The Birth of Bo

(a version of this was originally written for PlanetCartoonist.com)

It was August of 2001 and I was sleeping.

Less than three months before I had quit my job as an art director at a Big, Faceless Corporation to become a full-time freelance cartoonist. To prepare for this I had been promoting myself for two years as a “humorous illustrator.” See, I had been trying to get syndicated for about a decade. Like many of my ilk, my dream was to have a comic strip and quit my job once I got syndicated. Well, the first part of that sentence wasn’t happening and, thus, neither was the second. And, like many, I wasn’t getting any younger. If I wanted to make my living as a cartoonist I was going to have to broaden my focus. So when freelance work increasied to a point where I couldn’t do any more and my regular full-time gig, it was time to leave.

There are a great many things about being a full-time freelance cartoonist. One of these is that your time is your own so, on this certain summer afternoon…

I was napping.

A little more than a year before I had been in Cape Cod with my then-girlfriend/now-wife. I woke one morning with a couple ideas for a comic strip. I told her all about them but kept thinking to myself, “This is odd. I’ve more or less given up on syndication and here are these ideas spilling out of my head.” One of these ideas was about a talking monkey. (I can’t recall the others.) Later we were walking on the beach and I was talking about names for the monkey still thinking, “Why are you doing this if syndication isn’t in the cards for you?” My gf/w stops dead in her tracks and says, “His name is Bo Nanas.” And so it was.

In June of 2001 the deadline for The Washington Post Writers Group’s FineToon Fellowship was fast approaching and I was thinking about submitting. Although still wishy-washy on the idea of syndication, I figure what the heck, if I won I could get to go to seminars, meet other cartoonists, blah blah blah – sounds like fun. I dust off the few meager notes and gags for the monkey strip and get to writing in the weeks before the deadline. I end up doing all the art for 24 strips in three days and barely make it to Fed Ex. I’m not happy with the outcome. Not sure about the concept or the gags and the art feels rushed, I tell my gf/w that it was ” a load of crap” (only I didn’t say “crap”) and I write the whole experience off.

Did I mention I was dozing?

…when the phone rang. It was Suzanne Whelton of The Washington Post Writers Group asking me if I was sitting down. I say yes but refrain from telling her that I’m fully reclined. She tells me that I’m one of the recipients of the 2002 FineToon Fellowship. Needless to say, I was stunned.

I don’t know what the moral of the story is but it might be something about giving up. (Not really good advice, though.)

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