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.
This is J.F. Riordan.
She is the author of North of the Tension Line, the first of a new series published by Beaufort Books.
Where JF Riordan Writes
My book, North of the Tension Line, is set primarily on Washington Island, located in Lake Michigan about 4 miles off the tip of Door County Wisconsin. I often tell people that I live in exile from the Island, which they tend to assume is a joke. But the truth is that whatever magic the place weaves has utterly ensnared me, and when I am not there I am thinking about being there, imagining being there, and, well, writing about being there.
So while I do write from my home office while I’m in exile, the best writing for me is when I escape to the Island. Those times are concentrated writing. I hardly know anyone, and there’s nothing much to do except write and take long walks, so I get a lot done there.
This is a picture of where I write. It’s a dining table in a big open room with a skylight above. The first thing I do when I arrive is remove the lazy-susan from the table and set up my computer. Sometimes, depending on where I am in the process, I bring my printer, too, but it’s a nuisance in a small car with two big dogs, and I consider the dogs more essential equipment than the printer.
The items on the desk are other essentials. The big blue book is the Oxford American Writer’s Thesaurus, the best thesaurus in the world, I’m pretty sure. It was a gift from my husband, and I couldn’t write without it. I always bring a million pairs of glasses because I’m always losing them or breaking them. It’s a thing. Not quite visible here is my lined Canson notebook which goes everywhere with me, used for random notes for the book, grocery and to-do lists, secret bad poetry, and for keeping track of how many words and pages I’ve written each day. These notebooks are ridiculously hard to find, and scouring the earth for them has become one of my pastimes. There is also a half cup of cold coffee. Not essential, but inevitable.
This is my grocery bag plot timeline. I know. But grocery bags are big, inexpensive, and I always have one handy. I use my jar of sharpies to color code themes and plot turns on my grocery bag, shown here with amateur photoshopping so as not to prematurely reveal the details of my new book, just in case my scribbling is actually legible.
Immediately next to the computer is a detail of the scenes from a particular plot line, color coded to match the plot and theme colors on the grocery bag. It’s also photoshopped. Near at hand is a bag of un-retouched kale chips to stave off carb cravings. Next to it is a plate of toast crumbs with whole cherry preserves because kale is no substitute for toast. You will see the case for one of the million pairs of glasses. Next to it is a Jambox which is only for plotting. I can’t listen to music when I write. It distracts me.
On the other side, in addition to the Worlds’ Best Thesaurus, is a selection of books that I refer to while writing. My readers will know why a copy of the Meditations of Marcus Aurelius is there, but there is also—in no particular order—a book of election advice written by Quintus Tullius Cicero in 64 B.C.; a collection of Willa Cather short stories; Dostoevsky’s The Idiot; William Hazlitt’s On the Pleasure of Hating, and On Poetry and Craft by Theodore Roethke. I’m not actually sure if they’re for reference or companionship.
This is a hyacinth I brought with me because it was about to bloom and I figured my husband wouldn’t appreciate it.
You will see in this photo my credenza, with one of the essential dogs. That’s Pete. He sleeps on the credenza pretty much all day except for when we eat or go for walks. You’ll note that the credenza resembles a bed, which is useful for sleeping dogs.
On the floor within my field of vision is Moses, the other essential dog. His job, as he sees it, is to lie in wait for any sign that I may be stirring, and nag me into taking walks or possibly playing ball in the house. He is a remarkably astute observer of my behavior and can always tell when I’ve finished a section. He is also an effective aid to procrastination.
I close with some photos that should be sufficient explanation for why I write where I do.
And it’s always best in winter.