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You Visit Tour. Webb Lion Fountain. June 1 2017. Photo David B. Hollingsworth

Roz Chast Talks Family, Upbringing and Inspiration Behind Her Work

By Noell Saunders

The New Yorker cartoonist and best-selling author, Roz Chast definitely knows how to keep the laughter coming with her satirical and whimsical cartoons about everyday life, politics, death, household duties and a variety of other topics.

Chast, who recently spoke at Old Dominion University as part of the President's Lecture Series, discussed her upbringing in Brooklyn, the inspiration behind some of her most famous works and her journey of rising up the ranks as a successful female cartoonist and comic writer in a typically male-dominated industry.

"There's 40 of us on staff. I submit about 10 cartoons a week. As a whole we submit about 400 cartoons a week and then you have others submitting who aren't staff members," Chast told the crowd. "The magazine buys about 25 cartoons every week."

Chast has published more than 800 cartoons for The New Yorker since 1978. Although cartoon submissions aren't an easy task, her advice to beginning cartoonists was to stick with what you love.

"About 90 percent of what we do gets rejected. If you really believe in an idea, you re-submit it or rework it. It's just part of the process," Chast said. "If this is something you really want to do then go for it and don't listen to anyone who tells you your work sucks."

She also talked about her first memoir: "Can't We Talk about Something More Pleasant" which chronicles the complicated relationship she had with her parents in their final years. The book, which won the National Book Critics Circle Award in 2014, tugs at a variety of emotions and includes her trademark comic narratives, realistic sketches as well as photos and hand-written observations from her childhood.

Chast now lives in Connecticut. She moved to the suburbs when she was pregnant with her second child but would frequently go back to help her parents. She told the audience, "It was time for something different." Chast said she had grown tired of the high rent, other expenses and effects of the growing crack epidemic. But she never stopped loving the excitement of her home city.

The inspiration behind her new book "Going into Town: A Love Letter to New York" was found when her daughter was preparing to move to Manhattan for college. Chast wrote a guidebook for her daughter and it has now been adapted for a broader audience seeking tips for navigating the city.

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