Jason Salas - Humorist
Jason is the author of Perk At Work – a humorous cartoon series that pokes gentle fun at the quirky characters inhabiting a coffee shop. Join me while I get the inside scoop on cartooning, and Jason's advice for the aspiring cartoonist.
Cathy: Do you consider yourself a cartoonist? Artist? Writer?
Jason: I consider myself a humorist. That title extends to writings, cartoonist/comics, music, and speaking. Mark Twain was a humorist and I intend to ride his white coat tails.
Cathy: Cartoons range from the sophisticated New Yorker magazine, to biting political humor, from the newspaper comic strip, to the Archie comics I read as a kid. Your books are related by characters and theme, but a person can read a single strip as a stand-alone. Is this different from graphic novels?
Jason: Yes. Graphic novels are “long form”. This means that they cover an arc or several arcs to tell a larger story. My particular form of comics is called “gag-a-day”. This means that a reader can read each comic and get the gag without having to know the context of a larger story. It’s odd how this all sounds “textbook-ish” for an interview on goofy drawings, eh?
Cathy: Can you explain the difference between a comic strip, a comic book, and a graphic novel?
Jason: Here we go with my nerdy definitions again. Comics are “sequential art” which means (as it sounds) that the art is in sequence to form a bigger piece of art. Magazines usually print single-panel gags. Newspapers have gags that are one to four, maybe five panels. A comic book will have one continuous sequence of panels over 24 - 36 pages (with advertising). A graphic novel is like any other novel except it has graphics (i.e., drawings) integrated to tell the story, and no advertising.
Cathy: When did you start drawing cartoons?
Jason: Like all kids, I drew before I wrote. Yet I always liked having a humorous tone to the drawings. Maybe those could have been cartoons, not sure.
Cathy: What inspired you to create stories?
Jason: Stories are the best way to communicate. I love communicating and it is natural to want to breath life into a world from the third person point of view. Some call it “playing God”. I won’t argue with that. I believe that everything created wants to emulate that which created it. I am unapologetically Christian (though not as mainstream as most folks). Creation is within our make up.
Cathy: Do you have formal training in fine art? Graphic arts? Writing?
Jason: With drawing, I’m mostly self-taught though I don’t quite agree with that term. I learned how to draw in a humorous style from copying MAD Magazine artists as a kid. Though those artists were not a teacher standing in front of me in a class, I still learned from them. As for writing, I never did well with that in school. Teachers always wanted a specific format. I thought the story should dictate the narrative and the structure. That didn’t go over too well.
Cathy: What is more important to your books – the story or the drawing?
Jason: Story is always more important in every book. All my comics start off with writing and end up as a comic strip. In short, I love writing humor pieces. Even picture books have to have a story or they are just random drawings. Writing trumps all.
Cathy: Do you base your characters on people you have encountered in your life? Has anyone ever accused you of using him/her in your cartoons?
Jason: This is the second-most popular question I get asked. (First is “Where do you get your ideas?”) I do not use specific people as characters in my comic. That would be limiting as I would not know that person inside and out as I do my characters. I used one person in one comic strip that was a real person and I let her know I did such. But that was not a core character, just one character in one strip, an "extra".
Cathy: What advice do you have for a young person aspiring to become a cartoonist?
Jason: Three things:
○ Experience life then draw it. Too often people want to draw life without going outside the door and taking chances. Risk yields fantastic creativity. Our minds open up when we get out into the world and begin doing things that scare us.
○ Become accustomed to being uncomfortable. This craft takes hundreds, if not thousands of hours to master -- I’m still in the process.
○ Learn to take criticism. Not everything you do is golden. Learn what people like about your work and play to those strengths.
Cathy: Please tell us how to find you on the web, and where to find your books. My website is http://perkatworkcomic.com. I’m also on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/perkatwork. My books are for sale on my website.
Jeff Hart and the Rescue of Los 33
Jeff Hart, the drilling expert whose skill was instrumental in the rescue of 33 Chilean miners in 2010, gave a talk Novemver 7th that was full of surprises.
Surprise One – Continuing Interest: Three years after the event that consumed international news for 69 days, Mr. Hart packed the library at the Western Museum of Mining and Industry with a capacity crowd. The audience included museum members, prospectors, rock hounds, students from elementary school to the School of Mines, and anyone with a passion for mining history.
Surprise Two – Drilling for Water: Mr. Hart and his crew from Layne Christensen, a South Dakota based water, minerals, and energy extraction company, were drilling water wells in Afghanistan when the Chilean mine disaster occurred. Hearing the story on the news, Hart did not believe anyone could survive the cave-in.
Surprise Three – Arrival at the Rescue: Eighteen days into the rescue effort, Chilean President Pinera announced that they had established communication with the 33 miners, and all were alive. In a moving PowerPoint at the beginning of his talk, Hart showed the note that came up the first pilot hole: Estamos bien en el refugio los 33 - We are well in the shelter, the 33. Another seventeen days would pass before Hart received a 4 am call from the president of Layne. At first, he thought something bad had happened to one of his drilling crew’s families. Instead, he was ordered to assemble a crew and get to Chile ASAP. Hart, another employee, and two US Spanish-speaking helpers began the long trip to the Atacama Desert, arriving 35 days after the cave-in, and what would become the mid-point of the rescue effort.
Surprise Four – Conditions for Los 33: The miners could survive indefinitely underground. After the first hole was drilled (before Hart’s team arrived), air, food, and water could reach the trapped miners. They had survived on tuna and stale tortillas the first eighteen days. The clock they were working against, according to Hart, was disease. The temperature in the mine was over 90 degrees F, and the humidity was over 90%. Hart joked about the gourmet meals being sent to the miners 2,300 feet below ground while the rescuers ate ham and cheese sandwiches.
Surprise Five – No Surprise: The unsafe copper and gold mine was immediately closed after the cave-in, and remains closed to this day. The miners knew the dangers of working in the earthquake prone region, and were paid more than if they had chosen to work in mines with better safety records.
Surprise Six – Fenix: The capsule (photo below) sent down the shaft drilled by Hart’s crew was designed by NASA and built by the Chilean Navy. A replica capsule on display in the Western Museum of Mining and Industry is the only other “official” capsule in existence. The first person to use the capsule went down to the miners to assist them and assess their medical status. Rescue expert Manuel Gonzalez did not know with certainty that he would make it back to the surface. He could have been trapped with the miners. Hart called him “the bravest man in the world.”
Surprise Seven – New Careers: Four of the rescued miners went to work for Layne Christensen and their Latin American affiliate Geotec after their rescue.
Surprise Eight – Lessons learned from the Chilean mine cave-in are being implemented by the US mining industry. The equipment and teams for mine rescue are being assembled at strategic areas in the US, ready to deploy when needed.
Jeff Hart said, “The most important thing you could ever get out of a mine is a miner.” The talk was fascinating. I am certain I have missed several critical points of interest, such as the details about the drills and drilling techniques, but don’t worry! A movie is being filmed, and a book on the rescue will be released soon. Until then, you can see the authentic replica capsule at the WMMI in Colorado Springs.
To learn more about Jeff Hart and Layne Christensen’s role in the Chilean mine rescue, see: http://www.layne.com/en/about/plan-b.aspx
To learn more about the Western Museum of Mining and Industry in Colorado Springs, Colorado, see: http://www.wmmi.org/
NaNoWriMo and Beyond!
If you are participating in National Novel Writing Month, chances are you’ve just hit the “what was I thinking” mode. Here are five survival tips to keep you going:
1) The mnemonic reminds us that “Thirty days has November.” At this point, only eighteen. Surely your family (or your single self) can survive a few more days on frozen dinners, fast food drive-thru fare, and canned soup. Don’t waste your precious writing time on the mundane.
2) Claim your space and your time. To quote Gandolf, “None shall pass!” If you were running marathons or inventing something noxious smelling in your basement, those annoying people in your life wouldn’t be bothering you right now. Absence makes the heart grow fonder. There will be plenty of time for socializing and family life in December.
3) Sometimes the words flow, and you’re in the zone. Other times each word must be yanked out of your brain with a rusty pair of pliers. This is normal. Keep writing, and the words will eventually flow again. Remember that that this is the roughest draft imaginable. Resist the urge to polish. Send your internal editor on vacation for the month. Your NaNo idea will seem stupid at some point, and a dozen better ideas will present themselves. Jot those ideas on a Post-It note, but finish this story.
4) Don’t set your expectations too high. It is more likely that a chimpanzee with recreate the works of Shakespeare on a typewriter (to borrow from the Infinite Monkey theory) than it is that this month will reward you with a publishable novel. More likely you will just be getting closer to the million words, or ten thousand hours, depending on the philosophy you follow, that are required before you become a good writer.
5) There is no failure. If you don’t hit the 50,000 words, you still did more writing than typical. Don’t beat yourself up.
And if you survive NaNoWriMo? According to David Eddings, “A writer’s apprenticeship usually involves writing a million words (which are then discarded) before he’s almost ready to begin. That takes a while.” How long does it take? If you only write during NaNoWriMo, and assuming you hit the goal of 50,000 words every year, it will take you twenty years to reach the million word goal. And assuming you could write 24 hours a day for the entire 30 days, you would only be 720 hours toward Malcolm Gladwell’s “magic number for true expertise: ten thousand hours.” Obviously, National Novel Writing Month is just a jumping off point. You have some momentum going now. Keep writing!
Exercise Your Influence
My mother enjoyed Christine Goff’s birdwatcher series. When the series ended with book number five, my mother was quite upset. Mom did not care for my explanation about the vagaries of the publishing industry. She had discovered a favorite series, one she’d hoped to read for many more years. http://www.christinegoff.com
Television programs have been known to suffer a similar fate. A good series, in the opinion of fans, is unjustly cancelled. Viewers have discovered, however, that they have influence. More than one series has been continued, or brought back, due to outcry from fans. Good news – this can work for literature, too.
· The number one way to support an author you like is through the power of the marketplace. Buy the book! If your funds are limited, check it out from the library.
· Number two is to let people know about the author. Word of mouth sells books. That word can be spread in person or via the internet. If you are active on social media or you blog, mention the book or the author.
· The third way to keep an author writing and a series viable is to write reviews. If you are impressed with a book, post a review on Amazon, Goodreads, and other venues. Post a review on your blog. Publishers and book sellers pay attention to reviews, which demonstrate there is an enthusiastic audience for the work.
Share your enthusiasm for an author or series. Exercise your influence.
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