Monday, September 8, 2008

writers' rooms

Here are some portraits of the spaces where authors create, from the Guardian. (I'm sorry I can't remember where I lifted the link from--Evecho?--but thanks, whoever it was.) All kinds of cool photos of Famous Writers' Sanctums ranging from dead people (Virginia Woolf) to the decidedly alive (Martin Amis, Penelope Lively, etc.). The live ones give lovely personal descriptions of their space. Here, too, are some Canadian writers' rooms. (Thanks, Karina.) It might be fun to do a kind of ethnographic survey: French vs. English, Caribbean vs. Australian, Indian vs. German. Whatever.

Anyway, I have to say, all the English ones (and many Canadian) are nicer than my office--much bigger, for one thing, and with better light. My office has one small west-facing window, too high up to really get a view when I'm working. Here's what it looks like from the door:

click on image to enlarge

As you can see (or maybe you can't, in which case you'll have to take my work for it), I have two desks, one squashed in the north-east corner where the actual typing happens (where I'm sitting now), and one where I do my thinking and note-taking and big-book reading (lots of academic book are ridiculously huge and heavy and need a sturdy flat surface like a library table). Ah, fuck it, here's a picture of that, too:
The big piece of paper is my master chart (I talk about that more here) which, by the time I'm done with writing about Hild, will no doubt be illegible under the mountains of teeny tiny writing. Right now I'm trying to work out what the Anglo-Saxon master temple (to Woden) in Goodmanham would have looked like, circa 625, immediately before Hild's uncle, Edwin, king of Northumbria, marries the princess Æthelburh of Kent and Christianity comes to the northern Anglisc. (As far as I know, no one has the faintest idea how the pagan thing worked then, so I'm having enormous, time-wasting* fun picturing it.)

* It takes many, many hours to figure this kind of thing out. I consult O.S. maps, hikers' photos on the web, Google Earth, my memories of the Yorkshire Wolds, etc. In the end, I'll use maybe four sentences about it in the finished book. But those four sentences have got to convey a whole belief system and culture. Is it worth it? Dunno. But for me that's part of the point of writing a book like this; it's pure joy. Plus I'm coming up with some awesome theories, stuff that will probably make medievalists shriek and run round in circles cursing my name :)

Over on the east wall are my two maps of Britain in the Dark Ages which I spend many hours peering at:

As you can see, I've recently discovered the Joys of Filing, so now I can actually find my notes. Some of them. (I have two enormous folders of undifferentiated stuff hidden away in the drawers of my other desk and, frankly, I'm too faint-hearted to sort them out.) The little grey box is full of index cards of seriously nifty information about food production, curses, jewellery, and other delights.

What else can I tell you? Well, that little yellow thing next to the speaker is part of a nerfish umbrella wotsit I got in the Left Coast Crime goodie bad a couple of years ago. The stem part fell off, but I use it as a hand-exerciser (I squeeze the life out of whenever I pause for thought). The speakers are Klipsch (subwoofer under the desk); I'm particular about my sound. The headphones are Bose noise reduction beasties, which I use when I want to play something really, really loud and K is on the phone or trying to have a peaceful moment or whatever.

In that first photo you can see next to the printer/fax/copier/scanner (oh it's a crap, crap scanner but I don't have room for a better, dedicated one) the Pop Shotz pistol featured in Always. I love that thing. (But I drive K demented with it, so it's only allowed in my office, sigh.) You can also see the microphone and stand that I use to record all my readings. And my computer. It's an okay machine--souped up sound and grafix cards--but the screen is pathetic. I love my ancient keyboard (it's easily ten years old, maybe even twelve). When we win the Mega Millions we'll buy a whole Apple store and get some decent equipment. Then I suppose I'll have to take more pix (but at least I'd be able to download them wirelessly via my fancy iPhone).

And now I realise I forgot to take a picture of the south wall--but it's pretty boring. It's the door, and a double closet door (behind which lurks filing cabinets, my guitar, and a whole pile of mystifying stuff that I'll throw away one day), and an exercise bar. (When I get restless I stand and do stretches.)

Anything else you want to know?

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9 comments:

  1. I think the Guardian link came from Evecho.
    My eyes are tired, and so is my brain. I'll have to come back in the morning and look at /read everything properly. Even in this state, I can tell that your writing space is way cooler and roomier than mine.

    Thanks for posting this. :-)

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  2. thanks for the Evecho reminder. And you're welcome. I know what you mean by tired. Hild is pouring through my brain blotting everything else out, even sleep. It's wonderful--but the sleep deficit is going to hit me today or tomorrow...

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  3. Your Windows 95 manual will give me nightmares.

    I like the idea of the ethnographic survey. My working space in Mexico is way sunnier than my Canadian bunker. I think it's also as big as this entire apartment. *sigh*

    Thanks for letting us have a peek into your writing room.

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  4. Well the librarian in me has to ask, what is the multivolume set on your bookcase?

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  5. You obviously love the place and it all seems very homey. Very clean though. I'm jealous! I consider mine a chaotic Platform 9 3/4. When I come in, I catch a train to another world.

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  6. Yeah, I have to say those were among my first thoughts, geez, so friggin neat! Every time I clear my desk off, the piles seem to reappear immediately.

    You might have to hang onto that funky keyboard and get some weird adapter when you win the mega millions. Lot of people complain about Apple's latest keyboards.

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  7. rory, those matching volumes are the best book in the world: the Oxford English Dictionary, my fortieth birthday present.

    ssas, of course it's neat, of course it's clean! I wouldn't have invited you in for a while otherwise. But, oh, you should have seen it last month. It was a disaster. But then I cleaned off the Brittanica, which made room for the history books, which meant I had the space to organise my papers, which meant I could file them...and voila! Neatness upon the land. I love it. It won't last, but I'm enjoying it.

    jennifer, yep, it would take me weeks to adjust to a new keyboard, but I'm guessing it's something I'll have to do eventually (tho' this keyboard is almost indestructible: spills, drops from great heights, crushing in various moves... It just keeps ticking.

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  8. I thought it might be, I have to say I am very jealous. I thought I read that it came out in CD format a couple of years ago but I seem to remember the price being very steep. Oh well, maybe someday.

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  9. I don't know about the CD, but I definitely wanted the big hefty books. I got them on special offer, about $900, in 2000. It's the most expensive present I've ever had and worth every penny. I love that set, love it.

    But I discovered the other day, via Lisa Gold's blog, that if you have a library card, some library systems give you online access to the OED for free. Check it out.

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