This one time, I met Paul O. Zelinsky.

The credit all goes to Julian Hector.

Julian, in addition to being an excellent advisor on men’s clothing and home goods, is also an all-around encouraging chap, personally and professionally. So when I sent him a message FREAKING OUT that Paul O. Zelinsky suggested we meet up in New York, Julian told me I should totally go for it. “But for reals?” I think I probably squealed. “YES FOR REALS.” He said, but probably not in all caps. I’m the one who’s heavy on the shift key.

So on April 2, I met Paul O. Zelinsky! (Toby says he hates it when I refer to Paul by his full name. He’s taken to calling him “Paulo” with an Italian accent.)

Paul suggested I meet up with him to see him speak at the Gateway School, the first private school I’ve ever been inside.

On my way to the school, I accidentally entered the AMDA building, located next door to Gateway (there was scaffolding up, so I couldn’t see what was written on the storefront). “Hi there, I’m Shannon Houghton, here as a guest of Paul Zelinsky?” I said. “Ashley?” The woman asked me, handing me a name tag with Ashley Somethingorother printed on it. She gestured me toward a staircase. “We’re ready for you, you’re going to head up the stairs to the left.”

Apparently I was about to perform an audition at my potential educational institution. I TOTALLY SHOULD HAVE GONE and posed as Ashley, but instead I said, “No, wait wait wait, I’m SHANNON, and I’m looking for the Gateway School?” “Oh, next door.” I hurried out, bumping into a nervous-looking young curly-haired woman, who was presumably Ashley. “Good luck!” I said, earning a perplexed look.

I went up to the 6th floor and wow. What a facility. Then I met Paul, who was setting up for his presentation. YAY! Meeting in person!!!

An aside that I haven’t had a chance to blog about yet so whatevs, I’ll just make this into an enormously lengthy post. I had “met” Paul in late 2012 when he Skyped with our classroom.

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Which was glorious in and of itself. We got to see his studio AND EVEN his grandmother’s painting that inspired his version of Hansel and Gretel (which I learned about in the excellent biography Show and Tell). He even wore a Yale sweatshirt because I told him we’d be Skyping on our school’s college dress day. Little things like that make me so impressed with humanity.

So having communicated with Paul and having him read aloud The Story of Mrs. Lovewright and Purrless Her Cat, I wondered how today’s presentation would be different. Turns out, it was TOTALLY DIFFERENT, and also different between the upper and lower school. The upper school presentation was my favorite — I was so interested I forgot to take photos. Paper engineering has been interesting to me ever since I had the chance to interview Robert Sabuda and Matthew Reinhart.

With the wee kids, Paul talked about Z is for Moose and read it out loud (amazing). He explained the difference between tight and loose art.

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He collaborated with students to create a ZMoose.

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Seeing someone draw in person is breathtaking. The kids applauded Paul’s rad charcoal sketches.

After the presentation and a book signing (And isn’t it remarkable when someone is able to put people at ease even if their companion is obviously kind of nervous? Mr. Schu told me that’s something Paul does well, and he was right), we took the subway to Brooklyn and then we had snacks at Paul’s studio, where I had a chance to hold a thumbnail book mockup (!!!!!!) and all sorts of original art.

Did you know that the veneer sheets that Swamp Angel and Dust Devil were so super-thin and flexible you can see light through them? They’re gorgeous. GORGEOUS. The cover art for Rapunzel made me all weepy, and the gold thread on the cover for Rumplestiltskin (my favorite POZ book) absolutely glowed.

You may have seen that Julian dropped by…


So in addition to seeing Paul draw earlier in the day, I also had a chance to see him use Photoshop. <3

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We took a circuitous walking route to lunch that took me by amazing buildings (the entire neighborhood of Brooklyn Heights is protected as a historical site) and an incredible view of Manhattan and the Statue of Liberty.

The view of the city from Brooklyn Heights is probably the best I’ve ever seen. I didn’t bother taking a picture because I knew I’d just be disappointed that I didn’t capture it right. Not to get all John Mayer circa 2001 on you, but it’s true.

We ate, then we parted ways! And that was my day! (Well, there was actually more, there was also ridiculous dress-purchasing at Hooti Couture and seeing All in the Timing. It was kind of an insane day.)


I don’t know how to end this post! Other than to thank Paul for being so generous with his time; for being such a friendly and talented and charming human being. And to thank Julian for giving me permission to not let fear stop me from going on adventures.

#nerdybookclub FOR LIFE!!!