Culver City Observer -

By Sandra Coopersmith
Features Writer 

DRAWING FROM EXPERIENCE

 

October 28, 2021

Writer and cartoonist Sandra Coopersmith poses with a copy of her book "Alice in Escrowland."

Stick me in a room with my laptop, some pencils, erasers, Sharpies, and paper, and I'm as happy as a pig in swill. You know me as Features Writer but I've been an artist since childhood, the first sale of my drawings being in the schoolyard when I was seven. My career in commercial mortgage banking, where I closed loans, dealt with servicing issues and from which I retired 20 years ago, started in the 1960s when I was in my twenties. I became a professional freelance cartoonist after work and on weekends around the same time. One of the cartoons I created was Alice in Escrowland, which first appeared in California Escrow Association's publication, CEA News, in 1971 and has been featured in every subsequent issue.

As a member of Los Angeles Escrow Association I regularly attended its monthly meetings and also the annual CEA educational conferences. In addition to my own work experiences, this gave me ample opportunity to hear of the travails besetting the industry. It was intriguing and very helpful to be exposed to some of the horror stories lived through by the members, and the coping strategies that had been devised.

I guess all of this was percolating away in my head because one day, after receiving an issue of CEA News, it dawned on me that what I was reading was a trade publication. Duh! I had already sold cartoons to various trades, so why not create one specifically for this industry, one with which I was already very familiar?

BINGO! That led to the birth of Alice, an escrow officer dealing with a lot of craziness, a character the members of CEA found mighty relatable.

In 2019, knowing that Alice's 50th anniversary was just two years away and wanting to do something special to thank CEA for having been such a great client as well as a terrific source of education for me and so many others, I suggested to Juliana Tu, CEA's 2019 president, that they publish a book of Alice in Escrowland cartoons to use as a fundraiser to support their vision statement, which includes "to empower and support escrow settlement agents through our commitment to the professional and personal growth of the escrow practitioner" and "cultivate mutually beneficial policies and procedures for the protection of its members, consumers, and related real estate industries," laudable goals that I respected and from which I had benefited during my closing career.

CEA went for the idea, a book committee was promptly convened, I wisely got out of the way so that the book's actual demographic could put it together, and this year the Alice in Escrowland book came out! It is available through https://www.ceaescrow.org/default.asp#pageStore, or by calling CEA at (916) 239-4075.

I am so grateful to the book's stellar editors, Whitney Adkins, Debi Peters, Juliana Tu, and Tricia Vagt, CEA members who so generously devoted their time to this project. Actually holding the fruit of their labors was a truly surreal moment, and being invited to come to the conference on Oct. 8th at the Hilton in Costa Mesa for the book signing was beyond exciting.

Well, this must be my year to talk! As I wrote in an earlier article, I am a 30-year cancer survivor and had the great privilege of being the survivor speaker at the American Cancer Society's Relay For Life of Baldwin Hills on Sept. 18th. The following week I was invited to be the keynote speaker at this year's CEA conference.

OH. . . MY. . . GOD!

Tricia Vagt, CEA's president, kindly arranged transportation for me as I don't drive, and I really hit the jackpot with Ruben from 1st Choice Town Car Services, who picked me up at 8:30 a.m. Oct. 8th in a Mercedes Executive SUV. I could have saved myself the effort of setting the alarm the night before as I was so adrenalized I couldn't sleep, but Ruben was charming and great to talk to, so I was in relatively good shape by the time we reached the hotel.

There's a quote attributed to Andy Warhol: "In the future, everyone will be world-famous for 15 minutes." I don't know about "world," but I sure had my 15 minutes plus in California!

From the moment I approached the CEA registration desk to when Tricia graciously accompanied me outside the hotel after lunch to wait for Ruben to pick me up – and he was there instantly – it was like a dream and truly a peak experience.

It felt fantastic to sign books and chat with the members, who were so kind and flattering in their comments. And I could not have asked for a warmer, more appreciative, and receptive audience during my talk. My goal was to share, through personal anecdotes covering childhood and adult experiences, that the values we consider important are worth fighting for; we need to stand up for ourselves; we need to have hope and persevere; and we must never, never forget to take a moment to just kick back and laugh.

Let me tell you, it's kind of overwhelming to receive a standing ovation! That was followed by Tricia's presentation to me of a box of chocolates she had personally selected, knowing that I, like Alice, am a chocolate junkie. She followed that with a gift bag containing a clever speaker's gift (hourglass paperweight with the symbol she adopted for her presidential year) as well as a copy of my book inscribed with lovely messages from several members. That was a surprise, and when I read their words at home later that day, they brought me to tears.

I think my morning ritual from now on will be to grab the book upon arising and absorb those wonderfully embracing thoughts to fortify myself for whatever the day may bring. I guess if I have a message for its readers (and for myself as well), it's to hang in there and learn to laugh at life's absurdities.

 

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