It’s 1997. The fall semester. I’m a junior at RISD and enrolled in a class called “Picture and Word”, where we are writing and illustrating picture books. It is by far the coolest class I have yet to take. In the class I write a story called “Hello,” said this Slug. Eager to get my rejections out of the way, I submit it to a publisher. It is promptly rejected. So I send it out again. And again. And again… Some rejections are nice, some are harsh and some are form letters on half sheets of paper (clearly I wasn’t even worth a full sheet). So I move on, write more stories, graduate, etc. But I am still sending SLUG out and still getting so much positive feedback from everyone... my family, my friends, all of the kids at camp…so I keep sending it out. And it keeps getting rejected.
Then something miraculous happened. Random House gives me a contract for Good Night, Monkey Boy. Amazing! A book of mine is actually getting published. “This is it,” I think. Now it will be easy to get my SLUG published. Except it isn’t. It gets rejected…again.
Then one day my friend Sarah Tucker (whose namesake was used much to her chagrin in Baghead) tells me that SLUG is by far the best story that I’ve ever written and I need to get it out there. So I rethink everything and completely retool the story, changing scenarios around, but keeping character traits, certain themes and a few jokes in line. And I submit it to Random House. But nothing happens with it. Max for President happens, then Punk Farm happens.
I mention to my editor Michelle that we never really talked about the new SLUG, because we both got so caught up in my new projects. Then I begin to think of a scheme. I will inundate her and everyone at Random House with little Slug paintings. They’ll get dozens, hundreds of them in the mail and they won’t be able to ignore him!
I make three and then I get a phone call. It’s my editor Michelle. “We love Slug and want to pick it up!” My jaw drops. We finish our conversation and hang up.
I pick up the phone and call my grandparents, every family member and every friend who ever listened to me talk about this story about a boy who met a giant slug. It’s December 2004 and my dream book is beginning to become a reality.
So the following months are spent editing the story, rehashing sketches and shaping the book up. After six or seven revisions we have a version of the book that’s nearly ready. I’ve gone though dozens of new title ideas and we have a few that might work. It’s near the end of summer and I now need to paint!
I’m painting in the early morning, throughout the day and into the night, until it is officially morning again. This happens over and over again. I’m throwing my studio in a suitcase and bring the work with me while I’m on the road. I’m painting in Jamie and Jeremy’s studio in Houston (which is amazing as Jamie was in that original RISD class and we haven’t painted together since college – and there I am, working on that same character once again). I’m working on revising texts while on airplanes. I’m in New York City and painting in Katie and Dan’s living room, putting the finishing touches on the paintings until 3 AM the night before the book is due.
And then the day. November 18, 2005. I hand in all of the paintings for the book I had always
wanted to make. I debuted the work to all of the good people at Random House and then my editor Michelle, her assistant Michele, my designer Melissa and publicist Christine all have an amazing lunch; a lunch-a-thon. I then bop around the offices for the rest of the day saying hello to people and sitting and talking about plans for the book. So of course I’m ready to take a break, but then my art director Isabel shows me something.
The paper samples and book comps for my graphic novel series…and my head starts to spin again…
It’s evening and I return to Katie and Dan’s house and I crash. I wake up from my nap and I start to wonder, “Did all of that really happen? Did I really hand in the art for SLUG?”
So now I wait. In just under a year…9 years after I initially conceived the story…My Buddy, Slug will be in bookstores.
Words can’t fully express my excitement.