Collaboration

 
 
I began writing and illustrating children's books in collaboration with Ruth Phang. Patchwork Tales was first, followed by We Build A Climber.

Even though Ruth went on to become a children's librarian, she still helped me with almost every book I did: editing, encouraging, supporting and sharing her ideas, knowledge and experience. Ruth and I collaborated on My Favorite Things and Look at Me. Most recently, we collaborated on Leo and Sam and Sam and Leo, StarWalk Kids Media, 2013. This is the story of true friendship, dedicated to the real Sam and the real Leo, our grandsons who are really friends.

It is with deep sadness that I add that Ruth Phang died in July, 2014, after a long illness.

‘I loved my friend
He went away from me
There's nothing more to say
The poem ends,
Soft as it began-
I loved my friend.’

- Langston Hughes


Left: Ruth Phang and I at Library of Congress, Washington, DC in January 2014
Right: Ruth Phang and I with our entourage in Italy, after Ruth and I attended the Bologna Children's Book Fair, March, 2013


 

Parrots Over Puerto Rico was written in collaboration with Cindy Trumbore.

Cindy Trumbore and I in Puerto Rico's El Yunque rain forest.


 
 
Pictures of Greg Mortenson and me at the Listen to the Wind book launch
on January 22, 2009.
 
 

Listen to the Wind was written in collaboration with Greg Mortenson.

But every published book requires an enormous amount of “backstage collaboration”, too. Besides the essential participation of my editor, Alisha Niehaus, and my designer, Teresa Kietlinski, I was privileged to have yet another major, albeit unsung, collaborator on this project. That heroine, or “backstage collaborator” of Listen to the Wind is Julia Bergman.

Julia Bergman was the first person to tell me the story of the building of the Korphe school, and I was the first person to hear the account of her first trip to Korphe, Pakistan. Her descriptions of the twenty-four varieties of apricots (in every shade of orange in the universe) found in the high valleys below Korphe, are as vivid for me today as they were when she told me many years ago.

When I expressed my great desire to write and to illustrate Listen to the Wind, Julia encouraged me immediately, and never faltered in her support. She was perpetually available for discussion, as a source and as a source of sources of information. She sent me artifacts, books, and photographs to study.

She never tired, nor did she ever encourage me to give it all up, not even once, during the twelve long years of my struggle to get this book published. “Onward!” is what Julia always said to me at every turn.

In a way, this long gestation period, often full of frustrations, helped to make the lovely weeks of being NUMBER ONE on the New York Times Bestseller Picture Book List even sweeter. I’m happy to say that Julia Bergman is continuing her collaboration by enthusiastically celebrating with me.

Thank you, Julia, for Listen to the Wind!


Julia Bergman

 

 

And then there was Do Re Mi, written in collaborazione with Angelo Mafucci. Angelo helped me all along the way with this book, providing me with invaluable, scholarly information on my subject, and with introductions to all the people and places I needed to visit and to know. He gave me keys to his city. He shared his cathedral, his school and his choir.

 

 

Angelo Mafucci and I presented Do Re Mi to Pope Benedict XVI in Rome on
September 5, 2007. Do Re Mi is now officially part of The Vatican Library.
 

 
No collaboration was ever as difficult - or as rewarding - as the one that Nancy Patz and I did when we both wrote and both illustrated together, Babies Can’t Eat Kimchee! It may not sound so difficult to integrate two very different styles of art work into one cohesive whole, but it is.
 
 

Nancy Patz and I are celebrating Babies Can't Eat Kimchee! at the launch party in
The Children's Bookstore, Baltimore Maryland, January, 2007, with wine and kimCHEESE.

 

 

Collaborations are great for ideas, support, courage, encouragement, and, above all, fun. Made in Mexico was created in collaboration with my brother, Peter Laufer. He insisted that we take a trip to Paracho in order to research the book. The visit to Paracho inspired every illustration, and we had a wonderful time besides.

 

Suzy and Peter back in the day