Archives for May 2011

The Bark – Introducing Bailey and author Leslie Muir

Bailey, who munches flies and loves cookies, and still finds time to help his owner, author Leslie Muir, write her picture books.

Human friends, I’m so excited. Today, writer-gurrl posted an interview with author Leslie Muir, whose new picture book, BARRY B. WARY, is now available from Hyperion Books (and Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and other bookstores). Click the “blog” tab at the top of this page, and then scroll down (you’ll see Bailey’s picture again; that’s just the odd way “The Bark” works, since it’s a kind of blog-within-a-blog). Then you can read Leslie’s comments about the writing process and about Barry, who is a hungry little spider. Hmmmm… I’ve eaten a couple of spiders, come to think of it. Hope none of them were related.

I know you’ll enjoy Leslie’s story and her insights on publishing. As for me, Miss Paws…well, I’m enjoying looking at handsome Bailey, who helped Leslie write the book. Sigh….think he’s got a gurrl-friend?

Miss Paws


Barry B. Wary, by Leslie Muir – A Picture Book for Bug Lovers

Barry B. Wary, by Leslie Muir (Hyperion Books)

My son is grown up now, but sometimes I still wish I had a little one around the house, so I’d have an excuse to buy more picture books. I love the stories and amazing artwork.

Today I’ve got a treat for those of you who also love picture books–and it’s an even bigger treat, if you’re an aspiring children’s writer (like me!).  Leslie Muir, author of BARRY B. WARY, recently spent a little time answering my questions about her brand-new book and about the writing process.

Leslie, who is also a poet, sold the manuscript for BARRY, along with two other manuscripts, about three years ago–and yes, it took that long for the first one to be published. The good news is that Leslie’s other books are coming out soon, and in the meantime, she’s sold a fourth. (Big congrats, Leslie.)

And just who is BARRY B. WARY? He’s a hungry little spider who dines on click beetles and fireflies, as spiders do, but his dining habits leave him a little short on friends. Then he spots a passing butterfly, and….well, you’ll just have to read the story. Until you do, enjoy this visit with Leslie!

1. Leslie, how did you get into writing about bugs? Does this have anything to do with Bailey, your German shepherd, who enjoys munching on flies?

Well, my dog is a highly skilled fly catcher, but he was not the inspiration for this particular story. (German Shepherds are very sensitive, so please don’t tell him). I do find bugs and spiders endlessly fascinating. And their funny little features and quirky personalities make great fodder for picture book tales.

This is Bailey, Leslie's dog. Handsome, isn't he? Leslie says he's a good fly-catcher.

2.  Are your sons into bugs? What kind of stories do they like to read (or hear read aloud, if they’re very young)?

My nine and ten-year-old sons are into anything that flies kamikaze-like or thrives in dirt.

Much to my chagrin, my boys have moved away from picture books—though they still secretly enjoy them. I refuse to believe otherwise! They are both into middle grade fantasy (Tolkien is big with my youngest right now) and they adore graphic novels.

3. What made you decide to write BARRY B. WARY in rhyme? We know you’re a poet, but don’t publishers say they don’t buy many rhyming picture books anymore?

When I started this story, I was a member of an online poetry group, so most everything I wrote during that period was in rhyme. Because it’s difficult to do well, rhyme is always a harder sell. But fear not! Publishers are still buying rhyming stories. They just have to be exceptional.

4. Was this book hard to write? How many revisions did you go through?

BARRY B. WARY was originally a short poem and eventually evolved into a picture book. There were many revisions along the way. And in order to sell the story, I was asked to totally revamp the ending. My original ending was predictably sweet and romantic, but my editor thought it would be more interesting if Barry remained true to his darker, carnivorous nature. She was right. Last week, I read it to over 1.000 elementary school students and their reactions were comical.

5. How hard do you think it is for aspiring picture book writers to be published? Picture books almost seem like the hardest kinds of books to sell nowadays.

The picture book market is tough right now and publishers are responding by being very selective. Even proven authors are finding the waters difficult to tread. However, I remain a staunch believer that a worthy story will eventually find a home. These days, it might just take a little longer.

Leslie Muir, author of BARRY B. WARY

6. Any advice for wanna-be writers of children’s books?

Read widely. You never know where those precious jewels of inspiration will come from. Learn the craft and connect with fellow writers, editors and agents by joining SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators) and attending conferences. Join a critique group and let your stories be heard by objective ears. And finally, listen. Use constructive criticism as a tool to fine-tune your work.

7. What are you working on next?

Right now I’m in the middle of a picture book story about a mischievous (and highly annoying) fairy who decides to go to school. I’m having a lot of fun with this one—probably because it’s not in rhyme. : )




Finding an old road

Author Julia Cameron has a quote in her best-selling book, The Artist’s Date Book, that I like very much:  “Through morning pages, we see what obstacles impede us, what roads are open to us.”

The “morning pages” she refers to are three handwritten pages that she says you should write every morning, before you do anything else. It doesn’t matter what you write, according to Julia, who teaches creativity classes for all kinds of artists. The only thing that matters is to write.  The idea is to get past that critical internal editor that most of us have, the ones that whispers, you can’t do this. You’re no good. No one will ever care about what you write, draw, paint, think, do or say……

That voice is powerful. But there is another Voice you can learn to hear, too, one that says, I am for you. You are enough, and you are loved.

“Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls.” ~ Jer. 6:16, NIV

(with thanks to Lucy Mercer,, for a lovely walk in her woods, which are pictured in this image)

Come Messy

Recently I’ve been working on our back deck. The deck is about 15 years old now, weather-battered and sun-worn, and I’ve gotten tired of looking at the bleached boards and popped-up nails. So I’ve been hammering, and I’ve put out lots of flowers that I hope will attract butterflies–and distract human visitors from seeing how bad the old deck really is.

I spent hours sanding the old paint and rust off a set of outdoor furniture we have, too, so I could re-paint the table and chairs, to give us a nice place to sit in the evenings. I bought fabric to make new seat cushions. It’s weather-resistant, and it’s really pretty, with a chocolate brown background, and  lemon yellow and cream-colored flowers.

The table has a glass top, which I scrubbed and cleaned, and I thought, when everything’s finished, I’ll put a nice candle or lantern on the tabletop.


And then —this happened:

Yep. I dropped the paint.  All over the already awful-looking deck. This is just one spot. Amazing, how far a half-empty bucket of paint can go!

It’s going to take a lot of—well, I don’t know what it takes to get oil-based paint off of wood. Whatever it is, I’m sure it won’t be easy.

Don’t you hate it when you’re trying hard, and things seem to be going okay, but everything winds up in a mess?

At least this reminded me that no matter how hard we try, we’re never going to be perfect. God loves us anyway.

So I’m thinking, it’s okay. The paint will come off. Or it won’t come off. Jesus says, Don’t worry about things. Rest in Me. Come to Me, even if you come messy.

“I will sing aloud of your steadfast love…” Psalm 88:13










Endless Ocean…Endless Love

Gulf Shores tide

The ocean has such a timeless feel, doesn’t it? It’s one of those places that makes me aware of how fleeting our lives are. We’re here a short time, but the tides wash over the sand in a kind of endless dance orchestrated by the moon.

And who hangs the moon that pulls the tides?

Talk about timeless….talk about eternal.

“…there is none like You, O Lord…great is Your love toward me….You have delivered me.” Psalm 86: 8-13, NIV

Even Miracles

miracles sign

I almost bought this little wooden sign at a gift shop the other day–and then I thought, wait–I don’t need to spend $15 to be reminded of this!

I do believe in the kind of miracles that can happen in the wink of an eye, but I also believe those are rare indeed nowadays. That doesn’t mean they don’t happen. It just means that God usually works through ordinary ways, and ordinary people, to accomplish what we need and ask for.

While we might like to have our heart’s desires in a –well, in a heartbeat–there’s much to be said for learning patience and practicing grace. Hmmm…maybe that’s part of the miracle…

Romans 5:4, NIV: “…endurance produces character, and character produces hope.”

Mother’s Day

Happy Mother’s Day!

The Bark – Happy Mother’s Day to All Our Moms

miss paws meets some baby kittens

Miss Paws wishes every mom a Happy Mother’s Day–even those of a different species!

Sign of the times

I’ve got to admit:  when I first thought about posting this sign on my blog, I wondered what kind of reaction it would get.

Would come across as ironic? I mean, the world’s a mess these days.

Even on a small scale, most of us deal with all kinds of problems, like broken washing machines, surly teenagers, sickness, more debts than our paychecks can cover–you name it.

I thought people might see this and say, “Oh, sure. It’s a day in paradise somewhere. But not here ”

But then I remembered the royal wedding, and how happy Kate and William looked. They celebrated their marriage in lavish style, expecting most people to share in their joy. And you know what? I think most of us really did, even those of us whose homes don’t cost as much as that fabulous ring.

In the end, I don’t think paradise is about “stuff” at all, or even Jimmy Buffet-type beaches and ocean views and sailboats.

Look around. There are butterflies floating around, even over the weeds. If you get up early in the morning, you can hear a free concert, performed by your local songbirds.  The sun is warm, and right this minute, it’s coaxing little seeds to burst through the soil and grow into ripe tomatoes and hot peppers and crunchy lettuce. All for you. All for me.

Miracles. Everywhere.

Yeah. I’m okay with that sign. Are you?


Just You and Me, Kid

two sandpipers on beach “Two are better than one,
because they have a good return for their work:

If one falls down,
his friend can help him up.”

Ecc. 4-9, NIV
I’m just back from a quick trip to Gulf Shores, Alabama, where I snapped the

picture of these two little sandpipers running along the beach. They reminded

me of the Bible verse above, maybe because this was a lonely stretch of sand

and they seemed to be sticking close together.

A friend is a blessing!