If we’ve proven anything at all here this week, it’s that there are as many different ways to write as there are people–and no one way is going to work for everyone. In fact, other than using a computer (mostly), we didn’t have that much other stuff in common, across the group.
When we first set out to do this, we invited all of you ‘Rati to participate, and I have loved receiving the photos. We’d stressed “work spaces” all week, and I’m really delighted that we had a couple of people game enough to send us their photos of their job’s work space.
But how to organize them? Finally, they sort of arranged themselves into a sliding scale of “untethered” to “tethered” (more traditional ‘office’). I hope you enjoy these as much as I have.
Laura Lippman, author of several novels I know you all know from the fabulous interview Alafair did with her a couple of weeks back. Check out her latest, I’D KNOW YOU ANYWHERE. Laura’s mid-remodel on her home office and has been spending time in many other places – everything from the beach to Starbucks to her kitchen table. Proof that brilliance can occur in any location. Just bring brain.
M.J. Rose, author of the acclaimed and inventive wonderful novels, which includes her latest, THE HYPNOTIST. As she explains, “A few too many years of having to write on the run – in cars, planes and hospital rooms – forced me to learn to write wherever I was. My workspace became my laptop and the journal that belonged to my main character. So rather than show you any of the multiple places where I write – my office or living room or the local Starbucks – which are all pretty ordinary – here’s my new main character’s journal. I start a new journal for every new book – or in the case of a series – for the lead character in the series. I write in the first person from her point of view and create collages of the images and words that define her and her world. Turn the journal upside down and from the back to the front are research notes not kept on the computer, lists of scenes, calendars, plot charts. While I often yearn to be the kind of writer who has a wonderful office with white boards and has cork walls filled with outlines, I seem to be more productive confined to intimate spaces.”
Anne Stuart, aka, Krissie, is one of the most fun authors to be anywhere in the proximity of if you’re ever at an RWA conference. Prolific and fabulous, you’ll want to check out her latest historical romance trilogy, edgy with mystery woven through, starting with RUTHLESS. (Oh, and one of the most captivating websites I’ve seen for an author.) That’s Krissie in the front in the red chair and her friend, Sally, writing in the background.
James O. “Jim” Born… and I can’t quite put my finger on it, but it seems like he’s cheating here, somehow. He writes well-loved mysteries, including BURN ZONE. I think we should take a vote in the comments as to whether Jim’s writing or not out there. And then I think he has to invite us all over anyway.
Lucy March, author of fabulous magical romantic fiction. (I can say that, since I was an early beta.) [You may know Lucy as Lani Diane Rich.] I absolutely love that she gave us a “reader’s guide” to her workspace:
- My MacBook, otherwise known as The Precious.
- Quilt. In case my toes get cold.
- Headset, so I can listen to my soundtrack without making others in the vicinity insane because they’ve been forced to endure OKGo’s “Here I Go Again” for the thousandth time. Although, that’s a truly excellent song, so what are they whining about?
- Knitting bag. When the writer’s block gets bad, I knit.
- Zoey. Cat. Unimpressed.
- Daisy. Cat. Unimpressed and sleeping.
- Gym bag. To remind me that if I don’t on occasion leave the house, my muscles will atrophy and I will have to hire a Swedish masseuse to carry me around. Which wouldn’t be so bad, if I made that kind of money. But I don’t, so… to the gym.
- Shopping bag, full of the stuff I won’t be able to afford anymore if I don’t hit my deadline. Fear isn’t a great motivator, but it’s effective.
- That orange blur? That’s the tape measure I’ve been missing for the last three weeks. Thanks, Toni!
- Cat bed. Unused. $10.
(Her blog has generated a huge following–such a great community over there. And you’ll see her latest, A LITTLE NIGHT MAGIC coming soon from St. Martin’s Press.)
CJ Lyons, who’s not only a terrific author, but is also a physician. It’s not quite right that someone has that much brains, is it? I think, no. Her latest seat-of-the-pants, take-no-prisoner’s medical thriller is CRITICAL CONDITION, out in November. CJ’s visited us here before at Murderati — check out her interview here. I think everyone knows CJ and I have been close friends and beta read each other’s works, but you know you’ve got a good friend when you can email her at some point in the middle of the night and say, “Okay, so I have this body here, and I need to know how to disguise the time of death,” and that’s all you say… and she writes back and tells you how. No questions asked. I’m pretty sure she’d help me hide the body, if she lived closer. You know, if I were a psychopath or something. Which I am not. Yet. (But may be, if Squarespace doesn’t upload these photos faster.)
Okay, I have to say, I love the gnomes. And I never thought I’d write that in a sentence. But author / columnist and regular ‘Rati commenter Gayle Carline says:
1. The gnomes, Booker and Hatch. Booker carries a book with him and encourages me to write well. Hatch carries a hatchet and threatens to chop fingers if I don’t finish that f*&#@ing book.
2. Two phones, a cell and the landline, because I’d hate to miss that call from the agent who discovered me on the Internet and wants to introduce my fabulousness to the rest of the world.
3. The LA Times Crossword puzzle. Shut up, it helps me think.
4. The coin purse with my credit card in it, when I have to order stuff to help me. Like software, or books. Or shoes.
5. My little notebook, filled with crap I scribbled while I was waiting at the car wash/doctors office/son’s guitar lesson.
J.M. Kelley (who just had her first sale–JM, tell us about it in the comments and I’ll add the title here)… who is also one of our much loved commenters, says of her space, “My workspace is tiny, to say the least. I have about a six foot area I can call my own. My desk is there to store my computer, or to be used when I don’t end up slumping on the bed in the background to write. When I’m not writing, I’m worshiping Joss Whedon, and as you can tell from the photo, blatantly ignoring the fact that my laptop’s screen is long overdue for a cleaning. I’m a bad, bad writer, and rarely construct any outlines to reference, so that little whiteboard in the picture is my sole source of all info I need to keep continuity. The dry erase penguin does not endorse this behavior. Since I’m a raging insomniac, I do my best writing at night and into the wee hours of the morning. You know it’s a bad night when you see an Australian pop up in your buddy list and they message to ask what the *bleep* you’re doing up so late. Eventually I crash and burn for a couple hours, then I drag myself out of bed again, tired and haggard, to do my daily (fruitless) job searching and resume sending. And then I rush back to the desk when the next plot bunny hops into my head and start the whole process over again.”
Catherin Shipton, another of the beloved ‘Rati commenters has both an untethered writing location (I love this deck!) and a tethered one, her office, of which she says, “my desk and my office were used a lot throughout my degree. Almost every bit of work produced came from there. A hideously long project I did at a business incubator was completed there. This place has seen some major sweat hours.
Then my trusty pc died the week after I graduated. So far nothing fiction based has come from the laptop in this space. I think I might need to get a bit of sage and burn off the old vibes. Or maybe I’m just a bit too in love with being able to switch to places that aren’t quite so tight now I have a laptop.”
(Catherine, I want that fan. Brand name?)
And our wonderful friend, Laura from Victoria, Australia, “run the service desk at Robinsons Bookshop in Frankston.” Have we mentioned how much we love booksellers? Love. Love. LOVE. [Which reminds me… Fran? You should send me something on Seattle Mystery Bookshop to include here. :)… me? pushy? nah.)
This is from PK the Bookeemonster, who’s another one of our much loved ‘Rati’s. She explains, “This is a photo of my workplace at the job (Dept of Labor – Unemployment Insurance Division). I’m in a room full of cubicles, set up in three groups of quads. Luckily, right behind me is a wall of windows which looks out onto the neighborhood (yes, little houses) and the Rims. (ah, let’s see, the Rims are a sandstone bluff that runs along the northern border of Billings — picture attached). I’m on the second floor so I like to swing around and see what’s happening in the world outside. In my cubicle, I try to have “book-ish” things around me: a clock in the shape of three books standing together (to the right), four posters of books in front of me right above the monitors, and I always have my Kindle in between my monitors and if I”m currently reading a book book I place it on the right-hand desk. In my little clique of co-workers, we’ve named our cubicles and someone made little signs to put up on the outside wall; mine is appropriately “The Library”, as my love of reading is well known.”
Gayle Lynds, author of taut, razor sharp thrillers such as THE LAST SPYMASTER has her latest out, titled: THE BOOK OF SPIES Gayle’s in transition herself, so it seemed fitting that her work space sits sort of between the untethered and the tethered, and as she explains, “I’m in the process of moving from California to Maine to be with my fab boyfriend, John. This has been an adventure in culture shock. For instance, I’ve given up my red Jaguar for a red pickup truck, planted flowers and veggies, and made moose burgundy. (What else can one do with moose?) I’m in Maine now, having brought with me just exactly the research I needed for the book I’m writing. My cockpit office is on the second floor, a corner of our bedroom, and looks out on beautiful white birch. It’s tranquil but conducive to work. I like it a lot.”
Fellow ‘Rati friend Jude Hardin says of his space, “I’m somewhat of a minimalist, and I like to keep my space clutter-free. I compose all my fiction here, listen to music, blog hop and so forth. I spend a good portion of the day in this chair when I’m not at my “real” job, and I even eat my lunch here most of the time.” I think he’s got such a perfect office that would work for so many people, especially in busy households. I just wish I could be as minimalist. Of course, Jude could be hiding bodies behind those walls. (grin) Jude’s book, POCKET 47 has a fabulous blurb by our own Tess Gerritsen and is coming out in May, 2011.
Second is looking at my desk. Note to self on purple post it note read “Take pic for Toni”. Since I have been downstairs most of the week that was not a helpful self-reminder. 🙂 I get asked all the time about the carpet: they are tiles, multicolored, so we could create our own flooring pattern. My amazing wife found them, they are often used in design studios, schools, offices.”
Now this one surprised me, mostly because my eye wandered over to the left and I saw that other box and screen. Regular sweetheart Debbie explains, “My den is 8×8 and I share it with two children, their computer and books, a piano, and the family cats who think that my tower case is theirs. Pictured is Brontё and yes, there are chocolates in that Godiva bag thanks to hubby! The machine beside my computer is for enlarging print (I’m blind) but when writing, I mostly depend on adaptive software that produces speech in an amazingly human voice.”
Debbie’s got tenacity and talent–I know we’ll be seeing her books on the shelves one day!
Sandy Toepel, one of our fabulous regular commenters sent these photos, and I love the light and the bookshelves and the neat antiques she’s got around the room. She says, “This is my room of accomplishments and challenges. Once, this was where I corrected tens of thousands of papers and created tens of thousands of lesson plans. Now, it is where I am attempting composition of a different sort.” And I see that “tens of thousands” in that description and nearly plotz. You know, we don’t really think about all of the extra work our teachers go through during their hours at home in addition to all of the hours in front of those classrooms. Thank God for teachers. I know I couldn’t do it–I don’t have the patience or the temperament or the stamina for that kind of constant interaction with people who can actually talk back. (Unlike my imaginary people. Who can talk back, but can’t throw spitwads, so there’s a plus.)
Lisa Gardner is sweet, funny, smart, sharp, and an amazing writer. I’m not sure if it was her great laugh or warm personality, but I had a hard time reconciling myself that this was the same woman who wrote books so scary, blood-tingling that I wanted to read with my hands mostly covering my eyes. Just goes to show you, looks deceive. Check out her latest, LIVE TO TELL.
I have to tell this story. I first met Cindy Gerard at my first St. Martin’s Press cocktail party. I was terrified. I knew no one and my agent had had to leave, and I was on my own. Now I’m better in crowds at conferences, but if you’ve never been to an RWA conference, it’s hard to explain the magnitude. And the cocktail parties are usually on Friday nights, so you’ve had a good three days to be completely overwhelmed. Cindy must’ve seen the dear-in-the-headlights look, as she came over, struck up a conversation, and impressed me as one of the nicest and funniest people. I had to confess I didn’t know her books yet, but I took a bookmark and when I got home, I bought one. You know, hoping she’d be a decent writer.
And I was blown away. Here was someone who was writing terrific sexy action / romance with great characters and witty, smart dialog and I devoured her whole backlist. I’m lucky to count her as a friend today, and she exemplifies the class and pay-it-forward attitude I hope to live up to.
Go get her latest: RISK NO SECRETS
You know, I think Jonathan Maberry wins, hands down, for coolest set of collectibles. How can you not love a guy who has everything from dragons to dinosaurs to demented rubber ducks? You know, really? You want to go read his books, right now, just looking at that office. And his laugh. 😉 So go check out his latest, WANTED: UNDEAD OR ALIVE
When I first saw these photos of David Morrell‘s office, I thought, “oooh, retreat!” and it has that peaceful vibe to it, doesn’t it? Which just does not explain the mind that can come up with the twisted, hypnotic, heart-stopping thriller stories that he does, but like Lisa Gardner, looks can be deceiving. Check out his latest, THE SHIMMER and I encourage writers to poke around his website (linked to his name above) — it’s got some great perspective on the industry and the changes we’re seeing.
And finally, last, but not least, is Lee Child‘s beautiful office in New York. Lee’s the author of the famous Jack Reacher novels, and he explains his space thusly: “My office is a separate apartment, in the same building, but 18 floors below where I live, in NYC. Major productivity tip: a separate desk and computer for the internet. Major luxury: a separate desk for handwriting and page-proof reading, without a keyboard or monitor to get in the way.”
When I got a glimpse there to the left of his view, I commented that I didn’t know how he focused. He then sent me this photo, and explained that he focused with “rigorous self-discipline.”
And what a perfect way to end this round-up. Rigorous self-discipline–no matter where you are, no matter what your workspace is. Dedication to excellence and rigorous self-discipline is what gets us from page one to THE END, one word at a time.
If you zoom in on the first photo of Jim Born, you'll see that he's actually composing a fan email to his secret hero Steve Spurrier.
Toni, you did a LOT of work for this blog. It's really fun to see how everyone works and reads.
I don't think this site has been kept up, but you can see a lot of "writers' caves" here:
Toni, this is great! Cool to see all the different work spaces, but even better that I now have some new names to search out at the bookstore later today. Your descriptions of each author's works were fantastic.
My husband always asks me for suggestions; he travels often and has lots of reading time on trains, on planes, and in hotel rooms. I am also sending boxes of books to my brother in Iraq and my nephew in Afghanistan. They read and then pass the books around to the other guys. When my brother calls, we end up having discussions about books I've sent, and he tells me what all the other guys think about them too.
I've got Lisa Gardner's latest sitting right here next to my computer and have pre-ordered three of Lee Child's book due out in Oct. to be sent out. I've got a stack of T. Jefferson Parker books to go out this week. Fun to see where they were created and how generous of all the writers to send pictures and descriptions!
Toni you have put a lot of work in on this one, and it's fascinating. Thank you.
Thank you so very much for all the work you did collecting and collating and commenting. This was extraordinarily instructive, insightful, and entertaining.
Toni, This has been so fun. Thanks for doing all the work of the round-up.
What fun – Thanks, Toni!
We all enjoy, I think, seeing where people work/live – it gives a whole new dimension to that person.
I first saw something like this done in a book by Jill Krementz called The Writer's Desk. As I recall, there was "maybe" one computer included in the entire book which came out in the late '90s
Oh, my God…what an amazing experience, reading this blog. Toni – fantastic job! I love you for doing this. It's fascinating to see how we've all carved a little space for our creativity. Our work-space personalities are endless. I love Jonathan Mayberry's office, of course, which looks like something out of a Tim Burton film. And I'm all for Spencer's command, "Just finish the damn book!"
And Billie's comfy space with the horses looking on.
What an illuminating experience. A great way to spend my Sunday morning.
Thank you everyone – all the authors and all our Murderati readers, for contributing!
Great stuff, Toni!
I'm amazed at how many people use laptops to write. I've done it. Even using a small netbook for an entire novel, but now that I have a giant screen, I can barely tear myself away from it…
I'm dumbstruck here. The last two weeks (and Dusty's will be coming up this week!!!) have been so wonderful. I've loved learning about people's processes and work spaces. But now? I feel like I took a journey through creativity and ended up so much richer for the experience.
Thank you to EVERYONE who took the time to send a picture, to comment, to share.
And thank you, Toni, for pulling it together so perfectly!
Lucy March and I have the exact same bed, LOL.
So interesting seeing and reading about everyone's space. You did a terrific job putting this together, Toni. Thank you.
Amazing, amazing post! I love these workplaces. I want some of them! (After sending my pictures off last week to the blog, I rearranged my office one night while procrastinating because I was stuck. I think I want to rearrange my office all the way over in Florida on the lake . . . or maybe NY with that view!) And I love Erica Spindler's desk. With the skull.
I am glad, finally, the perfection that is you, me, and Erica Spindler has been acknowledged. 🙂 You might notice that small box with the fleur-de-lis on the left hand side of my credenza behind my desk. That is a framed square of championship season astroturf from the Superdome. I thought it might bring me good writing gris-gris.
Seriously, Toni, this is fantastic to see all the different spaces. it has given me some ideas for improving my own space. Thank you for putting it together and including me.
Toni, you deserve a huge round of applause – a standing ovation – for all the hard work you put into making this blog post. Many thanks to everyone who participated – I think I now understand why so many people write such different books – we all have a different comfort space to write them. I now i've gotten a ton of design ideas from the past two weeks.
Face it, Murderati rules!
This was fantastic, Toni! And thanks, Karen, as well. I love seeing other writers' spaces. Very cool!
Yarrrr! Me matey, thar be some fine work. Aye, lass ye be a credit to us gentlemen o' fortune. Any scurvy dog be say’n otherwise I be keelhauln the son-of-biscuit- eater. If I had me some booty , I’d be a share’n , alas me purse is empty. Get some grog ye be deserve’n but careful not to get loaded to the gunwales. Ye need to be swashbucklin' on ye keyboard.
Yes it be talk like a pirate day – Looks to me some landlubbers post'n here not be uphold'n the tradition, the scallywags 🙂
Toni, this is an awesome rap up. This whole exercise has been great fun!
Toni, I commented earlier but clearly forgot to hit the create post button! I think I was in a trance of delight looking at all the lovely spaces, all with such energy, that you took the time to collect here. Thank you – Murderati is such a great community – I love being part of it.
Thank you, everyone! I'm so glad you all enjoyed it, and I so appreciate everyone for participating. That made this a lot of fun.
Jeff, alas, I cannot be included in the perfect people because if I were perfect, your links would have been up there, working this morning as they were supposed to be. They are now, though. (You have SAINTS astroturf from the championship? I. Am. In. Awe.)
These are terrific–what a fabulous sneak peek! Totally jealous of Jim, and BIG congrats to JM! (We have the same initials…could that mean my own sale is seconds away? 😉 I totally agree with Mr. Child on the internet only machine. My own writing machine is called on just to create far away worlds…and still uses Windows '98.
Toni, I'm sorry, it never occurred to me to send photos of the shop, but I can! Or you can go to the shop's website and look through the photo album that shows the new space (although not the office where I do the bookkeeping). But I definitelly can get you more recent pictures, if you'd like.
Although the pictures are better when there are lovely authors in them!
And I didn't send you pictures of my writing space since the only thing I've really completed isn't long enough to be submitted anywhere, being novella length. I need to take another swipe at it and see if I can put more meat on the bones.
But seriously, if you want, I can send SMB pictures along next week.
The past two weeks have been a real treat — thank you, Toni, for browbeating people into doing it. And thanks to everyone who so generously shared pictures as well as some thoughts about their writing process. Fascinating journey behind the covers. Um, book covers.
Now I'm feeling inspired to rearrange and redesign my own space. Except I'm pretty sure that would just be procrastinating. Maybe after I finish this draft and send it off to betas…
Toni, a great deal of time and dedication went into this post-thank you
. Barbi's view was most relaxing (I don't feel nagged-excuse the unintentional pun-to look after the horse so to me it's serene. I fell in love with the carpet tiles, which my oldest would appreciate and if I weren't in an eight foot box, I'd want the colours and look of Lisa Unger's writing space. Hey Jim, how the hell do you get the grass to stay so green…do you write on a golf course? PK, I am so happy to see your work space in light of the archives I've been reading through. Unless I've confused people I've read about, you've been through so much and the position title at work/department: ironic! Dudley, Brontё thinks she'd prefer being friends with Gizmo after seeing McDuff!
Toni, outstanding work and thanks again. How do you keep it all straight or did you cheat a little, going through past comments and looking at websites?
Toni – this looks great, and like so much work! It would have taken me a week just to get all the pictures uploaded. I did, however, end up having to blog about your blog in my own blah-blah-blah-g, just because I didn't send pix of EVERYWHERE I write in my house. If I had, you might have just said, the hell with this, I'll pretend I had to talk about something more important this Sunday. After all, it is Talk Like a Pirate Day.
Thanks, Toni. This was really great! Now I don't feel so weird about my monk-like workspace…
BTW, Macs seem to rule the writers world 🙂
Allison – Arrr! That be true me harty. I’m needn’ to raise the Jolly Roger and find a fair ship to board for some doubloons to plunder so I can get me some Mac booty.
(Sorry, I’m such a geek I just can’t help it – I only get to do it once a year. 😉 And my 6 year old grandson has been running around the house all day being a pirate, which is too cute. )
This was great, and yes what a lot of work – thank you! I want Lisa Unger's space too. What great colors and light!
Funny, Stephen and I used to have Lucy March's bed too. Great minds!
Toni I sent in pics of my workspaces because I thought turn about is fair play. I loved that you all have been so open with your spaces and your process. Todays blog was a plethora of riches though. There are so many cool places people create from.
Thanks for including me in such great company.
Toni I'm in Australia and I'm not sure that my fan is sold in the US. Just in case the brand is HELLER.
Ahoy Dudley. Not a pirate nor a swashbuckler I be. Matie, a scallywag I yam. If ye be deserving of a sail on the seas of Lake Ontario, there be a Pirate festival nare summertime come round again. Mayhaps bring the whole family an ye be welcome to be hold up in our cabin me harties. Argh.
Hell, why am I doing this exactly? My kids babysitter's mother founded the festival but has since sold it and it continues each summer along with a fabulous Renfest-huzzah!
Aw, Toni, you're the best! My novel, Drew in Blue, will be released digitally December 1, 2010 through Lazy Day Publishing. It's a contemporary love story, and I'll be posting the deets as I get them on my website, http://www.jmkelleywrites.com. Thanks for pimping my news, I'm still over the moon. 🙂
I love this entire post, btw. I so love the idea of checking out how other writers work. I'm coveting some of the desk space I see, lol. I swear, when I move, my first task will be setting up the ultimate writing corner!
Hey Toni, thanks for sharing these office spaces. They are so varied. Love David Morell's space. Definitely thought holiday when I saw it.
Peace and love,
Toni – what a cool blog! I LOVE seeing all the workspaces and thanks so much for including mine. And I don't recall that 'dear-in-the-headlights' look you mentioned at the SMP party. I do remember a sweet, gorgeous, funny woman who's books I couldn't wait to read after I met her. Haven't been disappointed yet!
okay – it's been a long day. Let's make that 'deer' in the headlights and 'whose' , shall we???
Cindy, I did the same typo. Urg, indeed. And thank you.
JM, I will get that link up there as soon as Squarespace quits being ornery and lets me log back in.
Thanks for a fun topic! I loved reading about the various writing processes and seeing where the Rati authors and friends crafted their awesome novels.
Toni, if you decide to do another post with more offices/work areas, I'd be glad to contribute. Mine's a work in progress, but it looks like my messy space wouldn't be the lone non-minimalist look in the blog. My desire for the Swedish Country look (pastels, pear-shaped clocks and no clutter) is a long, long way from my reality.