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Smaller Than Life

by | May 26, 2015 | Family, Our Work | 2 comments

Ever since joining forces with Macmillan, we have felt an even greater fondness for the Flatiron Building. It had always been one of our favorite New York City landmarks, but now it is a second home of sorts. And so, when I found myself in the Lego Store with the kids yesterday afternoon, I simply could not resist the allure of the tiny Lego Flatiron. It was if it had been placed there for the express purpose of emptying my wallet.


I can try to justify the purchase in a number of ways. For example, included is a colorful brochure that outlines the building’s history. If I am to write books for Macmillan, it is critical that I know the history of the Flatiron, from construction to present day, right?


Or, I could argue that the purchase was made entirely worthwhile by the fact that the tiny Lego Flatiron came with a Lego brick separator. Why the dozens of other Lego sets I have acquired throughout my life did not come with a brick separator is a puzzle to me. Of course I had to buy the tiny Flatiorn. Of course I did.


But none of these explanations is quite accurate, I think. The reason I purchased the tiny Lego Flatiron boils down to one simple thing.

To enjoy my building experience.


And how could I not? The prospect of 471 deliberately interlocking pieces lured me to the flat table instead of to my bed, where I would otherwise have been in the post-children hours of Sunday night. I was too excited.


As was my co-conspirator, she who shares my emerging fondness for the actual, non-tiny Flatiron. As construction began, she was the designated “presser together of small plastic bricks.”


I was the “holder of instruction manual” and “supplier of bricks needed for subsequent step.”


As with any building, our tiny Lego Flatiron required a sturdy foundation.


But unlike the actual Flatiron, which took more than an hour to erect, our tiny version creeped quickly upward.


At a critical moment, we were directed to turn one of the seemingly parallel outer walls inward. The Flatiron is triangular, after all.


At another moment—and perhaps I should spare my co-conspirator the embarrassment of reporting on this detail, but will not for the sake of hard-hitting journalistic integrity—Robbi installed some of the tiny windows sideways and was forced to use the Lego brick separator to pry them loose.


You might think she would have leapt at the opportunity, and yet…


The windows adjusted and the side panel complete, we started enhancing the tiny Flatiron central core with its grand facade.


Whoever designed this set had to make difficult decisions, distilling fine detail down into gestures that suggest the feeling the building evokes. Which is majesty and style. I love the design of the molding around the top of the building, the way it curves gently outward like a subtle crown.


Once the Fifth Avenue side of the building was complete, we started working on the back (which runs up against East 22nd Street).


And then the Broadway side.


The final step was the roof. Look how ingeniously it fits into the little couplings inside. I loved Lego then and I love it just as much today. I love how it keeps evolving as I do.


Many thanks to the co-conspirator.


And thanks to the tiny Flatiron, for giving me reason to break through the decades-long hiatus from buying Legos for myself. We have yet to decide where it will live, but know that it will be a place of highest honor.


Thanks also to the actual Flatiron, which has recently invited us to come inside.


Here is the 8th-floor conference room, where we recently met with our editor Erin and our agent Meredith to discuss books present and future.


In the box were ridiculously large and delicious donuts (one of which was glazed with hibiscus-flavored frosting, lower left).


Out the window…


Was the whole wide world.


While the kids caught up on the latest direct-to-DVD classics…


…we joined forces with book-wise friends in the pointy conference room.


After our meeting, Erin showed us her office, which is kind of like a wonderland


Alden tried to pose for the photo below. She really, really tried, but there was just too much to look at.


How can a seven-year-old book enthusiast be expected to stand and mug when such bounty was on hand?


Including, in case you missed it, down there in the corner, a few titles our most loyal readers might find familiar.


Erin’s tour included a magical book of the pop-up variety. (In the doorway is Erin’s excellent assistant Nicole, who has already saved our butts on several occasions.)


Beyond big donuts and a sojourn in the pointy conference room, Erin saved the best surprise for last. A trip to the 19th floor to visit the Flatiron’s only balcony.

It was like standing on the prow of the Titanic, were the Titanic to be anchored in the middle of Manhattan. Here, the view was even grander. Whether looking out…


…or up.


The kids have no idea how lucky they are to have had the chance to stand in that spot.


And frankly, as hard as we try, neither do we. We try as hard as we can to keep a firm grasp on the enormity of our good fortune, to be grateful at every moment for the wild turns of this ever-unpredictable journey in books and making stuff together.

But then stuff like this happens.

It is good that our Barn is but two stories tall. The view from the 19th floor of the Flatiron is the sort of thing that should only be sampled in tiny bites, and only every once in a while.





  1. Maria Plantilla

    Those doughnuts are amazing – and their point of origin is located far too close to my office to be healthy. Loved this inside (and miniaturized) peek at the Flatiron!

  2. Matthew

    Maria, I am impressed that you can identify the donuts by sight. They were certainly a highlight of the day, even if they linger still in some dark corner of my body and being.


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