Snooty Books and Reading Ruts

I’ve recently finished all of the books on my kindle. Well, all of the ones that I am going to read anyway. Sometimes a book sounds really good. It might have even won some prizes. It has good reviews and critical acclaim. And then you try to read it and they spend the first two pages talking about why their furniture at home is far superior to the furniture in this filthy place.

Good lord, I got it after the first overwrought sentence. After the second and third, I can see you are a privileged asshole. Can we please move on? No? Then we, sir are over.

Sorry, does that sound bitter?

It’s not often that I put a book down. I used to pride myself on never not finishing a book. Then I decided that I had better things to do with my life than waste it reading snooty books.

(This is where my husband cracks a joke about how many times I’ve read Poison Study in the last three months. )

Snooty books, a definition: books that are technically well-written, but are so well done they have no flavor left. The beauty of the sentences, the characters, the plot, can’t be felt for the difficulty of trudging through words.

I’m all for reading books you really have to tear into, but I’m not into books that lord their greatness over me. I want a book that engages rather than shuns.

The truth is, when I find a really good one, I read it a few times. I read it the first time for the sheer joy. The second time through, I read to break down the characters. Again to look at pacing and plot, etc. etc. Don’t look at me like that, it’s fun, but it leads to reading ruts. I get stuck. Afraid of getting burned by snooty books, or just plain bad books, I have trouble branching out.

I keep thinking I need to start some sort of book swap for high volume readers like myself. It would be something where you trade good books with awesome people, and then when you’re finished, you have someone to geek out about them with.

I have no idea what this sort of swap would look like, but I’m desperate for a bookish community that doesn’t center on reviews. So many online reviews are negative just because they can be. I want to avoid that.

Who’s with me?

Selling Without Fear: Your Branding Journey



This is not a post about how to build your brand. If you are looking for a quick guide to branding, look elsewhere. There are professionals out there who can help you do this a whole lot more effectively than me. But be warned, if you are new to selling, there are no quick fixes. Branding is a journey. When I work with artists, this is the part I pray they have done already, because it makes my job loads easier, and I literally cannot do it for them. I can interpret their brand for my store, but I can’t give them their identity. If you have a clear idea of who you are and what your company does, it makes it a million times easier to sell your work.

This is why you need things like the following:

  • a mission statement
  • a vision statement
  • a logo
  • business cards with your logo on it
  • any pertinent labeling for your product that is consistent with your logo and business cards
  • a website
  • social media accounts that reach the right demographics and a plan for how to reach them
  • and most importantly consistent presentation across all of these
An example of branding: instantly recognizable and consistent photography

An example of branding: instantly recognizable and consistent photography

Full disclosure, to me, this is the scariest part of starting a business. This is the step that takes a lot of reflection and introspection. It takes work. Real work. It is the opposite of doing all that fun creating, but deciding how you represent what you create is just as important as creating it. And yet, this interpretation is also the part that is most often skipped or half-assed. My best guess at why artists-as-entrepreneurs, myself included, have difficulty with this step is because it can be really, really scary.

If building your business were a story, this would be the part where the hero has to confront his demons before he can go on to be victorious. That is how scary I find it. It is like Harry Potter going into the Forbidden Forest to give himself over to Voldemort scary.

meteor shower trex sock yarn

Why do I find this so scary? Because I’ve read a ton of those business branding guides. I’ve got notebooks full of notes on who I think I am and what Tiny Dino Studios could be. What I have never once seen is someone deal with the emotional side of what these guides ask you to do. They ask you to knock down all of your protective barriers. They want you to demolish the walls you’ve built around yourself, take a step back, and examine your true self. They might ask you in ways that don’t feel so navel-gazey, but for each exercise they give, they are looking for an authentic answer. No perfunctory words will do.

You are not going to be good at branding unless you are 100% honest with yourself about what you want your business to be. And if you don’t like yourself, if you are afraid of what you’ll find if you lower defenses, confronting that can be the scariest thing in the world.

jurassic trex sock yarn

It takes guts to fill out one of those brand building guides and mean every word of it. It most likely won’t be quick, and a lot of it probably won’t be fun. Don’t let fear hold you back from tackling this. Just like any business, if you put in the hard work now, it makes your life easier in the long run. Developing your brand is like a good workout, getting up the motivation might be difficult, and the work is hard while you’re in it, but the way you feel stronger afterward is worth it.

It’s OK to wrestle with yourself. It’s OK to not like yourself very much or feel inadequate or scared. It’s OK to ask for help. What’s not OK is giving up before you’ve even started. No one can do this for you. They can guide you. They can coach you, but in the end, it’s just you and Voldemort.

If it feels like too much, check out my blog and business tips pinterest board. It’s full of people who break marketing and business planning down step-by-step. I’ve also found that just because the advice is for writers or bloggers or etsy sellers, doesn’t mean it won’t be compatible with your business.

Have fun. Grow. Sell!

Selling Without Fear: Believe You Are an Entrepreneur

Believe banner

Welcome to Selling Without Fear. This is my first foray into writing about specialty retail, but I’ve been working in the field for the last ten years. My particular niche in specialty retail is seeking out up-and-coming artists in my home state and getting their work into stores. While my perspective is colored by working as a buyer for a brick and mortar store, my niche is so precise, that I meet a lot of artists who are just starting out. (For brevity’s sake, we’ll call them artists, but this applies to you, reader friend, no matter what type of work you are trying to sell.)


One of my early yarn displays from 2012

Imagine a scenario with me. You are at your first art fair. You have a table and a display and prices on your pieces. You know your pieces rock. You are confindant in your work and you are ready to sell. Your prices seem fair, your display looks nice, and you have put in a ton of work to be there. Then, someone like me walks by. A buyer. She recognizes your genius immediately. She asks for your wholesale price sheet. If you have business cards? A website? An facebook page? She might tell you that your prices are too low. She might even say that she’d like to work with you, but if you don’t have a least one, though preferably all four of the things listed above, chances are, she’s not calling you on Monday. (Or in my case, in two or three Mondays, because that’s far behind I usually am.)


Another early yarn display

Suddenly, all of that work you did to get to the fair doesn’t seem like enough. There’s so much more to do to, and it’s not nearly as fun as making things. And honestly, it’s a little intimidating. Do you really need all of that stuff to be successful? Maybe not, but your chances improve a whole helluva lot if you do.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been in a meeting with an artist who wants to sell with me and the artist has said, “I don’t really know what to sell for, I’m just an artist.” No. You are not.

If you are an artist selling your work, you are a business owner.

If you want to be successful in selling your work, you need to act like a business owner. Pull on your entrepreneur boots and start thinking beyond your product.

Yes, your product is the basis of your business, but if you don’t make it easy for shoppers (the public) and buyers (people like me who are stocking store) both to buy your products, you are doing yourself a disservice. You need a wholesale price sheet. A facebook page and possibly a website. And for the love of God, please at least have a business card with your email address on it. One that you check.

Why do you need these thing? Because they make you think about your branding.

My super simple logo

My super simple logo.

Brand. Another scary businessy sounding word. Good news is, when you’re a solo entrepreneur, a maker of handmade things, designer, a seller of one of a kind goods, words, food, etc. more often than not, you are your brand, and your products are a representation of you.

Business cards are you at a glance. They should represent your style, and tell me how to contact you and where I can find you online.

A wholesale price sheet shows that you know the value of your work down to the last penny, that you are confidant in your prices, and that you consider yourself a professional, not a hobbyist. (It doesn’t matter if you are a hobbyist. The world doesn’t need to know that. When you are selling, you are a professional.)

A facebook page and/or website is your way to connect with an audience. Share with them. Intrigue them. Let them know where you will be or if you’re developing new products. Tell them your story. The whole point of buying handmade is to buy something with a story, to give a gift with a tangible connection. Give your audience that connection.

We’re going to talk about each of these things in turn, starting with branding, then moving into pricing, and then confidence building over the next few weeks. Ask me questions, leave comments, argue with me, and feel free to email me at tinydinostudios at gmail dot com.

Nanowrimo 2015

(All of you checking back for the start of my series on specialty retail tips I promise you, it is coming. Every time I sit down to write about, I realize there is more and more I need to cover to be truly thorough. Honestly, I could write a book on the subject. Maybe someday I will. For now, I’m just going to geek out over writing books.)


Nanowrimo kicks off in just under two weeks, and I couldn’t be more stoked. I haven’t been writing regularly since I finished the latest draft last year’s Nano project at the end of September, and I don’t know what to do with myself. I’ve been reading like crazy, tinkering with the novel project, working on blog stuff, but really, I have been counting down the days to when I can sit down and lose myself in a new project.

At this point, most blog posts I’ve read celebrating the imminence of November usually give tips about prepping your story and how to develop your characters. All that’s well and good, but it’s not how I do things. I can’t outline shit. Never could, not even a term paper. I’m a total pantser. Writing for me is about sitting down and doing it. I discover my plot and my characters along the way. I’m totally one of those writers who talks about their characters like they are real people instead of figments of my imagination. Which means that I have no clue what sort of story I’m going to be writing come November 1st, because I don’t even know if my main character is a man or a woman. A criminal or a saint. A vagabond or a homebody. But I am itching to find out.

With nothing more than a starting sentence and a vague notion that it would be fun if there was a brothel and possibly some time travel, I have no idea where my story is going. I’m not giving myself any rules to follow. The project I’ve been working on for the past year was set in present-day in my home town. It should be no surprise, that for this new project, I have no clue, though I might pull a Harlan Ellison and call every place Topeka. It might be a cattle town in the past, or an outpost in the future. I’m sure I’ll know for sure by November 2nd or 3rd.

Do I sound crazy?

Once upon a time I used to think Nanowrimo was a little crazy. Writing 50,000 words in 30 days was insurmountable. Especially without a plan. I was lucky to get a couple hundred words out each day between work and kids and having no time to settle down and think about a story.

But then last year, I sat down and I did it.

That’s all it took. Sitting down and committing to getting 1667 words on the page each day.

They weren’t good words. I’ve changed most of them in the ensuing ten months, but it doesn’t matter. Out of those 50,000 words, I got a story. And I have spent most days since I finished putting just as much work into my manuscript as I did during November when I was composing my shitty first draft, and it hasn’t even been a sacrifice.

Join me this year! Do the insurmountable! Be my writing buddy! I’m tinydino. Find me! Keep track of my progress! (And if you’re curious enough, you might be able to find an excerpt from the (revised) first chapter of the novel from last year.)

Happy Nanoing!

A New Direction

our first sunflower this year

our first sunflower this year

For the last five years, I have been struggling to find a direction for this blog. I’ve bounced around from yarn and knitting and crafty things to a little bit of self-discovery and a whole lotta lackluster this-is-what-i-think-i-should-be-doing. A couple of times I thought I should be a freelance writer, but I have the same problem with that as I do with working at my day job. The work pays. It’s distracting, sometimes even exciting, but it’s not for me. I am putting all of that effort in so it can be a feather in someone else’s cap. I’m vain. I want all the feathers.

I’ve known my whole life that I wanted to create my own career, but I didn’t know yet what that meant. I knew that I wanted to make Tiny Dino Studios into a creative place, one that motivates and inspires and make’s it’s readers all around feel good while giving them something to think about. Sounds nice, right? Vague, but pleasant, like sitting on the porch drinking coffee on a foggy fall morning. Likable, but lacking in substance.

For a long time, I’ve lacked clarity and a plan because the energy to cut through the fog just wasn’t there. That coffee only got me so far as the porch rail, trying to peer through the mist and make out my hazy goals somewhere out there in the future. I knew my goals and how to get there, but I hadn’t found the mechanism to get me there.

Over the past few years, both in my person and professional life, I have met too many small business owners who have the opposite problem. They know they want to sell. They know their passion, but they don’t know how to make it work. Something is stopping them. Fear. Exhaustion. Trepidation about where to start. All of the above. And because I’ve worked in retail for over ten years, I get asked the same questions over and over again from new and experienced business owners alike.

After awhile, it only made sense to start writing my answers down and share them with anyone who could put them to use. While I could talk to you about why you need to stop, drop, and figure your wholesale pricing all day, I also feel that insight into specialty retail, valuable though I hope it is, does not make a whole person, business, or blog. The things that inspire and engage outside of our business endeavors fuel us and help us succeed, and I want to include them to.

The knitting and the occasional patterns won’t go away. The odd other endeavor might pop up every now and then. I’d love to get a discussion on books going. I read and reread and devour books of all sorts, so expect to see some more talk that way popping up. And there are possibilities for so much more.

Tell me what you want to read about? What’s going to engage you, reader friend?


new studio wide

I have been on a journey for the last ten months. Most of this adventure has taken place inside google docs and 3 or 4 manila folders full of scratch paper. I have written my novel 5 times over and finally landed on a draft that I can make into something. The feeling is sublime., and I have taken a few days to revel in it. I sent it to my beta readers, had a drink to toast it, and gave myself the reward of Maria V. Snyder’s Glass Series. (I have devoured them. Seriously. We need to talk about book more often, reader friends.)

This journey of mine, however, has not just been about writing my novel. I have been on a highly introspective, speculative path that’s had some confidence building detours. I won’t say I’m completely done with it all, but I feel like I could wear this shirt honestly, and get some shit done.

If you’ve stuck with me over the last couple of years, there’s been no surprise that I didn’t know what the hell I’ve wanted to do. I’ve been bouncing around from one crafty infatuation to the next, without ever really settling on anything. One thing about writing my novel that helped me was that all of my passions kept popping up. That book incorporates so much that I love–coffee, textiles, modern small business strategy, men’s fashions. (True confession, I say I subscribe to the New York Times for the book review, and the comprehensive news, but the only thing I ever get through cover to cover is the style magazine.) Through the writing process, and examining what worked for my characters, I was also somehow able to wrestle out what gives me the most joy.

Strangely enough, they are the two things I do the most already: writing and retail. I don’t know why it took me so long to figure out that I should put the two together and write about retail. Except that I am really excellent at getting in my own way.

Comical metaphorical stumbling aside, I have a head full of specialty retail knowledge, and if I don’t get some of it out on the page, I’m in danger of exploding it all over the place. And let’s be honest, there’s a time and place for telling someone they need to reexamine their pricing strategy. (But hey, if you wanna talk about pricing, check back tomorrow!) Meaning, that you, reader friends, can expect to read some tricks of the trade right here.

I am excited. Are you excited?

wool rainbow

So what does all this self-helpy, soul-examining, navel-gazing have to do with destashing? It means I need to transform Tiny Dino Studios from a fiber studio to a multipurpose studio. There is a ton of awesome stuff that I’ve basically stopped using, and I want you to have it.

Through October 31st, my etsy shop will be open and all the yarns and spinning fibers I have stashed away will be up for grabs at 60-75% off. That is a steal of a deal on some really high quality yarn. I will be updating the shop on Saturday mornings with everything I can find through the end of October or as long as supplies hold out.

Mr Drum Carder

In addition to everything on etsy, I am selling my drum carder. I bought him right before I started to lose my enthusiasm for selling yarn, so I’ve made maybe 12 batts on the guy in the last couple years. (I have cleaned him up since I took this photo.) The card cloth is 120tpi/90tpi. I’m asking $200, and I’ll thrown in a bag of loose locks and fluff and stuff. Local only, I’d prefer not to ship this guy. Email me or leave a comment if you’re interested.  Drum Carder Sold!

Check out etsy, and hang around for what’s next!

A List

1. It’s been six weeks since my miscarriage. I am 100% healthy and feeling pretty good in general. Thank you everyone for your sympathies. Even if I wasn’t in the headspace to talk too much, it really meant a lot to hear from you.

2. This summer has been nothing but change. On top of the above, my husband and I are both working outside the home. The only other time this has happened in our entire relationship was while I was pregnant Felix, who is now in daycare. It’s a huge transition that we’re all still wrapping our heads around.

3. Because of all this change and upheaval, my attention span has been short. The only thing that I have spent any significant time on has been my novel.

4. I started my fourth big revision to my original Nanowrimo story last week. I’ve come to the conclusion that my method for writing novels is the most arduous and slow that there is–you know, besides not writing at all.

5. Once I gave myself permission to write and rewrite and let anything happen in my universe that I wanted to, I might have got carried away doing just that. I explored every nook and cranny, and it got me up to almost 140,000 words. That’s way too long!

6. Cutting 50,000 to 60,000 words sounds like a big job. That’s a whole Nanowrimo! But so far, I am having a blast revising it down, keeping on subject, keeping just to what’s important. That was the valuable part of all that exploration over the last few months.

7. I miss blogging.

8. My knitting and fiber arts have been all over the place. I have only finished one project since April: a toy giraffe for Athrun for his birthday.

9. I’ve been posting knitting photos to instagram and twitter. I’m tinydinostudios on both.

10. Have you seen what they’re doing on etsy right now? They are running a crowd-sourcing pilot program, and it’s awesome. I was wanting this exact thing the entire time my shop was open to allow me to buy a whole clip of wool and send it to the mill. Ah well. I’ll pass the love along.

11. I was lucky enough to stumble upon the campaign for Sarah Welch Pottery before it was over and will have a new ceramic travel mug headed my way in a couple of months. It’s worth the wait, I’ll drink my coffee iced out of glass until then.

12. Yes, I am enough of a coffee snob that I don’t like plastic or stainless coffee mugs. One retains old rancid coffee flavor. One makes the coffee taste like metal. No, I am not delusional. It’s really there.

13. I just finished a honking long book–about 1000 pages–and I don’t know what to read next. Any suggestions?


A week ago, I was told I was going to have a miscarriage.

(I hadn’t told you I was pregnant yet. I wasn’t hiding it, just wasn’t quite ready to share yet. I had just decided to when the spotting started.)

I knew this already. In the time it took to run all the blood tests from when I first started spotting to when I got the results, the miscarriage had already started. I was bleeding, not a lot, just the right amount. It was exactly like the midwife told me it would be.

It wasn’t bad, but I stayed home from work. It was more comfortable to be home with my boys. I pitted cherries from the farm and watched Death Comes to Pemberley on Netflix. I made a pie and did some light gardening. I swept the floors and read, all the while, trying not to mind that I was flushing away a pregnancy bit by bit.

By Friday, I was feeling pretty good. I thought the worst was behind me, that it could only go uphill from there. I was going go back to work on Monday. I spent the morning bouncing back and forth between light housework and writing a new chapter in my book, filling a hole in characterization. I felt I was on the mend.

I showered. The bleeding had picked up again, but I wasn’t concerned. A little bit of heavy bleeding was to be expected with this sort of thing. Still, it was time to pick Athrun up, and I made Brock drive, just in case. When I got out of the car to fetch Athrun from his grandparents’ house, I knew something was wrong. I had never felt bleeding that heavy as it was when that moment when I stood up.

Not wanting to alarm my husband too much, I just told him we needed to go home instead of the grocery store, like we had been planning. We hadn’t been out of the house more than 20 minutes, but I was overflowing the large pad I was wearing. It was scary, so I locked myself in the bathroom and called the midwife. She told me to get to the emergency room.

The bleeding didn’t slow down. We waited for more than 3 hours to be seen, with me limping, doubled over with labor-like cramps, to the bathroom every 30 minutes (or less) to change my pad, sickened at the alarming amount of red I was leaving in the toilet.

By the time I was seen, my lips were the same shade as the rest of my face and my blood pressure was dangerously low. I nearly passed out when they led me to my room. They put me on fluids. They examined me. They waited. The bleeding slowed, but not enough.

I ended up having a D&C in the middle of the night. The hospital was dark and quiet. So different from when we arrived and the ER was full of paramedics rushing patients in from ambulances, and police officers standing guard outside various rooms.

The operation was like a vacation. I got to sleep (anesthesia induced, but still, it was sleep). I got more fluids. When I was awake, they finally gave me some food and something to drink, and it was like heaven.

It was only about an hour til dawn when we got home, and I have spent most of the last three days sleeping. I am still pale as a ghost. Until last night, I was still dizzy if I was on my feet for longer than a minute. I can’t pick up my baby and I can’t drive, but slowly, I am recovering from the blood loss.

My husband has been doing everything. He is a superhero.

My miscarriage has been far more traumatic than labor ever was. And I’m still frightened that it isn’t over yet. I’m frightened of bleeding, even though it is such an essential part of being a woman. I don’t know where to go from here, but talking about this feels important.

Kicking off the 2015 Garden: Indoor Planting

Garden planting time might be my favorite time of year. The weather is finally turning warm, it’s pleasant to be outside again, and the whole world feels full of potential. This March has been warm and sunny so far, and in a fit of vitamin-d influenced optimism, last weekend, I started our 2015 garden.

Our first seedling of the year was this little spinach sprout. I planted three pots worth of spinach, which are living in our dining room window. I have three more pots to plant next week, to hopefully keep greens in rotation most of the spring. We didn’t have much luck planting greens in the ground last year. A combination of too much clay and ants made the leafy parts slow to grow, but the plants quick to bolt, so I’m sticking with pots this year.

I am attempting grow all of our summer vegetables from seed this year. We spent a ton on seedlings last year, and this year I’m hoping to grow more plants. We currently have about two dozen little tomato seedlings, and I’m hoping to put them all in the ground.

Last year was a disaster four our herbs. We got a late start on them and the soil in our yard was so poor, the only thing that took was the mint. I missed fresh basil so much, that this year I’m hedging my bets and have a whole pallet of basil seeds sprouting.

Basil seedlings are so cute and determined looking, I find myself peering into the tray multiple times a day, just admiring their fortitude.

If our Earth boxes are thawed enough, because last week they were still big blocks of frozen dirt, I’m going to bring them inside and start our first rounds of root vegetables. We also had trouble with these in the ground last year, they grew, but they were slow to take off and by the time they were sizable, they were also bitter. The ones we ate small, however, were delicious.

I’m hoping that planting the spring vegetables inside this year will give us more opportunity to get the yard ready for summer veggies and herbs and flowers. Our soil is so full of clay, I could take up ceramics and never need to buy it. We’re planning on working the compost we’ve been making since we moved in a year and a half ago into the soil and building up a few inches above the ground–we did this last year, but we decided we needed to go a few inches higher than that.

What are you planting this year?

Some Links for Tuesday

It’s been kind of a rough week for us, so I’m sharing some of the things I’ve been enjoying lately and taking a rest. Have fun, and feel free to share some of the stuff making you happy this week.

1. I received a wholesale catalog from The Unemployed Philosopher’s Guild at the day job today. I can’t sell anything out of it in my stores, but there was something on every page I could see selling spectacularly in some other type of shop. See especially, planet plates, disappearing liberties mug, and Freudian slippers. What’s not to love? (There was also a Miyamoto Musashi plush doll that doesn’t appear to be available on their website yet, but how cool is it that there’s a Musashi plush? It doesn’t look like Toshiro Mifune–who played Musashi–which is a little disappointing, but I might have to buy it anyway someday.)

2.I don’t think I can eat cheese anymore. It’s sad, because I love cheese, but lately, it makes me feel sick and twisty on the inside. Enjoy your cheese while you’ve got it, people. (Yeah, there’s no link here. Please visit your local dairy instead.)

3. Right now I’m knitting Buckhorn Cowl with the current PFA KAL. It’s a fun, quick knit. I should cast it off tonight or tomorrow.

4. When I finish with the cowl, I’m going to swatch for the Mesmeric Cardigan. It might be the most complicated sweater I will ever knit.

5. Did you know my husband also has a blog? He’s building a video game called Dig, Robot, Dig!

6. Since my husband gets me, he sometimes sends me stills from Toshiro Mifune movies while I’m at work. Here are two of his latest, from Scandal



(Have I ever mentioned that I studied Japanese in high school and college?)

7. This led him to starting another tumblr of Mifune gifs. They are magnificent.