Thursday, July 24, 2008

Mutton Chops VS. Walrus Moustache

In June our friend Elizabeth Winthrop invited us to dinner to meet James Stevenson, the illustrator of the new Pain & Great One series. There's a tradition in publishing to keep the author and the illustrator of children's books apart (unless they're working as an official team). But aren't we always working as a team? It's never made sense to me. It has to do, I think, with the fear that the writer will impose her/his ideas on the illustrator instead of allowing the illustrator to interpret what the writer has written. A battle of the wills -- I'm more important than you! vs. You're nothing without me!

But when you have such respect as I have for James Stevenson, when you're thrilled that he's agreed to illustrate your work, you're not about to try to control what he draws. Instead, I find myself eagerly awaiting his illustrations -- laughing over them, thinking how well he brings my characters to life. Even Fluzzy the Cat has benefited from Jim's magic. With a stroke or two of his pen he shows exactly what Abigail, Jake, and Fluzzy are thinking. So this was my chance to thank him in person. Besides, he'd already finished three of the four books so I didn't think there was any danger in a face-to-face meeting. And I might have waited a very long time to meet Jim if not for our mutual friends.

And what a treat! Jim is just like his illustrations -- wry and witty, but charming, too. And he looks like Grandpa Pete in the 3rd book in the series, Going, Going, Gone! coming August 12. Well, not really -- but he has the same fancy moustache. This started an interesting after dinner conversation -- what exactly does one call his style of facial hair? Not even Jim knew. We started out with mutton chops -- but we were wrong --

because just the other day I found a website that shows and names all sorts of beards, moustaches, and yes - even mutton chops, which are actually a kind of side-burn -- and I can now report that Grandpa Pete (and Jim) both sport a walrus moustache. Anyway, that's my conclusion.

Thanks Elizabeth, for bringing us together!

There's more to this story. It's about having routine colonoscopies, something we don't necessarily want to talk about. I had my first ten years ago -- too long, I know, but hey, at least I did it. I always think of Audrey Hepburn who died of colon cancer and I say I'm doing it for her.

We all loved Audrey when we were teenagers. We wanted to be her. And after her career as a movie star she went on to do great work for UNICEF.

My colonoscopy was scheduled for Wednesday, and Monday night of that week was the only night Elizabeth could get us together with Jim and his wife. What to do?

Nothing was going to keep me from meeting Jim. Never mind that I was on a liquid diet. I arrived at Elizabeth's carrying my can of clear soup. (Most people need only one day of liquid diet before their colonoscopy but I need two - a long story that I'll spare you.) And next time I'm invited to dinner at Elizabeth's house I promise I'll eat real food which smelled so good I could hardly stand sitting at the table sipping my boringly clear soup!

For those who don't know, the colonoscopy procedure is nothing. Really. Besides, they give you feel-good drugs. It's the prep that gets me, though even that isn't so bad. Well, I can't say it's fun but after, you feel so good knowing you've finally done it, you don't mind. And the little polyps they sometimes remove and biospy could save your life.

So if you're 50+ make an appointment for that colonoscopy. We have a friend whose life was saved this year - at 50 - because he had the procedure. I've been told I need to have another in just 3 years and you can bet I'll keep that date, not just for Audrey, but for myself.

xx Judy