Here are some of the questions I’m asked often enough to answer seriously.
Q: What is the best background for developing a comic strip?
A: I totally don’t know because I’m not an artist and some of my favorite strips are by non-artists or self-described lesser artists. Obviously, it’s nice if you can draw, but you have to be able to write also. The writing seems to be really key. I would say learn how to write and then learn how to write comedy. I was an English major who then went to law school (where writing is a big part of the amusement) and tried my hand at writing material for stand up. You gotta write a lot of bad stuff to get to the good stuff sometimes.
Q: How long does it take you to draw a strip?
A: I would say that the average time per daily strip is two to three hours. I find, however, that if I do two or more consecutively, I work faster. A Sunday strip takes four to five hours, but that’s just because it’s twice as much work…J
Q: What is your schedule like?
A: My schedule changes slightly with the seasons because of the weather and the urge to be outside, but generally follows a pretty basic routine. On weekdays, I wake up, do a few strip-related tasks while fixing my hair, and then I go to my day job. I am very lucky because my day job is around the corner. For years, I had a long commute but now I have more time in my day because I don’t spend significant time commuting.
I get home from work around 7 or so, most nights, and then draw comic strips. Six dailies are due on Monday morning and one Sunday is due on Friday morning. I plan my stripping schedule around those requirements and around family obligations. Needless to say, bar hopping and late nights are not a big part of my life. Weekends are devoted to sleeping late, drinking coffee, relaxing, drawing strips and seeing family.
Q: What advice do you have for someone who wants to draw a comic strip?
A: I would suggest that you just draw strips and characters and write words and see what evolves. I hear many people who have a concept for a strip but they haven’t played with it enough to know how it may grow or completely fail to thrive. Give your ideas and your skills a chance to find their comfy place and then put your work out there to see if there’s any interest. You will know if there is interest. People will say things like “I love that” or “that’s so cute/funny/great.” If there’s silence, check your audience. If they’re not breathing, find another audience and see if they react. If you can get some reaction, try asking for some feedback from people you respect. Go to the artists and/or writers whose work you like and see if they’ll take a look. Or submit directly to a syndicate or contest. Feedback can be really helpful. If ten people say that they don’t get it, you might want to work in another direction. If nine people say that they don’t get it and one says that they do get it, same advice as above. You want five out of ten people to like your strip. Anything above 50% is a good sign. And yes, it’s okay if they’re all family.
Q: Is it true that you get hate mail?
A: Yes! I am very lucky in that I have impassioned haters as well as impassioned fans. It keeps me humble. It’s always nice to get an email from someone who took time out of his or her busy day to tell me how much I suck.
Q: What comic strips influenced you?
A: I grew up on collections of the Far Side and Doonesbury. I would read those straight through and then read them again. These days I read pretty much any comic strip just for kicks. I try not to follow any particular strip too closely so that I don’t get influenced. Stupid, I’m sure, but true.
Q: How long have you been doing the strip?
A: I began working on Reply All in June of 2009. Prior to Reply All, there were about eight other casual comic strips, each with a slightly different theme. Those were the ‘warm up’ strips.
Q: Where does the title of the strip come from?
A: The bane of my existence is the ‘Reply All’ function on email. There are years where I spent more time correcting ‘Reply All’-fueled dramas than getting any real work done.
Q: Have you been disowned yet by family who resent your interpretation of their lives?
A: Disowned? You kidding? I am now officially a celebrity in my family. Unfortunately, the members of my family don’t realize the relatively limited benefits of having a comic strip. I believe they are preparing for red carpets and Oprah appearances. In a few years, they’ll realize it was all a bust and will, hopefully, be distracted by other experiences in their lives.
Q: Will you do an interview for my media outlet, college or first grade class?
A: Sure, if it seems like a fun time! Just contact Julie at Julie@replyallcomic.com.
Q: Can we hire you to speak at our event?
A: I might love to speak at your event, depending on what type of event it is. Do you want me to talk to lawyers about how to pursue their passions? I like doing that. Or I can talk to kids about how to find and develop their strengths. I like that too. I’ve done a lot of public speaking and it usually turns out pretty good with people laughing. So let me know the event! Or, shall I say, let Julie know the event…Julie@replyallcomic.com
Q: Do you ski?
A: I don’t know why, but I feel like I get that question a lot. And yes, I do. I ski. Not often enough.
Q: How can I email you if I hate the strip?
A: If you have hate, contempt or criticism in any amount, just send it to email@example.com. No, I don’t particularly enjoy reading these, but the syndicate will.
Q: How can I email you if I like or love the strip?
A: If you have like, love or lust any amount, just send it to firstname.lastname@example.org. Yes, I totally enjoy reading these emails and am always grateful to those who initiate positivity.