Susan Hermse Schaefer is a creative thinker, writer, speaker, teacher, consultant, cat lover and global citizen. She met and married her beloved departed husband, Dutch citizen Martijn Hermse, later in life and together they forged a magical existence alongside their adored cats and deep circle of friends and family – who inspired The Adventures of Ying & Yang: Snoepje and the Pizza Box. Born and raised in edgy Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA, Susan’s journey has included living in places such as Delhi, India, Bogotá, Colombia and Maastricht, the Netherlands, Martijn’s hometown. During her sixteen years in Minneapolis, Minnesota, the location of the book, Susan forged a life-long friendship with illustrator, Michael Bower Putman. Although Susan now resides primarily in Pompano Beach, Florida, where the sea, sun, sand and soft breezes enable her to write, reach and teach in harmony, she continues her international existence.
Earning her first master’s degree in English Literature from Philadelphia’s Temple University, Susan admits to a lifelong love affair with literature. However, a secondsuitor for her attention is international affairs, so in 2004, she took a sabbatical toattend Maastricht University, earning another master’s degree in European Public Affairs, subsequently teaching and administrating for various departments.
In fact, Susan has had a continuous career in higher education on both sides of the aisle – teaching and administering – since the early 1970’s when she ventured to Bogotá, Colombia to teach at the Centro Colombo Americano. While still a graduate student at Temple University, she taught writing and held a position as head of the newly formed English Language Enrichment Center at Temple (ELECT), igniting a life-long passion to help students uncover their natural abilities for language. While pursuing her doctoral degree at Temple, Susan was recruited by Camden County College’s new bi-lingual English program where she taught, administered, developed curriculum, and managed instructors.
Later Susan served as Director of Communications for PNC Financial Corp of Philadelphia, and after relocating to Minnesota, she founded her independent publicrelations firm, Schaefer Communications.
Susan states: “The threads that weave these experiences together are a deep love of people, animals, and writing, and a firm belief that only by traveling and experiencing how others live can we create a sane and peaceful world.”
Michael Bower Putman is a seasoned, independent graphic designer, illustrator and painter living in Minneapolis, Minnesota with his partner of twenty years and their two Ocicats. Michael began drawing at a young age, with many of his crayon renderings of Hercules and Cinderella gracing the walls of his pediatrician’s office. His love of illustration and storytelling through imagery manifested first in the handmade comic books and graphic novels of his early teens: the precursors of his collaboration with author, Susan Hermse Schaefer, on The Adventures of Ying & Yang: Snoepje and the Pizza Box.
It was at Drake University that Michael indulged his passion for drawing in the study of art and design. After a successful career in the advertising industry, Michael turned his focus to his primary loves - illustration and design, founding his independent practice Putman Illustration and Design. His work has won local and national honors, and recently the Farmani Gallery in New York City included his illustration in a major exhibit. Michael enjoys a whimsical view of his inspiration: “My design and illustration work is informed by an enjoyment of industrial design, theatre, current events, fine food, cheesy pop music and comfy clothes,” he admits.
Most pertinent to this book venture is Michael’s love of cats, which developed at an early age. His life has been enriched by the antic personalities of Siamese, Burmese, Calicos, Abyssinians, Russian Blues…and now his two Ocicats who run the household. “In fact,” he purrs, “I am often mistaken for feline, primarily due to my love of long naps and back scratches.” He testifies that living with cats all his life has provided unique insights into their personalities and feline perspective – which he hopes translates well to the kitty characters in the book.
Michael met Susan twenty years ago, and they quickly became close friends and creative collaborators. However, it wasn’t until the premature passing of Susan’s husband Martijn that their collaborations took on this form and voice.
Juliëtte van der Aa, like each of the book’s team members, absolutely adores cats and recommends that visitors to Amsterdam check out the infamous Kattenkabinet – a museum dedicated to cats. Two of the loves of her life have been her red Abyssinian, Mutlu, who had a big, squirrel like tail, and red striped Ollie.
“I was very honored to be asked to translate this lovely book,” she admits, “because I really know cats, and their humans, so well.”
Juliëtte briefly studied art and cultural management, has been a puppeteer and TV developer of programs for children for the Emma's Kinderziekenhuis, and had a brief stint working for AT5 news. At one time she worked as a camp counselor in the US.