48 / matters magazine / fall 2018 Elly Lonon uses her sense of humor to poke fun at the noble aspirations and daily tribu- lations of Alex and Michael. ing, she also plays the ukulele, and composes songs – with ample help from Rocco, who is backstage theater technician, and from Paul and Sam. The family’s latest Annual Summer- time Song posted just before school started, is a charming ditty called “Tick Tock, Penguin Walk,” a title provided by Paul. (You can hear it on her website, ellylonon.com.) Prompted by the success of the col- umn, she began looking around for an artist to work with her on turning it into a book. Joan Reilly, a nationally published illustrator who lives in Kutz- town, PA, had just the quirky, socially aware eye Elly wanted. It was Joan’s drawings and the first chapter and rough story outline that won them a publishing contract. They meshed remarkably well, both recognizing themselves in the charac- ters and exaggerating the result for comic effect. Joan explains that “[Elly] wrote it out in the same format as the McSweeney’s column, then I went in and edited it all into a comics script, deciding what text would go where and how to visually convey it all. We were working in a shared Google doc- ument, and would virtually ‘hang out’ all day chatting with each other.” One thing the two have in common is that Joan too has been dealing with cancer. (She has already undergone surgery and radiation, and is starting chemo this fall.) Elly, acutely aware of the challenges the artist would be fac- ing, sought a way to continue their partnership. Providentially two young artists have entered the mix – Miguel Yurrita and Theresa Chiechi – who have proved themselves capable of following Joan’s guidance, and drawing in her style. Elly herself learned to do the lettering, via computer, for the text and dialog. Meanwhile, her book is now be- ing distributed by Penguin Random House. According to the blurb, it “follows Alex and Michael on a cross- country road trip as they try to recon- nect with their fellow Americans, un- derstand how Trump got elected, and strive to learn what it really means to resist and get ‘woke.’” And Elly’s real-life sources of inspi- ration? She confesses that “my neigh- bors and friends well know I always have a notebook and pen in my pocket. And I have on more than one occasion sent out a group text that said, ‘Come over and have a glass of wine so I can observe you talking to one another. I need another column.’” However, she adds, “I always ask permission if there’s something specific I want to leverage.” Advance reviews of the book have been laudatory. As Shawn Williams writes, “It is very humorous, relat- able, and still addresses so many of the underlying fears so many of us feel. [Reading it] makes my heart stop and my tears fall because…it’s speaking to a truth we all feel.” Elly says she was particularly moved when another person stopped in the middle of reading one passage to write and tell her how true it rang and how touching it was. On her Facebook page she comments that “That’s one of my top 10 moments, Universe. And I thank you. You have impeccable tim- ing. Love, me.” At the age of five, Elaine Durbach earned 25 cents for her first article. With eternal optimism, she has been trying ever since to join the liberal elite through journal- ism and writing novels, in South Africa and for the past 21 years in Maplewood. Make our Office Yours SOMA One 76 South Orange Avenue, Lower Level 6 (Valley Street Retail Entrance) South Orange, NJ 07079 8:30 a.m. - 6:00 p.m. | 973-559-4252 COWORKING | COMMUNITY | TECHNOLOGY • Work in a professional environment by renting an office, desk or conference room, short or long term • Membership plans start at $14.95/month • Enjoy state of the art technology in every room • Build community with like-minded professionals