Epi N Michi-Zeggou, a mother of three, was born in 1969 in Larissa, Greece. She is aDVM/MSC – Doctor Of Veterinary Medicine and entered the world of writing with her essay Journey into the World of Dementia written in her father’s memory as an effort to help inform people and support families experiencing the problem of dementia.
On the occasion of writing this essay, she presented a paper in the 9th PaTNHellenic Congress of Alzheimer’s Disease and Related Disorders (Thessaloniki, May 2015) titled Dementia as Seen through the Perspective of the Caregiver. The rights of the essay have been conceded by the author to the Greek Association of Alzheimer’s Disease and Related Disorders ‘Alzheimer Hellas’. She has also established an online support team for patients with dementia.
In 2015 she launched the present fairytale The (Very Distinct) Chromosome 21, also granting the rights to the Association of Parents and Friends of People with Down Syndrome of Thessaly ‘The Swan’. Without ever having the experience of Down Syndrome in her close family and relatives, The (Very Distinct) Chromosome 21, is her effort to raise awareness and promote understanding for a sensitive and serious social issue.
The fairytale, My Grandpa and Mr. Alzheimer is her third book which was also presented as a paper at the 11th PaTNHellenic Congress of Alzheimer’s Disease and Related Disorders titled The Fairytale as a Mental Tool. In the recent 12th paTNHellenic Congress of Alzheimer’s Disease she presented the Distinguished Lecture, speaking about the role of the media in the awareness of Alzheimer’s disease.
The National Herald: How did you start writing children’s books?
Epi Michi: My beloved father died from mixed dementia, so I was trying to find a way to explain to my kids what happened.
As a DVM, I worked for 12 years as a laboratory professor in the Institute of Technology of Larissa, Greece, so, using the benefits of this experience, I tried to write a fairy tale that can teach the little readers all those matters about Alzheimer’s Disease and dementia that can help them understand this difficult situation.
As a child I loved the detailed illustrator of Herze, Uderzo, and Gosciny, so I tried to find an illustrator which can describe, with realism, the whole story even in the little ones who cannot read.
TNH: Which book is the one that influenced you in starting writing?
EM: As a kid, I read plenty of books: fairytales, stories, novels, poems, literature, even comics, too. Jules Vern, Nikos Kazantzakis, M. Karagatsis, A. Papadiamantis, M. Loudemis, A. Chekhov, Alki Zei, Dido Sotiriou. I grew up in the previous century, with no mobile phones, no technology, not even color TV during tender childhood. Only playground games and books.
As a student, I had fantastic teachers who inspired me, teaching me the way to release my thoughts and feelings on paper.
TNH: Where do the ideas for your books come from?
EM: Nowadays because of pandemic SARS-COV 2, we have all realized that health is the most precious gift of life. There are so many health problems, families who live in pain and desperation. All those people need our empathy, our support, our love. This is the reason why I decided to write books with knowledge, explaining to everyone and especially to the little ones, through my fairytales, exactly what happens in some very distinct and also very difficult situations such as dementia, or Down Syndrome.
TNH: How long does it take you to write a book?
EM: Writing is a hobby for me. Working as a vet is a demanding job, so a book’s preparation takes time. It’s demanding since I need much time to gather data. I need a year to have the first draft and I leave it aside for a long period. It ripens in my mind with new ideas and beliefs, while noticing around me things that would influence my story's plot. I then work closely with my illustrator, keeping the initial idea and inventing new approaches. After some time the book is in my readers’ hands, kids and adults alike, while I hope I succeeded in sensitizing them.
TNH: How do you ensure a picture book lends itself well to being read Aloud?
EM: I once read in an article of the Greek Multidisciplinary Society ‘Diavazontas Megalono’ that reading aloud is an ongoing desire that develops and reaches the charismatic reader. Vivid illustrations attract the reader, and the basic senses like vision and hearing are enticed, triggering the imagination through the vivid colors and clever depictions. My only demand from the illustrator is to use those live, unique illustrations to narrate the story, provoking even the kids facing difficulties to read – that way they form the story themselves.
TNH: What about the process of editing and working with the illustrator?
EM: I consider myself lucky working with amazing people like Mr. Stavros Xirouchakis from Paralos publications as well as Theodosia Kotsika, and On Time Books and Mr. Dimitris Christodoulou for publishing My Grandpa and Mr. Alzheimer in the English language in 2021. His humor and sensitivity created illustrations spreading positivity and joy regarding serious issues like Down Syndrome or Alzheimer’s Disease.
TNH: Which are the Greek children’s books you wish you had written?
EM: I am excited by the way Evgenios Trivizas, entices kids’ imagination. I also adored his book The Three Little Wolves once I read it to my kids. For me that is his best book, innovatively exalting the beauty of love.
TNH: What's coming up next for you?
EM: It’s been 31 years since I started working as a clinical vet and I have experienced happy and tender incidents, as well as difficult moments. I am writing a story dedicated to my animal friends that I have treated intending to show readers the relationship between men and animals, my beliefs on treating animals, and how our daily life is influenced, coexisting with them.
TNH: Do you have any advice for aspiring picture-book authors?
EM: I consider myself a newbie in writing but I encourage those who love writing to immerse themselves in the magic of writing –with the help of fantastic illustrators – and create stories that lead kids to love the magic world of books.
TNH: How do you connect with your little readers and the writing community in general?
EM: Although I am not so familiar with technology, I recently set up my site epifairytales.com so my readers can get in touch with me. They can also find me on Instagram: epi_fairytales; Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/alzheimerstory.