Palisadian Author Mancuso Writes Hudson in Provence

By Laurel Busby
Staff Writer

Dogs and Paris inspired Palisadian Jackie Clark Mancuso to create two picture books that celebrate both. The idea for her first book came to life during a three-month stay in Paris seven years ago. In France, “everywhere you look there are people and their dogs,” said Mancuso, an artist who both wrote and illustrated the books. “Everywhere I went, I would draw and paint dogs. My husband suggested, ‘Why not write a story as well?’”

Mancuso took up the suggestion and Paris-Chien, a pun on the English word Parisian, was born. Her newest work, Hudson in Provence, followed. Both books, which feature colorful and lively gouache paintings, follow the adventures of a plucky expat Norwich terrier as he navigates French language and culture.

Jackie Clark Mancuso
Jackie Clark Mancuso

Eager to make friends with local dogs, Hudson is at first stymied by the fact that they speak only French, which actually mirrors Mancuso’s own journey during her trip, when she got reacquainted with the French language after many years of non-use.

“I was afraid to make mistakes,” said Mancuso, who had taken French as a schoolgirl in the late-’60s plus as an adult in language schools and at UC Berkeley, where she graduated with a degree in art and sociology in 1976.

Mancuso also took inspiration from an L.A. friend’s dog, whose name, look and en- dearing personality she used in the book. Mancuso dog-sits the real Hudson, and “when I walk him, everyone stops us . . . and says, ‘That’s the cutest dog I’ve ever seen,’” she said. “He’s always happy, always friendly, and just adorable. He looks like a little teddy bear—his enthusiasm and eagerness and friendliness” infuse her books.

Mancuso, who moved to Pacific Palisades in 2010, acted as her own publisher for her first book, which was a role she knew well, since most of her previous career was in the publishing world in both San Francisco and New York, for various companies, including both Sunset Books and Time Inc., where she worked for Martha Stewart Living and Parenting magazines.

As an art director, she created the look of numerous books, and she did the same for her books, which have sold well. Paris-Chien is now in its third printing, and both books have been picked up by a distributor.

They are widely available, including at Diesel Books in the Brentwood Mart, for check-out at the Palisades and Santa Monica libraries and even for sale at a few Paris stores.

The second book, Hudson in Provence, follows the dog’s efforts to become a working dog during a trip to Provence in southern France, and he ends up becoming an artist painting France and dogs, just like Mancuso.

Like Hudson, Mancuso’s own artistic endeavors were mainly explored in her free time. They eventually took flight when she moved back to the L.A. area in 2010. Her husband, Stephen Ujlaki, had just been hired as the dean of film and television at Loyola Marymount University, and he convinced her that moving to L.A. would be a good thing.

“I didn’t really want to come back,” she said. But “one of the enticements to get me to move to L.A. was he said, ‘Then you don’t have to work for someone else. You can finish your book.'”

L.A. turned out to be a blessing. She finished her book and fell in love with the city. “Living in Castellammare with a view of the ocean is like Paradise, Mancuso said. Also, “there’s so much going on in L.A.’s art scene. You can do something every night. It’s so much more urban than I remembered.”

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