Tell me about your background. Where you grew up, where you live now, education, work experience? Share some interesting things about yourself that we should know about.
I’m a California girl through and through. Born in San Francisco, raised in Santa Rosa, educated at UCLA (English Lit), married in a tiny town called Occidental. However, I’ve lived out of state, too. After graduating UCLA I headed east to make my mark in the NYC magazine world. I wanted to work for Conde Nast, of course. I ended up at a large PR firm and then moved back to California after a couple of years to take a job at Entrepreneur Magazine, where I stayed for 8 years. There I learned the art of interviewing and pulling together the various elements of a story that made it deep and interesting. (We called them “meatloaf” features.)
For seven years I was privileged to be the editor of Victorian Homes and Romantic Homes. It was there I discovered my love of historic architecture, and I became fascinated with outbuildings. This was the connection to my ultimate role: author of books about she sheds.
What inspired you to write this book? What is the story behind the story?
Many years after I left VH and RH — to work in book packaging and launch my own culinary blog, toquemag — a former colleague had also left the magazines to work in the book world, at Quarto. She was at an editorial meeting where the conversation was all around the new she shed phenomenon. Someone asked if there was any good writer out there who knew about she sheds, and my friend suggested me. I signed on with Quarto to write She Sheds: A Room of Your Own and then about 18 months later my proposal for a second she sheds book was accepted. (She Sheds Style: Make Your Space Your Own) This was extremely exciting as I knew how difficult it was to get a contract with a traditional publisher. I worked very hard and delivered what I consider two excellent books! So far the two books have sold more than 30,000 copies. Not bad for a niche home and garden book series!
What has been your biggest challenge or obstacle?
Writing a book is a tough slog no matter what kind or genre. For the sheds books, visuals were critical. This meant I also needed to acquire 150+ good-quality photos of all the sheds I featured and handled all of the required licensing paperwork, W9, invoicing, etc. from shed owners and photographers. We know English majors don’t like paperwork. 🙂
The second book was even more complex as I needed 175+ photos and 23 DIY projects that I had to produce (either myself or with other DIYers) and acquire rights to. So I worked harder than I ever have in my life, including late nights and weekends. Through that time, my beloved brother and a beloved sister died, making it excruciating to even think about work. Looking back I don’t even know how I got through it. But I guess we always do, somehow.
What has been your biggest “aha” moment or success?
I am happy to say that she sheds have become so popular I decided to make a whole business out of it. I met the greatest friend and colleague, Sabrina Contreras, and together we launched She Shed Living in 2018. The company is all about women finding their space and their creative inspiration, whether it’s in a backyard studio or a spare room or anywhere else. Our products — the books, a line of exterior paints called She Shades, garden supplies, spa products, lapel pins, potting benches and jewelry — is paired with our services as custom shed designers! We work with a company in central California that builds the sheds with reclaimed lumber and vintage windows. Sabrina and I work with the clients to design the walls and get the site prepared for installation. We also help with interior design if the client wants that. We are also building a membership through Facebook and ultimately through our website. It’s all very exciting — hectic, but exciting!
What authors do you like to read? What books have had a strong influence on you or your writing?
Well, I am VP of Publications for the Jane Austen Society of North America so…I read a lot of Jane Austen. Over and over. I am also a very big fan of the Laura Ingalls Wilder books and even wrote a screenplay around De Smet and Laura (set in contemporary time). John Steinbeck breathes the essence of California upon me whenever I open one of his books. I love all of his work. I’m not sure who has had an influence on my writing from these wonderful authors, though. I will tell you that Dominique Browning, who was the Editor In Chief of House & Garden for many years, greatly influenced me when I was writing my own editors notes in VH and RH. I love her voice and her poetic prose.
Do you write every single day? Any writing rituals?
Ugh. No writing rituals. I’m so busy building my business that I haven’t written anything more substantial than a monthly e-newsletter in nearly a year. And you know what? It is painful. I need to get back to my writing because that is what I’m best at. Through all kinds of badly chosen jobs I’ve had over the years I finally realized that I needed to stick to what I do best. I hope to get a third book deal, around outdoor living, when I get a chance to send out proposals. Then I’ll make me some rituals, which will definitely include coffee.
What are your interests outside of writing?
Through working on the she sheds projects I discovered I really like building and DIY projects. I’m improving my skills with power tools, including using a table saw. I love to sew and LOVE to read. My own little she shed is strictly for reading. I enjoy travel and just returned from a two-week trip to the UK with my husband and 3 children (22, 20, and 16).
Share some tips for other Authors or Aspiring Authors: What would you do differently? What would you do the same? Please share anything you think would be beneficial to those reading this.
I am a big fan of self-publishing. If I didn’t get that incredibly lucky break of knowing someone in the business, I would have definitely learned more about self-publishing and going that route. I’m having trouble (fears) finishing my screenplay so I wish I would have focused on that more. It’s not too late, though. I never feel like it’s too late, until I’m dead. We all as writers want to leave something valuable of ourselves behind. I’m no different. That’s our biggest privilege as well as our biggest challenge: to produce our absolute best and most truthful writings.