I've been thinking recently about my perfect place to write. I know that Julia has escaped to our agent's retreat on Nantucket to finish a book without interruptions. I know Susan has fled to a hotel (in Florida, wasn't it?). But I'm not sure it would work for me to go somewhere lovely. I'd be peeking out of the windows, watching the ocean and thinking I should go for a walk on the beach first, or what kind of sea-birds were those. At home I stare at a wall (it does have my Edgar nomination on it, a couple of NYT lists with my name on them AND a photo of a young Robert Redford to remind me of what is possible) But I try not to look out of the window.
So would you escape to write if you were offered the chance? Where would it be?
HALLIE EPHRON: Honestly I don't want to go anywhere. I'm much more productive at home. My tiny office IS my perfect place to write. The only thing that happens there is my work. Maybe it's the reason I didn't start writing until late -- it was once my children's play room. You really do need a place to write. I always remember the story (Woolf tells it in A Room of One's Own) about Jane Austen having only the family drawing room to write in and how she used to have to hide her manuscript.
SUSAN ELIA MACNEAL: I've really never had a room of my own for work. Before Kiddo was born, Hubby and I shared the guest room/office. Then Kiddo took that over. And then, when when Miss Edna moved in, she took Kiddo's bedroom and we made him a "nook" in our dining room. (It's a loft -- not quite as dire as it sounds....) But, with that, I lost my desk, so I would work sitting on the couch or in bed.... Now I have a desk back, but it's in our living/dining/kitchen area, so it's not exactly private. So, yes, for bouts of concentrated effort I like to travel. It really doesn't matter where to me, as long as it's private and I can walk places. Seriously, I would do (almost) anything for a room of my own.... Having a place to work where no one is walking through/bothering me an ongoing challenge... Ah, New York....
HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN: Yeah, if I went somewhere to write, then I'd have to PACK, right? And then i'd be all worried about what to take, and what would happen in my home while I was gone. I adore my study, the big sugar maple out the window, all my stuff and nice things, and access to everything. Yeah, I'm home. And when it's quiet, and I'm not on a crushing deadline, and the words are (crossing fingers) flowing. That's a journey right there--I'd rather go INTO the book than out somewhere to find it.
If I must, though, I adore writing on airplanes. It's so contained, and such a time bubble, I am incredibly productive when I am at 30,000 feet. Probably having no internet helps, right?.
DEBORAH CROMBIE: I love writing in my office, too. But, this is complete fantasy, right? So I would be in a stone cottage in the Cotwolds, in the autumn or winter, so there would be a fire inside and bare trees and fields outside. I'd write (having my total fantasy ergonomic desk and chair in said cottage) in front of the fire, with cups of tea, and when I needed to think I'd go for long walks with a borrowed dog (no feeding or cleaning up after.) Then in the evenings I'd walk to the local pub and read my pages over dinner and a glass of wine... Can you tell I've been looking at English home magazines?
Hank, so funny, I cannot write on a plane. Just cannot do it. At least not on the computer, although sometimes I manage notes by hand. I always think people are looking over my shoulder and it paralyzes me.
JULIA SPENCER-FLEMING: Debs, can I have the cottage next to you? That sounds ideal. Hank, I can't write on a plane either, but it's usually because we're all so jammed together like herring in a barrel. Either I tuck my arms in and approach the keyboard v-e-r-y s-l-o-w-l-y or I type freely and constantly nudge the person next to me.
My and Rhys' agent's house in Nantucket was about as perfect as one could get. There was a fireplace, but I discovered that if I don't need a fire for heat, I'm happy to avoid the fuss and muss that goes with it. The reason I think it worked so well was that I was visiting in late January/early February; quite possible the only time of the year one has NO desire to walk the beaches of Nantucket. There were hardly any people around, and those with whom I socialized were also writers, and they understood my desire to be monkish.
I also like my own old farmhouse in the country. If I could only afford to send the rest of the family away for a two-week cruise, I could get loads of writing done right here!
RHYS: Debs and Julia, I love visiting my sister-in-law and staying at her lovely manor house. It's the closest I've come to shutting myself away from the world.
RHYS: I think we should all go on a Jungle Red retreat, don't you? Which reminds me of the reason I thought about this topic. I have been invited to be the writer-in-residence at a workshop/retreat in Tuscany next summer. Ten days at a lovely old hotel in a village in Chianti,with good food, wine and gelato tastings, in between intense writing sessions, many of them one-on-one with me. So if you know someone who wants to kick-start that novel, or finish a novel, please tell them about this. Visit www.minervaeducation.net for all the details. Who is going to join me?
I can't wait..