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Dear Friends, 

How lucky I’ve been! How blessed I feel! 

In the course of my Writing Life, first as a foreign correspondent and now as an author, I have had the joy of meeting and writing about some extraordinary men and women, many of them true giants of our time: from Mother Teresa to George Lucas, from the creators of the Visa card to the geniuses at Pixar, from Tom Cruise to Jeff Bridges, from Gerard Depardieu to Catherine Deneuve, from Robert Mondavi to Julia Child and Thomas Keller, and so many others in between. No writer could ask for more...

But there was more. Two decades ago, on a crazy whim, I launched my own small publishing company, Val de Grace Books, and I did so with one clear, uplifting mission: to create books of exceptional quality and significance. Books that matter, books that inspire, books that you will cherish and save in your family library for many years to come. Now the raw truth is I had no experience as a publisher, I knew next to nothing about book design, and I could barely balance my checkbook, much less run a business in a field as cut-throat as top-quality publishing. So all this was nuts, right?

Yes, totally nuts. But now comes the fun part, the magical part: soon a group of fabulous creators -- authors, photographers, book designers, printers and aspiring writers -- somehow found their way to our door, all of them eager to help us create books of exceptional quality. Among the first was J.C. Suares, a brilliant illustrator and book designer and a character of the first order. J.C. brought us the gifted photographer Matthew Klein, and then Matthew brought us Milton Glaser, the king of American design and the creator of iconic images that have become a cherished part of America’s visual landscape:

What a gift Milton was for all of us! Soon he became our creative guide and mentor, always gently reminding us that “the good is the enemy of the great.” Meaning never settle, never quit until you have poured every ounce of talent you have into every project you do.

Then came Tom Hummel, a fine writer and a master printer too, managing every book we print. And soon we were joined by two of the most gifted book designers in America: Dorothy Carico Smith and Connie Hwang. And that was just for starters! Folks, I never ran a single ad looking for talent or support staff -- it all just happened, as if I had an angel sitting on my shoulder. And each of these creators in turn mentored me and helped me mold Val de Grace Books into a joyous platform of collaboration, creativity, and artistic success. And every day I bow my head in gratitude!

Today I am happy to report that, despite all the upheavals in the world of book publishing, we are going strong and we are hard at work on several books of great importance. Stay tuned! For now, though, for a small taste of what we do, please have a look at our website:


But my intent in these pages is not to promote our books; it is to share something much larger and more pertinent to each of you. I want to encourage you and your kids to explore the world, to follow your crazy whims and passions, to build your dreams, to live life to the full, to care for and learn from each other and those around you, and, above all, to find the excitement and deep sense of satisfaction to be found in joining hands in a common, uplifting mission. My old pal Robert Mondavi put it well: “Find your passion and you’ll never work a day in your life.” Yes! But Milton Glaser, with his special genius, distilled it all down to a single word and one uplifting message:

​     Paul Chutkow
    The Writing Life
                       Our little Zelda, 

              From the pen of J.C. Suares 
So, my friends, sit back, relax, and enjoy the ride. You are about to meet some amazing characters -- artists, creators, fellow writers -- and one very special little dog named Zelda. Ah, Zelda, a castaway from the mean streets of India, who, with wit, guile and her own sense of purpose, charmed her way into our lives and later rose to her proper station in life, as the celebrated Queen of Paris. Yes, our little Zelda. And on the sturdy wings of Val de Grace Books -- and the whimsical pen of J.C. Suares -- that little monster now has avid followers all across America and in France and even in China too! Talk about a dream come true!
And here’s something new and very special: “Whispers in The Wild," a magnificent photo book by Jim Codington. Jim has a gift: a rare ability to understand and communicate with animals big and small. His love of protecting and caring for animals led him to a distinguished career as a veterinarian. Then, as he got older, he began traveling the world, camera in hand, to photograph lions, tigers, elephants, horses, snow leopards and even penguins in their native habitats. The results are stunning! And Val de Grace will be bringing out the book next year, with profits going to leading wildlife conservation groups here and abroad. Very exciting!