Archive for January, 2012

The Writing Life, Chapter 20: A Long Career

With more than 30 years behind me as a writer and education journalist, I sometimes feel a bit seasoned, grizzled, experienced, or other euphemisms for “old.” In December I had the opportunity to meet and interview someone who made me feel much more like a “young whippersnapper.”

Martin Filchock, who turned 100 on January 6, has spent more than 80 years as a professional cartoonist, having sold his first cartoon as a teenager. Along the way, he has done everything from drawing religious-oriented cartoons to creating superheroes such as Mighty Man. Although a stroke now limits his ability to draw, he says he still has original work appearing in Looking Back magazine.

In the 1930s, Filchock worked in the Civilian Conservation Corps, doing various jobs. Serving in the Army during World War II, he put his cartooning skills to use in improving the lives of the soldiers on board the troop ship on which he was stationed. Voicing the soldiers’ displeasure at being served hot tea even when they were near the equator, Filchock drew a cartoon depicting sweating soldiers drinking steaming tea. As a result, the Army stopped serving the hot tea.

For some 40 years, one of Filchock’s projects was drawing the Check and Double Check feature in Highlights for Children. Literally millions of kids have sharpened their powers of observation by comparing the features in these simple drawings. His work also has appeared in numerous adult magazines, including Reader’s Digest and the Saturday Evening Post.

I’m not sure yet exactly how I’ll use the material I gathered on Martin Filchock, but I certainly enjoyed learning the fascinating story of his contributions to our culture. And he gives me a yardstick to shoot for in terms of career longevity!

Random Writing Thought: During my author visit to an elementary school in Tennessee last month, I told students how I often revise simple children’s poems as many as six or eight times (or more) until they are just the way I want them. I think some of the students were appalled at the thought of putting that much effort into a piece of writing, but I did see many of them then go back and make revisions to their own work.

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