My uncle Michael published half a dozen books. Everyone in our family prominently displayed their set. A foot-long row of familiar spines standing proudly together — his books, his name repeated across them. I envied the pleasure I imagined that gave him, that cube of honored real estate.

I made my first book when I was six. A stack of deliciously thick paper. The smell of library paste, a smell I can taste (probably because I did). A clear plastic sleeve filled with a rainbow of markers. Brass paper fasteners.

I treasured the pleasures of bookmaking. Carefully lettering my name on the title page. Alternating pages of drawings with pages filled with large, neatly penciled letters. Numbering all the pages. Making up the front matter: the publisher, the copyright, the dedication. Conjuring up blurbs from my favorite authors to put on the back.

My biggest regret: my books never had a proper spine. I couldn’t run my name and title and the Dewy Decimal number down the edge. It didn’t look right on the shelf.
But that was a minor blunt to my pleasure. I was still “an author”.

A half century later, whenever I visit a book store or a library, I always, eventually, wind up looking for my books on the shelf. I can spot them from across the room, familiar faces in a sea of stripes, like spotting my son on a crowded playground.

No matter how many books I publish or sketchbooks I fill, that boyhood thrill is still there. I love the shelves of books I’ve made, all together, spines aligned like little soldiers.

Oh, BTW, I am soon gonna add a new spine to my collection. Shut Your Monkey: How  to control your inner critic and get more done is in the design/illustration phase and will soon head to the printer.  It’ll be on the shelves of your local bookstore this fall.

11 thoughts on “Spine-tingling”

  1. It must be wonderful to see your row of ‘spines’ on a bookshops shelf or even on a shelf at home.
    Having your uncle Michael set the inspiration to achieve this for yourself at a young age is all the more powerful in that you did go on to fulfill it.
    I shall be buying your new book, Shut Your Monkey for my daughter who is also an artist but whose Monkey can have a lot to say! 🙂


  2. That’s pretty advanced stuff. My first recollections are of copying non-fiction books like a medieval monk with really neat penmanship. I bought “Art Before Breakfast” today. First of your books for me and Monkey is already well noted.


  3. I have them all, except for the two I gave as gifts…thanks for putting your life out for all to see and draw wisdom from.


  4. I also have two of your books, but I rarely see the spines….they are always open, in use😃. And even though I have not published any books, I have to say that I feel the same about seeing my own artwork displayed, even if it is only in my workshop. It inspires me to keep creating, get better, and appreciate what I have done. Quite a nice feeling. It helps keep that monkey in line!


  5. I own all of your books, and for some crazy reason I go into a book store looking for your books and I move them around so they are more prominently displayed on the shelf for all to see. I guess I am some Danny Gregory Groupie of sorts, I do the same for Tommy Kane. Hero worship? Appreciative fan? Nutty Lynn? And if your or Tommy’s books are not in their art department I tell them to order them, that they are great and people WANT them! They always write that down! Just so you know.


  6. Publishing has a ring of “Possible” to it. When I was teaching first and second graders a class we called “Writer’s Workshop,” we did not call our stories “finished to be handed in to the teacher,”‘ we called them “Published.” It took lots of extra time to help a kid write, tweek, get it ready. It took an army of willing parent volunteers to take the typed and illustrated pages and help the student bind them into a book, complete with cover, spine, author’s name, title, even an “About the Author” page. But the look on those kid’s faces when they held their books was priceless. We are all still those little kids and the thrill is the same, deep feeling! My sketchbooks are scattered about…..Hmmmm! Better clear a shelf and line them up. Thanks, once again, you are Golden! BTW, I have preordered the “Shut Your Monkey”! My own personal “Monkey” is unhappy with that! LOL!


  7. I’ve always wondered what it would feel like to be a book author. You described the feeling so well. It is a dream of mine to write a book, on my bucket list so to speak. I found I could understand the feelings you described above when I was writing for an art magazine, Featuring, a few years ago. It was such a thrill every time a new issue came out with my articles in it. I hear it just may be starting up again (it was affected by the European money crisis). I would write for it again so I’m keeping my fingers crossed that I get that old feeling back soon.


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