AboutJody Houser is a writer, a geek, a webcomic-making person, and an Angeleno.
I did a few interviews recently for Womanthology: Heroic. It was a bit weird, and it’s weirder still seeing my name pop up on Twitter along with links to hear me rambling. But here are the links for anyone interested:
Jody Houser Talks Womanthology With Fanboy Comics - The title sums it up pretty well. This was a video (awkward!) interview I did the week before WonderCon at Emerald Knights to help promote their Womanthology signing on March 25th.
Fandom Planet 40 “We Wander Wondercon” - During WonderCon, I did an impromtu interview with Fandom Planet while sitting at the Womanthology table. You can hear it about 17 minutes into the podcast.
I think I sound a lot more comfortable during the audio-only interview, but some of that may have been the people high I got from sitting at the Womanthology table at Artist Alley. There were so many people who came up to say how much the project meant to them. I hadn’t really expected that. It was incredibly moving to see so much support for Womanthology, especially with the announcement that it’s going to be an ongoing.
There’s currently a lot of discussion going on about how women (and creators in general) need to be paid for their work in comics and entertainment. I agree with this 1000% because I like having food and shelter and an internet connection.
However the dialogue somehow changed into anger about the Womanthology contributors not being paid for their work despite the amount of money the Kickstarter raised. And that’s a fundamental misunderstanding of what the project has been about from the beginning. From day one, the book was intended to raise money for a worthy cause. And that charity was picked well before the Kickstarter was launched.
The Womanthology blog has a post that lays out the initial estimates of the distribution of funds. Contributor Amanda Deibert pointed out where the information about the goals was clearly available. And even Bleeding Cool has some coverage of the discussion.
It’s a touchy subject, and an especially personal one for me. Back in 2009, I was laid off from my job as senior SEO content writer (essentially specialized website copywriting) and found that most job listings were filled with phrases like “unpaid internship” and “build your portfolio” and “valuable experience”. It’s enough to make you want to put your fist through your monitor (which is a bad idea even when you can afford to replace it).
Keep in mind these jobs weren’t even in art or entertainment. They were positions to help give businesses a public voice and face. To spread their name and message online. Marketing that could make or break a company in the long run.
But since they saw it as only writing, it wasn’t worth paying actual money for.
In this day and age, there’s very little reason for creators to work for solely for the benefit of others to get “exposure”. Writers can start their own blog or five. Artists can create galleries of their work online and often can and do earn money by taking commissions (sadly, I have yet to see anyone interested in paying money for script pages to hang on their wall.*)
Sometimes though, it’s hard to remember that what you’re doing has potential value. Toiling away on spec scripts and hosting a webcomic for free (I should really add a Donate button, at least) and reading about how even established writers are having trouble getting paying jobs can make a viable creative career seem like it’s firmly mired in the impossible rather than just insanely difficult.
Luckily on the day-job side, I was able to find a position with a non-profit that raises money for a great cause and actually respects the work of their writers. Delicious income with a side of good karma. And quality writing to promote your cause is more essential than ever. It’s no surprise that a lot of non-profits and charities are really struggling these days. It was the fact that Womanthology was intended to be a for-charity comic anthology that drew me to the project in the first place, back when it was nothing more than a few tweets and a dream.
I agree that being paid money for creative work is essential and establishes the value of said work. That said, money isn’t the only way establish worth. The fact that what you create can help others, and that the work of aspiring professionals can help alongside that of those well-established in the field shows, at least to me, that the work created does have great value. And I don’t think anyone should begrudge those who want to give back where they can or take it as supplying more ammo to those who don’t want to pay creators their due.
tl;dr - Working for free to get exposure isn’t the same thing as working for free to support a charity and getting exposure as a side effect. See this chart.
The success of Womanthology means that there’s a whole lot of money that should be and needs to be accounted for. People will have questions and they should be asked. But there’s also a lot of information available already and everyone needs to take the time to go over it before they start throwing accusations around, especially when media outlets are picking up the story.
Spreading misinformation and distrust in the project will devalue everyone’s work far more than the contributors choosing to donate their efforts. And quite frankly, painting the creators as poor hapless ladies being taken advantage of is just a bit insulting. We’re volunteers, and we’re giving something that matters.
* If you’re interested in paying money for script pages to hang on your wall, call me. Some of my comic scripts are even color-coded!
One of the recent comics projects that I’ve been working on is a story for Womanthology, an all-female creator comic anthology organized by artist Renae De Liz that will be published through IDW. There are some fantastic comics professionals working on the project, including DC Comics writer Gail Simone and artist Fiona Staples, the latter of whom I’m honored to be collaborating with for my story.
As the profits for the anthology will all be going to charity, the printing is being funded by a Kickstarter drive. Head on over and contribute. One of the best ways is to pledge to buy a copy of the book itself. Just look at those shiny shiny mockups in the video. You know you want one!
I threw my name in the hat for this project back when it was first announced and am excited to see how quickly it’s progressed. The next step will be the Kickstarter to fund it, which I’ll be pimping out as soon as it goes live. We’re not really supposed to start work until the money’s been raised, but I’ve already started poking away at my script. When I’m not working on one of several other projects, that is…
Renae just announced on her Twitter that Womanthology will be published by IDW Publishing! This is Exciting news for all the contributors! It’s going to be a fantastic book!
April 7th was my birthday. Unfortunately, it was also the one year anniversary of the brutal “honor killing” of Du’a Khalil Aswad. An anthology entitled Nothing But Red has been published in her memory, with all proceeds (approximately $4 for each book or download sold) going to Equality Now. The charity is a favorite of Joss Whedon, who wrote a very stirring essay that was the inspiration for this project. The essay is included in the book as the opening piece.
I’m very proud that I was able to contribute to this collection and am honored that my poem was chosen to close the book. I only hope that the proceeds and awareness raised can help prevent such horrific acts from happening in the future. For more information on the anthology, please take a look at the press release. Buy a copy and spread the word.
Purchase Nothing But Red
Nothing But Red on MySpace
Nothing But Red on Facebook
Through a somewhat random series of events, I applied for and was accepted as the Firefox News series reviewer for Avatar: The Last Airbender. My review for “The Day of Black Sun” two part episode has already been posted (it does contain spoilers if you haven’t seen the episodes.) This seems like it will be a really fun gig. Unfortunately, the show is on hiatus now for who knows how long.
For those not familiar with the series, Avatar: The Last Airbender is an animated fantasy airing on Nickelodeon. It’s a surprisingly complex and beautifully crafted show that has garnered a sizable (and well deserved) fanbase. Season 1 and Season 2 (referred to as “books”) are available on DVD. I highly recommend checking them out.
I’m debating on whether I should start querying literary agents again now or hold off for a bit. Unfortunately, I waited until after My Super Ex-Girlfriend came out and bombed. Since my screenplay Struck is in a similar genre, I’ll most likely be completely ignored at the moment. Not that querying agents isn’t almost always a total waste of time and money in the first place. But maybe I’ll have better non-luck if I wait a few months for it to blow over.
I was looking at going to Lobster Alice, a play starring Nicholas Brendon (Xander from BtVS) and Noah Wyle at The Blank theater down the street. It turns out the theater accepts play submissions, and I decided to submit Goodbye Dolly. I’ve been waiting almost two years to hear from the publisher and I’m sick of just sitting on one of the best/most successful things I’ve written to date. Besides, the play I’m currently working on is most likely going to be catered towards the improv group I’m in, so I won’t really be looking to shop that one around at first.
Writing Project Status
Brickgirl & Oscar: Plugging along well. Four strips posted, ten completed, and I don’t even know how many more scripted. Readership is still fairly low, but then again, I haven’t done a lot of promotion. I have gotten a very positive response from readers thus far. I considered increasing to two new strips a week, but going to hold off on that for now, as I don’t want to neglect all my other projects…
Chimera (TV pilot spec): First draft done, working on revisions.
Goodbye Dolly (Feature spec adaptation): First draft done. It’s craptastic, but it’s done.
Untitled Stage Play Project: Minimal progress since I started about 18 months ago, but stuff is still a brewin’ in the ole noggin.
Other writing news: Spoke with Baker’s Plays about Goodbye Dolly (the stage play version) which they’ve had for 19 months now. Seems that last year, they replaced the entire editorial staff, and the consideration for publication process had to be restarted for everything. My play has been cleared by at least one reader, though, and I should hear something back by late summer.
Had a bit of an incident with a literary manager about a month ago, but unfortunatly, it was not really legit.
Starting next Wednesday, I’ll be working as a content writer for a search engine optimization firm. It’s not creative, persay, but it is writing. More important, it isn’t taking photos of faucets in a dingy warehouse with no windows in downtown LA where the temperature has been hitting 90 degrees in the afternoons even with two AC units running.
Other Creative Stuff
I will be performing with an as of yet unnamed, possibly all-female improv group in coming months. I’ve always loved improv, but never considered myself to be exceptional at it. Better learn fast… we’re looking at six rehearsals before the first performance.
I have a favorite prose piece that I wrote a number of years ago. In a way, it’s one of the most personal pieces I’ve written, drawing loosely on what was probably my most unpleasant year of high school. An unpleasant but very formative year, as that was the year I first became interested in theatre, an interest that in many ways led me to where I am today.
Of all the short stories I’ve written, I’ve always felt this one to be the closest to publication quality. However, it’s a highly experimental story, which made it difficult to find suitable markets to submit to. Although to be honest, I never put a huge amount of effort into the search.
I just found out that the person reflected in that story, the person who inadvertently drew me into theater, someone I had first met back in second grade, passed away almost two years ago. Unfortunately, I can’t say he was a friend. Probably more of a symbol in my life than anything. I doubt he had any idea what an impact he had on me. Quite frankly, he probably wouldn’t have cared very much.
But I think I’m going to start looking for a market for that story again. And this time, I’m REALLY going to look.
So I submitted my play Goodbye Dolly to Baker’s Plays about the middle of October. Up to a six to eight month wait, so I was hopping to hear something in the next month or so.
Well, I heard from them. Apparently it will take ANOTHER six to eight months for them to complete their “extensive reading process.”
I suspect what happened is this:
The Baker’s website said that they would send a postcard notifying the writer when they receive the play. So apparently they just GOT to my play in the mass of submissions. Hopefully they skimmed it/read the first ten pages/whatever to see if it was worth considering, and shot me a postcard to notify me they were going to consider it. Because I’m hoping they actually have some interest and aren’t just sticking it in another pile to get a glance and a quick no many months down the road.
So no big sales or publications before I turn 25, I guess.