Paul Laud isn’t your typical private equity investment manager. The 63-year-old Shelburne resident has always had an artistic side, although his early work was mostly political cartoons. This year, he employed his drawing skills to create a children’s book entitled, “The House that Santa (Almost) Missed,” using his dog and cat as the primary characters.
“Christmas was a big deal when I was growing up,” Laud said. “Most of the year my mother was a tough taskmaster but come December, things were a bit more relaxed and the ‘too much, too many’ rule for presents, food or decorations didn’t apply.”
Laud still enjoys watching the Christmas classics on television and decided to write a holiday-themed poem about his Bernese mountain dog and cat, getting some grammatical assistance from his wife, Kate. After adding illustrations, Laud approached Vermont’s independent bookstore chain Phoenix Books which has a publishing arm called Onion River Press. “The House that Santa (Almost) Forgot” hit the shelves in September.
Laud describes the story line as one about “giving from the heart.” Laud has been making the rounds of local businesses to find outlets to sell his work.
“I’ve learned a lot and made a lot of mistakes,” he said “but I only make them once. I’m finding an extraordinarily warm reception in gift shops, toy stores and even pet shops. Vermonters really take care of their own.”
Laud is pleasantly surprised by sales of the book and has begun work on a Halloween story with the same characters.
“I’m living the dream,” he said.
As a cartoonist, Laud is accustomed to working with black lines. His illustrations are a mixture of old school and modern technology since the lines are often drawn with a quill pen and inkwell but the subsequent coloring is done via Photoshop.
“To me it’s like Disney World in terms of letting your imagination run,” he said, recalling one particular illustration where he took a photograph of the clock tower atop Burlington City Hall during the daytime in April but was able to turn it into a winter night in a snowstorm. Laud went to Tucks Business School at Dartmouth which is where he met Kate.
“I dazzled her with my knowledge of accounting,” he said.
Laud started his career in banking but branched out into private equity, eventually opening his own consulting business. For years, the couple lived in the greater New York metropolitan area but enjoyed spending summer weekends at a camp in South Hero.
“Many was the time we would sit on the New York Thruway going southbound on a Sunday afternoon and just thought there had to be a better way,” Laud said.
Kate made the move to Shelburne in 2013 and he was able to join her full-time last year.
“I love every minute of it,” he said. Although a children’s book is a far cry from Laud’s political cartoons, in some ways they were the genesis for the project.
“My political cartoons were illustrated limericks,” Laud said.
At one point he began to add his dog, Janie, as a spokes-canine in the lower corner of the cartoons and found her to be so popular that he turned Janie into a main character who was a political talk show host. His cat Nell became the dog’s sidekick.
“I realized they could carry a story,” Laud said. “Having established the two characters, writing a story really brought it all together.”