On Monday, Vulpes Libris republished a slightly edited piece about my writing space that I first published here five years ago. (One of their contributors Kate Macdonald wrote a splendid review of Hild. Kate also runs her own site, on writing, reading and publishing, and wrote a great academic paper arguing that “writing the past as an estranged history gives authority to the female experience in the historical novel,” referencing my work and that of Naomi Mitchison’s.) Anyway, the VL piece has prodded me to post this update. (ETA: But do go read that first post: there’s lots of info in it about the Armagnac box I’ve repurposed as a giant pencil box; why I have the OED on paper; where that shell comes from, etc.)
In the last five years my office has changed only slightly. It’s still painted butter yellow, still occupies the dark NW corner of our house, and still has two desks. Probably the biggest difference is that the larger of those desks has moved 90 degrees. It’s now under the window. This way I have a big space in the centre of my office for exercise and to zip from one desk to the other in my not-quite-ergonomic-enough chair. (Any suggestions for a good chair?)
You can see that in this photo, taken last week, the tree is not in bloom. Soon, in fact, the leaves will be changing colour. They turn a beautiful sherbet pink and apricot which every year I try to capture on camera and every year fail. One day technology will improve enough to get it.
The hanging shell is still there, still set in stained blue glass to catch the light. By the desk you’ll see the same microphone stand but the microphone is modern; it does many nifty things. The phone, too, is new, as is the pencil sharpener. I got tired of the old one breaking so I splurged on one of those electrically-powered heavy-duty sharpeners that schools use. Last year we had a major clear-out of books, fiction and not. So you’ll see my office now only carries research non-fiction (lots of history, and nature, and a bunch of texts for the big project I’m not talking about yet). Add to that my favourite dictionary in 20 volumes (love that book!) and a few copies of my novels for giveaway purposes. Oh, there’s also a new desk lamp.
One big thing missing from last time: no humongous pile of typescript printed out for edits. I’m still writing Menewood. When it’s done it will be even bigger than the Hild print-out.
The small desk with screen and keyboard is still tucked in the corner to avoid distractions.
The maps on the wall are still, on the left, the south sheet of the First Edition Ordnance Survey map of Britain in the Dark Ages, and on the right, the north sheet of the OS Ancient Britain. (I’m not sure what edition it is, but the visual style is pretty different). I refer to them fairly often, but what I use most these days is a map that’s too big to hang in my current space: the Second Edition Ordnance Survey map of Britain in Dark Ages. It’s pretty good but far from perfect. See those hand-made single-sheet maps on the file folders on the bar-trolley I use as mobile cabinet? Those are my own researched maps—different to OS stuff because they these take into account all the drainage changes from 11th century onwards, particularly Vermuyden’s massive scheme in the 17th. Also, there’s new information regarding Roman roads in the area. The map I’ve linked to above has names I don’t actually use in the book, because it was an early attempt to figure out what things might have been called in Old English. Further thought shows I got some of it pretty wrong—Æxigland, for example, might be better rendered as Haksigland. But I’ll probably use a mix of Brythonic and OE names anyway, as I’ve already done for some of the rivers and places, so many of the names will be quite different.
I have a new screensaver, Lu Jian Jun’s The Lady in the Forbidden City—a wonderful painting by the same artist who painted our Antique Dressing Table, that is, the painting we call Flossie. Here’s a blurred low-light version of Flossie courtesty of crapcam, or a slightly better version here, still taken with crapcam but with explanation.
The computer itself is a new Mac Mini, so small it’s hidden behind that pile of paper, but the screen is long past due for replacement. I want something with better resolution and a built-in webcam. (That’s an ancient Logitech that keeps failing.) Eh, I’d rather have a new desk, a nifty sit-stand thing. Meanwhile, as you can see, I’m still using the Klipsch speakers; I loathe and detest having things on or in my ears, so I use headphones as little as possible.
Also on the desk, silicon hand-squeezy things—vital for someone who spends so much time at the keyboard. On the trolley are three ancient Klutz juggling sacks. I learnt to juggle years ago, got pretty good at it, then because of progressive MS I could no longer catch and throw properly. However, in the three months, due to the wonders of a new drug (a potassium channel blocker), I have now recovered some function, so I’ve been slowly relearning. I’m not very good—the drug is good but it’s not a miracle—but at least I can now approximate juggling again. Soon I might venture back to the ukulele—which will thrill me but might lead to neighbourhood suffering (I have an amplifier…).
Not visible, but something that’s made a huge difference this year, the solar tube that renders the previously dark NW corner office brilliantly bright—so bright I keep trying to turn off light that’s not on when I leave the room…
Which I’m about to do, to eat breakfast. Enjoy poking around a big while I’m gone.
6 thoughts on “Writing space, September 2016”
Cool office and love your print copy of the OED. One of the greatest sets of books ever. Of course, because I am a librarian and I cannot help myself I do have to point out that among its great listing of online databases that can be accessed remotely by SPL card holders they do have access to the online version of the OED.
Again, the print is wonderful, but it can also be fun to play around with the online version. Also nice for those who do not have their own print set. And for those of you not in Seattle, many public libraries offer access for card holders.
Thanks for sharing.
@Sarah: Yes, I know the OED is available online; I’ve used it, and am very glad of it! But to quote from the post I did five years ago:
“Pride of place on the bookshelves goes to the Oxford English Dictionary, which was my present to myself for my fortieth birthday. Possibly the best thing I ever bought myself. I know, you can access it online now if you have a library card—but what if the Big One actually happens? What if there’s no more web, no more handhelds? You’ll all be banging on my door bringing me drugs and beer and other valuables in exchange for a definition or two. Oh, yes. I plan ahead!”
You’re relearning to juggle? Excellent news, so many fine motor skills come with that package. And you can halt traffic at intersections to juggle for cash in a clown suit too.
It turns out I juggle better standing than sitting. And I can’t walk without crutches. So although I can stand very still and juggle a bit (which hopefully will improve over time), an intersection does not strike me as a good place to not be able to move from :)
I had no idea there were OS maps of ancient Britain. I’m researching Viking Age Scotland (800AD onwards). Do you think there is data on the maps that would help with that? Great to get an insight into your workspace
@Claire: I think you might be better of with Britain in the Dark Ages map than with Ancient Britain. I wonder, though, if there’s a map more focused on the Viking Age. I haven’t heard of one but, there again, I rarely pay attention to anything past 700 CE :)
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