I know I promised that this week I’d put up Post 2 of my explanation of why I think Scrivener is so wonderful. But that will have to wait until next week because this week is actually time for the second post in our Writers Ask Writers series, where I join with five other West Australian writers in a shared blog. This month we are talking about the magical and not-so-magical places where we sit down and write all the words that go into our books. Here’s my story:
For about 3 years it was just a set of black lines on a plan, with the label “The Studio” printed across the middle. At that stage, it was hard to imagine having a dedicated space to write, let alone something as grandiose as a Studio. I was used to writing in the dining room of the house we were renting, which was also the main thoroughfare to the kitchen and the living room. So it was not a peaceful place, and with its colour scheme of beige on beige, it was not a particularly inspiring place either.
Then in April 2012 our new house and thus The Studio was ready. I had chosen the wallpaper for The Studio at about the same time we started planning the house – a bold pink and silver floral Florence Broadhurst number that lifts my spirits whenever I see it.
So on one side of the room is the beautiful wallpaper and on the other side is a wall of glass that looks out over the garden and lets in light and makes the whole room a bright and happy place to be. And on my desk is an enormous screen, which I love, because it stops me getting sore eyes and a sore neck when I’m typing lots of words.
I also have one entire wall covered in bookshelves because I love sharing my space with all these wonderful words. How can I not aspire to greatness when I have Jane Austen and Charlotte Bronte and Margaret Atwood sitting just within reach?
I find I always have a touchstone book on my desk that connects in some way to the book I’m working on. With my first book, it was Margaret Atwood’s The Blind Assassin; there was something about the storytelling voice in Atwood’s book that allowed me to channel the voice I needed to tell Gaelle’s mother’s stories in What is Left Over, After. When I was writing If I Should Lose You, I had Joan Didion’s The Year of Magical Thinking on my desk. And for my latest novel, I have Amor Towles’ Rules of Civility and Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women on my desk; I love the sass of Towles’ main character Katey, and the sisters in Alcott’s book put me in mind of the sister’s in the book I’m working on.
And on the final wall is this gorgeous painting, by WA artist Lori Pensini. My husband bought it for me for Mother’s Day last year and I love the idea that the girl in the painting has wandered off to a dreamy, faraway place, of the kind where I go when I’m writing a book. So it seems fitting to have her there on the wall to remind me what a great job I have – one where I get to live inside my imagination for a couple of hours every day.
On the same wall is artwork of a different kind, that created by my gorgeous children. I am especially proud of the poster I was given by my 5 year old for Mother’s Day a fortnight ago. The teacher had given the children a set of sentences that they had to complete, all about their mums. One of the sentences was “My mum always says …” When I was looking at the posters in the pre-primary classroom, I noticed lots of kids had finished that sentence with the words “Be quiet!” Or “Pack your school bag” so I was a little worried about what I might find on my daughter’s poster. But guess what? It said the most beautiful thing of all: “My mummy always says … I love you Audrey”. It was one of those rare moments as a mother when you think you might actually be doing something right. So it sits very proudly on the wall near my desk where I can see it whenever I need to remember what is most beautiful in my life.
As for the other writers? Well Amanda Curtin has definitely written in some of the most exotic places – find out more about that here. You can check out Annabel Smith’s vintage typewriter here, and Emma Chapman has a great quote from Hilary Mantel pinned up above her desk – you might want to steal it and pin it above your desk too. Sara Foster is certainly the most nomadic of us, writing her way around Perth, and you can read about Dawn Barker’s quest for a child-free writing space here.