Jeanne: The Room Where It Happens

Michaeline’s post on Saturday about writers’ fantasy getaways to magical places that enable them to whip through their WIPs made me realize, once again, that my version of that fantasy is like the theme from Wizard of Oz: There’s no place like home.

20200829_135905I write best in my writing cave, a 9.5′ x 11′ room that was added onto the back of my 97- year-old house in the 1950’s or 60’s (along with an extra bathroom/laundry room and a ridiculously useless hallway that I’ve converted into a mudroom/cloakroom/ ironing room).

Before Covid-19 entered our lives, I went on occasional junkets to beaches or faraway cities to write, but I seldom (almost never) returned home with any additional words written. Sadly, the one time I actually got a substantial number of words on the page, I wound up throwing said pages away after I decided the book was headed in the wrong direction. 😦

I’ve come to the conclusion that I write best in familiar surroundings. That’s partly 20200829_135916because my kids are grown, I currently have no pets, and my husband is a very low-maintenance kind of guy. But it’s partly because the room is really well-suited to writing. It has space for my ancient desktop computer (if all you use is Word, Excel and Chrome, you don’t really need a state-of-the-art computer), a couple of printers (one black-and-white laser printer and a color multi-function device that scans and makes copies, and a couple of fairly up-to-date laptops that I use when I travel.

The room has counters along both sides, with an assortment of junk drawers and cabinets underneath, and bookshelves along the top of the room, where I keep dictionaries, craft books and approximately 1000 tablets and notebooks because I’m forever finding myself out in the world with time on my hands and nothing to write on.

It also has a couple of windows that look out on my working-class neighborhood. Some of my writing buddies have amazing views from their writing rooms–Puget Sound and San Francisco Bay. I suppose after a while I’d become so accustomed to the beauty that I’d stop gawking, but my view is okay. The windows are enough to keep me from being claustrophobic without creating a distraction.

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There are a couple of closets at one end of the room. On the closet doors I tape up things like maps and floor plans that I need to keep track of the “where” of my stories. Right now the left-hand door has floor plans of the United Nations Conference Center in New York City, where much of my work-in-progress, The Demon Wore Stilettos, takes place. The right-hand door has a tourist map of Sedona, AZ, where I plan to set my next project, a rom-com series about a family of five siblings who are suddenly left in charge of their parents’ tour business and each sibling has a different idea about where they’d like to take the business (and a chance at love along the way, of course).

It’s not a particularly pretty room, but it’s homey and very practical. What kind of space do you use when you’re being creative?

Michaeline: Writer’s Fantasy #1: The Lockdown Inn

A 1920s stylish woman with a piece of paper on her desk mat, and the tip of a pen between her lipsticked lips.

An empty hotel room, a non-leaky pen, and thou, my precious manuscript! (Image via Wikimedia Commons)

Writers and hotels just seem to go together, both fictionally and in real life. The dad in Stephen King’s The Shining just wanted to get away from everything for a winter and WRITE. (It turned out horribly.) Maya Angelou (in an interview with The Paris Review – blurbed by google but with a broken link) said she’d rent a hotel room for a few months, leave home at six, and then write in the room (which had amenities such as a bible, a bath, a thesaurus and a dictionary, according to a Daily Beast article).

It’s alleged that Agatha Christie (who Kay Keppler wrote about on Thursday) wrote Murder on the Orient Express in Pera Palace Hotel in Istanbul. (Istanbul is the southern terminal of the railroad.) The hotel is also part museum, and has an Agatha Christie Room with antique furniture and Christie’s books AND the Agatha Restaurant, a smart-casual dining room.  

Scores of businesses offer writers the opportunities to retreat to a cabin in the woods, or on the beach, or in the middle of a city, to spend a weekend writing and talking with their fellow writers.

I thought Damon Knight (in his Creating Short Fiction) talked about a writer who would meditate on a story for three months then go to a hotel room and type for 30 hours straight . . . but it turned out I misremembered. I bought the book again, but this time the digital version so I could search it, and it seems it wasn’t a cheap motel, but a *specially designed cubicle, smaller than a telephone booth*. I suppose a modern hotel room would have too many distractions for that kind of writer (the bath, the Gideon bible, the cable TV and wifi).

Of course, in this Time of Corona, germophobes like me are not going to a hotel to write. I keep remembering articles that say coronaviruses survive on plastic surfaces for up to 72 hours, wood for four days, and glass for five days. Ugh.

But still, it’s fun to dream.

Heian Japanese lady peeking from under a curtain, with her manuscripts on the floor

Sei Shonagon was writing in Japan around the year 1000 — but didn’t have the luxury of an inn. She had to make do with the palace. (Image via Wikimedia Commons)

My friend sent me a fun article about a Japanese inn that offers a writer’s service for real writers or for those who just want to cosplay. The staff calls themselves the Editing Department, you can book a service that holds the key to your hotel safe so you can lock your phone inside, or you can pay extra to have actors pretending to be your secret lover and your spouse run into each other – to get that olde-timey dramatic writer experience! (Debt collectors also available.)

The heroine of the article, ChieVampire, goes to get some real work done, and it’s entertaining to follow her evening and morning at the traditional hotel. The Homeikan in Tokyo has quite a few entertaining programs in their three historic buildings, and when a vaccine’s been discovered, I want to go and try out the Monster Event* or the Literary Retreat Plan. It does seem like a quite reasonable price, and I’ll be sure to pack my longest extension cord and pocket wi-fi.

On this longing note of nostalgia and yearning, have you been on a dream retreat, or do you have one that you’d like to go to some day? (-: I know Kay’s talked about creating her own writing retreat.


*I don’t know an easy way to get this link in English. If you cut and paste 鳳明館幽霊 (Homeikan ghosts) into Google, look for the “jibunmedia.publishers” link, and click on translate this page. 

Jeanne: When the Going Gets Tough

Shell at KiawahMy elementary school gym teacher was fond of saying, “When the going gets tough, the tough get going.” I have a variation on that maxim: “When the writing gets tough, writers go on retreat.”

So here I am, very near the end of what has been a really long and painful road to The Demon Wore Stilettos, Book 3 of my Touched by a Demon series. What better way to cap this thing off than to hang out on Kiawah Island, off the coast of South Carolina, with three other writers? So that’s where I spent last week.

(Sadly, they weren’t Eight Ladies, but other writing friends I’ve made along the way.)

I was seriously, truly hoping to type “The End” before we left on Sunday, but that didn’t happen. What did happen was: Continue reading