Thursday, March 3, 2016

Where Writers Write: Kipp Wessel

Welcome to another installment of TNBBC's Where Writers Write!


Where Writers Write is a series that features authors as they showcase their writing spaces using short form essay, photos, and/or video. As a lover of books and all of the hard work that goes into creating them, I thought it would be fun to see where the authors roll up their sleeves and make the magic happen. 

Kipp Wessel is a devoted writer, husband, father of rescued mammals, and resident troublemaker. He earned a Fiction Fellowship and his MFA from the University of Montana, and his short fiction has appeared in a dozen commercial and literary magazines. He’s taught fiction writing at the University of Montana, the Loft Literary Center in Minneapolis, and regional community arts programs. His debut novel, First, You Swallow the Moon is published by radialGRAIN.

Where Kipp Wessel Writes

Years ago, I tore apart a room in our small house all the way to its sheathing. I opened the exterior walls with windows and built a wall length desk with a view aimed into the lakeshore treeline. It’s a fine workspace. And perfect for slogging through the endless task of editing and revising. Or fielding email. Paying bills. 
But to tend the real flame of writing – the creation of the earliest drafts, the construction, word by word, of new ideas and emerging stories, and for the more opaque freedom of daydreaming, I wanted a studio apart from our living space – one merged more completely in the wilderness, and one I built, board by board, with my own hands, from the foundation up. So I found a cluster of three healthy red oak along our shoreline and built a tiny atelier wedged between them, a writing vestibule above the earth, an avian studio.

It’s a simple structure – timberframed doug fir with windows on three sides and corrugated metal on the third. The floor provides twenty square feet of space, and the sloping roofline allows just enough room to sit and write or recline and wonder.

But even more than utility, it’s the access to wilderness and quiet I treasure most.
 I write with the door and windows open. Even in the heart of winter, I bundle in layers of coats and scarves, stare out at the snow covered muskrat dens mounded along the shore. I listen to the melt drip from the roofline, the wind through what’s left of last summer’s leaves. When I’m lucky, just at dusk, a moon-limned red fox (hued one shade darker than ghost) darts and pauses between the weathered cattails and cottonwoods along the shore. Snow geese warble overhead, and a continually extended family of field mice stitch tiny footprints in the snow beneath the floor in an ever changing miniature petroglyph left for me to interpret. (They work their story, and I work mine.) In summer, the night sky is dotted with mosquito diving bats and tree swallows. A trio of loons echo song across the lake. My canine companion, Cousteau, sits in the open doorway, soaks the sun, and howls at the gray squirrels that scamper through the brush and trees and flick their plumed tails of indifference in his direction.

I’m in peace in this tiny space. I fill reams of paper with notes and new prose. I stare out at the water. I wonder about the world. I never keep track of time.
 For me, it’s the simple rhythm of the natural world surrounding and reaching me in this tiny space that helps clear my mind, inspire me and nudge me toward the next sentence or paragraph or page. Or idea. And even when the page remains empty, when the act of writing slows – I’m still sitting in a treehouse with nothing more to lose than time spent watching storms churn the water, eagles dive the current, or field mice burrow into roots of sumac.

Sometimes the act of doing barely anything leads its way to almost everything.


  1. Such a wonderful piece (and project and photos) from a wonderful writer. I've read Kipp's debut novel, FIRST, YOU SWALLOW THE MOON, and it too is wonderful! Pass the word about this post and read his book!