I am the shortest "grown-up" man I know. Am pretty sure that's true, but it might not be entirely true, so don't quote me. Anyway, I'm not short enough to be interestingly short so it's hardly worth mentioning.
In 2010 I was one of four lucky author/illustrators to receive a Sendak Fellowship. Which meant I got to live and work next door to Maurice Sendak for a month. To discuss his work and mine and the other fellows'. And to talk about what it means to be an artist (in any discipline) and remain true to your creative vision in a world which wants to make most of what it consumes easier to swallow.
It was the single most important month of my tiny grown-up life. Not just because Maurice was shorter than me, but because he became a real friend and mentor. It is the rarest of windfalls when one of your heroes chooses you from out of the ethers to live next door and become a part of his life. Incontrovertible proof that magic is at work in the univesrse sometimes.
My Grandma Lucy was the first real person I knew who wrote poems. She wrote them for birthdays and holidays and stuff like that. She was also a great drawer. I'm sure she's a huge reason why I started to write poems when I was a kid.
I was not one of those kids who knew he wanted to write and illustrate children's books when he grew up. I still have no clue what I want to be when I grow up. I only know I need to make things. Out of words. With pencils. Sometimes out of cardboard and wire. Sometimes with mozzarella and pepperoni. With whatever is lying around. It's an incurable disease. Like being uninterestingly short.
I grew up in Philadelphia, where I learned to burn holes in leaves with a magnifying glass. It is still one of the best smells I know. Now I live in Brooklyn...with my wife, daughter, and a curly dog. They all have longer legs than me relative to their body sizes, but I am still the tallest life form in the aparartment. And far and away its cleanest. But not the smartest. Only the dog knows less than me.