You are currently browsing the monthly archive for December 2008.

Before I had the shed, I wrote here:

dining room

This is our tiny dining room.  It’s more like a corridor between the living room and the kitchen, so this table tends to be a catch all and isn’t usually this bare.

We moved just over a year ago and it was really important that I could have my own space to write in our new house.  We found a house we loved, but it didn’t really have a place that I could make separate and call my own.  I started looking into things like the Readymade shed, but I’m nothing if not quirky, cheap, and green.  So, we bought a shed on Mercer Island for a couple hundred dollars and paid the slowest handyman in the world to take down, transport, and reconstruct it in the backyard with a couple of changes (FYI, you don’t need a permit in Washington if a structure is under 12’x12.’).  We wanted a green roof, so we changed the pitch and added some waterproofing.  We had it wired for electricity and added a heater.  My husband put some click flooring and shelves in, and voila!  The shed of solitude!  The weather was changing before it was finished, so the exterior painting and roof planting will wait until spring.  I don’t care, because the inside is perfect for me.  It’s goofy, but having my own space to work has really helped my confidence as a writer.  It’s an investment of our resources and space devoted to creativity, and I am very grateful for it.  

Here’s the almost-finished-outside:

Outside shed 12/08Next year it will look pretty different.  






The inside is better.

shed deskThe ceiling




The worktable.














The lighting:  I bought the hanging light at Restore, and I spray painted a plastic plate to make the light ring.  The turquoise lamp I bought at Goodwill for $5, and I covered the lampshade with a few fabric scraps, including a bit of the mermaid fabric I blogged about over the summer.  lamp











A few peeks at little things like:









A wee felted dog










Button flowers



laini's lady









Kayaking Lego man










One of Laini‘s ladies






handstandFelted rocks and cards and notes on the junk shop hand stand that scares my husband a little.













the other side



Isn’t it cozy?













The other side.




So, there you have it. The shed!  I feel so fortunate to have my own little studio to work in.  Everyone needs sanctuary, especially those of us with creative pursuits.  I hope you find your own little corner of the world that helps you focus.

I kept track of the shed as it was rebuilt for the woman we bought it from, so if you want to see what it looked like as it was rebuilt, you can look here.

Have a happy, healthy, creative, wonderful new year!

I received my wonderful pressies from the book blogger swap and actually waited until Christmas to open them.  My Secret Santa was the Bassett Knitter,and she should win some type of award for giving gifts to strangers. In my little “about me” email I mentioned that I wrote middle grade and suggested that a my person could send a copy of their favorite book from 5th grade.  She sent a copy of A Wrinkle in Time (which I haven’t read for years), a lovely tote, a hand knit ornament, a pioneer craft book, some candy, and a handmade box of writing prompts!  It was a sweet and lovely package.  Thank you, Paula!

Xmas pressies






Xmas pressies 2













A ping pong door.  Genius!


peaAmy Krause Rosenthal writes fine picture books, like Little Pea and Little Hoot.  That should keep her busy enough, but she also has a social experiment to illicit more loveliness from the world.  








She’s starting a new phase of her experiment, a conglomerative documentary of loveliness.  Want to be a part of it?  The deadline is in a couple of weeks, and the info is here.

Writing.  Ugh!  I’m sick of my manuscript.  I feel like I’m treading water and it will never ever be finished.  I thought I would feel better once I finished my draft and sorted out a few things, but the more I dig into it…the more problems I find.  The before the X, and after the X feel like two different stories.  The pacing, the action.  I just feel a really long way from making it work.  I don’t know if I can be objective anymore.  It probably needs a new set of eyes, but it’s too muddled to show anyone.  Ugh.

There aren’t enough blogs devoted to middle grade writing.  YA and picture books kind of dominate the kidlitosphere.  Every time I find a new one, like Welcome to my Tweendom, it makes me happy.

Way #3795 to avoid writing:  A blog devoted entirely to animal babies born in zoos.  Cuteness abounds.

I’m uploading a few shed pictures this very instant, so those will be up shortly.  I promise to post them by the end of the year.

I may have been short-sighted when I named my blog Wagging Tales.  It’s a little too cutesy, and there’s an, ummm, animal communication business that has the same name.  I meant to think of something better, but then a few people started actually reading it and I got lazy.  Now, some sort of wires have been crossed and editors are asking me to review dog books.  Not even kid lit dog books- a dog memoir, dog advice, and dog training.  Three different houses.  I somehow got tagged as the go-to dog lady.  But, I am not.

I’m going to reexamine the blog renaming.  Feel free to make recommendations.

We usually spend Christmas in Colorado with most of my immediate family.  It’s a fabulous 5 days of playing in the snow, drinking, laughing, playing board games, drinking, bickering, eating junk food, name calling (hippie/yuppie/liberal cityslicker/etc.),  and laying around.  My dad even dresses up like Santa on Christmas morning when the little guys are there.  Yes, it’s that festive.  

So, we’re staying home in Seattle this year and I’m having a hard time getting into the Christmas spirit.  This month has been a little chaotic with colds and non-holiday tasks, and I’ve been distracted.  I have most of the elements.  Small children- check.  Games- check. Name calling- (Thanks, random man on Pine!)- check.  I didn’t have a lot of junk food or liquor, so I stocked up- check.  Things were looking up, but I still wasn’t in the yuletide spirit.  Add a bunch of snow and some nog, and I’m almost there.  

stickers1Ohhh, I got my package today from the Book Bloggers Christmas Swap.  I think I’m only a book blogger in a broad sense, since I don’t review books (and especially not dog books).  Anyway, the package is lovely and  I’m going to try and wait until Christmas to open it.  I’ll take some pictures, too.


If I was an illustrator, I would have a PDF for downloadable stickers on my site like this.

I was reading an excellent article on transracial adoption (We adopted our daughter from Guatemala in 2007).  A lot of the issues that come up around transracial adoption are also valid when you talk about mixed heritage, blended families, regentrification, urban settings… you name it.   I have a mixed Hispanic/Anglo heritage.  I don’t look Hispanic.  At all.  But, I was raised predominately around the Hispanic side of my family in Hispanic communities.  I felt caught in the middle a lot.  

The article quoted a local performer named Chad Goller-Sojourner, a black adoptee with a white family.  He gave a pretty good analogy on having a different race than those around you.

“Let’s say I was a gazelle adopted by lions,” he says. “I pranced around happy until I got to first grade and all these lions tried to attack me; it’s like they didn’t get the memo. The other gazelles, they smelled the lion on me and didn’t trust me, so I stood open.”

That’s pretty heavy, right? I think that’s how a lot of kids feel who are not of the dominant race, or who are outsiders in another way.  I bring it up here, because I think it needs to be said.  There has been a (much needed) push towards more ethnic characters in kid lit.  I think sometimes these books don’t connect with the reader because the author fails to tap into that feeling of being an outsider, and how being in the middle somehow taints you a little for either side and takes away the automatic belonging.  We don’t just need characters with different ethnicities, we need characters with the complex emotions and settings that go along with being different.

Nathan Bransford has recapped the year in publishing.

I’m making a resolution to post pictures or a video of the shed in the next ten days.  There, I said it.  It’s been a little hyped up, so bear in mind that it’s a shed.  It’s my shed, though, and I adore it.  I also adore my new video camera, and that is a great motivator.

I hope however and wherever you’re celebrating the season that you have a lot of peace and joy.

Happy Holidays!

We had a conversation with our kindergartner last night about language.  It’s probably not what you think, because we were giving him permission to use certain words or to accept that others chose those words.  He can be a little cautious with his language, and he gets confused why others are not.  It’s a tricky thing, language.   He has his own ideas, anyway.  Last night, for instance, at the end of our talk:

ME:  So, it’s pretty rude to call someone stupid but it’s not that bad if you need to say something is stupid when you’re frustrated blah, blah, blah…


ME:  Oh…Really?

HIM:  Yes, I figured it out.  I’ve been listening.

(Oh, shit.  He’s been listening?  I’ve muttered some creatively graphic doozies at home from time to time.  His buddy M.’s mom warned me M. might have taught him the f-bomb. I prepared my poker face to hear a big one.)

ME:  Alright, let’s hear it.


(He’s not worried about saying it, he just likes dramatic suspense.)

HIM:  The Godness of Ass.

ME: Oh, um, ok.

I was on my way out, and by the time I got to the car I was howling.

The Godness of Ass!  I have no idea where he got that from.  I’m not sure what it’s supposed to mean, but I guess he can say it if he finds a warranted situation.  I am not “a concerned parent” like, say, this guy:

A school district is reviewing the National Book Award winner, Sherman Alexie’s The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-time Indian because a single parent complained about a reference to masturbation.  The parent concluded that the book was “trash” not fit to be read by a 50-year-old.

Oh, for the Godness of Ass!

Are you still looking for a present for me? Maybe you know I like to cook, and you want to get a tool that can squish herbs, crush garlic, AND resemble a potato.  You could get me this $80 rock, but then I might hit you with it.


anibookendsYou’d better just get me some deer, pig, and giraffe silhouettes that I can pretend are escaping from my books.  



Do query letters stress you out?  Michael Stearns and Firebrand Literary want to help.  Forget the query and just send the first, fabulous chapter of your completed manuscript from December 15-January 15.  You can find more details here (via Cynsations).

It’s pretty standard for agents and editors to request that you submit only after your manuscript is polished and complete.  Seems logical to me.  I’m neurotic enough to wait until I don’t think I can make it any better.   Then I’ll send it or shelve it.  I’ve been hearing some nice success stories of people getting deals based solely on partials, rough drafts, and outlines.  So, here’s a poll…


If you did, how did that work out for you?  Spill!


Here is one for the illustrators:  Swissmiss shared a link to over 40 Wacom tablet tutorials.  

When do you know if you should give up on a manuscript?  I’ve been stuck on mine, but I’m not sure if it’s just the manuscript blahs or a deeper issue.  I have other ideas for books that are sooo inviting, but Laini reminded me that those inklings to be wooed by exciting new plans are just sirens leading to doom.  I know me.  If I put a project aside to work on something else, I won’t go back to it.  

I spent last Saturday gaining lots of new inspiration and ideas (and hand cramps) at Writeorama, and then Laini shared lots of good advice on finishing your novel last night.  Sooo…I’m going to give it another shot.

farBy the way, I read an advanced copy of Joni Sensel’s new book The Farwalker’s Quest (Bloomsbury USA, 2009).  I am not a book reviewer, but when I really like something I like to mention it (Full disclosure: Joni and I serve on the SCBWI WWA Advisory Committee together).


The Farwalker’s Quest is a light fantasy that’s going to appeal to any middle grade reader who enjoys a good adventure.  It’s definitely a page turner, and I think it’s Joni’s best book yet.  I’m excited to have a sneak peek, because I predict this book is going to be a smashing success.

I.N.K. makes a recommendation for the non-fiction writer in your life.

Books for the holidays!

My friend Jolie Stekly has some fabulous news that you can read about here. Congratulations, Jolie!  We already know you’re fabulous, and now the world will know, too!

What makes Jolie so fabulous, you ask?  Here is just one example.

A few months ago a gang of us headed south to Portland for the Kidlitosphere conference put on by Jone and Laini.  We had fun.

Jaime enlisted our help to make a sock puppet zombie video interview with Betsy Bird, and we complied.  You might have seen the video.  You might have wondered how many people squeezed behind the bed, and whether or not it was fun.  Now you know.

zombiebedClockwise from the top left: moi, Laurie Thompson, Kirby Larson, Jolie Stekly, Betsy Bird, and Dana Arnim.  

Jaime was working the camera.

Thanks for the picture, Dana!

Speaking of Laini, she’s speaking at the SCBWI Western Washington meeting tomorrow.  Come say hi!

I’ve taken up a challenge that Jolie threw out to make a hefty goal for December. I am a donkey in need of a carrot on a stick.  I’ve been a bit scattered lately so I’ll be instituting more deadlines and a reward system.  I vow to make my manuscript draft readable for others, so that I can get feedback.  I tend to skip around with scenes and such.  I need to compile everything so it’s more cohesive.  I finished the draft and felt joyous and accomplished…until I realized how much more work it still needs.  My goal was to have it ready for submission by the end of the year, but I think I’m a month or six off.

I received an early Christmas present from my husband.  I mentioned that I coveted a Flip video camera, he did his gadget research, and got excited about getting a Kodak Zi6.  It’s easy and fun. No tapes!  Videos soon.

Speaking of videos, here is one of a recently discovered SQUID WITH ELBOWS.  He looks a little menacing, doesn’t he? Just treading water…watching.  They found him off the coast of Texas, but his image will flash in my mind on all future kayak trips in Puget Sound.  Just when I was conquering my fear of sharks…

Happy thoughts! Happy thoughts!

Sarah Pennypacker has a new cute website.  I heard she’s working on some new Flat Stanleys.  

stanI had not heard about Flat Stanley…the musical

Jon Scieszka on NPR.  

There is a teacher in San Diego who is selling ad space on tests to make up for the funds he’s not getting from the state.  


I am craving snow.  I wish it snowed a little bit more here.  Sure, snowy mountains to visit are nearby, but I like watching it through the window and playing in the yard.  I grew up in the Rockies, so I associate December with snow.  I don’t miss the dingy melting snowdrifts and the funky slush puddles, but I love the fresh stuff.


Do I have any readers outside of Washington?  Is it snowing where you are?

Hey you guys!

Jaime Temairik is having an art show at North Hill Bakery on Capitol Hill.  The opening is this Friday night, and you can read all the details here.  

In other local weekend goodness, Write-O-Rama is Saturday, and Urban Craft Uprising is Saturday and Sunday.  A whole weekend of art, craft, and arts and crafts!  There’s my weekend agenda for you.  If I see you in all three places I’ll have to have an internal debate on whether you’re a stalker or just someone with great taste.

In other news…..

Elizabeth Law from Egmont is interviewed at Cynsations.

Sara Crowe gives a few examples of queries that worked for her.

MotherReader makes a great list on book pairing for giftgiving.


And last but not least, a pretty solid argument that Emily the Strange is a rip off of Rosamond from Nate the Great.



















Big A little a starts a blog tour of interviews with Judy Blume.

Through the Tollbooth has a great post on Showing vs. Telling.  They say that if you’re buried in the slush, you’re probably doing a lot of telling.  I’m a teller. For example, I just told you I’m a teller.  If you read my blog, I’ve probably showed you, too. sigh.

Editorial Anonymous examines the synopsis.

I have had a $50 gift certificate to Elliott Bay Book Company for seven months.  I’ve been in there a few times since then, but never carrying the 3″x5″ certificate.  I’ve been saving it for a time when I could have a luxurious, kid-free browse and maybe write a little downstairs in the cafe.  I went last night and bought a nice stack of books.  They renovated the downstairs, so it’s no longer the cozy, bookshelf filled coffeeshop that I covet for writing.  Oh, well.  More time in the shed. I had a great time browsing and bought a nice stack of new and used books. I’m reading the The Monsters of Templeton by Lauren Groff first, because it was time for some adult lit.  So far, it’s very engrossing.  I also bought Jon Sciezska’s Knucklehead, Born Confused by Tanua Desai Hidier, a new journal, Al Capone Does My Shirts by Gennifer Choldenko (which I’ve been meaning to read forever) and Flush by Carl Hiaasen (since I gave my other copy away).  It was so fun and indulgent.  Bookstores make good therapy.

What are you doing on the 10th?  Laini Taylor is speaking at the SCBWI WWA meeting on finishing a novel.  She is a delightful person and an excellent speaker, but if that’s not enough for you there will be a cookie contest as well.

Come!  Bring cookies!

My 1st Annual Holiday Gift Guide:

For the friend who would appreciate more noise from their pencil:  The Drawdio Kit.  

For the person who needs a more pleasant kind of paper cut: Nikki McClure stuff

For anyone awesome you want to drop $130 on: You can make a  muppet at FAO Schwartz.  A MUPPET!

For the person who likes to give with the gift you gave: Kiva

For Jaime lovers: A Three Bears print

For everyone: Books! Books! Books!


Think my ideas suck?  Then go browse around for that perfect something this weekend at Urban Craft Uprising.  If you’re not in Seattle, or you just want to stay home try Etsy.  Or make something yourself.




People are painting their hands (via Make).

A few of these links are a week or two old, but I saved them for you so here they are.

Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast featured Robert Neubecker, who illustrated my friend Deb Lund‘s fantastic Monsters on Machines.  

Just One More Book interviewed Writers House agent Rebecca Sherman.

You probably heard about Houghton Mifflin Harcourt freezing acquisitions.  Anastasia Suen reports that the hold doesn’t apply to the Children’s Division, and it’s not that big of a deal.  Good news, but we still know that publishing is hurting.  Buy more books!

MotherReader interviewed Lisa Papademitriou, who will be at the SCBWI WWA conference in May.

I’m obviously having a hard time blogging regularly.  

I always think I’ll be more productive when the weather cools down.  More time indoors for household tasks, writing, crafting- but I’m never as productive as I plan to be.  The kids get sick, company is coming, holidays…. I’ve been reading a lot, and writing a lot.  Just not here.  I’ve been reading blogs, too.  A lot of new blogs from the Comment Challenge.  There are a lot of fabulous blogs out there with good information.  Anything I would have posted was already posted all over the place and it felt redundant.  I think I had blog burnout.

Last but not least, I applaud anyone who attempted NaNoWriMo, or had big goals like 5,000 words a day last month (like Holly and Jolie).  You are inspiring and I applaud you!

I write stories for kids while volunteering as the Assistant Regional Advisor and Conference Coordinator for the western Washington chapter of the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI).

I live in Seattle with my family and a small zoo of animals. I drink copious amounts of coffee and assign complicated life stories to passing strangers. I'm currently working on a middle grade novel.

There's a wee bit more on my website. You can also follow me on twitter.


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