Thursday, August 27, 2015

Where Writers Write: Rosie Forrest

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. 

This is Rosie Forrest. 

Rosie is a writer, teacher, and program director currently living and working in Nashville, Tennessee. She is the winner of the 9th Annual Rose Metal Press Short Short Chapbook Contest judged by author Pamela Painter, and her work has been published with Dogwood Literary Journal, LIterary Orphans, Hobart, Wigleaf, Whiskey Island, and SmokeLong Quarterly, among other journals. Rosie was the 2013 writer-in-residnece with Interlochen Arts Academy, and she holds an MFA from the University of New Hampshire. She teaches for Vanderbilt University in a variety of capacities and is the Assistant Director of Academic Residential Programs with Vanderbilt Programs for Talented Youth. 

Where Rosie Forrest Writes

The year I turned nine, we moved to a townhouse in Silver Spring, Maryland, mauve carpeting stuck to all three levels. There were two nearly identical bedrooms, mauve spilled into each, and I picked the one with the larger closet. The closet wasn’t spacious by adult standards, a basic white door on a track that bent when tugged, and inside a single bar stretched the length of the space. I picked it because it was long enough for both my clothes and the items I required for my “office.” A small, elementary school desk fit sideways, a short wooden chair, a desk lamp, an afghan in blues, a purple battery-powered Casio radio, and a plastic tub for markers and pencils and pens and stickers; they all fit plus me, and except for a necessary gap for the cords, the door walled me up inside.

I stalk these spaces like a shoplifter. Nooks. Attics. Garden sheds. Corners that make a person bend and tuck. Just last year I made a Pinterest version in my bedroom that gave me a cozy, accomplished feeling. I took pictures of the finished product and applied a hazy filter. I texted them to my best friend in Reno. We squealed. But despite my best efforts, I can’t write there. The space pinches me. The piles of books and magazines that stack and slide, they have no room to breathe, and eventually I bust outdoors for my own breath of air.

These days I write at my dining room table. It’s a working space I try to erase before company arrives. Close friends I subject to the truth of it. The chairs are still small and wooden, but light plays off the walls, textures dances around, and I feel part of something larger.

I’ve moved around in the past seven or eight years, multiple states, which has caused me to think about stuff in terms of cardboard boxes and bearable weight. In 2008, I rid myself of multiple walls of books. It had to happen. I restricted my collection to one three-shelf bookcase, and everything else had to go. Books are treasures, but I consider them now to be wild things, to buy for a privilege of time, to leave, to give away, to lose. I’m no saint about the whole thing, believe me, and I can do serious damage at the bookshop, but I relish hints of impermanence. 

Oh, I’ve got my running list of musts and must-haves. I need access to bodies of water, and I’ve taken for granted the oceans, rivers, and lakes that have for brief moments been so close. I am a nighttime writer with morning writer envy. Theatre books and poetry surround me more than fiction. I write out loud, speaking as I type. Music is everywhere, sometimes contrasting albums in different rooms simultaneously because silence is far too noisy, and paragraphs have time signatures. Magazine photographs of the outside become placemats and coasters and bookmarks. There is usually a dish of olives nearby. When I need to redirect or pause, I stand in the shower.

But whatever it is—the place, the space, the habit, the pattern—I wreck it once it’s built. The trick for me is to love the demolition of what once was sacred; too soon it becomes white-knuckled, and not my own. I need these fingers. They do me no good clenched around some ideal of the way it should go. Because beyond my curated spaces with white dishes and paisley pillows, the writing space is a pool hall, a stairwell, a food court at the airport, a Walgreens parking lot, an ER waiting room, a summertime parade, thigh deep in a frigid river, and anywhere life gets bossy and says, “Let’s do this thing.”