Weekend Spill: Getting In
January 15, 2022
Personal History: Getting In
As mentioned here a few times, I’ve been writing a memoir of my time at The New Yorker (my time continues there, as does the writing). Someone in the publishing biz recently told me that a book in progress is sometimes referred to as “still baking” — I like that.
In the midst of this memoir-ing it’s only natural that I’ve been going through all kinds of materials from my earliest time at the magazine. 2022 is the 45th anniversary of my foot in the door moment at The New Yorker. I really do want to say, “How time flies!” but it hasn’t flown — it’s kind of ambled along. Getting into The New Yorker is not just a life-changing memory stored in my brain, but also a moment captured on 5″x7″ index cards. What you see above is my once weekly system of keeping track of batches of drawings sent in. The group shown here begins August 22, 1977 and ends in March 1978. There are plenty of earlier index cards, and plenty of later ones (I seem to have abandoned the index card system in 1983). I’ve chosen to show just the ones from my “big” moment early days.
The very first card, upper left is the batch containing my foot in the door drawing, “Nothing will ever happen to you.”  I’ve written about this drawing before so won’t go into it here (other to say that the magazine bought the idea — i.e., the caption — and gave it to Whitney Darrow, Jr. to draw up. His drawing, based on my idea, was published in The New Yorker, December of 1977). The last index card, off to the right by its lonesome, is dated March 15, 1978. That was the week I received my first OK (New Yorkerese for a bought cartoon). It was my first cartoon published in the magazine under my name, using my drawing. 
In between those two cards are the batches of drawings rejected by The New Yorker. You can’t tell from the photo, but a number of these cards have second pages stapled to them. Back then it was not uncommon for me to send in batches numbering in the 20s and 30s (a batch these days hovers in the half-dozen to dozen range — I finally learned to self-edit). One batch in this group from the late 1970s had 42 drawings in it. I’ve done the math: the number of rejected drawings in the batches between August 22, 1977 and March 15, 1978, totaled 522 (a few of those rejected drawings later went on to be accepted and published by other magazines). 
A quick look through some of these cards, with captions such as, “I know a chipmunk when I see one, Pamela,”  and “Was that the sink or your stomach?”  tells me why these hundreds of cartoons were rejected. I suppose I should be a bit stressed out by recalling all that work, but when I see it it reminds me that that’s what it took to carry on.
Friday Spill: Kuper’s “INterSECTS” At The New York Public Library; Chast In Conversation With Fierstein
Monday Tilley Watch, The New Yorker Issue Of January 24, 2022
Paul says:
January 15, 2022 at 1:24 pm
Sturgeon’s law (or Sturgeon’s revelation) is an adage stating “ninety percent of everything is crap.”
The trick is to only show the public the good ten percent and hide that ninety percent in the closet. People will think you’re a genius!
michael says:
January 15, 2022 at 1:36 pm
Only 90%, Paul? That’s encouraging!
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