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It’s been a long while since I’ve written about what’s going on with me and Zen Pencils, so here is a long overdue catch-up post and a look back at 2013.

But first, I have a big announcement to make. Many of you have wanted this and I can now finally reveal that I’VE SIGNED A BOOK DEAL!!! Yes, I’m very excited to say there will be a Zen Pencils book collection out in 2014. It’s being published by Andrews McMeel, who specialise in comic collections, publishing iconic strips such as Calvin and Hobbes, Zits, Get Fuzzy and also other webcomics like The Oatmeal. It’s planned for release in the second half of 2014. The book will collect 40-50 of my best strips and will also include an exclusive fold-out poster. Pretty cool, right? It’s a dream come true for me and I still can’t quite believe it’s happening. We’re still in the early stages of putting it together, but expect many more updates in the new year.

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Right, so that’s the big announcement out of the way and something to look forward to in 2014, but how did 2013 fare? This was the second full year of Zen Pencils and I’m glad to say it’s continued to grow and find new readers from all over the world. The comics and quotes really seem to have had a positive impact on a lot of people and I’m continually amazed by the response and feedback from you. I kind of create the comics in a vacuum, post them online and then they go off and spread like wildfire around the world. I’ll post a comic from Melbourne, then two minutes later I get an email from a reader in India, or Brazil, or Serbia, or Vietnam saying they really liked it and it cheered them up. It’s so cool and surreal at the same time.

I am very glad to say that I am now making a full-time living purely from Zen Pencils. My income comes from the selling of the prints at Society 6, poster royalties, advertising on the site, and recently the limited edition T-shirts. It’s hard to believe that the big dream I had when I quit my job two years ago has actually come to fruition. It’s kind of snuck up on me and I’m so settled into my new routine of working from home that a lot of the time I take it for granted – a friend of mine recently was like “You get to work from home and do whatever you want, you’re living the dream, Gav!” and I was like “Shit, I guess I am.” My new life isn’t very exciting or glamourous I’m afraid, but I couldn’t be happier. I basically just sit in my room and work really hard until a comic is produced. Sometimes I’m wearing pants, sometimes I’m not. So that happened in 2013, I fulfilled my lifetime dream and became a professional cartoonist (pats self on back).

One of my personal highlights of the year was my recent trip to Peru. A lot of you were kind enough to support my fundraising efforts for World Vision. It was an incredible trip – I know I haven’t posted any photos or written about it yet but I promise I will soon. I was a bit behind on the comics when I returned home last month so I’ve been focusing on getting new updates out since I got back. Another highlight was attending my first comic convention as a ‘pro’ here in Melbourne earlier in the year at Supanova, which was a great experience. I will hopefully leave my fortress of solitude more often in 2014 and attend a few more events – possibly even the biggest of them all, San Diego Comic Con. In an attempt to get out of my comfort zone and meet more of you, I’m having my first meet-up events in Singapore and Myanmar in January.

But of course, what made 2013 so incredible was you, my wonderful readers. Your continued support, encouragement, comments, sharing and feedback is what drives me to keep going and to keep getting better. The Zen Pencils community has been the best thing to come out of the site and is a big reason readers keep coming back. I’m not as active on the comments as I used to be, mainly because I can’t reply to all of them. If I reply to one comment, I feel bad for not replying to someone else. But I do still monitor them and whenever I am not feeling particularly motivated all I have to do is read my comment threads to perk myself back up (while ignoring the 0.00001% of troll comments). And don’t get me started with the emails! I’ve got a backlog of emails going back six months. I’m sorry to all of you who don’t get a reply from me – it’s just not physically possible for me to answer all the emails (not to mention the Facebook, Tumblr, Google+ and Twitter interactions I get). If I did answer them all, there would be no new comics being released! Keep sending those quotes though, because 95% of quotes I use are reader submitted. So please don’t think that just because the site’s getting more popular and I’m going to be J.K. Rowling-rich soon thanks to my book deal (highly unlikely) that I don’t care about my readers anymore.

From the bottom of my heart I would just like to say THANK YOU to each and every one of you. I hope you enjoyed the comics and that they put a smile on your face a few times, or maybe a frown if one of the quotes made you realise a harsh truth. Either way I hope you got something out of Zen Pencils this year and I wish you all the very best for 2014.

- Gav

PS: I’m not going on hiatus just yet, there’ll still be a new comic on Friday.