Let’s start with the good news, shall we?

Fueled this a.m. by copious amounts of coffee and a couple everything bagels (toasted & slathered w/ buttah), I wanted to take a couple minutes to write about three anthologies I’m involved with that will be debuting next weekend at this year’s The Small Press Expo:


First up is BIG SEXY an erotic anthology being put out by Offshore Comix.  I’ve got a 10 page story, written by my friend Daniel Barlow, which I’ve written about here on the blog at length recently. Offshore Comix is a collective of cartoonists and comic creators from Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Vermont interested in exploring comics and cartoons for mature adults. This is the first of many erotic comics Offshore plans to put out as time goes on.  Definitely worth picking up if only for the wonderful cover by Center for Cartoon Studies pioneer class alum, Xeric grant recipient and fellow Ignatz award nominee Colleen Frakes (pictured above). Having been raised in a strict Christian household, I had to work through a lot of personal baggage and issues to complete the ten page contribution I did for this and as proud as I am that I pulled it off I’m hoping to explore this genre again soon.


Next up is the FUNNY AMINALS anthology, which also contains a lot of fellow CCS community members and alumni and a cover by your’s truly. Here’s the writeup from the press release that went out earlier this summer about the project:

CCS graduates and Sunday’s Co-editors, Bryan Stone, and Jeff Lok and their bestest forest friends bring you, Funny Aminals!

Contributors include: 2009 Ignatz award nominees Colleen Frakes and Cat Garza, as well as Brandon Elston, Emily Wieja, Jose Luis Olivares, Denis St. John, Kubby, Penina Gal, Bryan Stone, Jeff Lok, Morgan Pielli, and Dane Martin. With a cover by Cat Garza, an essay on the history of the funny animal comic by Steve Bissette, and games and puzzles!

The release date for the book is SPX 2009 at the I Know Joe Kimpel table. It will also be available in select comic shops, and online at http://www.iknowjoekimpel.com and http://funnyaminals.com.

Not safe for children! 64 pages. $10. On newsprint. Full color cover on cardstock.


And last, but certainly not least, there’s the new Trees and Hills anthology for this year: SHELTER. From the T&H website:

SHELTER features comics inspired by the themes of housing and home, including aspects such as affordability, cohousing, gentrification, green building, housing cooperatives and homelessness.

This is the second anthology themed around social topics released by the Trees & Hills group and is a follow-up to 2008’s SEEDS anthology, which focused on food.

“Our last anthology, SEEDS, focused on food,” said Colin Tedford, a New Hampshire cartoonist and the co-founder of the Trees & Hills group. “Shelter looks at another basic human necessity and, like SEEDS, allows us to address social issues and connect with our communities.”

“SHELTER is the next evolutionary step in connecting comics and communities,” explained Dan Barlow, a Vermont writer and co-founder of Trees & Hills. “Our creators are very interested in working with local builders, shelter workers and advocates who have expertise in housing issues.”

SHELTER will be the sixth comic anthology from the Trees & Hills group since it formed in 2006. Last year’s SEEDS anthology broke new ground by focusing on the timely and engaging topic of food, tackling issues such as sustainability, eating organics and the vegetarian lifestyle.

I did a three page contribution with CCS pioneer class alum Bob Oxman. The story is called Nebulous Prime and is about Bob’s friend Neb (Ben) and his unconventional living over the past couple years, culminating in his living in a school bus that has been converted to running on vegetable oil!

Ok, and now for the bad news (mixed in with a little good news)…

First of all, as of a few moments ago, I’m officially getting evicted from my apartment. I just got THE LETTER, delivered by certified mail.

Some background: When my ex-wife and I first decided to separate last October I searched around for an apartment in the downtown White River Junction area that I could afford. I found a nice one bedroom apartment, but the rent was a bit high: $650 a month. After getting a tour of the apartment, I was later informed by the landlords by phone that I didn’t make enough money to afford the place and they couldn’t rent to me. OK, I said, no problem… I would keep looking. Bare in mind, I was still employed at the time. About two weeks later, they call me and ask me if I was still interested in the apartment. Needing a place to live and not having found anything else in the area, I was ecstatic. I guess they couldn’t find anyone else to rent to and just wanted the money. Whatever, I just needed a place to live and moving back to Texas wasn’t an option (my daughter is here in Vermont and I’ve got other commitments keeping me here as well) so I moved in right before Thanksgiving.

It was lean times from November through December last year, but I was on the way to being financially stable when I lost my job a day before I was to go on Christmas break. Merry Christmas!

Needless to say, I’ve had a hell of a year trying to keep up with the rent (and my sanity). The real estate property management company which owns my apartment building has been very passive/aggressive about me making the rent on time, piling late fees on me every time I couldn’t make rent on the first of each month, regardless of the fact that I was sending them $100-$200 dollars a week (roughly 1/3-2/3 of my unemployment money) in leu of being able to pay the full amount all in one lump sum.

There were weeks where I didn’t pay my rent because I’d gone a couple weeks with nothing but ramen to eat, if that. There were weeks where I didn’t eat because I needed to pay rent. Like I said, it’s been rough. The Dude abides…

Mind you, I’ve asked repeatedly for an invoice detailing how much I owed, how much I’d paid and how much they were charging me when I couldn’t pay on time. They finally sent me an invoice detailing everything from the moment I moved in last November until now along with this eviction letter. As it stands I owe them $2,385 in back rent and late fees and need to be out by the 30th of this month. According to the statement I received I’ve pretty much been running to catch up since I got “let go” from my job last December.

It didn’t help that I had to wait three months (Jan-March) for my unemployment money to start coming in thanks to my last employer dicking me over by claiming he had fired me and I had filed that I had been laid off (his words at the time of my “firing” were “let go” but there was no check box for this on the unemployment application). Let’s face it, he didn’t want to have to pay any money for my unemployment. He’s got a long record of doing this to people, from what I can tell, and I really should have fought it but was in dire straits at the time and didn’t want to rock the boat.

It also didn’t help that he told the Vermont unemployment folks that I had been fired because I was “incompetent” and had written me up a couple times over the year so that he could cover his ass when he got rid of me (instead of the other guy, which he’d sworn to me up and down in private he was going to “get rid of” when December was rolling around and he was getting tight for money to run his business… yeah…).

I may not be the world’s best employee, folks, I’m willing to admit that right here and now, but at the same time I’m a damn fine graphic designer and had done well by him in the year of my employ. So much so that on more than one occasion he HANDED ME CASH MONEY to tell me I’d been doing a really good job! Does that sound like something an employer does for an “incompetent” employee? Of course, by writing this in a public forum like the internet I’ve pretty much guaranteed that said employer will never want to hire me back again, but at this point and after all I’ve been through in the last year I could give a rat’s ass. Vermont unemployment docked my unemployment money as punishment because of the discrepancy and subsequent “investigation” they did to find out which one of us was lying. Fun!

It’s been a hell of a year, folks, but I’m not quite licked yet!

Now for of a bit more good news

Enter this year’s Center for Cartoon Studies fellow Maxime de Radigués from Belgium. Max just arrived a couple weeks ago and has been desperately looking for a place to live. I’ve been half heartedly searching for cheaper living arrangements, as well, while my landlords got more and more insistent and vociferous with their threats of eviction.

Long story short, we’ve found an amazing little place to live that is not only cheap ($750 a month 2 bedroom apt with a yard, washer/dryer hookups, nice natural light, garden area, basement, much more), but also down the street from the cartooning school (about a block down from my first apartment here in Vermont, actually).

We sign the lease tomorrow morning and move in sometime next week. As for my debt to the current landlords, my parents have vowed to help me out, which is good because I’d be pretty much sunk otherwise. They’re not exactly in a position to help me because let’s face it – EVERYONE’S poor right now – but they’ve done what they could over the past year and I’m lucky to have their help! Now a moment of zen as we gaze upon my new home as of later next week…


Now for more bad news

As much as I’d like to go to SPX this year (and I’d really, really like to go), it’s looking really, really bad for me. Aside from moving into a new living space days before the convention, and even though I’ve found a couple empty seats in a couple different caravans of folks going to the show, I have nowhere to stay if I do go and no money to really do anything while I’m there. The bad part of all this is that if I don’t attend I’m pretty much guaranteed not getting the Ignatz award I’m up for because I won’t be around to lobby for votes. This also means I won’t be around for the debut of the three wonderful anthologies I’m part of. I’m confused about what my priorities should be here, but something tells me sticking around White River and getting back on my feet financially trumps going to a comic convention.

I’ve fought the urge to make a plea for donations to you, dear readers, over the past couple months as things got worse and worse because I wanted to be able to offer something in return for said donations and haven’t been able to come up with any means to do so. My best bet, THE MAGIC INKWELL READER, was stalled for a time and honestly I’m not sure that sales for the book would have generated the kind of money I’d need to pull myself out of this hole. The book has finally been delivered to the printer and should be ready for purchase online sometime around mid-October (just in time for my 37th birthday!).

Still, as bad as things have been for such a long time, there have been small victories along the way. Generally speaking I’m as happy as I’ve ever been and things are starting to look up a bit over the past month or so. The Ignatz nomination has done wonders for my self esteem, sense of self worth and my standing in the cartooning community here and abroad. Ditto my collaborations with my fellow cartoonists of late and now the prospect of living in a more affordable place with another working cartoonist (albeit until May when I’ll be looking to find a new roommate when Max returns to Belgium).

As ever, I remain optimistic about the future and my cartooning, my music and my daughter bring me more joy and fulfillment than I’m sure a lot of people get to enjoy in a lifetime of living. I have little room to complain and I’m sure there’s a lot of other folks out there worse off than me.

Sorry to vent all this personal drama here, but I really needed to get all this off my chest. I’m putting a donation button at the bottom of this post in case anyone is in a position to throw a couple bucks my way, but I have no illusions about it. We’re ALL broke right now and we’re ALL trying to find a way to survive, but I figure since I’ve already let the cat out of the bag (no pun intended) about my current financial situation I figure it couldn’t hurt. I’ll be rolling it over into my bank account to help pay for my expenses for the new place and paying off the landlords for this place. Who knows, maybe I’ll even get enough to go to SPX after all if enough of you contribute… It’s next weekend so I doubt it, but who knows?