Laurie’s Writing Corners
My publisher asked me recently to give them a couple photos of my writing space, along with a short piece of writing, to use for their Instagram (@randomhouse) series called #WritersRoutine. But Insta posts aren’t meant for detail, so, for the insatiably curious (and for those who don’t have Instagram) here’s the photo of where I work, with a longer explanation of what you’re seeing.
My study is in a room that, when I bought the house 9 years ago, was the garage.
The deck outside the windows wraps around the back of the house, and is surrounded by trees—the most immediate leaves are a black bamboo, in a large pot.
What the picture shows, left to right:
The day bed I use to write on. It was built to fit into a window-well in the last house I lived in, as were the shelves—I brought them all with me when I moved, since what normal person shelves 3000 books in their master bedroom? The two drawers under the bed are filled with files of things related to the books—clippings, fan letters, articles, catalogues, etc.
Sitting on the bed is a small chest of drawers that I bought at the BSI weekend one year—its two drawers have handles shaped to look like the head of Sherlock Holmes.
I plug a wall-mounted external monitor into my laptop, so I can write without my neck seizing up.
On the window are large PostIts listing things I need to ask my informants about, for the work in progress (WIP).
My laptop, sitting on folders containing notes, printouts, etc to do with the WIP, and several of the pads I use for notes. I mostly use the kind that Levenger sells, with lines on the right and a section of empty space on the left, to put notes about the notes.
The small pillow and bolster are covered with alpaca fabric woven by my mother.
On the windowsill is a mug saying: When God created man, she was only joking. It contains a magnifying glass I received as a gift, and a (rather crooked now) beeswax candle stolen from the monastery in Wadi Kelt, described in O Jerusalem. Behind the mug is a decorated gourd from a trip to Mexico City when my daughter was 7 months old.
Under the day bed: the file folder holds printouts of the current WIP. It will be filled with more printouts, notes, maps, etc—and at the end, the first copy I receive of the book.
Leaning against the day bed: an oversized artist’s clipboard I use as a lap desk when I write, a habit that started when I wrote with a fountain pen on pads. (This is the second clipboard, the first one is a bit frayed now.)
My father made the three-legged Shaker table out of spalted maple. (Look it up.) On it is a clipped-together version of the current manuscript, since it has a complicated structure—I tag each chapter with one of three colors, and shift them around to see how they work together. Not my usual system, by the way, which is to just have the WIP in a folder like the one on the day bed. Also on the table is a mug painted with Medieval characters, from a pottery somewhere in southern England.
Books: top of the shelf are my sets of Kittel (Theological Dictionary of the New Testament) and the Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible, from the days of my theology degree. The next three shelves are general Biblical studies and theology, much if it to do with feminist themes. Then a shelf of Ordnance Survey maps, modern and old, and various books to do with England. Below that, England and a variety of guide books, mostly Baedeker’s. The other books are reference material for Britain, the Twenties, and writing.
The narrow cork-board, formerly used for images to do with a WIP, currently shows book covers: useful as a Zoom background.
Top shelf: ceramic skull intended to place in a fire so it glows: small print of Folly Bridge, Oxford, from 1906 (I owned a house one street away); dragon figurine (from a Medieval manuscript illumination) I bought thirty years ago at one of my favorite museums, the Musée de Cluny in Paris.
The shelf underneath it has Twenties references (including a Mrs Beeton) and books used while writing Castle Shade.
The next shelf has the 3D model of Bran Castle my grandsons helped build—or rather, that I helped them build—and a stack of my books published in the past year.
The armchair used to be my father’s, covered with a horrible scratchy green fabric. My mother had it re-covered back in the nineties, and I now use it for Zoom events, pulling around the white table to hold the laptop.
The framed painting is by my friend Jean Lukas, who did the pen-and-ink drawings used in the maps for Garment of Shadows, Dreaming Spies, and Island of the Mad, as well as several pieces of Beekeeper art over the years.
The red stove keeps me warm in the cold weather. (Propane—the pilot’s off for the season.)
And yes, the carpet and curtains are both purple. And that bit of empty shelf at the top of the picture is one end of the shelf of LRK Books that wraps around three sides of the room, more than 2/3 filled with various editions of my 30+ books.
…a picture illustrating that at the moment, my study is also a workout studio…
And that’s where the words take place. I like having a full study, with my own books and research material, surrounded by books I love. However, I’m not a fussy writer. When I need to, I can turn out words pretty much anywhere. After all, my first ventures into fiction (Califia’s Daughters) were in Oxford during the kids’ nap-times. Later I moved on to scribbling longhand on an oversized clipboard propped against the wheel of the Volvo during the kids’ piano lessons or soccer practice. And before the purple carpet went down and the shelves got fastened to the walls, while that garage was undergoing its transformation, my writing place (for The Bones of Paris) was the circular seat in a corner of the bedroom, with the sound of hammers and Skil saws to keep me company.