Tuesday, March 25th, 2014

Checking In With My Pile Of Rejected 'New Yorker' Cartoons

In 2012, in a rare moment of actual confidence, I mailed an envelope of cartoons to famous New Yorker cartoon editor Robert Mankoff (who, for the short number of weeks surrounding this event, I referred to, in my head, as Bob). I never heard back. Which, I mean, was not a surprise. I’d been doing a lot of drawing, almost entirely for the Internet, and almost entirely for free. The Internet can be a tricky thing; sometimes it feels like there are countless outlets and platforms for creative people, and other times, it all just feels a little pointless. Content is disposable, and whether or not you contribute to it, and whether or not it’s good, a steady stream will keep coming, and it will fill up every space we are in, until our desperate little mouths are pressed up against a small air vent in the ceiling.

So, like I said, I sent some cartoons to the New Yorker. I felt ready. I asked an actual New Yorker cartoonist for tips. She told me I need to send 10 individual cartoons—photocopies only, by post. I wasn’t sure how it worked; if he liked one, did I get to redraw a nicer version? Did they have to be magazine-ready? Did the caption have to be in that font, or could I just do it by hand for now? The single panel thing was new for me—most of my cartoons are stories about myself, and not particular funny. And the bits I thought were funny were never the same as the bits other people thought were funny. But a lot of New Yorker cartoons aren’t that funny anyway, and like I said, I felt confident. I put all the original drawings away in a folder.

I pulled them out the other day. A few, I thought, were still good! Some were definitely past their sell-by date. And some were probably never funny at all. I felt embarrassed of how hopeful I’d been. Although, you have to feel hopeful sometimes—otherwise you’d never do things like go on dates and apply for jobs. Sometimes rejection happens! Rejection facilitates success! Right? Anyway, it doesn’t matter. Here are my dumb cartoons.

I still think this is good! I like that it’s weird, and a little bit dark. I should have just posted it on Tumblr. “17 notes” is better than nothing. Or is it?

What I was trying to do here, I think, was make a A New Yorker Cartoon.

What can I say? I still think this is hilarious.

This would have killed in 2011.

This is terrible. I was trying to make a Nietzsche a joke, while also making a Twilight joke, while also making a joke about asshole professors, or something. I admit, it’s confusing. And a scenario in which a professor is talking to a student about being mean to his children doesn’t seem that probable.

I felt like I had to include a therapy cartoon. I don’t think it’s that bad, but it’s still in the vein of A New Yorker Cartoon. Still though, I fondly remember laughing as I drew it.

I guess this is the only autobiographical one. I once yelled the same thing from a couch, and it made me laugh, so I drew it a few days later. I guess none of these cartoons are particularly concise or punchy. The New Yorker should still send rejection letters, though.

Not funny. But like, onto something, I just know it!

Okay, I think this is a little more concise and punchy, and also sort of sweet. It’s about a ghost who lacks confidence! He has to believe in himself! Ghosts! Believing! I guess it’s not that funny.

I’m not really proud of this one. It’s pretty stupid. But also I could totally imagine it in the New Yorker? You know?

I’m still trying to figure out what kind of artist I am, but I am probably not A New Yorker Cartoon type of artist. I should just stick to making longer comics that take ages to draw, but seconds to read, and that don’t really make me any money. They are deeply gratifying, in a way. I’m like a volunteer of the Internet. And as anyone who has worked at a non-profit knows, volunteers are really important.

Esther C. Werdiger writes, draws, podcasts, and lives in New York. You can read her "League of Ordinary Ladies" here.

19 Comments / Post A Comment

Taffeta Darling (#260,337)

I could see the ghost one in the New Yorker, for sure. It's good! Bob (haha) could have gone for that one, at least.

Thanks for sharing! I miss seeing Esther Werdiger cartoons.

oscarina (#45,226)

hey! I told you ten a week for like a year! or ten years, as it happens for some…

libmas (#231)

There is a Gahan Wilson cartoon that ran in the New Yorker of Santa on a shrink's couch, and the shrink is saying, "Your problem is that you don't believe in yourself." Or something close to that. So you weren't far off with the ghost.

I actually got a rejection email from Mr. Mankoff once. I sent in a cartoon of an elegant lady in a grand cape with one loose thread. A hand was reaching in toward the thread from out of frame. The caption read, "Jack the Unraveler." Sigh.

"Volunteers (of the Internet)": Jefferson Starship plus 45 years?

vettaish (#265,728)

You are wonderful. Free labor in a lotto economy is not. Sigh.

BadUncle (#153)

I sent in one cartoon 20 years ago, heard nothing back, and checked this off my aspiration list.

Bryan Keller (#3,804)

These are really hilarious. Thanks!

muggles (#241,614)

I interned in the Covers department, and the policy over there was definitely to send responses (/rejections) to EVERYBODY that submitted ANYTHING—I know, 'cause I wrote 'em! They probably get more stuff in cartoons so it may be cost-prohibitive to respond to everyone, OR you may have just got a lazy intern that day.

twolle (#265,808)

I interned in the cartoon department a long time ago, and now I occasionally submit. Interestingly though I have never received a rejection, even though I used to send them out all the time (and clear out the unsolicited submissions pile every week, true story!). So I'm not sure whether there's just a dearth of interns there now or what. Maybe the new Conde policy regarding unpaid interns is taking its toll?

Charlotte Flax (#234,743)

@twolle I interned in the cartoon department too! And I definitely spent most of my time opening mail and sending rejection letters.

By the way, Esther, he does go by "Bob."

I am in love with these.

Oooooh, I love the therapy one.

verses (#265,847)

These are great! I want to read a version of the New Yorker that would feature these cartoons. I think it would be comprehensively better. Alternatively I would like to wear these as t-shirts, and I hate graphic tees.

heyderpette (#239,414)

I love Dorothy Parker so much. That one is a winner for me!! Except also every time I see DP somewhere I think Double Penetration? So there's that.

idrathernot (#264,876)

The Diet Coke one is amazing! And the ghost one. And I laughed hard at your volunteer of the internet/non-profit joke.

twinkiecowboy (#235,093)

I love these. The therapy one made me laugh out loud.

dailyny (#3,326)

The professor one has depth and a sort of pattern and it's funny! It's my favorite one because it's also the most original.

PeachyWodehouse (#265,935)

On last Sunday's 60 Minutes they had a piece on Robert Mankoff and his weekly selection process! I bet you can still see it online. Maybe it will offer you valuable insight! He's an interesting guy.

NoraNoes (#266,681)

To be truthful, I'd be more likely to take a subscription to the New Yorker if the cartoons contained some that were in your vein. They need to move along into the 21st century. I have been about to click that "subscribe" button on my Kindle several times, but I get sidetracked into "do I *really* want this?" and the cartoons are not on the pro- side of the "must have" list.

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