The Classic Question: Where Do You Get Your Ideas?

Dogs of War

So I’m waiting for the elevator in our apartment building. One of our neighbors recycles on a once-every-couple-decades basis, hence the messy stack of assorted magazines from the 1970s on up. The elevator’s really slow, so I idly thumb through an old copy of LIFE and spot this World War I photo of a French courier dog.


Voila! Inspiration!
World War I Canine Count:
20,000 British dogs & French chien;
30,000 German hunds


As the Crow Flies

My husband and collaborator, Kevin Duggan, was working at EMPAC, an amazing performing arts center upstate in Troy, New York. I was still working in NYC. We had been batting around the idea of doing a picture book together. (Kevin is an artist.) We had also been talking about how smart crows are.

We were on the phone one day in November and Kevin described the noisy crows that always flocked around his office at dusk. I had just been reading about crow roosts and asked “Is there a cemetery nearby? That’s where they start out. Quick, follow them!”

One day he did.

Sheila and Kevin in crow masks at Mardi Gras

At the Lower East Side Girls’ Club Mardi Gras.
Photo by Greg Masters.

And that’s how we came to spend many a chilly winter evening watching thousands of jostling, jawboning, hot-dogging, noisy crows head into a beautiful Hudson sunset to roost together on a river island. And why we spent so much time in a field in Big Sur luring a crow closer with cranberries so Kevin could take good photos for reference. And why we wore crow masks for Mardi Gras. And why we still look up every time we hear a caw.


Animals in the House
A History of Pets and People

photo of wolf

Photo from

We were visiting dear friends in Minneapolis-St. Paul . . . in February! (I just had to see the Winter Carnival ice palace.) Their charming house was not far from Como Park, which has a zoo. I love winter, so I didn’t let the piles of white stuff deter me from talking a walk on over to the park. Apparently not many other folks felt the same way, so that morning I was the only person walking into the zoo on the road past Wolf Woods. These magnificent canines were also out walking. They kept pace with me on their side of the fence, definitely watching me. The wolves were so beautiful but so clearly wild. Suddenly I wondered: how did we get from them to a beloved pet pooch in a plaid dog bed?

I started researching . . .