Mark HoldenThanks for visiting. I live in Seattle with my family. I taught third grade for sixteen years and love to create and enjoy children’s books. I also like to ride my bicycles, read books, listen to great music, and hang out with my family.

Have a look around.

A Story I Wrote At Age Seven

Childhood Favorites:

Pet: Cindy – best dog ever, she liked popcorn, carrots, and running fast on the beach.

Vacations:  Camping mid-winter on Oregon coast and finding a glass ball on the post-storm beach, hikes with dad in Boy Scouts, long road trips across the country, catching crawfish, and trout at Fishhawk Lake.

Snack:  Popcorn – by the handful and at a quick pace. This still applies.

First bike:  An old yellow banana-seated Schwinn that my dad later converted into a dirt bike with mag wheels. Sweet.

Books:  The Mouse and the Motorcycle, The Phantom Tollbooth, Chronicles of Narnia, Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of Nimh.

Authors I Admire: Kate DiCamillo, Rebecca Stead, Jason Reynolds, Jerry Spinelli, Linda Sue Park, Sharon Creech, Kwame Alexander, Pam Munoz Ryan, E.B. White, Kimberly Brubaker Bradley, Jeff Zentner. There are many more, including picture book creators (Javaka Steptoe, Mac Barnett, Jacqueline Woodson), but these are some biggies in regard to writers. I read a lot of adult literary fiction, nonfiction, and poetry, too.

How I Got Here:

I spent my childhood in the suburbs of Portland, Oregon. Every few weeks my neighborhood friends and I would reimagine our cul-de-sac into a different type of sports field (Nerf football, basketball, baseball, hockey, Frisbee, balled-up-sock ball, you get the idea). This play only stopped for school or for my family camping trips around Oregon (in dark, wet winter) and then across the country (during sweaty, driving-forever-to-the-next-National-Park summer). My summer library reading lists were always long. That is until too much sentence structure analysis in high school.

After I graduated from Oregon State and suffered the loss of a dear friend, someone mentioned I should head to a ski town. I loaded up my yellow Volvo wagon and moved to Ketchum, Idaho for the summer. For eight years I explored mountains (by boots, bikes, and skis), the local community library, and a ton of occupations. I met many interesting, wonderful people, read classics no one had told me about, and fervently debated what was meant by “a real job.” I also scraped enough money to fly across the Atlantic Ocean every so often.

After assisting in a first-grade classroom I was told I might make a good educator. That launched my teaching career. After graduate school in elementary education, a larger metro area beckoned so I moved to the San Francisco Bay Area where I taught third grade for six years. The pesky parents of one of my students set me up with their sister. We’re now married with two children. She led me to Seattle where I taught third grade for another ten years – this time all subjects as well as science for gifted children. I can’t help thinking like an educator.

A few people along the way said someday I would write a book. One did so while I was busy serving the patrons of her restaurant. I thought it was a ridiculous idea.

Years ago when I heard of a creative escape in the San Juan Islands where I might find peace and quiet after yet another busy school year I jumped at the chance. I wanted to try writing a children’s book. I’m suspicious that the universe was nudging me this way for a long time.

View of Seattle from the Ferry

My Writing Desk:

When I started taking writing more seriously, I asked my dad if he’d help me build a desk. I came home from teaching one day, went out to the grungy 1923 garage that sits in the corner of our backyard, and found a fully built desk. That’s my dad’s way.

He’d used a repurposed oak restaurant table. The desk was attached to the wall, was wide and sturdy with just the right amount of regality. I’ll shove my family under there should there be a major earthquake. It’s fantastic.

I’d wanted the desk to sit high against the window so I could stare out at my garden (a required habit of any writer). So I asked my father-in-law to “raise the floor.” The floor is also fantastic. It’s hinged, so it can retract for a car, though the only thing that’s been parked out there for quite some time is me.

I had both my dad and father-in-law sign their work.

Early every morning I head out to the garage in my socks. I sit down at the desk, and look around. On the walls above the desk I have taped memories: favorite photos, drawings by my children, inspiring quotes by other writers — both authors who’ve believed in me and authors whose work I admire. Recently, I added a kind note from a former student.

I like sitting at my writing desk. It’s a nice place to be. I’m close to those I care most about, but away from them, too. I sit near spider webs, oil stains and underused tools while I click away at my keyboard. While between my headphones I dream up families, quirks and conflict, all while alternating between feelings of fear, satisfaction and joy.

Tomorrow, when I sit at my desk out in my grungy garage, I’ll see my favorite quote. Two words from the composer John Cage, pasted right at the center of the window: Begin Anywhere.

And I will.

Where I Write