Tuesday, September 27, 2011


DEBORAH CROMBIE: As you read this, I will be back in lovely London, staying in my favorite little hideaway hotel in South Kensington, trying to recover from jet lag before going on to events in Henley on Wednesday. In the midst of my usual frantic packing and last minute prep (does everyone else do that, or is it just me?) I was trying to organize my thoughts about what I needed to do the following week, when I will be back in London and doing some much-needed research for the book-in-progress. And I wondered what I might bring back with me that will keep me feeling connected to this particular book over the next few months.

Because it occurred to me that over the years, and the books, I have begun to collect what I think of as "writing momentos." Not that I haven't collected enough British things over the years! (We're not even counting the London Transport posters, or the teapots, or my photographer friend Steve Ullathorne's London prints. Or the generic things like handmade journals from Portobello Market , jewelry, hats, gloves, scarves . . .)

But rather things that are specific to a particular book. Touchstones. (On Friday, Louise Penny has some interesting things to say about how she stays connected to her books.)

There is the painted enamel canal-ware mug that I bought at the Canal Museum in London when I was writing Water Like a Stone. It now holds pencils and pens on my desk.

A scrap of framed chant manuscript, from A Finer End. A (rather cat-hairy) purple tartan blanket from the Scottish book, Now May You Weep. AND, although the bottles of scotch bought while writing the book have long since disappeared (mostly drunk by other people) I still keep a bottle of good scotch to remind me of those wonderful visits to the Highland distilleries.

From No Mark Upon Her and my time spent in Henley, I have a Leander pink hippo mug, and a Leander wooly hat, which I actually wore out sculling on the Thames. (But that's another story.)

So what do I want to bring back this time, to keep me centered in the current book?

A vintage Fender Stratocaster. Preferably Fiesta Red.

Somehow, I doubt that is going to happen. Sigh.

What about you, Jungle Reds and dear readers? Do you need things that physically tie you to your books?


  1. You can get on for about $1250 or a book about them for less than $10! Too bad someone doesn't make a pin/broach of one!

  2. What a great question... and I'm so jealous, Deb. I love London. My daughter lived there for 2 years and we made frequent visits.

    I do have mementoes for books. In Never Tell a Lie, the opening scene is a yard sale where there's a green depression-glass swan. I was so happy to score that exact thing off eBay.

    While you're there, look at the lovely Emma Bridgewater china - I have a few of her bird mugs and would have more if they didn't "cost a bomb."

  3. AH. lovely Debs...you must be having a wonderful time! Sigh.

    Mementos--I am very very careful about them. I--save too many things. I have a bottle of wine Sue Grafton gave me...and framed handwritten blurbs from Sue and Robert B Parker.

    I have a rock that's carved with "imagine" and another with "patience."

    They're all very--inspirational, and kind of ...meditative.

  4. Hallie, love Emma Bridgewater. Was thinking I might find something special there for a wedding present (my daughter's best friend, and I'm missing the wedding!)

    And as for the Strats, I'll be wandering up and down Denmark Street in Soho, pressing my nose against the windows of the guitar shops and drooling. Maybe I can find a pin!

  5. The novel I'm trying to get out into the world (working with an agent now: crossing my fingers for our relationshiop) takes place in western Ireland, County Clare. Three research trips later I've got plenty of mementos! The wool blanket that hangs over my desk chair, for example. For a quick Irish jolt, I revisit my photos, some of which I posted to my website for easy access. I love travel for research purposes, and not just because it's tax deductible! :-)

  6. (Oops, typo alert: that would be "relationship")

  7. Did you happen to read about the cemetery worker who just stole a Fender Strat.. from a coffin? Deceased wanted to be buried with his and worker couldn't stand to see it in the ground.

  8. That's a good story Ro! The whole wall over my desk is papered with photos and mementos. One of my favorites is a plaque from my one and only appearance in the pro-am round of the Shop-Rite LPGA golf tournament. I look at that and say, what an interesting ride this writing gig is!

  9. Welcome to London. I collect people rather than objects, anyone who might be able to help with my research, human remains experts, market traders, DNA experts, rugby players, prison psychiatrists, florists, you name it, and of course my brilliant team of police contacts.

  10. Never thought about this before. I have the stuffed bunny featured in my short story, "The Lambertville Witch." It was a baby shower favor from a for Girl Scout's baby shower.

    Now I'll have to see what else I have around the house that is featured in other stories.