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  • Writer's pictureKelly H

Hauntings and the workspace

It's finally almost here. The Silent Girl, my fever-dream, my wrote-it-in-lockdown manuscript, the most fun I've ever had writing a book, all available for request on Netgalley and available to preorder and stuff. It even has a killer tagline: If you can't remember the past, how can you escape it?

I had an opportunity to write a couple of short pieces to talk about my writing and the new book. One of the suggested topics was to write about my workspace and to share pictures. I thought it would be fun. I set up all my favorite books on the shelf above the chair. I browsed a few pieces by other writers, talking about their workspaces. Do you know that nearly every single one written by a writer who is also a mother began with the lament that they didn't have a dedicated writing space? Nobody is surprised, I know. I'm personally quite happy with my armchair in the corner. It is very adequate. I wrote my first book on my phone in my daughter's nursery. (Side note: looking back, I needed a workspace a lot more than the baby, who slept at my side for months, needed her own room. Here is the punchline: I knew that, but I DIDN'T WANT TO SEEM SELFISH.) It wasn't until recently that I boldly claimed a corner of my own bedroom (I know, the audacity!) and set it up with a chair and a few trinkets. My favorite books. A movie poster for the silent movie adaptation of one of my great-great-grandmother's novels, which starred Mary Pickford. A ukulele, for when writing doesn't work and I sing a little bit to distract myself. A drawer full of chocolate. Dried flowers, a candle, the painted mirrors I found at a thrift store back in college.

But then, I realized, I did have an office, once, in another life. The second floor of a falling-down shed, in the backyard of a house I rented. There was a hole in the floor near the corner. Ivy growing on the rafters and through a boarded-up window. I painted the floorboards and walls white, though the gray, aging wood showed through, and I painted shapes and flowers on the wall.

I found a mummified squirrel out there, beneath years of old leaves. You could still see its teeth. I painted it gold. I had never had a space that felt even a little my own before--and I don't think bedrooms ought to count--they're too functional. I spent so many evenings there, sitting on the floor between a few candles, a glass of wine, my laptop. Even if it had been a space I legally owned, it wouldn't have lasted long. That was part of its meaning, of course. It was so liminal that it made me feel free. Nothing mattered in there. Nothing ever matters, you know, but the time when nothing would matter felt a lot sooner in that old room.

I think everyone has an emotional place of creativity that they know how to get to, even if it is not always easy. But what an incredibly lucky thing it was, to have that space, for a year or so. Soon enough, I moved out, running fast as I could to an apartment without roommates, or an apartment closer to work, or something else. It is so hard to live where things don't matter.

If I had the least bit of goddamn marketing savvy, I would circle back to my new book, try to find some thematic link. Blah blah, the importance of place, a found space, the found space the protagonist discovers that turns out to be profoundly, symbolically, cursed. But I think I'm kind of exhausted of marketing and linking and all that for now. I will say, once again, that I absolutely adore the book, and I'm so terribly excited for it to be, like, out there in the world.

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