The first time I met with Murray Thomson, the Managing Editor of the St. Catharines Standard, I took samples of my strip, "Just Between Friends" as well as some editorial cartoons I had drawn.
Murray Thomson called the editorial page editor into the room to show him my ed. cartoons. The editor looked them over and put them down on the desk. "We can buy all kinds of political cartoons from the syndicates.", he told me. He was obviously unimpressed. In fact, it was easy to see that he thought they stunk. "...But we'll pay you $25 for local editorial cartoons." Okay, so they stunk...but at least this offer vindicated my efforts a little.
"I'm not that familiar with local politics.", I told him. The truth is, I couldn't think of anything more boring.
"Well, maybe you should be.", he said.
Ouch. Sheesh. I just wanted to draw cartoons...I didn't want to hang out at Council Chamber meetings. Mr. Thomson thanked the editorial editor and he went on his way.
Now Mr. Thomson turns his attention back to my strips. He takes his time reading them and he smiles periodically. It is harder to sit there in silence while he reads my work in front of me than it is to listen to the editorial editor's rebuke. He seems to like them. And I feel this sense of relief...or something like that...because my cartoon strip is where my heart is.
We chat for a while. We talk about the characters...about the lettering...not in any great detail but we do discuss them. He says to keep in touch and send him more work. I am elated.
Shortly after this meeting, I call him to follow up. Mr. Thomson tells me he has shown the strips around the newsroom and the feedback he is getting is that the women characters are too neurotic...or words to that effect.
"I"LL CHANGE THEM!", I say immediately.
And he says... "No". He tells me I have to be true to myself. And he says to keep in touch and send him more work. So I know the strip needs work but I don't exactly know how to improve it...I need to change the women...but I need to keep them the same.
This goes on for four years. I put my strip away for months at a time...I go back to it. Now and then I send strips to Mr. Thomson... and he always seems interested to read them and chat with me. One day at work, I am frustrated...with the job...with the strip getting nowhere...everything. During my lunch hour, I jump in my car and drive downtown. I walk up to Mr. Thomson's office...at noon hour...and ask to speak to him. His assistant tells him I am there...and he takes the time to see me. Out of the blue...middle of a busy day...no appointment. We talk for maybe twenty minutes. I couldn't tell you what we talked about...other than it had to do with my cartoon strip. I thank him for his time and I go back to work. And it hits me that I had a lot of nerve to just show up at his office like that. And yet, he was willing to take the time to talk to me in that calm and congenial manner of his and I feel very good knowing that he takes me and my cartoons seriously.
In the midst of this four-year period, I meet Tim. This is one of the times I get distracted from doing the strip and it gets put on the shelf. About two years go by and one day, after we are married, I am griping about the fact that I am getting nowhere with my strip. He just looks at me and says, " Well, you're not doing anything about it." He's right.
I take the strip out again and I go back to Mr. Thomson. I'm sitting in his office and he's reading my work. I tell him he can publish them for free. I just want my work in print. He says no... if they were to publish them, they would pay me. He sits there reading them and I can tell he's thinking something over. He's trying to come to a decision. I can see it.
He says...very slowly..."I think...we're going to print these." Or something like that. I just remember he said my strip was going to be on the comics page of the St. Catharines Standard and that I let out this long breath (apparently I had been holding it) and thanked him. It was January and he was going to start them in September.
It took Murray Thomson four years to say "yes"...but the important thing to me during that time was that he never said "no". I will always be grateful to him for his kind ways and his interest. I consider him an instrumental part of my success.
In the next six months, I have sold my strip to several other newspapers and by September 1990, "Just Between Friends" appears in the St. Catharines Standard, the Hamilton and the Burlington Spectator, the Brantford Expositor and two local weeklies.
The strip looks like this:
Next: Working with Jay Kennedy