This week, HOPress released Mom’s Comedy Coloring Book: ‘Cuz Why Should Our Kids Have All The fun? by Margie Cherry. We had a chance to catch up with this talented and funny author and illustrator and see how this one-of-a-kind coloring book came about.
Tell us about Margie Cherry and how did you get into illustrating?
I was born and raised in West Philadelphia, and moved a few miles away to the suburbs when I was 10. I’m told I was drawing before I could talk! I remember a certain incident involving my grandmother’s lipstick and the wall next to my crib when I was supposed to be napping. My mom was a painter, and, despite my propensity for drawing on the walls, actually encouraged my doodling. She even let me take the subway myself as a young girl to attend Saturday drawing classes at Philadelphia College of Art, where I later went to college, majoring in illustration.
Growing up, my older sister Joanie and I used to get sent away from the dinner table for laughing uncontrollably until chocolate milk came out our noses. I credit her to this day for being my comedy icon. We still make each other laugh every day!
I began freelancing as an illustrator while I was still in college, designing business cards for boutiques, hair salons, and baby stores. My dream was to illustrate children’s books, but I earned my bread and butter by pasting up movie ads for newspapers in the days when we still had to use rubber cement to utility knives to create advertisements. Later I graduated to being the “Snoopy” expert for a children’s school supply manufacturer. I got to design outfits for the Peanuts gang to wear on notebooks, folders, and binders.
How did Mom’s Comedy Coloring Book come about?
I always wanted to be a mom, and after marrying my Ivan, we tried in vain to get pregnant. Five years of infertility treatments finally paid off when we had our beautiful daughter Sasha, followed two years later by her sister Dana. I knew I should be in heaven, having my fondest dreams come true, and, on good days, I was. But I kept feeling blue and I didn’t know why.
This was in 1990, before people discussed postpartum depression openly, so that thought never occurred to me. I just thought I was a bad mom- incompetent, overwhelmed, and frustrated. In order to cope with these feelings, I began keeping a journal. Because I was an artist, I illustrated my musings. I soon realized that these thought-doodles were pretty cool, and decided they would make terrific greeting cards for moms.
I submitted them to every greeting card company I could think of, and got the nicest rejection letters from all of them! Although the common response was that they didn’t make good greeting cards since they didn’t say “Happy Birthday” or “With Sympathy”, or any of the standard greeting card sentiments, they all thought they were very funny. I looked at the silver lining and decided to capitalize on that.
Right about the time I was having my greeting card ideas rejected, I noticed the rise of parenting papers on the local scene. I also noticed that they all lacked what I considered as the most essential part of any newspaper…the funny pages!
I called the editor of “Metrokids”, the top parenting paper in Philly at the time, and asked if they would be interested in featuring a cartoon about motherhood. Nancy Lisagor, the editor, asked if I had any samples to show her. I looked down at my pile of rejected greeting card designs and said, “Absolutely!” An accidental cartoonist was born! I loved the idea of sharing “The Art of Motherhood”, my humorous take on the frustrations of motherhood with other mothers who were also feeling overwhelmed but afraid to admit it. Walking into a new friend’s house and seeing MY cartoon clipped out and hanging on her refrigerator felt like winning an Oscar and the Nobel peace Prize all rolled into one!
My cartoon ran in parenting papers for 14 years, and also appeared in the national humor newspaper The Funny Times, as well as being included in four humor anthologies.
I actually had the idea to create a coloring book for moms back then, but everyone thought I was out of my mind. The same held true for the idea I submitted to calendar publishers of a “Mom Calendar” that would have pockets for school papers and appointment cards. The publishers didn’t think moms would want that, and besides, it would be too expensive to develop. Apparently, I had the right ideas at the wrong time!
This only fueled my comedy fire, and I began to search for a comedy writing class so I could expand beyond the confines of my 3 x 5 cartoon panel.
The closest I could find to a comedy writing class was a stand-up comedy class. With no intention of EVER setting foot on a stage, I signed up in order to have a weekly writing assignment to complete. For our last class, we had to do a 10 minute set at the teacher’s comedy club. I was terrified. They had to drag me kicking and screaming onto the stage. Then I started. I told a joke and the audience laughed. It was like crack! With my cartoons, I mailed them off to the paper and never heard the laughter of my readers. Here I was saying the same things on stage and getting this immediate, addictive feedback. They had to drag me kicking and screaming OFF the stage!
I loved doing my stand-up “Momedy” act once I was on stage, but I continued to be crazed with fear before every gig, so much so that I couldn’t eat or sleep, let alone take care of my family in the weeks before a show. Ivan begged me to give it up for the sake of everybody’s health, and reluctantly, I did. But shortly after making that decision, I was approached again to do my Momedy for a parenting group. When I told the group’s director I had given it up, she looked so disappointed that I asked if she’d like to have a comedy workshop instead, where I taught the moms to turn their frustrations into their own funnies. She agreed, and I went home and created it! I was the “Accidental Comedy Workshop Leader”.
What do you hope readers, moms, parents, grandparents, etc. take from the book?
First, I want them to read the cartoons and laugh! Laughter is one of the healthiest things we can do for our immune systems. It floods our bodies with a happy cocktail of chemicals that relaxes, strengthens, and de-stresses us.
Then, I want them to have a blast coloring them in. We all know about the meditative properties of coloring!
Lastly, but most importantly, I want them to use their anxieties, frustrations, and everyday aggravations to create their own cartoons. Comedy always begins with a problem that gets resolved through a humorous twist. By turning our problems into humor, we gain mastery over the fears and worries that undermine our confidence as mothers.
Your life has definitely experienced a Chapter two as a career counselor. How do you use your humor in your present career?
Yes! I am a strong believer in reinvention! I get as much of a kick out of career counseling as I did as a cartoonist and stand-up comedian!
My joy is in helping others recognize their own strengths, talents, and gifts, and guiding them to find a way to use that in their work life.
The easiest way I have found to work with people who are under stress because of a difficult or unsatisfying career situation is to first have them de-stress. Humor is the quickest route to relaxation! When people can look at their challenges through the lens of humor, the problems don’t seem so daunting anymore. Humor is empowering! That, I think, is the most important lesson that humor offers. When you can turn your frustrations into funnies, you are in control of your problems, they are not in control of you.
Check out Mom’s Comedy Coloring Book: ‘Cuz Why Should Our Kids Have All The fun? on Amazon.com You can also follow Margie on Facebook and Twitter @CoachMargie. Check out her website as well.