Editor’s Dispatch: Q&A With Terri Libenson

By Brendan Burford

Mother’s Day is on Sunday in the United States. There is still time to get Mom something special! Cartoonist Terri Libenson has published The Pajama Diaries: Déjà To-Do!, the first collection of full-color daily and Sunday PAJAMA DIARIES strips.

If you read my previous post about THE PAJAMA DIARIES, you’ll  know that Terri draws from real life and her semi-biographical cartoon character, Jill Kaplan, serves as both her muse and alter-ego. Married with two children, Jill works from home as a freelance graphic designer. Armed with a to-do list a mile long, and with the help of her reliable husband Rob, Jill manages to accomplish in one day what a small army could barely manage to achieve in a week.

Memories, gossip, and even marital intimacy are all revealed in in this daring and revealing comic strip about what it means to be a wife and parent in today’s fast-paced world. I sat down with Terri for a brief chat and we talked about her new book, breaking into cartooning, and her ideal gift for Mother’s Day.

Q: The first collection of THE PAJAMA DIARIES, called The Pajama Diaries: Déjà To-Do, is now available in print. Congratulations! Did you picture yourself in a cartooning career like this while growing up?
Terri: I always loved creating my own comic strips while growing up, but I didn’t know I wanted to do this until college. I majored in illustration and noticed that I kept gravitating toward a cartoony style. I also did a strip for my college paper, which I enjoyed. With an additional love of humor and storytelling, it all clicked when I was a senior. Only 12 short years later, the dream was realized!

Q: What was your first job?
Terri: My first semi-relevant job was doing paste-up work for my hometown newspaper in Pennsylvania— midnight shift— right after college. Simultaneously, I also had my first comic strip published in that newspaper (I had shown it to the editor and she loved it). It ran Monday through Saturday for about five months, but then I quit for my first “grown-up” job at American Greetings in Cleveland. This was nearly 20 years ago. I took a staff position as a humorous writer/illustrator. I’m both happy and sad to report that I still work there, on contract. Actually, I love it.

Q: What advice do you have for young women who want to get into the cartooning field?
Terri: Persistence, persistence. A lot of people have talent, but it takes a special blend of motivation, patience and self-abuse to break into cartooning (see “12 short years” comment). For some reason, more men tend to be in humor fields than women, so in a weird way, maybe that’s good for women.  It makes them stand out more.  Which leads to another piece of advice: write from the heart. It’s more authentic. It sets you apart from everyone else, especially coming from a feminine standpoint. On the flip side, you might have a more limited audience. But at least you’re writing what you know.

Q: How do you deal with the work-life balance struggle?
Terri: Babysitters and wine.

Q: We love the title— Déjà To-Do!—it really encapsulates the daily routine of modern motherhood!  Mother’s Day is around the corner. What would be your ideal Mother’s Day present?
Terri: Ironically, getting some alone time. This Mother’s Day, I told my husband I’d like nothing more than to spend a few hours by myself at the art museum (Cleveland has a great one). I did it a few years ago on Mother’s Day, and it was heaven. After I get my alone fix, I’d like to go out to dinner with my family. Best of both worlds.

Q: Any advice for new and soon-to-be new Moms out there?
Terri: Don’t listen to advice. Do your own thing. It all works out.

The Pajama Diaries: Déjà To-Do!  is now available for purchase online at pajamadiaries.com, Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble. Terri also has a line of greeting cards for sale at CafePress.