Caroline Carlson

My writing room: a virtual tour

We just moved into this house a few months ago, and one of my favorite things about it is that it is bigger than a breadbox. Not much bigger, admittedly, but it does have a spare room. A room that I have conquered in battle and claimed for my very own.

Actually, my husband was wonderful and allowed me to claim this room without any sort of battle. But I would have drawn my sword for this room, if sword-drawing had been necessary, since it is now my writing room. It’s the very first place I’ve had all to myself, entirely for the purpose of writing. And it is pretty great.

Maybe someday I’ll post photos of my writing room, but for now I’ll try to describe it in words. I’m a writer, and writers are big fans of describing things in words–and also, I can’t remember where my camera is. Oh well. Anyway, imagine you are sitting in a big squashy chair. The chair is squashy because it’s basically a foam-filled beanbag covered with suspiciously green corduroy fabric. It’s not the most attractive chair in the world, but it’s super comfy, which is why you are sitting in it in the corner of your writing room when there is a perfectly good (and much more attractive) desk chair a few feet away. From the supreme comfort of your squashy green chair, here are a few of the things you might see:

* My desk, strictly speaking, is not a desk. It is a dining table from IKEA. In our tiny old apartment, it actually was a dining table/kitchen island, which means that it has some strange dents and scratches in the surface that most writers’ desks do not have. (At least, I assume that most writers haven’t attacked their desks with kitchen knives.) But it’s a good size and a friendly light-wood color, and most importantly, it is much smaller than my actual desk, which we couldn’t fit through the door of my writing room. My real desk is a gorgeous behemoth that’s currently pretending to be a dining room sideboard until we move to a place with bigger doors. I’m starting to worry that my pieces of furniture will develop severe identity crises.

* My desk chair is not green, nor is it squashy. It is quite fancy and high-tech, a graduation gift from my parents. It does all sorts of magical things to my lumbar, whatever that is.

*My Thanksgiving cactus perches on one corner of my desk. It’s from a local farm here in western Pennsylvania, and it is smart enough to bloom every Thanksgiving, even though Thanksgiving falls on a different date each year. I can never remember when Thanksgiving is–but the cactus knows! Perhaps that’s because it lives right under my giant wall calendar. Since it’s almost Thanksgiving, the cactus is in full hot-pink bloom right now.

*My giant stack of books and stuff is an ever-changing exhibit on my desk, consisting currently of Cheryl Klein’s book about writing and editing, Second Sight; Sarah Prineas’ middle-grade fantasy The Magic Thief: Found; two printed-out and marked-up drafts of my own novel in progress; and a handful of letters and cards from friends.

*My windowsill is pretty boring, for the most part, but it does frame my window, which has a lovely view of golden-leaved trees. In a few more days, it’ll have a lovely view of bare trees and the neighbors’ backyard. The other cool thing about my windowsill is that it’s home to a penguin (a handmade gift from friends the day before my wedding) and a pirate (another gift from a different friend). Since I’m writing pirate books these days, I often turn to my pirate for inspiration. He is a little unbalanced, so sometimes he falls off the windowsill and into the pencil jar below. I keep my empty grog bottle far across the room so the pirate won’t get any ideas.

*Over here by the squashy chair is my bookshelf filled with books! Half of them are writing-craft books and style manuals; the other half are reference books about weird subjects I’ve needed to learn about for stories–like lighthouses and magic and pirates and fairy tales. There’s also another penguin over here, along with a Dala horse from a trip to Sweden and a mermaid that used to belong to my grandmother (I think).

Other things worth mentioning in my writing room include my guitar (which is wearing my MFA hood from Vermont College), a poster of me as an ’80s video game hero, and a big box of books from my lovely publisher, HarperCollins. There is also an ugly carpet with a strange and unpredictable smell, but it’s best not to think about it.

Despite the unpredictable smell, the narrow door, and the tipsy pirate, I wouldn’t trade my writing room in for the tiny sofa where I used to write in our tiny old apartment. But I shouldn’t be too harsh on the tiny sofa or the tiny apartment, since that’s where I wrote my first book. So far, the writing room has seen some editing action, some tweeting, and the composition of an entire blog post, but I’m looking forward to the first book born in this room. I hope it’ll be a good one.

 

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