vacations as inspiration.
One of the things I mentioned in that posted was the not-quite-coincidence that Whit's favorite animal in DON'T FEED THE BOY is the giraffe --- and in a letter my mother wrote to her mother, she said that my favorite animal was also the giraffe!
Here's the actual text, from a letter titled "Dear Mama & Ray" on January 18, 1975:
"After naps when we returned to the Alshaik Hotel, we went with some friends to the Riyadh zoo. Friday is the only day you can go in mixed company, and then only from 2-4 pm. It closes at 4 and we arrived around 4:30 when everyone was leaving. Our friend, who is Egyptian and speaks Arabic, was able to get us in any way. We had the whole place to ourselves and got to see all the animals being fed. The zoo was as everything else here - Dirty! Irene had wanted to go ever since we have been here so she was especially happy. The one thing she wanted to see was the giraffe."
Thank you, Mama, for writing home to your mama... and for sharing these letters with me!