OAKLAND -- Raised by a sociologist-turned-novelist/playwright father and a poet/playwright mother, Oakland-based Dashka Slater was raised, nurtured and blossomed -- as a writer.
She's been a journalist and a fiction writer, including her recently released picture book, "Dangerously Ever After."
Even at the age of 5, she recalled, she was precociously literate, having learned to read while the family lived abroad and playmates were scarce.
"I carried around a little book of Shakespeare Sonnets," she said, scrounging through bookshelves in her home to find the book. Opening the jacket, she laughed at the inscription: "I wrote, 'Dashka, to me' and signed it 'Shakespeare.'"
Married to Cliff Baker, an English and history teacher at St. Paul's Episcopal School, she earned a degree in conservation and resource studies from UC Berkeley but hardly dreamed of anything other than writing.
After college, she worked at a variety of jobs -- secretary, tofu demonstrator, house cleaner.
"I even had a top secret job where the people I worked for went into a room and couldn't be reached. I typed numbers I didn't understand and never knew what they were doing in there," she said.
Her ability to accept and even chuckle at a mystery is indicative of her taste in literature. While she admires classical writers such as Charles Dickens and Jane Austen for their keen observations and provocative characters, an emotional story with a bit of
"Rebecca West -- I can't get over how hilarious she is," she said. "And Maile Meloy, Sarah Waters, David Mitchell, Angela Carter ... should I stop?"
It was actually Milo, her 13-year old son, who planted the seed that grew into her latest book title.
"He came home with a story about a queen who wanted to plant roses but ended up with noses instead," Slater said. "I pounded him to write it, but when he wouldn't, he graciously permitted me to write it myself."
Next was finding an illustrator. Valeria Decampo was selected.
"We had to find an artist who could be both dark and sweet. And do the botanical element," she said.
Although Slater thinks in pictures while writing, she said the images have now faded away, leaving only satisfaction with Decampo's renditions. When not writing children's picture books, Slater leaps into journalism -- and swimming pools.
"Exercise is the missing ingredient in every writer's life," she said. "I often solve problems while hiking, cycling and swimming."
She also makes lists of ideas.
"There are three or four on my desk right now. I was just in my office discovering little treasures. Like this one -- a file of note cards for three novels I had completely forgotten I wanted to write." she said.
Slater is attached to Twitter, believing the 140-character limit helps her write effectively.
Despite the fact that her online workshops place the focus on her, instead of on the students, she cherishes the web's expansive reach.
"They come from all over the world," she said.
The readers enlarge Slater's sense of community and prove the premise at the core of her life's work -- that writing is the meaning of life.
What: Dashka Slater reads from her new picture book, "Dangerously Ever After" for children ages 5-8
When: 4 p.m., Saturday
Where: Mrs. Dalloway's, 2904 College Ave., Berkeley
Tickets: $3 per person and may be used toward book purchase
Information: Call Mrs. Dalloway's at 510-704-8222 to reserve your spot at the craft table or email firstname.lastname@example.org.