Where Writers Write: Hannah Jones

After a short hiatus, the Where Writers Write series is back for more glimpses into where our fellow writers actually do their work. Please welcome Hannah Jones to the series this week. If you’d like to share your writing space in this series, shoot me an email at kristinoffilerwrites@gmail.com.

I have a full time editorial position at a social science publishing company (which I love!) so my own writing is something I squeeze into the margins of my daily life.
The academic nature of the non-fiction manuscripts I work with during the day provides a nice balance for when I come home and want to write creatively; primarily, I write young adult and middle grade fiction, short stories, memoir, and am currently hard at work writing a pictorial history book about Byberry State Hospital (in Philadelphia) that is forthcoming from Arcadia Publishing.

Because writing creatively is a treat, I really look forward to and make the best use of the one or two hours of writing time I get.

What is your writing space like?

My writing space is a 6’x 6’ corner of my living room. One desk–the one reserved for blogging, email, and bills–faces the rest of the room, the windows, and the television. The antique writing desk faces the wall and is a strictly computer-free writing space–I prefer to write first drafts by hand–which helps me avoid all distractions while creating something new.

Before I bought my own place about six months ago, I’d never really had my own official and regular writing space. Moving in and out of college dorms, apartments, and my parents’ house always prevented me from both organizing a space and setting up a regular writing routine. Since I moved into my new condo, it’s been an experiment and adventure in figuring out what facilitates my most creative and productive writing process.

At first, I was struggling with having just one desk because it was the catch-all: creative writing, bills, blogging, more bills, and junk mail all piled up on the narrow surface of my antique writing desk. Knowing I’d either have to pay bills or at least organize the mess of papers before I could dive into a new short story served as a deterrent; instead of being drawn to my writing space, I actively avoided it. I didn’t get much writing done in the first few months living here.

Now, rather than haunting my writing space, all my bills are organized and put away in colorful file folders and I only have to look at them if I pull them out to sort on purpose. With two desks, I have the luxury of reserving one desk to be solely for creative writing projects. If I want to write, it’s always clear and ready for me to start, the moment inspiration strikes me. The new desk also provides more desk space so I have room to spread out multi-page projects.

Do you keep a writing routine? If so, what is your routine?

I recently started up a routine that budgets a minimum of fourteen hours of writing time a week and so far, it’s working pretty well for me. I write two to three times a week on my hour lunch break, write for three to four hours on Monday and Wednesday nights after work, and try to write at least five hours total over the weekend. To make this work–and to really get myself to stick to the schedule–I had to create a color-blocked Excel spreadsheet. Checking in with it helps me turn off the TV or put down the book I’m reading during official “writing time” and focus. I originally scheduled myself to wake up an hour earlier a few mornings a week to squeeze in some writing before work, but it ended up being a false hope. I admire those writers who can wake up at 5 AM to write for four hours before starting the rest of their day!

What’s something unique and interesting about your writing space?

The most unusual thing about my writing space is my two desks. Not only the fact that I have two desks, but the fact that they are such completely different styles. One is an antique secretary desk that my dad gave me for my seventeenth birthday. It has carved claw feet, a thousand little drawers and nooks, and even has two secret hidden compartments. It has so much character and makes me feel “dressed up” when I write. The fanciness of it helps facilitate the daydream that I’m among the ranks of great American writers, currently writing the next great American [fill in the blank].

My other desk is much more contemporary. It has a built-in filing system for organizing messes of paper, a built-in corkboard which I use for post-it to-do lists and deadline reminders, and can be folded up and into the wall. Even though I dreamed of having two desks in my writing space, I didn’t think it was going to be possible because of how small my condo is (eight hundred square feet). But then I saw this space-saving, fold-up desk featured on Apartment Therapy and ordered it right away. Pure white, its fold-up design is perfect for conserving space when I have company over.

I have one chair for both desks, a classic carved wooden chair that I’ve borrowed from my mom’s office. I wish it could swivel and roll around too, so I could switch from one desk to the other more easily, as I’m constantly swapping desks during my writing time when I finish one task and move onto a different writing project, but for now it’s just right.

If you could have any writing space in the world, what would it look like and why?

A treehouse. One summer, I helped rebuild my childhood treehouse in my parents backyard. We ripped down all the walls, which were rotting and waterlogged, leaving just the roof and the frame. For a few weeks, with construction on hold, I would climb up there to write and it felt like I was in a glass room, surrounded by the upper branches of the forest and the wildlife, and protected from the rain (the best was staying up there to write during a thunderstorm). It was incredibly peaceful and felt sort of magical. When we finally put the new walls up, it felt closed in again, contained and normal like a house, and it lost that special feeling. Someday, I’d like to have a writing treehouse like that again.

Hannah Karena Jones is an assistant editor by day and a YA, middle grade, historical, and memoir writer by night. Her writing has appeared in The Susquehanna Review and Weave Magazine, among others, and has been awarded Honorable Mention in the Writer’s Digest Young Adult Fiction Competition. Her book, Byberry State Hospital, is forthcoming from Arcadia Publishing. She blogs about writing and publishing at The (Writer’s) Waiting Room and tweets about everything @HannahKarena10.

Where Writers Write: Charlotte Bumstead

This week’s Where Writers Write post features Charlotte Bumstead. Enjoy this glimpse into her great writing space, and remember– if you want to be featured in the Where Writers Write series, email me at kristinoffilerwrites@gmail.com.

I’ve always loved the way the words act as my escape; carrying me like a magic carpet soaring across whatever landscape I happen to desire that day. Writing has not only become my favorite form of communication, but I also treasure the way one can use the words to capture a particular moment in time. The act of writing keeps me present, yet it also allows me to reflect on the past and to dream about the future. Somehow, the words are able to press pause when I no longer hold the remote.

Over the years, I have developed a passion for using the words not simply to explain my own life, but rather to illustrate the much more interesting and captivating lives of those all around me. I quickly decided to transform this passion of mine into a journalism degree and soon it became an imbedded piece of my life story—currently taking place just outside of Toronto, Ontario. This is where I do my researching and interviewing. It’s where I construct new ideas and sculpt them into stories for publication in magazines or for posting on my blog. This is where I write.

My office view

What is your writing space like?

Colorful, organized and bright (it’s the only room in the house with four windows). Nothing distracts me like a pile of unfiled papers or various notes left in disarray. My desk sits comfortably in the back corner of the angular room. The wall to my left is painted a soft shade of lavender; to my right is a contrasting touch of sand brown. This week’s to do list decorates my whiteboard with various assignments and deadlines. A shiny, black and silver globe is perched directly in front of me, just waiting to be spun so it can forecast my next imaginary travels.

Plants with pink and purple flowers and round, green leaves breathe freely all around me. The smiling faces of those I love sit in portrait form on the shelves above my head. The clippings of my very first magazine articles—one published online, the other in print—are displayed behind the glass of a wooden frame, reminding me that what may be just a dream one day, could become very real the next.

Beyond the photos and frames, a square black screen stares down at me until I choose to flip on the news or perhaps lose myself in a Friends rerun after a long evening spent at work. In the mornings I am accompanied by my favorite mug, filled to the brim with the dark, creamy liquid I refuse to live without. Its rich aroma encompasses the entire room, and somehow the words spill out with ease. In the evenings I settle for a steaming cup of tea until I am forced to peel my eyes away from the bright light of my beloved HP laptop. Although I write best in silence, the soft chirping of birds outside or kids playing in the street can sometimes bring an added effect.

 Do you keep a writing routine? If so, what is your routine?

I find I write best in the middle of the afternoon. I enjoy using my mornings for research, prep and interviews. But the first thing I do when I start my workday (or almost any day for that matter) is read. Whether it be the news, blogs, emails, or the current piece of fiction stashed in the drawer of my nightstand, I read anything and everything that happens to cross my path and catch my interest that day.

My spewing bookcase

Before I know it, ideas start bouncing around and the creative itch kicks in. I take notes so I don’t forget any of these initial prompts, and then I get down to work. I also spend way too much time on social media. I can get lost in a Twitter newsfeed like a toddler on an Easter egg hunt. One treat leads to another and before I know it, I’ve lost an hour of my day. Still, I don’t feel this time is wasted (at least half of it wasn’t); I’m always learning new tricks of the trade online.

Most of all, I keep my routine flexible. There’s always the possibility of a surprise deadline being thrown at me, or an interview that can only happen between 1:15 and 1:30 on a Tuesday afternoon. I stick to an organized schedule because it’s the only way I can balance my time. And yes, there’s a perfectly good chance I’ll end up working after 10pm on a random Sunday night so I’m ready to “start my week” the following morning.

What’s something unique and interesting about your writing space?

I share it with my boyfriend. I don’t know about it being unique, but his desk is nestled in the opposite corner of mine. If we are both sitting at our desks (which usually only happens first thing in the morning or in the evening when he gets home from work) our backs are to one another. It’s nice to have an editor so close by (as biased as he may perhaps be, his feedback doesn’t show it). And although I am often most productive when left alone, the freelance writing life can get lonely, so I find his company encouraging (most of the time).

If you could have any writing space in the world, what would it be like and why?

Like many of the other writers who have participated in this series, I would love to hear the sounds of a lake or ocean nearby. My ideal space would definitely be surrounded by natural beauty—perhaps it would have an extravagant waterfall within walking distance for whenever I happen to need a motivating boost (even a romantic, isolated creek would do). I love sitting out on the dock at a cottage with nothing but blue skies, a mug of coffee, my laptop and a cushioned chair (a setting I hope to enjoy quite often this summer). I find my “wild mind,” as Natalie Goldberg so cleverly coins it, reaches its climax of creativity when it is, in fact, in the wild. But I also love that I can be a bit of a nomad in my chosen career, transporting my writing space with me wherever I want to go—or wherever the magic carpet decides to take me.

Charlotte Bumstead is a freelance writer and blogger based out of Toronto, Ontario. She has been published in various Canadian magazines and newspapers, covering a wide-range of topics. She blogs about weaving her way through life as an aspiring writer over at Charlotte’s Web. She is also an avid lover of all most things social media. You can follow her on Twitter @c_bumstead.       

Where Writers Write: Kristin Offiler {that’s ME!}

This week’s writer in the  Where Writers Write series is… well, me! I’ve been so excited sharing all the amazing writing spaces of my fellow writers, I forgot to share my own.  And remember– if you want to be featured in the Where Writers Write series, email me at kristinoffilerwrites@gmail.com.

Drinking coffee at my desk. Like a writer, of course!

Hi, my name is Kristin and you probably already know who I am since, well, these are my stompin’ grounds.

It dawned on me that I should probably open up my home office to you guys since I’ve been so readily sharing where a whole slew of other writers do their work. Have you been enjoying the series? I know I have– it’s like stalking other writers without doing anything that’ll end in a mug shot and bail!

Without further ado, I present you with the space in my home designated for work & writing (although the couch gets a fair amount of writing time, as does the back deck when it’s nice out. And Starbucks. Sweet, overpriced Starbucks).

Where the magic happens.

What is your writing space like?

My writing space is bright. It has two big windows that let in a ton of morning and afternoon light, so I’m always scooting my desk chair over to the window to get some sun. My desk, chair, and bookcase are all from Ikea. Everything else is either Christmas Tree Shop, HomeGoods, or Target. We keep it real around here.

Bamboo (um, from Ikea) & lots of visual stimulation.

I have a white board on the wall above my desk, surrounded by 4 cork boards (which had to be secured to the wall with thumb tacks. WHY OH WHY do cork board adhesive strips NEVER stick to walls longer than one week?). I use the white board to track projects, though I tend to neglect updating it because it feels kind of stuffy. I counter that by pinning pictures, letters, cards, and other creativity-inducing things to the cork boards.

My writing space

Do you keep a writing routine?  If so, what is your routine?

Bah. Not exactly. I want to keep a writing routine, so my hope is once I secure a reliable writing partner, I’ll be able to force myself into a morning routine for my fiction writing.

With my freelance writing, my only routine is that I don’t really keep a routine. I’ll do work as it needs to be done, taking breaks to run errands, walk the dog, or grab a coffee. I like this routine flexibility because it means I am less likely to get bored. Part of me craves routine and relishes a fresh, new one (like when you’d start a new school year), but after a while it feels stale to me. Sometimes I work into the night. Sometimes I get things done early. My routine is fluid right now.

Utensils in a jar.

What’s something unique and interesting about your writing space?

On my Target desk lamp, I’ve got my great grandfather’s worry beads that he brought to America from Armenia. I found them in a dresser two years ago when my great uncle died and we were cleaning out his apartment. He lived there his entire life, so it was filled to the brim with everything my great grandparents had owned or brought from Armenia when they fled the genocide. I love these worry beads– somehow nothing I’m dealing with can even come close to feeling as heavy and terrifying as fleeing the Armenian genocide, so these little amber beads give me perspective.

See the worry beads? Strung over the neck of the lamp in the top left part of the shot.

I also share this space with my husband’s photography hobby and my knitting addiction. There are two baskets filled with yarn and a stand that holds two giant photography printers.

Also, my office is built on an ancient burial ground. (Kidding. But that would be a unique feature, right?)

Not just for writing, this room is for pictures and yarn, too. (and music!)

If you could have any writing space in the world, what would it look like and why?

My dream writing space is inside an old farmhouse in a world where New England is perpetually warm and sunny. It would have massive windows that could be thrown open to let in the fresh air, which would smell like lavender and salt water. There’d be a plush chair in the corner for reading, a long desk against a wall for writing, and beautiful old hardwood floors where our dog would nap in puddles of sunshine. There would always be fresh cut flowers in a mason jar on the desk, fresh fruits and veggies in the fridge, and the sound of crickets at night. Outside, my husband would compose award-winning nature photographs, and in the evenings we’d ride our bikes to the beach.

And every year I’d publish a well-received novel, travel a bit to promote it, then come home to my farmhouse writing space and start over again.

A bit of writing inspiration.

Kristin Offiler (moi) is the author of this blog, as well as a freelance copywriter, resume writer, and social media coach. She has an MFA from Lesley University in Fiction and loves good  books, good coffee, good company, and the feeling she gets when she writes something authentic. She’s married to the most level-headed, loyal guy in the world and together they’re raising the goofiest rescue dog there is.

Where Writers Write: Wade Finnegan

This week we welcome writer Wade Finnegan to the Where Writers Write series. Remember– if you want to be featured in the Where Writers Write series, email me at kristinoffilerwrites@gmail.com!

First off, thank you Kristin for allowing me the opportunity to share my space.

The insight of this series is just another example of how the writing community stays connected, even though we are many miles apart. Kristin’s blog is a wealth of information and I am honored to be a part of it.

I live in the beautiful state of Oregon, just outside of Portland, with my wife Kris and my son Zach. My son plays ice hockey; so much of my time away from work is spent at the rink. Watching my son grow and learn is a great joy of my life. I have a passion for the outdoors, and fish for Salmon and Steelhead in my free time.

Aside from being a writer, I’m also a high school Reading Specialist and have been teaching for the past fifteen years. It is very rewarding when I can turn a reluctant reader and expose them to the joys of literature.

I write about a wide variety of subjects, but focus on what I know: outdoor recreation and education. I’m a very social person, so I excel at interviewing people and learning what they are passionate about. A writer gets to know people from all walks of life; this draws me to the profession.

What is your writing space like? 

My main space is my home office. I have a dark wood oversized desk with pictures of old Oregon City and my family on the walls. The room has good natural light, and the oversized window lets in the sounds of nature. The burnt orange color provides a sense of calmness and allows my thoughts to flow.  However, being a dad and helping with homework many nights moves my writing to the dining room table. This space works for me when needed, and as my son gets older I will write more in my designated space.

Do you keep writing routine? If so, what is your routine? 

I wish I had a routine. For now, I write when I get the chance, usually at night and on the weekends. Hopefully, when I become a full-time writer that will change. I prefer to write early in the morning when the sun is rising. There is something about the beginning of a new day that is inspiring and gets my creative juices flowing. I like to keep a schedule, and when I make the transition to full-time I will designate time for writing and marketing daily.

What’s something unique and interesting about your writing space? 

My family has an extensive history in Oregon and my space reflects that. I have several wood carvings that my grandfather hand carved placed about the office. My space captures my love of the outdoors, and my family.

If you could have any writing space in the world, what would it look like and why?

I would love to write in a log cabin placed next to a mountain stream. This would be the best place to write, because listening to flowing water is relaxing and clears my mind. Having the chance to slow down and solely concentrate on writing is the ultimate goal and a log cabin away from the hustle and bustle of the city would be the perfect retreat.

Wade named his business Quality Writing because that is what he strives for. He has experience in copywriting, articles, profiles, white papers, newsletters, brochures, web content, and blogging just to name a few. He take pride in beating deadlines and exceeding editors’ expectations. Follow him on Twitter @QualityWriting.

Thanks for sharing your space with us, Wade! What do you guys think about his dream space? Tell us below in the comments!

Where Writers Write: Lindsay Oberst

This week’s Where Writers Write on The White Space features freelancer Lindsay Oberst’s writing space. Lindsay is a writer I met through Twitter, and I’m glad she’s sharing her space with us this week! If you’re interested in sharing yours, shoot me an email at kristinoffilerwrites@gmail.com. And now, Lindsay!

Words are my everyday companions, so I’m glad Kristin started this dialogue about the physical places where words get written. It will be interesting to get a peek into the lives of other writers. I’m hoping Kristin will show hers too. (I will, Lindsay!)

Since you probably don’t know who I am, my name is Lindsay Oberst, and I’m a freelance writer, journalist and editor who also writes creatively. I work part-time at a center for sustainable journalism in its digital media department and freelance the rest of the time as a writer and editor, specifically related to creative, sustainable and cultural subjects. When I’m not writing to pay my bills, I often write poetry, short stories or portions of my novel-in-progress, which is about a lonely, college-aged artist with a unique power who realizes she isn’t entirely of this earth after she decides to attend her first music festival.

Above all, I love words and am currently reviving my website for writers called Word Zeal (http://wordzeal.com) which strives to be an online resource for word lovers who want to survive .

My answers to Kristin’s questions:

What is your writing space like? 

I live in a small apartment in the middle of Atlanta, so I don’t have enough space to have an area only for writing. However, my love of writing spills itself throughout my rooms in the form of books, magazines and other bits of paper with words on them. When I look around at all the words, I am inspired to write my own.

I usually write in one of two places in my living room: on a small table covered in colorful Indian fabric next to my turquoise futon or standing up with my laptop on top of my bright blue bookshelf. I don’t have a desk or a bigger table. When I’m working from home (and not opting to work from a nearby coffee shop, which I often do), I usually stand up while I use my laptop. When I’m writing longer pieces, or writing creatively, I sit down and type instead. I also have plenty of paper and notebooks laying around for when I want to write by hand.

While I’m writing during the day, I like opening my blinds a few inches to let in enough light to warm the place without tempting me to go outside. But my favorite time to write is at night when I often can’t sleep because my head spins with endless ideas.

Do you keep a writing routine? If so, what is your routine?

One thing I’m working on this year is making better routines for myself, so my answer will be different soon. I believe that routines can make getting things accomplished much easier, and I want to be a more successful freelancer, write my novel and get more of my fiction published this year. I’m making plans so that I can get these things done. Right now, I work in an office three days a week and work from home the other two days of the week. I make myself write creatively for at least an hour each day. On the weekends, I try not to use the Internet at all, including social media, even though I’m an avid user on other days. Disconnecting from technology for a day or two is hugely helpful and gives me more time to write (if I do write on my computer, though, I use a Word document or another program without opening a web browser.)

What’s something unique and interesting about your writing space?

The fact that I write often while standing up is unlike most people. I enjoy standing because it gives me the freedom to move. I even stand whenever I’m at a bar, although I’m short so people often don’t notice. Sitting down all day is not good for our bodies and if I had the money for a standing desk—they cost at least $500 from what I’ve seen—I’d definitely get one. The idea of working while standing is weird to some people but I enjoy it and it makes me feel better than if I sit all day long. One of the coffee shops I frequent has high tables which also allow me to stand while working. I encourage people to try it out, even if they only stand for a few hours a day or one day per week.

If you could have any writing space in the world, what would it look like and why?

I love this questions, and I haven’t actually thought about this for a while, so this one will be fun to answer. I’d like a room of my own (as Virginia Woolf might say) entirely devoted to writing and books. I’d like to have bookshelves filled with books, soy candles and other colorful creative objects. Underneath a big window with a view of a mountain river, I’d like a ergonomic sitting/standing desk. On the walls, I’d post some of my favorite quotes and would have one entire wall that would allow me to write on it and erase as needed. I’d like to surround myself with words in an organized and colorful way. And I’d like to be able to also go sit nearby the river outside my window and write without the noise pollution of a city when I wanted to.

Thanks again to Kristin for letting me talk about my writing space on her blog. I wonder if any other writers write while standing up?

Lindsay Oberst is a freelance writer/editor, journalist and creative writer who specializes in art, culture, design, digital media, sustainability and social good. Join me on Twitter @LindsayOWrite (or @LindsayOAtlanta). I’m also friends with a good number of writers on Google Plus, although I don’t use it often.

Thank you for sharing your writing space with us, Lindsay! 

What do you guys think? Share your thoughts and your dream writing space in the comments!