholarly Kitchen, 7-26-18) Follow-up to an earlier post: Are You a Folder or a Roller? What Travel Tips Have Worked For You? (7-2-15)
• Skip the Airport Lines with Global Entry (U.S. Customs and Border Protection) $100 a year. See their Frequently Asked Questions.
• The Tao of Travel: Enlightenments from Lives on the Road by Paul Theroux and other, underappreciated travel writers (including James Baldwin, Charles Dickens, Graham Greene Ernest Hemingway, Freya Stark, Evelyn Waugh, Eudora Welty, and others)
• Todd Pitock on Travel Writing interviewed by Rolf Potts for his blog Vagabonding Travel Writers; his site is FULL of interesting interviews, essays, etc. about travel and travel writing. If these links don't work, go to http://rolfpotts.com/index.html and look around. See especially http://rolfpotts.com/writers/.
• Top 5 American Road Trip Books and The List (Vera Marie Badertscher, A Traveler's Library, 4-2-09)
• Why I Became a Travel Writer (John Gimlette, LitHub.com, on doing the not very sensible thing, 2-24-16)
• How Not to Be Elizabeth Gilbert (Jessa Crispin, Boston Review, 7-20-15) ""It is a risk, becoming Elizabeth Gilbert...being an obnoxious white lady in brown places....Gilbert has inspired a whole niche of faux travel writing by women, from Cheryl Strayed’s bestselling Wild (2012) to more moderate offerings by Elisabeth Eaves and Kristin Newman. In this genre, the focus of attention is the self, and the beautiful locale becomes the backdrop of the real action, which is interior psychodrama."
• I Lost My Life to Airbnb (Rebecca Holland, Narratively, 3-18-19) Obsessively renting out her home was the only way she could make it in the gig economy. And it enabled travel writing --but there were downsides.
• Rewriting the West. A Guernica series reconsidering the origin stories and mythologies of Los Angeles, Texas, Arizona, the Alamo, and a family (by Adriana Gallardo, Michelle García, Fernanda Santos, Raúl Ramos, and Carolina A. Miranda).
• Stories by World Nomads (World Nomads) Personal, inspiring, and engaging narratives that get to the heart of why we travel.
• The Wild Alaskan Whales Will Perform at Noon (Joyce Wadler, I Was Misinformed, NY Times, 9-28-18) Some reviews spare you an experience, and allow you to chuckle cozily at home.
• The Sisterly Bonds Forged by Nudism (Jack El-Hai, The Atlantic, 9-30-18) Three sisters drifted apart after a tough childhood. A nudist club brought them back together.
• Touring 109 Bars in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula (Joe Rhodes, Travel, NY Times, 9-3-15). Here's a travel-book review that takes the travel story up a notch or two. Lovely ending.
• 10 ways not to be a travel writer (Vivek Wagle, for Lonely Planet)
• Five expert tips for getting started in travel writing (Don George, Lonely Planet, 8-9-13)
• 12 Types of Travel Writing Every Writer Should Know (Reedsy, 6-21-17)
• "Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one's lifetime." ~ Mark Twain, Innocents Abroad
• The Allure of Travel Writing (Jan Morris, Smithsonian Sept. 2009) Jan Morris, one of the world’s leading travel writers, introduces six essays and describes the challenges of modern travel writing
How to become a travel writer (seriously) (Julie Schwietert, Matador Network, 5-22-13)
• Travel Writing by Don George (Lonely Planet)
• The Art of Travel Writing: 100 Tips, Tools, & Resources to Get Paid and Published (Kelly Sonora's blog)
• 1,000 Places to See Before You Die: A Traveler's Life List by Patricia Schultz
• Atlas Obscura (online magazine and travel company that catalogs unusual and obscure travel destinations via user-generated content). See Atlas Obscura'sPitch guidelines.
• Vagabonding: An Uncommon Guide to the Art of Long-Term World Travel by Rolf Potts (for budget wanderers)
• 10 Things Wrong with Travel Writing (Peter Greenberg, Travel Detective blog, 6-19-13) "Travel news you can use" -- see practical tips in many categories, including Mileage and rewards programs, travel gear, Hotels & accommodations, Budget travel,, Travel insurance, etc.
• The World’s Best Hitchhiker on the Secrets of His Success (Wes Enzinna, photos by Brent Stirton, NY Times, 3-22-18) "The ideal pickup spot, he explained, has not only a place for cars to pull over safely but also some obstacle or obstruction that forces them to slow down as they approach you. Standing just before or after a hill, or a train track, or a wye, a stoplight, a traffic circle, or even a speed bump would have worked just as well as our pothole. Villarino forbids hats and sunglasses because they hide your eyes from drivers; sitting is discouraged because it obscures your physical size."
• No Sex Just Cuddling (Ann Garvin, author of I Like You Just Fine When You're Not Around)
"Not all those who wander are lost." ~J.R.R. Tolkien
“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of man and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.” ~ Mark Twain
• I Learned to Love Standardized Tests ( Mathina Calliope, Wall Street Journal, 11-29-18) "...as a child, I had loved taking reading exams. Reading a story and answering questions about it didn’t feel like a test at all. I sensed a real person behind the prompts, and we conducted meaningful mental conversations. Now I write those multiple-choice questions as a freelancer."
• 53 Places to Land Freelance Writing Gigs Online (Elna Cain, 10-28-17)
• 81 Sites To Find Side Gigs To Earn More Money Now (Emma Johnson, Forbes, 9-14-15) These aren't writing gigs, but just as actors often work as waiters on the side, so writers may find it useful to take on dog sitting, mystery shopping, and other jobs suitable for freelancers.
• Employers Are Paying Freelancers Big Bucks for These 25 In-Demand Skills (John Rampton, Entrepreneur, 5-23-17) With the right skills and some hustle, freelancing pays like a full time job.
Writing War: A Guide to Telling Your Own Story (written by a veteran for veterans). The Veterans Writing Project publishes a blog and a literary journal O-Dark-Thirty .
• UC Student Veterans Summer Writing Workshop (University of California, Santa Barbara)
• Veteran Voices Pt. 1: Don’t Let Silence Be the Story of Your Life (David Chrisinger, on The Havok Journal, 12-12-18--from Chrisinger's blog posts in 2014 on his website Stronger at the Broken Places). In this, the first of a three-part series, Chrisinger writes: 'For the past couple of years, I’ve been trying to piece together my grandfather’s narrative — the “truth” about what happened to him during the Battle of Okinawa. Before I started my research, I knew next to nothing of his experiences, yet I know from his behavior that something must have happened. For him, the war did not end on the battlefield — it followed him home and had a life-changing effect on both him and his family. The trauma he survived reverberated through the generations, leaving no one in our family unaffected....I wish he had met someone who could have helped him tell his story and share it with others. After all, if your life does not become a story, silence will become the story of your life.'
In Part II: “A Chance to Work Through Things” he explains: 'As for how it works and why, psychologists say that confronting traumatic memories, rather than avoiding them, is central to feeling better. Beyond that, organizing them into a coherent narrative helps make meaning of them, which causes them to be recalled more like other memories, says Joshua Smyth, a professor of biobehavioral health at Pennsylvania State University. With time, when the traumatic memories are triggered, you feel less like you’re reliving them. “We can see on fMRIs (functional magnetic resonance images) that the neural representation can change,” Smyth says. “You can access the memory in a less traumatic way.” ' One of several explanations why writing stories of war seems to be therapeutic.
In Veteran Voices Part III: Healing through Sharing Chrisinger writes about the work Ron Capps does helping veterans tell their stories of war in a free writing course he offers and in a literary review called O-Dark-Thirty. 'The point, Capps stresses, is not to erase traumatic memories — it is to control them. He describes what is accomplished as the “concretization” of the memory. You create something tangible that you can crumple up, burn, revise or publish. “You are building a framework around the memory and placing it under your control,” Capps says, “rather than vice versa.” “Either you control the memory, or the memory controls you.”'
• National Veterans Creative Arts Competition & Festival (US Dept of Veterans Affairs and and the American Legion Auxiliary)
• Proud to Be: Writing by American Warriors (Southeast Missouri State University Press. All Military Personnel, Veterans, and their Families: Call for Submissions and Contest.
• Veterans Writing Award (Syracuse University Press, Institute for Veterans and Military Families). A new award, open to open to U.S. veterans and active duty personnel in any branch of the U.S. military and their immediate family members -- who submit unpublished full-length novels or short story collections in manuscript form. "Although work submitted for the contest need not be about direct military experience, we seek original voices and fresh perspectives that will expand and challenge readers' understanding of the lives of veterans and their families."
• Writing Resources for Veterans (Iowa Review, Winter 2018-19) Excellent resource list, with links to articles about writing, publishing venues, workshops and classes, writing contests
• Warrior Voices ( Cecilia Capuzzi Simon, NY Times Education Life, 2-1-13). Veterans learn to write the words they could not speak.
• The Bridge Award ($1o,000, Arts in the Armed Forces, recognizing an emerging playwright of exceptional talent within the United States military)
• The Veterans' PTSD Project , which also has as page linking to resources for veterans who want to write
• The Journal of Military Experience
• Writing personal stories about war (on another McNees website, a blog post with resources about writing about war, and links to examples of good writing about war and to organizations for veterans who write). You can post further recommendations.
• A Million Strong: Helping Them Through (James Dao, NY Times Education, 2-1-13). Serving the surge in military students puts colleges to the test. Teaching veterans to express their experiences helps them heal.
• Veterans group, Maxine Hong Kingston together use writing to heal (Justin Berton, San Francisco Chronicle, 1-7-08)
• Back From The Brink: War, Suicide, And PTSD (Ron Capps, Health Affairs, July 2010)
Organizations and resources for veterans and military writers
• Black Hills Veterans Writing Group
• Heroes' Voices veterans' poetry contest
• Military Veterans Writing Workshop (Writers Guild Foundation)
• Military Writers Society of America (Saving history one story at a time--1200 members, a quarterly magazine called Dispatches)
• Syracuse Veterans’ Writing Group
• Veterans' Voices (devoted to the writings of military veterans for over 70 years)
• Veterans' Writing Group of San Diego County
• Veterans Writing Project: Nation's Heroes Write of Pain, Personal Triumphs (John Bachman, Newsmax, 5-27-12)
• Warrior Writers (based in Philadelphia)
" Keep on truckin" ~ R. Crumb
• Another cartoonist loses his job. This does not bode well for the future of newspaper cartooning. (Michael Cavna, WaPo, 1-25-19) Steve Benson was laid off Wednesday by his longtime employer, the Arizona Republic, as part of larger cuts by the Gannett company.... The layoff represents the latest spasm of shrinking among staff editorial cartoonists — who numbered in the hundreds several decades ago, but now have dwindled to dozens....We miss, and should mourn, these prominent visual voices who hold the feet of the mighty to the fire." Nick Anderson, pink-slipped by the Houston Chronicle: “While the Internet and social media helped spread my work widely, they also have made it harder for anyone in the news business to make a living.”
• What we lose when we lose political cartoons (Jeva Lang, The Week, 6-12-19) The editorial page editor James Bennet announced that the Times was "bringing [the global] edition into line with the domestic paper by ending daily political cartoons."...'With the annihilation of its editorial cartoon section, the paper gives up one of journalism's — and democracy's — greatest weapons.' See also Cartoonists draw their fury toward the New York Times: ‘It seems we have touched a nerve here’ (Michael Michael and various cartoonists, WaPo, 6-18-19) "You're here to complain about our company doing away with editorial cartoons? Just follow the yellow streak."
• Creating Comic Books 101: A Guide to Creating Comic Books (Aaron Albert, ThoughtCo, 2-25-16)
• Tools for Comic Creators (Jerry Stratton, Negative Space)
• Cartoon Caption Contest (New Yorker).
• Caption That Cartoon (video, Big-shots try their hand at writing New Yorker cartoon captions) 1 season, 11 episodes.
• Can You Copyright Your Dumb Joke? And How Can You Prove It's Yours? (Laurel Wamsley, The Two-Way, NPR, 5-17-17) A good account of the start of a now-famous lawsuit:. Comedy writer Alex Kaseberg (who often wrote for Jay Leno) complained that in late 2014 and early 2015 late-night TV host Conan O'Brien told jokes that Kaseberg wrote, and the complaint ended up in court. The jokes in both versions are quoted. Here's the abstract for an earlier law review piece on the topic: There's No Free Laugh (Anymore): The Emergence of Intellectual Property Norms and the Transformation of Stand-Up Comedy (Dotan Oliar and Christopher Jon Sprigman, Virginia Law Review, 5-28-08) "...how stand-up comedians protect their jokes using a system of social norms. Intellectual property law has never protected comedians effectively against theft. Initially, jokes were virtually in the public domain, and comedians invested little in creating new ones. In the last half century, however, comedians have developed a system of IP norms. This system serves as a stand-in for formal law....Under the norms system, the level of investment in original material has increased substantially. We detail these norms, which often diverge from copyright law's defaults." See also Conan O’Brien Settles Lawsuit Alleging Joke Theft (Reggie Ugwu, NY Times, 5-10-19) “Four years and countless legal bills have been plenty,” he wrote in a statement. A trial — rare in comedy — had been set for this month. 'Fans of O’Brien, rallied to his defense after the lawsuit, arguing that “parallel thinking” in comedy is commonplace, and that there are only so many ways to tweak a day’s news events. In the letter posted by Variety, O’Brien made the same argument.' See Conan O’Brien: Why I Decided to Settle a Lawsuit Over Alleged Joke Stealing (Conan O'Brien, Variety, 5-9-19)
• How to Write a New Yorker Cartoon Caption: Jon Hamm Edition (video, New Yorker) The actor tries his hand at the cartoon-caption contest.
• How Women Broke Into the Male-Dominated World of Cartoons and Illustrations (Anna Diamond, Smithsonian, 1-11-18) Early in her career, Dalia Messick, a cartoonist struggling to get her work published, adopted the name Dale and her Brenda Starr comic strip took off. "Messick’s story is just one example of the overt sexism faced by female artists." An exhibition at the Library of Congress highlights female artists and their contributions to comic strips, magazine covers and political cartoons.
• Comics Creators on the Net (Negative Space)
• Top 125 Comic Book Writers Master List
• The Definitive List of Comic Publisher Submission Guidelines (Jason Thibault, 11-28-16)
• Liza Donnelly, Cartoonist: On Humor and Feminism (No Country for Young Women, 12-2-09) "Generally speaking, it was assumed that men were funnier....Persistence and doggedness pay off. We can change things, one laugh at a time."
• Cathy Thorne, Cartoonist: Drawing Her Perspective (Jessica, No Country for Young Women, 2-26-10) Interview with "Cathy" cartoonist, whose book made Parents.com's "9 Books That Make Great Mother-Daughter Gifts" list: Fifty Things That Aren't My Fault: Essays from the Grown-up Years by Cathy Guisewite.
• Comic Writing Jobs (Upwork, updated constantly)
• ‘Kingsman’ Artist Dave Gibbons Explains ABCs of Making a Comic Book (John Martin, Observer, 9-28-17) "His new book with writer Tim Pilcher, How Comics Work, is a how-to guide for aspiring pencilers as well as an insight into his working process. "
• How Comics Work by Dave Gibbons and Tom Pilcher
• Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art by Scott McCloud, also the author of Making Comics: Storytelling Secrets of Comics, Manga and Graphic Novels 'isn't really about how to draw comics: it's about how to make drawings become a story and how cartooning choices communicate meaning to readers. ("There are no rules," he says, "and here they are.") McCloud's cartoon analogue, now a little gray at the temples, walks us through a series of dazzlingly clear, witty explanations (in comics form) of character design, storytelling, words and their physical manifestation on the page, body language and other ideas cartoonists have to grapple with, with illustrative examples drawn from the history of the medium.'~Publishers Weekly
• Growing Up in Cartoon County (Corby Kummer, The Atlantic, 11-21-17) In a new book, Cullen Murphy describes the cadre of artists—including his father—who drew comic strips from the suburbs of Connecticut during a golden age for the funny pages. The book: Cartoon County: My Father and His Friends in the Golden Age of Make-Believe. See also When Fairfield County Was the Comic-Strip Capital of the World (Cullen Murphy, Vanity Fair, 8-3-17) From the 1950s through the 90s, Fairfield County, Connecticut, was home to many of America’s best cartoonists and illustrators—the men responsible for “Beetle Bailey,” “Little Orphan Annie,” “Hägar the Horrible,” and countless other comic strips. The author, whose father drew “Prince Valiant,” remembers their eccentric subculture.
• How satire got a cartoonist fired from a Jewish newspaper (Cathryn J. Prince, Times of Israel, 9-22-17) Eli Valley has never been afraid to point his pen at the most venerated Jewish institutions — but it costs him. See also his work Diaspora Boy: Comics on Crisis in America and Israel
• How I became a cartoonist before graduation (Ben Jennings, The Guardian, 2-27-12) Jennings has already been published in the Guardian, i newspaper and The Huffington Post. He shares tips for anyone looking to combine university work with a burgeoning career
• CBR: The World's Top Destination for Comic, Movie & TV News (CBR is a file extension for a comic book or paperback)
• The 10 greatest comic book artists of all time (Sammy Maine, Creative Bloq Staff, 3-11-14) He writes about John Romita Jr, Brian Bolland, Will Eisner, Jim Steranko, Osamu Tezuka, Steve Ditko, Frank Miller, Dave Gibbons, Steve Dillon, and Jack Kirby.
• The Creator of Pepe the Frog Talks About Making Comics in the Post-Meme World (Sean T. Collins interviews artist Matt Furie, Vice, 7-28-15) Collins officially debuted the character (2006) in the Boy's Club #1, a collection of single-page comics chronicling the adventures of an anthropomorphic quartet of funny-animal stoners. Who could have predicted: Pepe the Frog creator brings copyright lawsuit (Bill Morlin, Southern Poverty Law Center, 3-8-18) "The case of Pepe the Frog — a meme widely used without permission by white nationalists, neo-Nazis, conspiracist radio host Alex Jones and Donald Trump — appears headed to a federal court jury.... Defendants named in the action are Infowars, LLC, and Free Speech Systems, LLC, two Texas-based companies managed by Jones, a far-right radio host and promoter of assorted conspiracy theories."
• Publishers on the Net (Negative Space)
• Comic Book Recommended Reading (Negative Space)
• List of American comics creators (and humor writing) (Wikipedia)
• How the Jews Created the Comic Book Industry (Part I: The Golden Age --1933-1955) (Arie Kaplan, Reform Judaism, Online, Fall 2003)
• Differences Between a Cartoonist and a Comic Artist ( Janet Stanton Burt, Chron)
• Advice to Aspiring Comic Book Creators (Gene Luen Yang, Tor.com, 7-15-14)
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• " Laughter is wine for the soul - laughter soft, or loud and deep, tinged through with seriousness - the hilarious declaration made by man that life is worth living."
~Irish playwright Seán O'Casey
by Sarah Wernick
Most people don't realize that cartoonists sometimes buy their funny ideas from gag writers. For the article below, which appeared in the June, 1995 issue of Smithsonian, I interviewed four leading practitioners of this little-known art.
The family farm is rented out now, but Al Batt hasn't shed the dairyman habits of his father. He's up before the sun, “cursed,” as he puts it, “with whatever it is that causes you to rise at an ungodly hour.” From 5:00 to 8:00 every morning, seven days a week, he sits at his desk listening to Minnesota Public Radio and scanning the Wall Street Journal or a book. Occasionally a phrase strikes him, and he writes it on a pad. Today's crop includes: “adopt-a-highway program,” “one out of every six members of Congress is a millionaire,” and “extra-crispy chicken.”
From time to time after the sun comes up, he swivels to check for birds or deer in the backyard that he's gradually turning into wildlife habitat. At some point he returns to the list and writes: “Man looking at invoice says: 'Just my luck to have adopted a highway that's in medical school.'”
Batt is a cartoon caption writer, one of the best. Though he is unknown outside the dwindling circles of his curious profession, chances are you've seen his work. Indeed, if you're in the habit of displaying apt cartoons, a Batt creation might be hanging on your fridge.
The open secret of the cartoon business
Few outsiders realize - though it has long been an open secret in the cartoon business - that many artists buy ideas, on occasion if not regularly. Some simply prefer drawing to writing. But even those who normally produce their own gag lines might turn to caption writers if they hit a dry spell. Or they may need a helping hand because (to give a real-life example) a trade magazine has requested twenty cartoons that would draw a chuckle from a turkey breeder.
Hank Ketcham, creator of Dennis the Menace, says, “Any professional humorist is out of his mind if he doesn't surround himself with talented writers. Otherwise you get to the bottom of your own barrel too quickly.” Currently, most of Ketcham's daily Dennis gags are written by Batt. “He gives me ideas I'd never think of.”
The top captioners are astonishingly prolific. In a week of three-hour sessions. Al Batt comes up with 150 cartoon ideas for the thirty artists with whom he currently works. Under their signatures, his lines appear in every major cartoon outlet, including the New Yorker, the Wall Street Journal, Parade, Omni, Good Housekeeping and Playboy, plus numerous trade journals.
Rex May, who's been called the king of cartoon gag writing, produces 150 to 200 captions a week. Most are written during three 90-minute sessions at a karate dojo near his Indiana home, where he waits while his wife, Jean, and their twelve-year-old son, Bjorn, attend class.
Sitting on a metal folding chair in the stark second-story loft, oblivious to guttural shouts and bodies slamming onto a mat just inches away from his feet, May scribbles captions on a yellow pad at a rate of up to one per minute.
In the early years at the New Yorker
In the glory years of magazine cartooning, which lasted from the 1930s through the 1960s, it was possible to earn a living as a caption writer. That's no longer true, except for the handful of writer-partners who collaborate on popular syndicated comic strips. The cartoon marketplace shrank. Weekly outlets, such as Collier's, Look and the Saturday Evening Post, folded in the 1950s, 1960s and early 1970s, and many surviving publications curtailed their use of humorous art. Also, new cartoonists reduced their reliance on captioners.
Lee Lorenz, cartoon editor of the New Yorker since 1973, says, “The biggest change over my career - I started here as a cartoonist in 1958 - is that the generation of cartoonists that came to prominence in the sixties and seventies all do their own writing. For the first twenty-five years of the New Yorker, captions were nearly always written by people other than the artists - writers on the staff or outside gag writers.”
At the New Yorker's now legendary Tuesday art meetings, chronicled by James Thurber and others, editors reviewed not only artists' sketches but also submissions from gag writers and non-preferred cartoonists. “They would buy your idea for eight or ten dollars and give it to one of their regular artists,” recalls Hank Ketcham, who was a non-preferred cartoonist in his pre-Dennis years. “They would say, 'This is a Helen Hokinson gag,' or 'This is a Bill Steig,' or 'This one Peter Arno should do.'”
The distinctive style of the New Yorker cartoon owes as much to the caption writers of those early years as to the artists, according to Lorenz. “E. B. White should get credit for helping establish the tone,” he says. “One of his functions here was sharpening gags, and he was sensationally good at it.” White also wrote many captions, including the line immortalized in a drawing by Carl Rose: A mother says, “It's broccoli, dear,” and her daughter replies, “I say it's spinach, and I say the hell with it.”
The most influential and successful of the New Yorker's freelance gag contributors was Richard McCallister, who continued writing until shortly before his death in April, 1995 at age eighty-six. McCallister supported himself and his family in Connecticut for fifty years on the proceeds from New Yorker cartoon captions. “I didn't need another job,”he said. One week, when he arrived at the New Yorker to deliver his latest submissions, he discovered that six of the cartoons in the current issue had been drawn from his gags. Long after the magazine itself stopped buying ideas from gag writers, McCallister continued to sell captions to individual artists.
His career is not likely to be matched, even by writers who don't limit themselves to a single magazine. Current demand provides only part-time employment for at most 200 or 300 captioners. Some find supplemental humor gigs, such as writing funny greeting cards or slogans for “social expression” products like T-shirts or coffee mugs. Al Batt has a separate career as an insurance agent. Rex May draws his own cartoons under the name “Baloo,” and he's a part-time postal clerk.
Cartoon gag writing's basic rules
Hartland, Minnesota (pop. 270), where Al Batt grew up in the 1950s and still lives today, is a long way from the Manhattan boardrooms and cocktail parties in which so many New Yorker cartoons are set. It's a place where you can get your name in the local newspaper by inviting your sister-in-law for Thursday supper or locking yourself out of your car.
Unlike Woody Allen and other angst-driven comics, Batt enjoyed a happy childhood. His sense of humor was nurtured by a mother who had “the best laugh in the world” and an older brother who kept him supplied with issues of Mad magazine.
Batt's first comical captions, written when he was still in high school, were entries for the Sunday “Foto Funnies” contest in the St. Paul Pioneer Press. “They'd have a clip out of a movie, and you'd send in a caption,” he explains. There were five winners each week, and when a Pioneer Press editor noticed that Al Batt's name had been on the list nearly every week for two years, the paper ran a story about him. Then someone told him he could sell cartoon ideas. Batt learned the basics from the classic book on the subject, Cartoonist's and Gag Writer's Handbook by cartoonist Jack Markow.
For an enterprise that traffics in whimsy, gag writing's rules of the road, as codified by Markow, are surprisingly rigid. Captions are typed on 3-by-5-inch index cards and mailed to cartoonists in batches of ten or more, along with a stamped return envelope. The artist keeps any that seem promising and sends back the rest. If a resulting cartoon is sold, the writer gets a cut, usually about 25 percent. This share could amount to pocket change if the cartoon appears in a small-circulation newspaper, or a low-three-figure check if it's placed in a premier market like the New Yorker or Playboy.
Since ideas that have been passed over by one cartoonist may be accepted by another, Batt and May keep hundreds of gags in circulation. The paperwork - keeping track of gags written, who's seen them, captions held by cartoonists, and cartoons that sell - is onerous. “I used to keep a lot better records,” says Batt. “But I hated doing it, and I figured out that the benefits didn't override my dislike.” In a corner of his basement is a storage unit five and a half feet high, plus a stack of eight large shoe boxes, all packed with gag-stuffed envelopes - about a quarter of a million gags, sold and unsold. Batt says with a sigh, “I always think there's something I should do with them, but I don't.”
Rex May, whose garage and work shed contain a similar accumulation (“I have a whole shoe box of unsold Gerald Ford gags”), has been entering his captions into a computer database for four years - mainly so he can check that a new gag doesn't inadvertently duplicate an earlier one. He estimates that it would take six months of doing nothing else to type the backlog into the database. And why bother? It's much more fun, he says, to come up with new captions.
A changing collaboration
Back in the golden years when the cartoon business was centered in New York City, artist and writer might get together to go over ideas. James Reid Parker, a New Yorker writer, met weekly with Helen Hokinson, whom he supplied with captions for her suburban-matron cartoons. Richard McCallister worked directly with several artists. He recalled, “I'd spend two, three hours a week in Peter Arno's studio. We'd talk about what was happening in the world, what we thought we could satirize.”
One of Arno's most famous cartoons was inspired by an experience McCallister had at a newsreel theater in the 1930s. “I could hear hissing,” he said. “I thought it must be one of the radiators. Then I looked around, and I realized people were hissing the President.” In the cartoon version, two couples, obviously well-to-do, stand outside a mansion and call through a window to their counterparts: “Come along. We're going to the Trans-Lux to hiss Roosevelt.”
These days, cartoonists and gag writers are rarely brought together by art editors, as McCallister and Arno were. A small number of cartoonists solicit gags via professional publications. Usually contact is initiated by would-be gag writers who track down published artists and submit ideas. (Some cartoonists won't admit to using gag writers, not because they're embarrassed at needing assistance, they say, but to avoid being inundated with unusable material.)
Human contact is rare these days, even for enduring partnerships. Harald Bakken, a 21-year veteran of the business who's now semi-retired from gag writing, has met only four of the approximately 100 artists with whom he's worked. As a beginner he received valuable instruction from Randy Glasbergen, a widely published cartoonist who sent back helpful suggestions along with rejected gags. “He was very specific,” Bakken recalls. “He'd explain, 'This won't work because ...' or 'This is great because ...'” For months Bakken had no idea that his mentor was a precocious teenager who'd made his first sale to a national magazine at age fifteen. Then one day Glasbergen wrote, “Congratulate me! I just graduated from high school.”
Personal relationships with other caption writers are uncommon too. There's no professional association; the closest thing to a trade journal is Gag Recap, a monthly newsletter with a few hundred subscribers. Recap, founded forty years ago and published by Al and Jo Gottlieb since 1961, lists hundreds of cartoons that appeared in major outlets during the previous month. Descriptions are terse, with as many as fifty cartoons summarized on a single page. To the Gottliebs and their readers, a parched man clad in tatters, who's searching on his hands and knees for an oasis in the sand, is known simply as “Desert crawler.”
Anonymity precludes public acclaim for gag writers. What passes for applause is the heady experience of finding their creation tacked to an office bulletin board or supermarket cash register. When Harald Bakken took a fiction-writing course in which everyone showed examples of their work, he passed around some cartoons. He says, “I realized it was the first time I'd ever heard a laugh at my captions, and I thought: Wow!”
Every year or so, Rex May and Al Batt - who have never met - break the isolation with a telephone chat, “like Luciano Pavarotti calling Placido Domingo,” May says. What do gag writers talk about? “Of course if there's ever anybody that doesn't pay, that's the first thing,” says Batt. “But there are very few of those.”
The challenge of a quick laugh
Harald Bakken - who has a Harvard PhD and a non-captioning life as a history professor at the University of Massachusetts, Lowell - has given serious thought to humor in general and cartoons in particular. “A magazine cartoonist is supposed to get a laugh from a total stranger in under seven seconds,“ he observes. “No one else who professionally tries to make people laugh is expected to do it quite so quickly.” Moreover, the artist must communicate under less-than-ideal conditions. As Bakken points out in the Cartoonist's Muse: A Guide to Generating and Developing Creative Ideas, a book he wrote with longtime New Yorker cartoonist Mischa Richter, cartoons are viewed not in a gallery but in a doctor's waiting room or perhaps (to use Bakken's delicate description) “in the smallest room of the house.”
It all starts with a premise. Says Randy Glasbergen, “It's not as difficult to be funny as it is to find something to be funny about. Sitting there with a blank piece of paper is hard, but once you zero in on penguins it's easy.” As a beginning cartoonist, Glasbergen challenged himself by selecting random objects on the street and trying to find something funny about them. “I would look at a crack in the sidewalk and think: A family of ants would take pictures of themselves next to it, like the Grand Canyon. Or a nurse would put a Band-Aid on it.”
Almost anything can be a cartoon premise. Rex May says, “I've heard that a general can't play golf without thinking about where he'd put tanks. I see everything in terms of turning it into cartoons.” Glasbergen, who once spent a week with May when the two were working on a project proposal, confirms this. “Rex never put down his notebook; it was chained to his belt. If we were watching television and an ad for Grecian Formula came on, Rex would write a gag about it. Thank goodness,” he adds, “we didn't have yeast infection commercials back then.”
Though few subjects are taboo, a cartoon premise is limited by artistic considerations. Rex May, who sometimes receives submissions from writers who have seen his Baloo cartoons, says with exasperation, “A guy sent me a gag that started 'Man to brother-in-law.' Now, how the hell do you draw a brother-in-law?” Many artists shun ideas that require elaborate illustrations, such as the inside of a cathedral or a full symphony orchestra. “I don't do galley slave gags,” says May. “I'm not going to draw a ship with fifty oars.”
Sometimes the premise for a gag line is supplied by the cartoonist. Doug Sneyd, an artist on contract with Playboy who regularly uses ideas from May, recalls, “Playboy wanted some Christmas gags, so I called Rex one morning. By noon he'd come up with seven or eight, and they wound up buying three.” In one of them a lecherous Santa pauses to reflect: “I was going through that 'naughty or nice' routine for the millionth time, when suddenly it hit me: Who am I to judge?”
The leap from Christmas to a self-questioning Santa is inspired. But professional gag writers don't sit around waiting for inspiration to strike; they use techniques to “work” the premise. Harald Bakken likes to demonstrate with the familiar story of the princess who kisses an enchanted frog and turns him into a prince. “First think about the frog,” he suggests. “Perhaps he has political views on monarchy. What do his friends and his parents think about this? Consider the princess. Is this her first go at kissing a frog?”
Bakken continues: “Move forward in time, after the wedding. The couple could have in-law problems. 'Dammit, Gertrude,' says the prince, "you knew when you married me that my mother was a frog.'” Bakken once sat down and spun twenty-five captions from this fairy tale.
Because so many cartoons are based on stock situations - shipwreck survivors on a tiny island, a lawyer addressing a judge, a child bringing home a report card - most captioners write only brief descriptions on the gag slips they send to artists. Bakken says, “For a while, I made a game of trying to get the non-caption part down to as few words as possible. Instead of something like 'Wife says to husband' I'd just write 'Wife' since that implied a domestic setting and the whole works.” Others, including Rex May, add a sketch. “I put the facial expressions in just the way I want them, which is very hard to describe in words,” says May.
The business side of cartoon captioning
When the week's output is ready for mailing, it's time to decide what goes to whom. In general, top-selling cartoonists get the first look; others see the leftovers. “As Baloo, I'm number four on my own list,” May admits. He currently sends ideas to about twenty artists.
Though he'd like to encourage beginning cartoonists, he's reluctant to work with them. “The postage is murder,” he says. “It costs me at least a buck to mail a batch to somebody. A new kid can be a great cartoonist, but can he sell? Can he take the rejection? Ninety percent of people can't, and after six months they quit.”
Certain ideas - such as Batt's captions for Dennis the Menace - are created for particular artists. Or the gag itself might suggest a certain cartoonist. Bakken recalls, “I once wrote a cartoon with a husband and wife arguing. She says, 'Let's face it, Ralph. The only time we meet each other's needs is when we fight.' It was a very grim idea. I thought immediately: That's for Joe Mirachi. He had a very mordant sense of humor. I knew he'd take it and sell the cartoon to the New Yorker - which is what happened.”
Rex May comments, “Some gags are best drawn by me or somebody else who doesn't draw ears on people unless they need them; others are best drawn by Doug Sneyd or some other fine artist.” He cites a caption that he wrote for a Sneyd cartoon: a woman turns down a marriage proposal, saying, “It would never work, Rodney. You're a Benny Hill person and I'm a Monty Python person.” Says May, “If I did that, it would be mildly amusing. But Doug drew it elaborately, with a beautiful woman and a beautiful setting, and the absurdity worked so much better.”
A gag's content may rule out certain artists. Some won't accept X-rated material; others would have little interest in a caption geared to a trade journal. Says Bakken, “One cartoonist told me, 'Never ever send me horse gags; I can't draw horses.' Another said, 'Don't send me anything that has to show the inside of an automobile under the hood. I cannot draw that.'”
Because most freelance cartoonists sell to many publications, the submission process can take a long time. Says Batt, “Bo Brown, a wonderful cartoonist and a wonderful guy, will send you a check for a gag you wrote fifteen years ago. He never gives up. He'll say, 'Here - I sent this to 946 places and somebody finally bought it.'”
Ideally, the final product delivers more than a tickle. Rex May reflects, “I doubt I'd be doing this if I didn't have convictions. I like to make people laugh - but after they've laughed, I want them to think about why they laughed and to reexamine how they've been looking at things. If it's funny, there's something serious at base.”
POSTSCRIPT: For more on cartoon caption writing, see The Cartoonist's Muse: A Guide to Generating and Developing Creative Ideas, by Mischa Richter and Harald Bakken (McGraw-Hill, 1992). Though this delightful and informative book is now out of print, new and used copies are usually available on Amazon.com
© 1995 and 2004, Sarah Wernick. This article is not to be reproduced or distributed in any manner or medium without the written permission of Sarah Wernick's estate. Reprinted here by permission of Willie Lockeretz, Sarah's very funny husband.