Writers ask writers: writing space

PWFC author collage

This month’s question in the Writers Ask Writers blog series is: Where do you write? Here’s my response, and you can scroll down to find links to those from my writer friends Dawn Barker, Emma Chapman, Sara Foster, Natasha Lester and Annabel Smith.

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DSCN3110My house was built as a shop (1928), and I write in a backyard studio that was once the storeroom for the shop. It’s a comfortable, messy, unglamorous space filled with books and maps, postcards and photographs, archive boxes and filing cabinets and hundreds of manila folders. I’m sorry to say that the paperless office is a concept unknown around here!

I love my studio, and it’s a bonus that the only rush-hour traffic I ever encounter on the way there is a few sleepy doves.

But much of my just-released novel Elemental was written in other places.

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Writing desk at Kelly’s Cottage

As the recipient of writing residencies/fellowships, I’ve spent time at Kelly’s Cottage, at the top of Kelly’s Steps in Salamanca, Hobart, overlooking Mt Wellington; Hawthornden Castle in Midlothian (south of Edinburgh) in a snow-bound Scottish winter; and the Tyrone Guthrie Centre, a glorious stately home in County Monaghan in Ireland, populated by writers, artists, sculptors, dancers, musicians and filmmakers.

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Hawthornden Castle; the top left dormer window was my attic room

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You need gloves at Hawthornden in winter!

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At the Tyrone Guthrie Centre

If you look closely at the photos, you might notice that I carried around with me the same images—dog-eared photocopies of photos, found in old books, of the herring girls I was writing about.

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In the Morning Room, my space at the Tyrone Guthrie Centre. Photo by Maria Maier

Place—landscape, people, history—affects me deeply as a person and as a writer, although there is often a gap of years before I can see a direct relationship between a place I’ve been and its trace in my writing. But I know that the atmospheric grey skies of Tasmania, Scotland and Ireland all found their way into my imagination, and into Elemental.

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At Ledig House

This last photo (right) was taken in late 2012 at Ledig House, in upstate New York. No herring girls this time—I was (and still am) working on a new project, set in Paris.

I feel privileged to have had the opportunity to write in these beautiful places (thanks to the Tasmanian Writers Centre, Mrs Drue Heinz, the Australia Council and Writers Omi), and to have my own place as a continuing inspiration.

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Click on the links to read what my writer friends had to say:

Annabel Smith: With a school-aged child, my writing day is short. I don’t want to waste even half an hour travelling to a library. And I am well-trained by now to ignore the siren song of bed-making, breakfast dishes, and piles of washing. So I write from home. I have a nice big desk, sandwiched between two ubiquitous Expedit shelving units from Ikea.—Read more here

Natasha Lester: 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? —Read more here

Sara Foster: I have fantasies about a studio—a room of my own, with wall-to-wall bookcases, and inspirational images and quotes all over the walls. However, while I’m working on that I’ve found that good things can come out of being nomadic—sometimes my location, the weather, or something I witness can really influence a scene.—Read more here

Emma Chapman: Sitting at the same desk all day can make me go a bit crazy. If I feel like that, I take a walk around Lake Monger, or sit on our small terrace and read an unrelated novel. I also like to work in cafes in my local area, just to get me out and about. Baking with music on really loud also helps me to get back in the zone.—Read more here

Dawn Barker: It helps to have a dedicated writing space at home that I can associate purely with writing. Before I had an office, I’d write at the kitchen table, or with my laptop on my knees in bed, but I like the feeling now of entering a new physical and emotional space when I sit down at my desk.—Read more here

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14 Comments

Filed under Writers ask writers

14 responses to “Writers ask writers: writing space

  1. Pingback: Sara Foster - Where do I write?

  2. Pingback: Writers Ask Writers: Where Do You Write? | While the kids are sleeping

  3. annabelsmith

    The desk at Kelly’s cottage is a bit lovely! I think I might be too busy gazing dreamily to get any writing done there.

  4. Oh, lovely pics and story, Amanda. I would love to write in those places in Scotland and Ireland. Were these through grants?

    • Thanks, Shirley. The Tyrone Guthrie residency was through the Australia Council’s residency program; Hawthornden Castle through a fellowship. Gorgeous places, both of them 🙂

  5. Fascinating places, Amanda – thanks for sharing!

    • Thanks, Felicity 🙂 Your research has taken you to some pretty fascinating places, too! I’ve never been to the Wellcome Museum but I suspect you’d have to drag me out of there!

  6. Gemma

    That Tasmanian desk does look lovely. I went on a trip to Launceston in Tassie last year and noticed another “writer’s residence” in the Cataract Gorge called “King’s Bridge Cottage”. It made me want to be a writer if only so that I would have a reason to go to such places!

  7. Pingback: EMMA CHAPMAN » WRITERS ASK WRITERS: Where Do You Write?

  8. Pingback: WRITERS ASK WRITERS: Where do you write? | How To Be A Good Wife

  9. Pingback: Writers Ask Writers: Where I Write |

  10. Pingback: Natasha Lester Author of If I Should Lose You and What is Left Over, After | Writers Ask Writers: 5 Writers Share Their Writing Spaces - Natasha Lester Author of If I Should Lose You and What is Left Over, After

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