Rendered Fat Content


Robert Lawson: "Uncle Phineas was wrapped up most comfortably, smoking his pipe..." (1945)
[Perhaps a self portrait of the Author/Illustrator]
"The leather elbow patches make the real difference."

Though I have authored several manuscripts, I do not very often feel very much like an author. What does an author feel like? I thought that I might poke at that question this morning, for I seem to have an InnerAuthor inhabiting if not my body, then my spirit. When I can sense his presence, I catch myself behaving more authoritatively, more like the InnerAuthor I hope I embody. At other times, I feel far separated from that sense of that particular self, and I wallow rather hopelessly. My InnerAuthor represents my exemplar, the guy I aspire to become, my spirit guide. Every writer ever published seems to have believed that a multitude inhabits each person's psyche, each personality passing for 'me' for a time, all true yet none definitive. My InnerAuthor fits right into that characterization. He exists for the purpose of inspiration, not definition. When I'm channeling his presence, the label of Author just seems to fit. When not, it doesn't.

My InnerAuthor most closely resembles Robert Lawson, an author and illustrator who published through the first half of the twentieth century.
He largely dealt in children's books, and remains the only author to have been granted both the Caldecott and the Newberry award. He collaborated with several notable authors and hung in the higher reaches of literary circles: theater, publishing, and films. He lived in a rambling early century house in rural Connecticut, a house with a fireplace and picture windows, and surrounded by fields full of rabbits. He drove a woody station wagon. He wore jackets with leather elbow patches, ascots and sweater vests, and he smoked a pipe. He affected a patrician air but extolled the common man in his work. He worked amiably, at an almost leisurely pace, never in any particular hurry. He was in constant demand as an illustrator and produced a remarkable portfolio over his lifetime, truly wonderful, slightly ridiculous line drawings of fabulous detail. He also wrote very, very well.

There, that's the guy I sometimes sense guiding me in my Authoring. When he's present, my author become present, too. When he's not, my InnerAuthor goes mute. When there, I imagine myself unperturbed by the effort I face, pacing my engagement just as I please. I possess sublime judgement, gained from decades in the business and ten thousand sparkling conversations with the royalty of craft. My sense of the appropriate seems flawless. I easily find the tiny interventions that might make any rough draft work. I overflow with original ideas. I never take myself very seriously. I feel secure but never haughty. I seem the very soul of well-warranted self-confidence.

This portrait clearly only rarely ever actually resembles me. It probably doesn't portray Lawson very accurately, either. Neither point seems terribly important. The important point seems more about the influence this imagined presence grants me over my self and my own creations and also with the world. I also host the usual gang of idiots inside, the sniveling terrified kid, the one who always tried to hide from challenges. The coward. The thief. The incomplete idiot. And each hold their time on the stage, again, each influential but none of them definitive. I remain all of them and none of them, and at best informed by their presence and its influences. To the extent that I can conjure up a few better angels, like my InnerWriter, my world and I seem much better off. What about who and what I really, actually am? I'm really, actually all and none of them, with my InnerAuthor receiving more appreciative reviews. The leather elbow patches make the real difference.

©2021 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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