Congratulations to creator Brooke McEldowney on the 30th anniversary of 9 Chickweed Lane. The strip made its debut on July 12, 1993. Check it out on GoComics. Brooke took some time to participate in a Q&A in honor of the anniversary. Get to know him a little better by reading the interview below.
What do you think it is about 9 Chickweed Lane that has made it so popular with readers – and editors – for so long?
I never approach my work – my characters, their motivations, my turns of phrase – with any intent other than to entertain myself. 9 Chickweed Lane is strictly a gallery of what I want to hear, what I want to see Amos and Edda (for instance) do, what I feel. I remember being advised right at the outset of syndication, by well-meaning friends, (and here I quote) “Find out what people want, and give them that.” I took this advice and immediately discarded it, clearing the bleachers with an enormous, overhand pitch.
What has been your favorite part about creating this strip and these characters and for 30 years?
The part I’ve always liked has been rising in the morning intent with deadly accuracy upon delay. I would make coffee, talk about anything other than what I must do, sit with our dog (actually, with our succession of dogs), and dawdle, loiter, tarry. When I finally would approach the table where I work, the view I had before me was one of a vast, empty, arctic whiteness. Then words and images would proceed to pile up until something narrative began to congeal. I don’t know if this is a favorite part as much as the only part available to me. The weird bit is nearly always the last line uttered in each strip, because that line is the one I don’t anticipate. That bit, the weird one, always contains the most enormous satisfaction.
How has your experience been working with Andrews McMeel?
Heretofore I have been represented by four different syndicates: United Media, Tribune Media, Los Angeles Times Syndicate, and, finally, Andrews McMeel. As a business relationship, Andrew McMeel has been my best experience, mainly because their contracts are plain, clear, and easy to sign. The other syndicates produced variously prolix agreements that, here and there, had to be explained before they could be entirely comprehended. I have come to realize that nobody should ever sign a contract that must be explained in terms other than the words in the documents.
What is one thing readers don’t know about 9 Chickweed Lane?
Its original title was Nod. It was a biblical reference, and ultimately made no sense to me, nor to United Media, my first syndicate. They asked for another title, and I sent them 18 Chickweed Street. They halved it, and said 9 Chickweed Lane. I offered no argument.
What do you hope to see in years to come with 9 Chickweed Lane?
The fortieth anniversary, then the fiftieth. I’m seventy now. I do not intend to retire.