Glenn Wolff and I remember the genesis of our first collaboration, It’s Raining Frogs and Fishes, which was originally published in 1992. It began when our mutual friend, the artist Bernie Knox, grabbed me by the arm and pulled me to the telephone in her house. She placed the receiver in my hand and said, “Say hello to Glenn Wolff. He just moved back from New York. You guys need to meet.” Of course I knew who Glenn was. We were a year apart in high school, where he was the star of the art department, and for years I’d been enjoying his illustrations in the New York Times and elsewhere. Lately our work had begun showing up at the same time in Sports Afield and a few other magazines. I remember saying something like, “Hi Glenn. I guess we’d better have lunch.”
During that lunch, at Stacey’s Restaurant in downtown Traverse City, Michigan, we began to brainstorm and during the next couple hours outlined an idea for a series of books about wonders of nature. Glenn still has those original notes and sketches (see below). We decided to begin the series with wonders of the sky, with water and earth to follow, and over the next few days began developing the idea and outlining chapters. Next we arranged a meeting with a literary agent and made the pitch to her. With her encouragement we wrote a proposal and a sample chapter with illustrations. Then we sat back to see what would happen.
What happened exceeded our wildest dreams. The book went to auction, with three major publishers bidding on it. We chose HarperCollins, flew to New York to meet our editor, the wonderful Hugh Van Dusen, and the rest of the Harper team, then dove in and worked closely with copy editors, designers, and publicists to launch the book into the world. It went on to become a national bestseller (though it never quite cracked the top ten of the Times list). It was “the surprise hit” at the Frankfurt Book Fair, according to Hugh Van Dusen, who told us that the Japanese delegation stayed up all night to read it and made a generous offer for translation rights the next morning; in time it was translated into Japanese, Chinese, German, Portuguese, and Czech. It was a main selection of the Nature Society Book Club (who paired it with my next book, A Place on the Water, on the inside front cover of their monthly newsletter). It was featured on a wild and wildly popular Japanese game show that flashed the word “Power!” on the screen every time an amazing fact was quoted from the book — making that expression a permanent part of my family’s lexicon.
Now, after all these years, we’ve produced an updated edition, available now as an ebook, with a paperback coming soon. And today Barnes and Noble is featuring it as a Nook First and promoting it across an array of platforms in the e-world. It’s enough to make a father blush with pride.