Stone Soup had its beginnings when Jan was a single working mom of two girls. Suffering from much too little money, time or patience, she found humor to be her best form of therapy. The core characters of Holly, Alix and Val grew to include Val’s sister Joan, their mother Evie, Joan’s terror of a two year old Max, and Wally, the nice guy who moved in next door.
Eventually, Wally’s love for Joan won out and she married him, setting up the two sisters in households next door to one another. The family grew from there, eventually adding Wally’s nephew Andy and Officer Jackson, the motorcycle cop who fell in love with Val after pulling her over for speeding.
Patience and Sarah, Jan’s first strip, started running in 1979 and featured one mom and her daughter. Patience, as a name for the mom, was meant to be a bit ironic. That strip appeared in about 10 alternative publications, and was reprinted in parenting books and magazines (probably as a cautionary tale). Later the strip morphed into Sister City, running weekly in Jan’s local daily paper, with an expanded cast of characters reflective of her current strip. Sister City was picked up by Universal Press Syndicate (now Andrews McMeel Syndication) after 4 years and renamed Stone Soup, going into national syndication in 1995.
Stone Soup, which in its original form is a fairy tale, essentially means “something from nothing”. Jan’s years as a divorced working mom proved to be much better than they might have been with a little help from her ex-husband (he was as poor as she was), friends, family and my community. A little from here, a little from there, and Jan and her daughters had a good life. But the stress of juggling work and kids and after-school care motivated Jan to push for syndication, so that she could work from home. It happened, eventually, long past the need for daycare, but in time to help with college.
Stone Soup won the “Best Book Award” in Lisbon, Portugal at B.D.Amadora, an international cartoon festival, in 2001. Jan was awarded the “Women Who Make A Difference” award from the International Women’s Forum in 2009, as well as becoming an Alumni Fellow with the College of Arts and Sciences, University of Oregon, in 2005 and receiving the UO Distinguished Service Award in 2010. Stone Soup characters have been employed to promote Habitat for Humanity International efforts, and both Jan and her Stone Soup character Gramma travelled to Haiti and Thailand with Habitat’s Women Build program.
There are 11 book collections of Stone Soup cartoons, published by AMU and Four Panel Press.
Jan has been accused of making fun of celiac disease because Val once ordered gluten-free toast, of promoting “drunk parenting” because Val and Joan enjoy an occasional glass of wine, of insulting disabled people by allowing 13-year-old Holly to use the work “lame” when describing things she doesn’t like, and of insulting the entire Italian culture, people and nation by including the words “the mob” in one of her storylines. None of these things are true. Jan prefers gin, hates gluten-free anything but learned to cook such things out of love for her wheat-intolerant grandson, thinks of herself as “lame” much of the time, and has never met an Italian she didn’t like.
About Jan Eliot
Jan Eliot got married at the ridiculous age of 18, had two daughters, divorced, and used her sense of humor to start life again at 27. She studied art, creative writing, literature, and women studies at Southern Illinois University and University of Oregon. She was a potter, had 11 waitress jobs, worked in a green bean cannery, pulled fingerling trees out of the mud for Weyerhauser, sold cars, drove a bookmobile, helped low-income women find jobs, illustrated and produced user manuals for a software company, and worked as a graphic designer and advertising copywriter. There was nothing left to do but become a cartoonist.