Write Place, Write Time

If you look at anything long enough, say just that wall in front of you -- it will come out of that wall.
- Anton Chekhov

Lydia Netzer

This is the desk where I am working today. I printed out the first 100 pages of my manuscript to revise, so that’s sitting there along with my emergency-hair-holding sunglasses. I’ve got a spray bottle of lavender oil there for evoking my character Bernice, and a can of Ginger Ale for summoning Irene the teetotaler. There’s actually another little bottle of lavender oil behind the ginger-ale, but you can’t see it. To me, they both smell the same. I’ve got a knitted robot from my friend Patricia and a horse lamp from my friend Susannah, some kid art from my daughter. That’s my “currently relevant” bookshelf, although I see Pride and Prejudice and Zombies there, and that’s not currently relevant. Down on the left beside my desk — there’s a copy of Moby Dick in Pictures, of which I can never get enough. That will be currently relevant until the end of time. Not sure why it’s on the floor and Gormenghast is on the shelf. Must rectify.

The desk is not ergonomic, but it is a relic of the house I grew up in. In fact, very faintly in one corner, you can see where I scratched with my fingernail “Eric Heiden” while watching the 1980 Olympic speed skating events at the age of 8, and falling in love. The desk opens up and you can put things inside. I like it because it feels solid. A bigger desk would allow me to accumulate more mess, of the sort that you see currently accumulating behind my laptop. Category: various.

This is what is behind me in my office, when am sitting at my desk. The rocking chair is from mother’s house, the chair where she read to me when I was a kid. The footstool is also ancient — recovered now but made of old coffee cans by some thrifty ancestor. Those fake books are full of scarves and costume jewelry that my daughter likes to play with. I think of this as my reading chair, but I hardly ever read there. The dog hangs out in it when I’m working. The book on top there is Celery Stalks at Midnight — I’m guessing this is evidence of the children, not of a literate dog.

Here’s the spot where I write when I’m at our place in Pennsylvania. I sit on this ancient lawn chaise with a quilt thrown over it — and our Boston Terrier Leroy helps me concentrate. I like to keep him at my feet or in the nearby rocking chair so when I’m perplexed I can pull at his jowls or ask him questions or force him to roll on his back and look ridiculous. Having a good writing dog nearby is a great advantage when drafting a novel.

I’ve only had my own office for a little while, and I never wrote any of Shine Shine Shine while living here. We’ve had the Pennsylvania house for just forever, but I have never been able to really write there before this past summer. I wrote large portions of Shine Shine Shine with my laptop balanced on the coffee table in the living room in our old house, sitting next to it on a plastic gaming chair. I wrote all the sex scenes while tucked away in a mountain cabin in North Carolina, drinking whiskey. Some of it was written in an apartment in Chicago by the lake. I remember writing something frantically in longhand, on a spiral notebook, sitting in a rented beach house in South Carolina while my mother was on life support in a nearby hospital. The book has been everywhere I’ve been for the last twelve years, and really none of the places I am now. In a way, that’s actually a good thing. Shine Shine Shine, especially in its multiple drafts and radically changing structures, is a record of my own evolution as a person. It’s my growing-up book. Now I’m writing a new book in a new room, and it feels pretty good.

Lydia Netzer was born in Detroit and educated in the Midwest. She lives in Virginia with her two home-schooled children and mathmaking husband. When she isn’t teaching, blogging, or drafting her second novel, she writes songs and plays guitar in a rock band. Find her on FacebookTwitter and at http://www.lydianetzer.com.

Wiley Cash

This is my office in our home in Morgantown, West Virginia, and this is the desk and chair I’m using to write my second novel, which is scheduled to be released in November 2013. I write on a desktop computer without internet access because, like a lot of writers I know, I look for any reason I can find to distract myself. My first novel, A Land More Kind Than Home, out in paperback from William Morrow/HarperCollins on January 22, 2013, was written on this same computer when I lived in Lafayette, Louisiana, from 2003-2008. The novel was revised from 2008-2010 while I was living in Bethany, West Virginia, and teaching at Bethany College.

There’s nothing very special about my office. I try to keep it clean and uncluttered, but I’ll admit that I spent a few minutes putting things away before this photo was snapped. The white chair and ottoman in the left side of the frame is from Ikea in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; I bought them with the first paycheck I received from Bethany College. I’d always wanted a comfortable reading chair, and I was excited the entire hour and a half drive to Ikea, but I’ll confess to being a little overwhelmed when I arrived. It was late in the evening – near closing time – and it seemed like I was the only person in the whole store. It took me forever to find all the different parts to the chair and ottoman, and I remember being surprised when I realized I’d have to put them together when I got home. They stayed in their boxes for a couple days, and now I rarely sit in it. Anyone want to buy an Ikea chair and ottoman? They’re already put together.

These pictures are always on my desk. The one on my left is of my wife on our wedding day in Wilmington, North Carolina, in February 2010. Earlier in the week, we’d left West Virginia in over two feet of snow and headed south to the North Carolina coast. It was about sixty degrees two days before our wedding, but it started snowing on Friday night during our rehearsal dinner, and the next morning there was still a good bit of snow on the ground. I love this picture, which was taken at an old inn near the Cape Fear River just before she and her father walked down to the church for the ceremony.

The picture on the right is of my father’s family on the steps of their old farmhouse. It was taken somewhere in Cleveland County, North Carolina, which is about an hour east of Asheville in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains. My grandmother is the tiny baby dressed in white in the arms of the woman in the black dress who is seated on the front row, second from the left. This is my grandmother’s family on the farm where she spent a lot of her childhood. She was born in April of 1923, so I figure this photo must’ve been taken that spring, maybe on a Sunday after church based on the way everyone’s dressed.

In front of the pictures is a bound copy of my second novel. To quote Forrest Gump, “That’s all I have to say about that.”

This 1’ x 4’ collage, done by our good friend Kimberly Jo Lawless in Bethany, West Virginia, hangs on the wall just outside the office, and I look at it every time I go in. It tells the story of my wife’s and my relationship, and I commissioned it for her birthday right after we got engaged. The seagulls in the middle of the frame are flying from the ocean to the mountains, symbolizing the move my wife made after we met at the beach in North Carolina in the summer of 2005 and she joined me in the mountains of West Virginia four years later. One the seagulls has a gardenia in its mouth, which is the flower I gave her on our second date. You can’t see them in this photo, but the line to one of my favorite songs is split on the left and right sides of the collage. The song is “Off to the Sea” by the Biscuit Burners and sung by Shannon Whitworth, and it’s about a man from the mountains and a woman from the ocean who are in love and torn between the two places. The line from the song that’s in the collage is “the same road that takes you far away will bring you back to me.” My wife had the line split in half and engraved on the champagne flutes we toasted with at our wedding.

This is what I see when I look out the office window, and it’s a pretty incredible view regardless of the season. You can’t see them in this photo, but the ridge is usually dotted with cows, and when I open the window I can hear them baying from up the hill across the street. In the late afternoon – when it’s time for them to feed – I like to sit and watch them run down the hill to the front gate where the hay is dropped into bins. You’d be shocked at how fast a cow can run when it’s time to eat.

Surprisingly, the best thing about the farm is the way it smells, especially at sundown. The soft scents of hay, grass, and mud float down the hill toward our house. Across the street from us is a little creek that you can hear running when the windows are open. In the summertime, at dusk, when you can hear the cows lowing, smell the farm, and listen to the creek, this is just about the most beautiful place in the world.

Wiley Cash is from western North Carolina, a region that figures prominently in his fiction. His first novel, A Land More Kind than Home (William Morrow/HarperCollins) debuted on the New York Times bestsellers list in May 2012. It is now available in paperback. Wiley teaches in the Low-Residency MFA Program in Fiction and Nonfiction at Southern New Hampshire University. He and his wife currently live in West Virginia.

M. F. Bloxam

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Seriously, how many modest rooms furnished to soothe and reassure their skittish occupants can we look at before we begin to suspect that we writers are, finally, less fascinating than we are deserving of sympathy?

This is the place in my head where I write.

On the left is a well, bored down to a subterranean lake; its iron bucket brings up eyeless, tentacled plotlines transparent as glass. Sometimes the underground lake gives up monumental heads in carved basalt or stelae crawling with illegible pictoglyphs. These must be raised by beam and trestle to the platform above and left to dry there, shedding tiny white copepods and bivalves while I scrutinize their markings. You see one here, a huge shrouded figure—a sarcophagus, perhaps, its two halves fused, or a triumphal statue. Its face, whose expression might have hinted at its purpose, is worn quite away.

Remote clanging echoes are heard here, the forging or sundering—depending on the kind of day I’m having—of giant chains.

I’ve chosen to put myself in this picture. That’s me rushing down the vast staircase in my billowing language cloak. I’m descending from the smoky upper galleries of my brain, where I’ve apprehended Yegg, a safecracker, fugitive for months. I tracked him through dim exhibition halls, past a diorama containing a plaster effigy of Bastinado receiving a foot-whipping. In a sculpture garden of sentimental religious art I startled Bondieuserie, simpering and faintly erotic; I caught her round the waist as I raced past and swore I’d be back for her. Still in pursuit of Yegg, I stirred the heavy puce side-curtains of the stage where Rebarbative and Rodomontade, resplendent in scratchy wool undergarments and parade armor, held forth before an audience variously bored and repelled.

Yegg I drag down to my work with me, fouled in my cloak. We’re both gasping, both smeared with soot and cobwebs. I’ll incarcerate him in one of the iron-grated vocabulary cells you see here, where he’ll live a circumscribed life—I admit it—but one with books and wine and occasional visitors. A life indistinguishable from mine, in fact.

I’ll go back for those others—the beaten thief, the coy saint, the boor and the braggart—when it’s time for them to serve a sentence.

M.F. Bloxam is the author of The Night Battles. Learn more at www.thenightbattles.com.

Ernest Hebert

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The first time I heard a word that I wanted to use for my work space was back in grad school when my poet friend Reg Gibbons referred to his work space as “my office.” Ah, I thought, that’s it. The reason I can’t write is I don’t have an office. Of course most writers will understand that this kind of twisted reasoning is part of the career track. After a while you begin to recognize character flaws in yourself related to the trick-or-trick writing life, which leads to self-loathing, therapy, self-abuse, a novel, and if you’re lucky self-forgiveness, which actually may be just more phony baloney rationalization. Such is the writer’s life.

I’ve had a number of offices since I started writing as a matter of spiritual life and death back in the 1970s, and I remember them with the fondness one reserves for former lovers, mentors, and pets. My office is my nest and my temple, and without it I am homeless. Unfortunately, it is also often a shit hole. I get a moment of peace of mind when–after the rare occasion that I pick up, clean up, and straighten up–I realize that my office can be beautiful and ordered. Too bad I can’t write in that environment. My muse likes clutter until it looks the way it is at this moment as I type–writing instrument (laptop), empty beer bottle from last night, book (The Girl with Borrowed Wings by Rinsai Rosetti), head phones (which I use when I watch a repeat La Femme Nikita, Peta Wilson version), tooth brush (I’m a compulsive dry brusher), pens, paper, doll “yes man,” magazines (Texas Highways, MacWorld) lamp (that I made out of firewood), 3000 MOTS, a children’s book of French words that is part of my pathetic attempt to regain a language I spoke when I was four and five years old and that I abandoned so I could fit in, which I never did.

The view looking over the laptop is of the wood stove, boxes of kindling, cherry firewood that is very beautiful when you split it. Behind me is a desktop computer that I use for drawing images from my books. Besides the computer is a table holding a landline telephone, a modem, clumps of wires, a hand-carved wood tray containing keys that unlock objects long lost and forgotten, computer gizmos no longer relevant, a pencil sharpener that I screwed to the table top and that is now in the way. Above the table is book shelf holding DVDs, crap, manuscripts, magazines, and, yes, books.

To my right is more clutter: manila files (I have no idea what is them), a printer, a hand vacuum cleaner (used only once since I bought it six months ago in hopes of become neater). Behind the printer table is a three foot long, two foot high wooden tool chest, on top of which is an Olivetti Lettera 35 manual typewriter that I keep for old time’s sake. The tool chest holds back a cord and an half of firewood–sugar maple, ash, cherry, red oak–that I cut, split, and stacked myself. Some day, no doubt I will chain saw part of body to feed the crows.

To my left is a table that holds the MacAir that I use to type on when I am composing from my cot, which is beside the table. Below are boots, slippers, shoes, briefcase, bottle of booze, cheap plastic files containing yet more crap. Every office has to have cot or a couch, for napping, for musing, and for writing half here and half in la-la from the supine position. Over the cot is a crooked poster of Jack Kerouac holding a cat, a painting by Arthur Herrick, book shelf, crucifix left over from Catholic upbringing.

At the moment the office is missing my iPad, which I gave away to my daughter when she visited a couple weeks ago. I am awaiting a new iPad, which I will use for hand-written notes. I actually prefer to write on yellow legal notepads, but it’s a pain in the ass to organize such notes. The iPad apps Touchwriter and Penultimate allow for the organization of handwritten notes, which is actually quite useless since I never look back at old notes, but is good for giving me the illusion of organization, which leads to false confidence which is almost as good as the real thing and is necessary for this writer to produce transitive verbs.

Another missing item from my office is my collection of “sticks.” Back before my wife and I built a house in Westmoreland, NH, we lived in West Lebanon, NH, where we raised our two daughters. The girls and their friends had no respect for my literary career, so I was forced to build a faux cabin inside my garage to escape them. Along the edge of the ceiling I hung sticks, hundreds of them. I would cut them 16 1/2 inches long, notch the tops, tie a string round the notch, and hang sticks along the top of the walls. I thought they were very beautiful. When we moved I took the sticks down and burned them as kindling. Back in 1998 I had a tattoo made on the back of my hand of a stick with a string around it. It represents my identity as a maker: make a poem, make a novel, make an essay, make a drawing, make a wooden spoon, make a stick sculpture, make a mess.

Oh, one more thing: cat. Every office should contain a cat.

Ernest Hebert’s latest novel is Never Back Down, the life and loves over fifty years of Jack Landry, Franco-American working man.

(Editor’s note: Ernest sent a note along with the photo: “The picture, which I took with my phone camera is shaky, which in a way is appropriate to my description of my work space.” Also, on a more personal note, I think he wrote an extremely modest bio. I can tell you that, at least in New Hampshire, Ernest Hebert is a legend, and I was thrilled that he agreed to participate.)

Matt Dojny

I officially started writing my novel (The Festival of Earthly Delights) in April of 2005, although its true origins can be traced back to 1997, when I was living in Khon Kaen, Thailand. In lieu of any other entertainment, I spent almost every evening sitting on an overturned trashcan outside my apartment, drinking lao-Lao and writing epically overlong letters that, years later, I’d use as the raw materials for my book. Below is an illustration that I included in one of those letters, depicting my set-up. (Not sure why I don’t have any pupils/irises in my eyeballs. Creepy.)

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At the time when I began writing my book in earnest, I’d just started a new freelance gig at a major corporation. The job was so complicated and boring that I won’t bother attempting to describe it here, though I will say that it involved creating presets for exporting PDFs. (Need I say more?) After working there for a month, there was a mysterious lull in the project, and I suddenly had nothing to do. My manager insisted that I come to work anyways—I suppose in the off chance that some PDF-export-preset-related emergency arose. After a few days of sitting there surfing the web, I decided that I might as well get some writing done. Rather than brazenly working in Microsoft Word, I instead typed the first 50 pages of my novel in a series of emails sent to myself. Getting paid an hourly wage to sit and write a novel is a beautiful thing. Thank you, [Unnamed Major Corporation]. (To my current employers: please note that I no longer write in the office. The photograph below is merely a simulation.)

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Once my PDF-export-preset project started up again, my writing-in-the-office phase ended, and I had to invent new novel-writing strategies. I tried working in the evenings, but found it difficult to write after having already spent the day staring at a computer screen. And then I had a brainstorm: I’d go analog, and work on a typewriter at night! This phase was fairly short-lived, due to the hassle of re-typing everything back into the computer, and I soon reverted to my 21st century ways; but I still have fond memories of sitting at the kitchen table, pecking away on my electric typewriter.

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I eventually abandoned night-writing and took a shot at morning-writing. I’d wake up at 5 am (which, in retrospect, I think is seriously impressive; right?) and sit in the semi-darkness at my kitchen table, drinking green tea and easing into consciousness. It wasn’t the most productive I’ve ever been, but, some of the most enjoyably weird aspects of my novel were generated during these twilit hours. However, the sleep deprivation started having a cumulative effect on me, making me increasingly loopy during the workday, and so I tapered off after a while and resumed a more civilized sleep schedule. (I’m not sure why I look like the human embodiment of evil in this photograph; once again, I have those empty, staring eyeballs. I’m going to go look at myself in the mirror.)

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My in-laws own a tiny house situated in a small island community located on the Long Island Sound in South Norwalk, Connecticut; and, mid-way through my novel-writing process, I decamped there and spent a solitary week working on the book. It was in the middle of winter, and my only companion during that time was my dog, Lizzy. Twice a day, Lizzy and I would take a walk around the quiet, empty-seeming island, and I can’t recall ever running into another human being during our strolls. The whole scenario had a cozy post-apocalyptic vibe, and it was perhaps the most productive week of my entire life: I’d write for twelve hours straight every day, pausing only to raid the freezer for sustenance. (A standard dinner would consist of a mélange of Trader Joe’s appetizers.) When my wife finally came to retrieve me, I’d written 100 new pages and had grown a pathetically patchy beard.

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I was constantly trying to come up with innovative new ways of utilizing scraps of free time for writing, and at some point I decided to try working on the subway. I can actually be fairly productive on the train, but the conditions have to be right: as soon as someone sits next to me (or stands directly above me), my creative mojo begins to wilt. When I sense that someone is reading over my shoulder, I’ll reduce the zoom in MS Word to 80% or so, making it impossible for them to read it (and also making it very difficult for me). It’s not an ideal work environment, but, it’ll do in a pinch. (I don’t have any photos of me working on the subway, so below is an extraordinarily crude illustration. The POV appears to be of someone looking at me through the train window. That’s the back of my head. The guy next to me is reading over my shoulder. Not sure what’s wrong with his right arm, but, you get the general idea.)

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Back when things weren’t so crazed at my current job, I would make use of my lunch-hour by sitting somewhere and doing a little typing. A lunch-writing spot has to meet the following standards: it can’t be too expensive; it needs to be the sort of place where I won’t feel like a jerk using my laptop; and I need to be able to have a modicum of personal space. There are surprisingly few places that meet these criteria, but the Landmark Diner on Broome Street is one of them. It’s a Greek diner that appears to be owned and run by a Thai family, and—perhaps due to the large windows, or the sweet waitresses—it possesses a unique, slightly enchanted atmosphere in which I can get some good lunch-work accomplished.

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Once I’d finally completed a first draft of my novel, I discovered that I did my best editing in the bathtub, marking up printed-out pages with a Sharpie while soaking in Epsom salts. (I also find that I have my best book-related epiphanies in the shower. [Ideally, I should probably restrict all of my creative endeavors to the bathroom.])

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After the birth of my son, I found it particularly difficult to work at night, or in the early morning, or, really, any time, ever. And so: my new ritual is to drop him off a little early at daycare (I know you’re thinking that I am a bad parent; please stop judging me) and sit on a bench in front of a fancy hotel in the downtown neighborhood where my day-job is located and do a little bit of work on my second novel before I have to go to work-work. The constant influx of glamorous-seeming hotel-guests is somewhat distracting, but, over time, I’ve been able to slowly crank out some pages. (This picture was taken by a photographer from Films and Grains magazine who happened to be passing by, and—although I think it’s a nice photo—I’m pretty sure that I don’t normally have that Manson-style thousand-yard-stare. I’m going to go look at myself in the mirror again…)

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Matt Dojny‘s first novel, The Festival of Earthly Delights, was published by Dzanc Books in June 2012. It was called “a perfect summer read, armchair travel in a higher key” by the L.A. Times, and was named one of the “5 Best 2012 Debuts By Brooklyn Novelists” by The L Magazine. Visit him at www.mattdojny.com.

Kathleen Alcott

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After years of bookshelves I thought less than beautiful, I finally did something right. These are old library ladders with the support side sawed off that I mounted inexpertly to the wall with twine and nails. I like how they lean in different directions. Also pictured: an old wheel a friend found in her backyard, a hat that is too ridiculous to wear almost anywhere, and a print of a jellyfish on an old encyclopedia page. On the desk proper are some sculptures of barnacles, because the ocean makes me feel safe. Not pictured are awfully messy stacks of books that don’t fit on the ladders. I am, ever, in need of more shelving.

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This is a 60’s telephone table, a horse, and some flowers. I often buy roses to combat the smell of all the cars going by my street-side window, and to feel better when various late night carousers are going through the garbage cans less than two feet from where I’m sleeping. (It’s an odd lullaby, but I guess it’s mine.)

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I keep this wooden airplane over my bed, not for any reasons like “It helps my spirit fly!” but rather: I am a god-damn child and this seems like some airy, adult way of getting away with a wooden toy. Like, wow, she must be whimsical.

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There is a treehouse in my backyard, and this is the view. It’s a little weathered (read: unsafe and tetanus-y), but I do scramble up here and think or jot sometimes.

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Oh, so this is essential. I keep this coffeemaker by my bed that magically wakes me up by grinding beans at the juncture in the a.m. I’ve specified. So it beckons me into the conscious world with both the sound and then the smell of fresh coffee. I am big into dreamland and also work for myself, and so this helps me get my ass out of bed. And, yeah, I guess above there you can see a bit of the rollerskates hanging on the wall. Nb: god-damn child.

Kathleen Alcott’s debut novel, The Dangers of Proximal Alphabets, published just this past month. Her short fiction and essays appear or are forthcoming in American Short Fiction, Five Chapters, Slice, Vol. 1 Brooklyn, Explosion Proof, The Rumpus, and elsewhere. A native of Northern California and a resident of Brooklyn, she is at work on her second novel.

Erika Robuck

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“There is no friend as loyal as a book.” – Ernest Hemingway

I agree with Mr. Hemingway about books, and my writing space is full of them. I enjoy being cocooned in words, and when my words won’t come, I simply turn to my shelves and take pleasure in the pages that some other writer agonized over for my enjoyment, before I return to my own pages to do the same.

Inspiration comes by way of artifacts and shrines. I found Hemingway and Fitzgerald “match books” at One More Page Books in Arlington, VA, and I keep them on my book shelf. It’s hard to explain to non-reader/writers why little packs of literary matches give me so much joy, but if you are a reader or writer, you understand.

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Photo books, a tube of Hemingway pencils I won from Cambridge University Press’ Letters of Hemingway contest, a print of Hemingway’s Key West house, and pressed flowers from the grounds adorn my shrine to Hemingway. There is also a pile of final copies of my novel, Hemingway’s Girl.

My Zelda Fitzgerald corner is growing as my new novel is in production. Two large photo books and a keepsake from my writing partner are all that’s there now, but Zelda’s haunting eyes on the large book, Zelda: An Illustrated Life, are enough to fill the space.

When the work is done, my lazy office mate, Bailey the miniature schnauzer, waits for me in the reading chair.

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Erika Robuck is the author of HEMINGWAY’S GIRL (NAL/Penguin 2012) and CALL ME ZELDA (NAL/Penguin 2013). When she’s not writing or reading with her lazy office mate, she enjoys boating on the Chesapeake Bay with her husband and three young sons.

Erin Morgenstern

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This is, alas, not a proper office. This is a windowless writing cave in an apartment I moved into last year and I will be vacating by the time 2013 rolls around. It is a temporary space, teeny but functional and thanks to Black Phoenix Trading Post it smells like mahogany and teakwood with swirls of cigar smoke, patchouli, tonka, cardamom, Spanish moss, and bourbon vanilla.

The next incarnation of Erin’s Writing Space will probably have a similar arrangement of the objects and furniture, though hopefully with more bookshelves and a window or five. It will likely smell the same, though.

The chair in the corner is older than I am and has followed me through all my post-college apartments. It used to have wicker panels on the arms but a couple of years ago I finally took them off and cleaned out the absurd amounts of older-than-me dust that had accumulated inside. Someday I might get it reupholstered, but for now I rather like the 70s goldenrod color and it is a very comfy chair to read in.

The general tone of the room is eclectic. It is fairly dimly lit and moody as I find a moody space good for losing myself in. There are a lot of Night Circus things in there (including a shelf of early galleys and the not-yet-hung but nicely framed artwork from the US cover) and other artsy bits and pieces: Nick Bantock postcards and skeleton keys, misty forests and koi ponds, mirrors and quotations and rogue playing cards. The vintage Arrow shirts poster is a bit of flavor inspiration for my next novel, which is not novel-shaped yet and will likely not become fully novel-shaped in this space.

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A few months ago my old desk chair died and I needed a replacement. I thought something brighter than a classic black chair would be good for brightening the tiny room but I mostly chose this one because it’s the same IKEA chair from the OK Go video for White Knuckles with all the puppies.

Also, I am now and always will be a fan of decorating year-round with fairy lights. I do so love twinkly lights on strings.

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On the desk is a bunny in a raven mask that is mentioned in the letter-to-the-reader at the beginning of the Target edition paperback of The Night Circus. For anyone who did not believe there was a bunny in a raven mask sitting on my desk, here he is. He doesn’t have a name, but I get the sense he doesn’t want one. At least not just yet. I suspect he has identity issues.

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The large bulletin board is something between inspiration board and a place to hang small things so they don’t get lost on other walls. There’s a Chris Van Allsburg print from The Mysteries of Harris Burdick in the not-pictured corner, along with charms on red strings from various visits to Sleep No More and also a cat in a top hat and a penguin in a fur coat. I had not realized it before now, but the office is something of a menagerie. In various other locations around the room there is a tiny shifty-eyed sheep, a blue butterfly suspended in glass, a dog with wings and an ibis-headed Egyptian deity.

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The room is so small that it is difficult to photograph and there is an entire wall I was unable to capture properly but you can glimpse it in this concave mirror self-portrait. It is not the most exciting of walls. Most of it is covered by a curtain made from recycled sari fabric. I’d tell you that the door behind me leads to Narnia or Wonderland but in truth it leads somewhere else entirely and I don’t think anyone behind it would be pleased if I divulged that information.

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The actual door to the office that leads to the rest of the apartment is made of glass, so this is what I see out of it frequently because Tessa is not allowed in the office. I know she looks all sweet and innocent but she is fond of chewing electrical cords and thus must sit outside and look forlorn while I’m working. (Though most of the time she decides I’m boring before long and wanders off to take a nap somewhere more comfortable.)

It is a nice enough space, though it has a fleeting sort of feeling permeating it. A bubble of an office that will pop sooner rather than later, but hopefully the contents will find a more permanent home eventually.

Erin Morgenstern is the author of THE NIGHT CIRCUS and should really write some more books so she can have more things to list in her bio. She is working on that, really, but in the meantime she’s been writing teeny tiny stories dubbed flax-golden tales that can be found on her website. (Website also includes more pictures of kittens.)

 

Dani Shapiro

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This is my office at home in rural Connecticut.  Sometimes I prefer working at home, and sometimes I wish I had an office outside the house. Both have their advantages and disadvantages. For the last few years I’ve preferred to work at home, so I can stop in the middle of the day and do my yoga practice. And I can talk to the dogs.

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Wherever I’ve lived and worked, I’ve always kept a bulletin board over my desk with photos and quotes and doo-dads I find inspiring. To the left of  my desk is the original art from the first piece I wrote for The New Yorker — a personal history piece about my father and his second wife (my mother was his third). And below that is the front page of The Hollywood Reporter announcing that Reese Witherspoon was going to star in the film based on my memoir Slow Motion. Of course, that never happened. But if you’re on the front page of The Hollywood Reporter you have to frame it.

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Lots of tags from speaking events and conferences. I’m always happy when I take one of those babies off and hang it on my doorknob. It means I’m back home.

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One of my favorite cartoons which has moved with me from apartment to apartment, house to house.

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Often when I’m at my desk–especially when working on a memoir–when I feel as if my family is watching me, they sort of are. The boy and girl in the hanging photo are my father and aunt. The two men in yarmulkas are my father and grandfather. The photos in the front are of my husband and me on our wedding day, and me with my dear friend and Buddhist teacher, Sylvia Boorstein.  The dried flowers are from my wedding bouquet–they’re sixteen years old.

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The chaise lounge is where I do all of my reading and a lot of my writing.  The dog in the foreground is ridiculously photogenic, isn’t he? His name is Samson and he lies around and watches me work, only occasionally nudging me to take him outside, which is good otherwise I might never move.

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Assorted talismans on my desk: the crystals are from Kripalu, a yoga and meditation retreat in the Berkshires where I occasionally teach. The handmade bowl was a gift from a dear friend, and in it I keep wishing stones from the beach in Positano, where I return every year to direct The Sirenland Writers Conference. I always come home with these stones in my suitcase. And the three little vials of aromatherapy oils are titled Inspire, De-Stress, and Focus.

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The view from my office window. We traded a Brooklyn brownstone for ten acres. It’s been good for my head, good for the work, and for my family life, but sometimes I still find it shocking that I’m no longer an urban creature.

Dani Shapiro is the bestselling author of the memoirs DEVOTION and SLOW MOTION, and five novels including BLACK & WHITE and FAMILY HISTORY.  Her work has appeared in The New Yorker, Granta, Tin House, Ploughshare, n+1, One Story, Elle, Vogue, The New York Times Book Review, and has been heard on NPR’s “This American Life”. She has taught in the graduate writing programs at Columbia, NYU and The New School, and currently directs Sirenland, named by Poets & Writers the #1 International Writers’ Conference.  Her new book, STILL WRITING, will be out in 2013.  She lives with her husband and son in Litchfield County, Connecticut.

Erica Jong

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I love to write early in the morning when the whole world is quiet except for the birds. Whether in New York City or Connecticut, I get more done between four a.m. and eight a.m. than at any other time during the day. I used to go to Venice to write because it was so peaceful and 6 hours ahead of New York. Now I try to recreate this peace wherever I am. Yoga stretches and alternate nostril breathing help. You want to feel you are still partly in the dream world–not quite awake. Sometimes, I just scribble anything for a time to get going. All writing is surrendering to your dream life. All writing is a form of surrender.

Erica Jong is an award-winning poet, novelist, and memoirist, and one of the nation’s most distinctive voices on women and sexuality. She is the author of the ground-breaking novel Fear of Flying. She can be found on Twitter at @ericajong and on Facebook.

Lee Woodruff

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This is my office in our cottage on Lake George. It’s paneled in warm wood and the shelves are filled with items that have significance or bring me comfort — photos in birch bark frames, fir scented candles, my first thesaurus, tin soldiers from when my son was a boy, a jar of Le Mer face cream.

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The office is small and cozy and my dog Woody is often curled up inside his crate next to me.  When I look out the door, I see water, out the window I see woods.  The space makes me feel calm, protected and contemplative.

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Lee Woodruff is the author of three books. “In an Instant” was a New York Times bestseller about her family’s journey to heal after her husband was injured by a roadside bomb in Iraq.  Her first work of fiction, “Those We Love Most” is out in September.

Karolina Waclawiak

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This is where I spend most of my time at home in Brooklyn. My desk is right next to our patio where we’ve created a bird haven. I have a little bird bath and feeder along with dozens of potted plants so the birds can feel at home. They line the railing while I’m working and chirp to the music I play while writing. We have a Cardinal family who frequent our establishment and have seen a hawk on two occasions. 

I have two computers - a laptop for book-related writing and an old Mac for scripts. The only reason I still have the Mac is because it’s got Final Draft on it and I can’t bring myself to buy another copy. Maybe one day soon. Actually,one day I hope to have one super computer that weighs less than an ounce, has unlimited memory, and is super inexpensive.

In general, our house is filled with taxidermy, religious icons, any strange thing we can find in flea markets, and wall-to-wall art and movie memorabilia. On my particular writing wall I have framed temporary tattoos by Jenny Holzer from her show at the Guggenheim a few years ago, a photo still from our favorite movie “Bill and Coo” featuring an all-bird cast from 1948, photos of my mother as a kid in Catholic school in Poland, my young grandmother holding a black cat, a zombified drawing of Minoru Yamasaki the architect who designed the Twin Towers by an artist friend, Aaron Sandnes, an image from the Lightning Field by Walter De Maria, and a 3D picture of the Last Supper. Oh, and up top there is a book plate from the 1800’s of skulls and skeletons. In the living room I have a medical wall - large skeleton image framed, various medical ailment prints, see-through bodies, and a print of a carnival women with knives in her. My fiance, Jon, keeps asking me if we can take it down and put something more pleasant up, but I like looking at it.

I have a lot of plants and this particular plant is an orchid I killed a few weeks ago and am trying to bring back to life. It looks very sad right now but I have full confidence in myself that I will be able to re-animate it. The little heads are by a Czech company, Qubus, and they’re called Little Joseph. They’re actually candle holders and they look very macabre when you let colored wax drip down their faces. Off to the side are chalkware carnival toys from the 1940’s (a pig and a poodle) and a chalkware Jesus. I would say that I like to write in chaos, a controlled chaos, with a lot of things around me. Not pictured, hundreds of books stacked in my vertical filing system to both my left and right. 

Karolina Waclawiak is the author of How To Get Into the Twin Palms out from Two Dollar Radio. She is also the deputy editor of The Believer and proud owner of the bird reference book, Eastern Feeder Birds, which she checks frequently. Some have called her a “bird nerd”.

Guy Capecelatro III

For me any place can be a good place to write.  I love the in between: airports, rock shows, waiting for a bus.  There’s something about pausing that makes my brain tingle.  I’m always carrying a pen and a little Moleskin notebook, filling it with nearly indecipherable scrawl. The initial rush of inspiration is deliciously intoxicating and figuring out how to capture that early outpouring has been a challenge.  There are still boxes of notebooks and cassettes and micro-cassettes stored in boxes, tucked away in closets that I can’t bear to throw away in case some juicy nugget still remains.

Of course I write at home as well though, unlike most of the writers on the blog, there isn’t one specific place.  The third floor, with the view of the dilapidated red barn, amidst the strewn instruments is a favorite.  The office on the second floor, frequently haunted by our sleeping cat Ida is another.  Or in the living room on the orange couch with the plants encroaching.  Really anywhere works for me and, for that, I feel amazingly fortunate.

        

        

        

Guy Capecelatro III is a landscaper and songwriter and waiter and poker player and fiction writer and does not enjoy writing about himself in the third person.  He puts out way too many albums and recently collected his weekly column into a book entitled Some Women.

Lauren Groff

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Before my first son was born, my husband converted the handyman’s workshop in the garage to my office space so that I could work without hearing the bloody screams of my newborn. It is insufficiently climate-controlled, and has a spider problem. The rugs are too tired to be in the domestic sphere, and most of my books live in the house, where there’s no mold. I love my space very much. Yes, that’s a Snuggie on the desk chair. 

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I have an Ikea chaise longue for my naps, a treadmill for when I’m reading and walking out my angst, and an easel on which I’ve placed a blank canvas because I don’t want to embarrass myself by showing my terrible paintings.

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This is the view from my desk. My winter garden now has broccoli, kale, cilantro, nasturtium, fennel and sunflowers in it.

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This is a poster of my sister Sarah’s rump right before a race. She’ll be representing the United States in triathlon at the Summer Olympics in London in August. Please cheer for her. This is the small version of a huge poster that was hanging all over Kitzbühel, Austria. I have a picture of the real-life 5-foot-8-inch Sarah goosing her 10-foot avatar somewhere. I keep the poster in my office for perspective: no matter how much pain my writing brings me, I think of the actual physical pain my sister is subjecting herself to and I remember that I’m a total softy wimp who is lucky to be weeping over words.

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Someone gave me this butterfly because I love Nabokov. The art is graphite, thread, and ink, and done my by extremely talented neighbor, Erin Curry. I love them because they’re beautiful, but also because they look like ladyparts and make me laugh.

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When things aren’t going well, I talk to Buddha. My mother gave me the paperweights. Throughout the morning, I move them around my desk to catch the light. 

Lauren Groff’s second novel, Arcadia, was published on March 13th. She lives in Gainesville, Florida with her husband and two little boys.

 

Jeffrey Ricker

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Sometimes, I think I want a writing office. Since I don’t have one, I tend to be nomadic, both inside and outside the house. When I’m at home, more often than not I write at the dining room table. I like this because a) it’s the least-used room in the house next to the guest bedroom, which at least gets used for occasional ironing. (We have two guest bedrooms; one of them used to be an office, but when we had a full-house weekend of visitors, it got converted back to sleeping quarters.)
 
I used to write at a desk in the living room. This is possibly the Worst Room in the House for Writing. (Yes, it needs to be capitalized, it’s that bad.) Compounding this, the desk faced a blank wall. I felt like I’d been put in a corner.
 
I also have a desk in the basement. The less said about this the better. It’s where I do paperwork now. This seems fitting.
 
I do like the dining room, though it lacks one key item: a door that closes. It does, however, boast a large work surface where I can spread out multiple pages of whatever thing I’m working on at the time. (As you can see from the picture, it’s usually a mess.) It’s also only five steps from the coffeemaker; this is important too. Crucial, really. 
 
The dining room table also has sufficient space that I can place my laptop and my typewriter side by side. Whenever I’m feeling stuck on a particular passage, I’ll usually close the laptop, crank a piece of paper into the typewriter, and see if I have better luck. Most times, the manual aspect of the typewriter breaks up whatever logjam I’m behind. If that doesn’t work, I leave the house.
 
Jeffrey Ricker's first novel, Detours, came out last year form Bold Strokes Books. (He came out years earlier.) He is currently behind schedule on his second novel. He also writes a blog and has a Facebook page, but he’s on Twitter more than any of all that other stuff because 140 characters is about the length of his attention span.