The origins of Eggplant Emoji can be traced back to 2019, affectionately dubbed, “Year of the Raw Dog,” by core members of the Bucks County Writers Group. At the time, I had been attending the writing group for two years, submitting chapters of my urban fantasy novel for review, which admittedly I was struggling with. I needed to take my mind off of it and focus on something else. Thus, in March 2019, I wrote a 22-page short story, “The Cockroach,” about a man whose girlfriend befriends a cockroach and he secretly kills it, but it keeps coming back, to the point that it fucks with his libido.
In an attempt to escape the serious tone I was developing in my novel, my goal was to write a story that was Looney Tunes but for adults; it’s essentially Bugs Bunny fucking with the opera singer, except instead of a rabbit, it’s a cockroach that puts the “cock” in “cockroach.” The end result is a comedy of embarrassment and toxic masculinity, watching the sanity of this man wither as a cockroach raw-dogs his girlfriend (hence, Year of the Raw Dog(what a year)).
Reason #1456 to join a writers group, is as follows. The comedic tone of “The Cockroach” became infectious; more members of the group wrote their own comedy pieces and even more comedy writers joined the group. By the time I decided to create Eggplant Emoji and make the call for submissions, I knew the Bucks County Writers Group would be more than capable of providing all the hilarious content I needed.
What really pushed me to that point was when I was trying to get “The Cockroach” published in a literary journal or magazine. It quickly dawned on me that very few (if any) publications focused on comedy geared toward an adult audience. I received rejection letter after rejection letter, many of them noting the potential of the work; but alas, when writers and editors start taking themselves too seriously, they tend to shy away from a story featuring a cockroach with an uncut cock.
The story is shocking, outrageous, surreal, sexual, and undoubtedly hilarious – and yet there are so few contemporaries. R-rated comedies make popular movies and shows, so why not have R-rated comedy in literature? I was shocked that no one had already created a publication for such work. Search ‘comedy anthology book’ into Google and like 2 books come up, both with terrible cover art; sorry Andy Borowitz, but there’s no comparison here.
Not only did I feel confident that the content was very high quality and that there was a market for it, I knew it was possible because of the brave authors around me publishing their work. Author Augusta Blythe attended the Bucks County Writers Group for a period of time and showed us how it was possible to self-publish for a living on Amazon. Fierce leader of the group, Adam Newton, created Creaky Stairs: A Book of Dark Truths, leading by example and allowing emerging authors to have their stories published. Dandelion Revolution Press (DRP) blossomed soon after, from members of the writers group who had their own vision for an anthology of fiction featuring strong female leads. From all of these different authors and publications, I found my footing and confidence as a publisher. On April 12, 2021, I made the call for submissions for stories that would stand alongside “The Cockroach” in an anthology of comedic fiction, and Eggplant Emoji was born.
I followed what I learned from DRP, in terms of advertising the call for submissions on social media, and after the two-and-a-half month submission period, I had a total of 39 short stories to review. Matthew Pale attended the Bucks County Writing Group for the first time the day before the submission deadline and he had a story ready to submit, which made it into the anthology – quite a serendipitous timing of events.
In the end, I boiled 39 stories down to 12 stories from 10 authors. Every author in Volume 1 of Eggplant Emoji is a member of the Bucks County Writers Group – which I’d like to claim is just coincidence, but truly I cannot. It’s not that I had preferential treatment when reviewing pieces (I tried to read as blind as possible), but the writers in the group have read “The Cockroach” and my other work, they know my sense of humor, they understand the outrageous level of comedy I’m aspiring for; so they had an advantage. When the call for submissions happens for Volume 2, I think more people outside the group will have a better understanding of what this publication is and what I’m looking for.
Making it into Eggplant Emoji Volume 1 is Marv Jackson, who may or may not be a clone of the BCW group leader. As well as Will McCreavy, who is one of just a few authors who chose not to use a fake name. I’ve known Heather Twerking since I was a babe, she never stops twerking. Florence Eden is a DRP literary goddess in disguise. Jack McBiggs doesn’t want the first result in a Google search of his real name to be about impotence, since it’s already the second and third result. Jack McBiggs should also be his porn name. Unstoppable Buffalo is quite metaphorically stampeding into first place for most ridiculous name and most absurdly outrageous humor. Prudence Paganini is female in real life and she wanted her author name to be ‘Peter Paganini,’ but I was like, “I don’t want it to be a sausage fest,” so she changed her name. What a team player. Prudence is a better name anyway.
And last, but not least, is Scarlet Wyvern, who writes dark, witty horror poetry, her book, Massacre My Heart, is available on Amazon. She stepped outside of her typical genre with Eggplant Emoji and yet stayed true to her roots, flipping the script on the usual horror tropes.
From the beginning, an eye-catching cover was an integral aspect of Eggplant Emoji. Like Mad Magazine, the cover had to be as culturally and comedically striking as the content within. I began making designs, the whole time resigned to the idea that I would have to contract the work out. I’m not a total noob to photoshop, so I searched images for inspiration, devised a color palette, and started making test images; so many of my Eggplant files have the word “test” in the name (the manuscript was called “manuscript test” for the longest time). It was in talking to the writers in the group, showing them what I had, relaying what I wanted, that the idea struck me: to see the shocked reflection of the person holding the eggplant in the eggplant.
From there, it was just time put in; with my pen and drawing tablet, I toiled away for hours. The whole time I knew I could contract the work out, but wanted to give it my best try first.
Around the time that I began painting the eggplant, my cat got very sick. He had gotten ill a year earlier, but got through it, this time I could tell it was worse. His name was Gricy (pronounced Greasy), he would have been 20 years old in January 2022. My sister named him, she was taking Spanish and gric is grey in Spanish, so essentially his name translates to Grey-y. I made the tough decision to end Gricy’s suffering and I buried him near blueberry bushes in my yard, topped with a big piece of limestone.
I poured all of my grief into this anthology, that sounds weird for a comedy anthology, but it’s true. Instead of burying myself under the covers, I buried myself in photoshop, losing myself in the meticulous physical details of something I could control. As I worked through my emotions, I worked out the lines on the hand holding the eggplant. When I was crying one minute and then laughing at the stories in the book a minute later, I knew I was on the right track. Laughter is medicine and the world needs more of it.
In the more-than-a-month it took to create the full cover, I emerged from my grief stronger than I was, though I still miss Gricy every day. My heart and soul are on and within the pages of this book.
Eggplant Emoji was created for the sole purpose of making people laugh. I hope that it brightens up others in their darkest days, as it has for me, and elevates all those who open its pages. Life is sad, we don’t have to be reading sad books all the time. Publishers seem to only take it seriously if it’s serious.
Does it make you laugh? That’s Eggplant Emoji.
There are a couple opportunities to meet the authors:
Eggplant Emoji Vol. 1 Release Party, Sunday, October 24, 4-7pm @ Hop/Scotch (22 S. Main St., Doylestown, PA)
Eggplant Emoji Vol. 1 Author Reading, Thursday, November 4, 6-8pm @ Great Barn Taphouse (1500 N. Main St., Warrington, PA)