News from the Little Room: The Deadline Approaches

Okay, so being tied to a chair isn’t such a bad thing. I have recently heard other writers say that they have resorted to the same extreme measures in order to finish their books on time. And it is clearly working. I have completed a second draft of my new novel with almost three weeks to spare before the deadline. What gets me down isn’t being tied to the chair; it’s the little room the chair sits in. Actually, the little room is not so little. It has four big windows and a view of Salem that is an inspiration in itself. And the old National Geographic maps that line the walls give me ideas of places I might travel to when I finally emerge, though the maps are so old that several of the countries don’t even exist anymore.  What makes the little room seem so tiny are all the things I have filled it with during this writing process, things that are meant to inspire but have become a hodgepodge that now threatens to crowd me out of the space. So I thought, rather than worrying about how much cleaning out I’m going to have to do, I’d list some of the things I have gathered to inspire my story:

All things Hawthorne and Melville.  A carved wooden moose on skis that I brought back from Maine on last summer’s book tour. Two Revolutionary War soldiers that were once in my parents’ house and now stand facing each other from both sides of the fireplace.  Three ships’ models. Several books about pirates. A map of famous New England shipwrecks. Six volumes of romantic poetry. Three envelopes full of Gibraltar candies from Ye Olde Pepper Company. A photo of my maternal grandmother in her wedding gown. A piece of lace carved from an eggshell. Two quartz singing bowls tuned to different chakras. Several books on meditation. A ceramic tree my mother in law sent with Celtic crosses and leprechauns hanging from its branches.  A seagull that flies upside down like a distress flag and cannot be up-righted. Several cups of coffee in various stages of consumption, decaf for writing, full octane for the editing process.

I will have to clean out my office soon. I know that. But, right now, I have a third draft to finish. So I will crowd myself into what space I can find and, for now, I will remain tied to a chair. 

Creativity and a Sense of Place

  Creativity and a Sense of Place workshop


As part of the Literally Salem Festival, I led a workshop for writers on Saturday exploring the ways in which a sense of place and creativity intersect. We looked at several aspects of this pairing: where you write, where you live, places you know, and places that live in your imagination. It was great to have so many people participate and share their experiences of writing and location.

For one exercise, I gave out a handout designed to spark the creative process. You can get a copy by clicking here Worksheet handout PDF.

Will the Real Brunonia Barry Please Lie Down?


My first wake-up call from my muse always comes at 3 AM. It doesn't matter what time zone I'm in, the muse makes the adjustment far more easily than I. It's never 2:55 or 3:01. It's 3 AM to the minute. My muse is precise if tricky. By the time I reach for my pen and notebook, whatever she had to say has usually evaporated and I am left with half-sentence scribblings in my notebook that are impossible to decipher in the morning. To the best of my abilities as translator, last night's scrawls say something about vacuum repair and blueberry scones.


Since I am always wide awake after my muse makes her nightly call, I have taken to meditating during that time. Eventually I begin to doze again, dreaming  of vacations and uninterrupted sleep and writing “The End” on a finished manuscript.

At 7AM, I begin my morning ritual which includes several stanzas of a poem entitled: “123 get up!”  It usually works by about 7:45 which gives me exactly fifteen minutes to brew my coffee and make my morning commute four doors down the hallway to my office.

And then I sit and wait for my muse to arrive.  Night traveler that she is,  she often keeps me waiting for quite a while.  She usually wanders in at about ten, walking like a bride, and sits on the arm of my chair, and, for a few precious hours, dictates to me as if I’m her personal stenographer, then disappears as quickly as she came, leaving me to interpret the morning’s ramblings, which are at least typed and therefore have less to do with vacuums and scones and seem to apply (at least in part) to my current writing project.