Where I work

So now it’s my turn to talk about my workspace.  I thought about cleaning up a bit before taking these photos, but then decided, what the heck.  I’ll show you what it really looks like, clutter and all.  My office is in a huge room above our garage.  It has open beams and sloping walls, a really fun sort of space that made building bookcases a challenge.  On the wall is a framed copy of  1996 New York Times Bestsellers List where I made my very first appearance, and draped on it are all the nametag lanyards from various book festivals and conferences I’ve attended over the years.  You can also see two different desks. 

One desk is an antique partner’s desk, where there’s way too much junk spread out across the surface.  But this is the desk where I write my first drafts, in longhand. At the moment, it’s got maps of Boston, handwritten pages of my next novel, and a ton of other stuff I really should get rid of!  

The other is my computer desk, which looks no neater!

And I’m embarrassed to show you what the other half of the room looks like.  But here it is:

There are books, running shoes, a photocopy machine, and tons of boxes with various editions of my books that I’m not sure what to do with.  Plus a futon couch where I sometimes stretch out and stare at the ceiling when I can’t figure out what the heck happens next in the story!

Finally, here’s the best part of my office.  Or maybe I should call it the worst part, because it’s so darn distracting:

The view.  My windows look out over Penobscot Bay, where I can spot seals and dolphins, seabirds and even the occasional bald eagle.  On the window sill are various souvenirs I’ve brought back from my travels abroad, including interesting rocks from Turkey, Egypt, Libya, and England.  And I always keep my globe nearby, just to remind myself that there’s a lot of the world I have yet to see.

36 thoughts on “Where I work

  1. PK the Bookeemonster

    What a gorgeous view! And when you said you didn't clean up, I was expecting chaos. You forget you're talking to avid book people here.

  2. Grace

    What a beautiful hideway!! I'm guessing it's very quiet and the view — stupendous. Very surprised to hear you write your first draft in longhand — pen moving across paper — has a wonderful nuance,

    Thank you for sharing your personal space. Globe is inspiring.

  3. Ellis Vidler

    I'd never get anything done if I lived on Penobscot Bay. I fell in love with the area when I worked on a project in Bucksport. I first saw Stonington on a foggy morning (probably easier than finding a sunny morning) and have dreamed of spending a few months writing there. Love your work.

  4. Tess Gerritsen

    Thank you Tess for sharing so much of your creative life with your readers! You have an amazing life!

  5. RhondaL

    Thank you for the peek into your office. I think the view can work as a creative tool because you don't have to leave your office to relax your mind.

    That way, you're ready when a good idea burbles out of your subconscious while your conscious mind is soaring with the birds over the water.

    So, I think the window could be less of a distraction than getting up and leaving your work area. Just a thought.

  6. JB Lynn

    What a lovely space. I'm envious of your view and encouraged by your "mess". Thanks so much for offering this glimpse into your process!

  7. Stephen D. Rogers

    Hey Tess,

    Thinking about my writing room, you have nothing to apologize for. 🙂

    Penobscot Bay? I was in your neck of the woods recently. Went up the Penobscot bridge observatory, visited Fort Knox, and just hung around.

    What's so hard to understand about duct tape? The staff at the food store looked at me as though I was crazy. The hardware store was closed. The three general stores I visited, they didn't even sell regular tape.



  8. Chrys

    What a gorgeous, stunning view! Like Ellis said, I'd never get anything done if I had that panorama.

    As for the rest of the room, it pretty much looks just like my writing space! Chaotic organization is how I describe my room. I know where everything is, even if it's on the floor under two stacks of books.

    I wrote my entire first draft in long hand while at my day job; I'd write in whatever notebook I had handy at the moment, standing behind an oversized, hot, screen printing dryer; in between folding shirts coming off the conveyor I'd write. And then I'd go home at the end of the day and transcribe the long hand into my laptop. Now I'm in the rewrite phase.

  9. Dudley Forster

    What a great space! I have to agree on the view. It’s so beautiful it would be major distraction. Did I notice binoculars on the window ledge? With that view, no way could I have them there. . . I’m a birder. I love that the space is all angles. It strikes me as a more creative place than just the straight planes of four walls.

    I’m OCD about my desk space, but the rest of the room , ah where’s the mess again?

    Writing out longhand? My handwriting is so bad that sometimes I can’t read it. My wife and every secretary I have ever had have said I should have been a doctor. Hey! Now I get it, you write longhand as a kind of a security measure like da Vinci mirror writing <g> Sorry, but people do say that about my handwriting and the rest was just lying there begging to be picked up.

  10. tess gerritsen

    Dudley, no one can read my handwriting because I have these shorthand codes — e.g., an m with a circle around it can either stand for Maura or for murmur. (drawn from my days of writing notes as a doctor.) So if I'm suddenly hit by a truck, no one will be able to decipher my horrible first drafts!

    And Chrys, yes, I know exactly where everything is under all that clutter.

  11. Karen in Ohio

    Lovely space, and it strikes me that, with all that wood, it's a healthy space, as well. No carpet to grab and hold dust.

    My sewing room is also one of those knee-wall rooms, and I'm really impressed by the way you had the bookshelves built to accommodate the angled ceiling. I'm so stealing that idea! Brilliant.

  12. Catherine

    I love your amount of space Tess. The room for multiple zones is a thing of envy. There is also something about the varied ceiling that evokes every garret fantasy I ever had. That view from your window must be pure joy throughout the year. Hell of a room. Thanks for sharing.

  13. Judy Wirzberger

    May I offer my services as a house sitter. If you're traveling to the Bay Area, you could use my condo as a base of operations. Of course, while I'm in residence at your house, I may want to change the locks.

    Interesting. Now the two of you first "revealers of your work space" confess that you have two desks. Tess, I'm so happy you didn't rearrange anything. From the clutter of your mind you have snatched wonderful words, phrases and ideas. Like digging through a jewelry clearance bin and finding a treasure.

  14. JT Ellison

    I'm kind of with Rob – though I'll restrain from committing murder. That's an amazing space, and even the "mess" looks productive. I sometimes wonder if I could be a little looser with my stuff, if I'd feel more like a writer? Cause that looks like a writer's space to me, just like Pari's did yesterday. Hmm….

  15. Dudley Forster

    Rob – I recently posted about a dream I had where one Rati was killing off other Ratis, but the dream lacked motive, hmm . . . <g>

  16. toni mcgee causey

    I love this space, Tess. I love the angles of the ceilings and the open beams and especially the view. But if I had that gorgeous of a view, I don't know if I'd get anything done.

    I'm so glad to know I'm not the only one who saves the lanyards.

  17. Elizabeth Kaylene

    I love that you showed us what it really looks like. I don't care who you are — no one works in pristine settings! Your office is cozy and I love the view. I could stare out that window all day!

    Do you ever work outside? I think I'd have to, with that view!

  18. Stephen D. Rogers

    Hey Tess,

    Why did we need duct tape? Research! 🙂

    We brought our pets with us and discovered that the cable ties that were good enough to hold together the ad hoc dog kennel were less than successful when it came time to mount the guinea pigs's water bottle to the side of the plastic tub.


    had to fashion their pens out of

  19. Dudley Forster

    Stephen – Did you have a shovel, tarp, latex gloves and hacksaw with you?

    Returning to the topic of work space, this is my writing time. Then why am I here making silly comments? The grand kids are here and mom is not. The quick errand has taken over one and half hours and counting. Any ideas on how to grand kid proof your work space. Stephen has brought up duct tape, ostensibly for research on a guinea pig, but I think that is a little premature. Any volunteers for grand kid sitting, I pay in Red Bulls?

  20. Dudley Forster

    See, I'm so distracted I can't even spell grandkid. I wonder if I can put all three grandkids and mom on EBay:-) Hey! I think she just walked in, now I can get back to work. But I'll remember no one volunteered.

  21. Deborah Piccurelli

    Great workspace, Tess! I'm so glad you decided not to clean it up. Now, I won't be embarassed about my own clutter. And, yes, we clutterers know exactly where everything is, don't we?

  22. Coco

    Hi Tess,

    I think your writing room is beautiful. It looks comfortable and serene. The futon even resembles one I had in Boston. I am so glad I chanced upon this website and found your blog. For years I've read your mystery thrillers. Recently I've been watching the t.v. adaptation of your characters, Rizzoli and Isles.

    I am thoroughly enjoying the show. The duo are wonderfully cast, although in my mind Rizzoli should not be as physically gorgeous and thin as Angie Harmon. I had always pictured Rizzoli as someone who's less the American beauty stereotype. I'd have liked her to be played by someone who has obvious physical flaws and perhaps even slightly rounded features.

    I also would have liked Dr. Isles to be played by an Asian actress. Regardless, the show is a success because of the lively, conflicting yet complementary interplays between Rizzoli and Isles' personalities. Love it, love it, love it! Keep your books and the t.v. show coming.


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