I had never seen the short, but they showed it to us and I thought it was funny. To be honest, the show had to grow on me. My youngest sister is obsessed with Adventure Time and she would DVR the episodes and she watched them multiple times, so I was watching her watch them. Now I’m an official fan that's excited to see new episodes, but she envies the fact that I’ve actually met Penn.
But I took some important information away from that time with Penn that I think would mean a lot to authors out there, so allow me to share the words of wisdom that Penn shared to all of us: “Never pitch your baby.”
If you think that Penn Ward spent so much time writing out a storyboard for Nick for Adventure Time, you are wrong. It was something he thought up in a couple of minutes and it ended up catching fire. Now everyone isn’t going to be picked up by such a lackadaisical attitude, but I still appreciated his reasoning behind not pitching something important to him.
When you have something that you work on and you dedicate so much of your heart to, it’s your baby. You have a hard time accepting other’s people’s advice on how to raise it and let it grow. You’re very protective and very defensive about it. And in the case of whether it’s a cartoon or a show that you have to pitch to a big network, you have to make a lot of compromises and you might have to kind of sell out to make a living.
Jhonen Vasquez, the creator of Invader Zim, has created a lot of things and even though there are people who love his cult phenomenon, he doesn’t exactly freak out about the greatness to the extent that people like me do. It's nice to him that people walk around with Gir stuff, but it doesn't give him butterflies. After being at his panel at C2E2 2012, I learned that he’s planning on making new cartoons, but he wants to make them without the pressure and the supervision of a big network. He wants to let his creativity flow on his own terms. He talked about needing to raise the money and the fans cheered and claimed that they would give to him if he started a Kickstarter. As a matter of fact, someone shouted, “Shut up and take my money already!”
Sometimes you get sick of sacrificing your own creativity to appease someone else. And the truth is there are probably people out there as sick and twisted as you that will appreciate what you do. Sometimes, you do need a different perspective to reel you in or to bounce ideas off of. That’s why a lot of writers have partners. But sometimes the experts don’t always get it right. Stephanie Meyer who wrote Twilight had a whirlwind of success relatively quickly, but she still got rejection letters and some of them weren’t so nice! J.K. Rowling pretty much only got her big break because her publisher had a child that read some of the pages of the Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone manuscript and demanded to have the rest.
I started writing my first novel, Superficial, soon after meeting Penn and I adored it to death! It’s not the best thing I’ve written, but I believe it’ll be a huge franchise and I’ve made a lot of great and memorable characters. I tried submitting it to literary agents and even though I got positive feedback, it didn’t get picked up. I literally had agents that said they knew I would be successful with this project, but it just wasn’t for them. I could respect that they didn’t want to take on something they didn’t have their heart and soul in, but it also baffled me that they rejected the chance to make what they thought to be a lot of money.
So I started writing more novels. I have a couple finished in my Superficial series, but I started different series that I also adore. Now am I as attached to other projects as I am to Superficial? No. Some stories that I’ve written are more strategically written to get me where I need to be. Most are just spawned out of my creativity and what I feel like writing. But I’ve learned to not be so touchy and I can experiment and test out other stories that I’ve written.Now I’m at the point in my life where I’ve taken a leap of faith and I’ve done the insane thing of self-publishing a book—two, actually. Superkid and Sunrise Sunset are now available for sale and I’m extremely proud of them both! Will Superficial be joining them any time soon? Well, that depends.
My goal is to have a strong base before I launch what is so near and dear to my heart. Be honest with yourself. If your work failed, would you be okay with that? I personally think it would break my heart. So if you can’t be detached enough to a project, it’s best to work on another one. Maybe you’ll never publish your favorite piece. Maybe it’ll always be stored up on your hard drive to read when you feel the need to pat yourself on the back. Maybe some people might think you’re a coward for doing that, but sometimes you have to protect your heart. And there might come a day when you can let the baby roam free into the world after you and the baby are prepared.
Mr. Vasquez has fans that will follow him, give him money, and that will support his dream and creativity. I’m sure whatever Penn Ward’s “baby” is can see the light of day when he feels it’s time. He's got enough fans. In the meantime, Penn has had a ridiculous amount of success with something that he created in a manner of minutes.
I think you should protect your baby and maybe even shelter it if you have to. Refine it and make sure it’s how it needs to be. Set realistic goals and make sure you have proper plans. I’m learning the value of taking your time with a project and I’ll take all the time I need to in order to make Superficial a smash hit.