I happened upon a paper-clipped bunch of pages today in the Spill‘s archives that I’d completely forgotten about. The very first page, from late 1980, appears above. It comes as news to me thirty-nine years later that I made a list of drawings that were being held by The New Yorker.
This is what holding means:
When a cartoonist submitted a batch of drawings, and returned the following week to submit another batch, last week’s rejects would be waiting. Along with the returned drawings was the classic New Yorker rejection slip — and occasionally there would be, on the slip, a handwritten Holding 1 (sometimes more than one drawing was held). For whatever reason, or reasons, Lee Lorenz, the art editor at the time, had decided to hang onto a drawing for further consideration. Held drawings were in limbo — not bought, just held. And then they were either returned, or bought.
Having a drawing held was always preferable to complete rejection: it was a glimmer of hope that maybe, just maybe, that held drawing would be “OKed” (i.e., bought). What’s interesting (to me) about the list was how many held drawings there were in that short period of time. Without this list as a reminder I would’ve guessed that one of my drawings was held every two or three months, at most. Six held within a couple of months, and two bought seems like much better odds than memory allowed. The Calm Before The Coffee was Oked but I didn’t bother underlining it in red and placing an asterisk next to it — I must’ve forgotten I had started a holding list by the time it was OKed.