We (Elizabeth and Eric) have lived and worked together for so long, we are like two sides of a rare coin. We toss our manuscripts back and forth, each advising the other on things from word choice, to nose size, to spaces and commas. We feel lucky to live in Denver with our young son Fenn, who like us, plays hookey in the mountains—hiking, skiing, and camping— as often as possible.
Lovers of story, in both words and pictures, we make books, comics, and silly animations to entertain curious readers and watchers. In our previous lives we each lived in big cities (like Chicago and New York) and far-away places (like Paris and Barcelona), but we both always had a connection with the West. Eric was raised in Colorado Springs and I—Elizabeth—who grew up in Hyde Park, Chicago, discovered New Mexico at a young age. I kept returning there, attending St. John's College where I was forced to study ancient Greek. A love of language did stick and a love of making things brought me to Colorado to pursue an MFA at CU Boulder. I also always had a fascination with all things medical and became a Sonographer who gathers interesting anecdotes while scanning people's intimate anatomy. I have been a teacher over these many years, and it's my passion to inspire young people of all ages to read, write and invent.
Eric left the Rocky Mountains to study and work in NYC. He relished the artist life of painting masterpieces and living on Cuban rice and beans, but after 7 years returned to the arid landscape of his childhood. You can find his artwork in various venues— from children's books to museum collections to Dummies Guides. Lately he has discovered encaustic (an ancient technique involving wax and varnish) with which to solidify his addiction to watercolor painting. His passions lead him along many pathways; pedaling a bike or hiking mountain trails, which all feed into the telling of stories.
Together, we started making books. We appreciate the fact that stories land in so many different laps- passed along from hand to hand, borrowed from beloved libraries, or traveling the web via digital wonders. And we are ridiculous at dancing, but will do it if need be; like when Eric needs an example for an illustration.
Reader: Is Zoo based on your kid?
Ee: Oh no, we have a perfect child who never ever gets frustrated... Ha ha. Honestly he does at times identify with Zoo. Sometimes he even imagines he has the same wicked temper, and that it's incurable! But no, the story is not based on him.
Reader: Really? Then where did you get the idea for FTZMS?
Ee: Uh oh,(Elizabeth). I'll leave this one for Eric.
(Eric) I think this is the whole point of Zoo Slicky, you know, everyone has something inside that feels incurable, a terrible thing to hide away or pretend doesn't exist. I always struggled with my temper as child and like Zoo, I had to go to a therapist. This was back in the day when child therapy was more like torture. Thankfully things have changed a lot since then. Zoo's experience captures some of the horror and humiliation I felt at the time.
Zoo wants to destroy the ugly thing inside him. And like all of us he fails, only to discover that his worst fear has become his greatest asset—like the wormy caterpillar transforming into a butterfly. Zoo discovers himself. The story of Zoo started out from childhood memories but soon transformed into something more magical.
Reader: Where do all the kooky names come from?
Ee: (Eric) The name Zoo Slicky comes from my dad, it was his nickname for me. I was called Ricky as a small boy. It went from Ricky, to Slicky, to Zoo Slicky. He nicknamed my sister Lisa, Cisafritz—from Lisa, to Cisa, to Cisafritz.
Reader: How do you write together? Do you ever argue over words ?
Ee: All the time... Eric says I write like an English country gentleman. Probably because I want to be Kenneth Grahame (Wind in the Willows). We argue endlessly over commas. Plus I love words like "apoplectic". (Eric) She uses way too many antediluvian big words.
(Elizabeth) Yes, and it really is cool to have a built-in editor. We go back and forth with the manuscript, although sometimes it's like an endless ping-pong game of 'cutting' and re-inserting...
Reader: So, who is big E?
Ee: Me, Elizabeth, because I'm so bossy. Plus Eric does simply prefer small caps.
(eric) Here's a point on which we don't agree. I think of it as one word, a first name pronounced [ee]. One name to call two people.
Reader: Okay. What's your favorite food?
Ee: (Elizabeth) Cheese-puffs, like Zoo. They are my nemesis. And ice cream- definitely an eternal nemesis. Eric could care less about treats. His favorite food is probably salad—
(Eric) No, not true, I'm only thinking healthily. But it's true, I don't like sweets, never have, even at the age of Zoo.
Reader: Is there a sequel?
Ee: When you get to the end, you'll know.