A virtual tour of Mel’s office

I was inspired to blog this after seeing two similar posts from people in my writers’ learning network (hey professionally I can have a personal learning network, or PLN; why can’t I have a WLN?) Brian Braden, one of my critique partners from Author Salon, and Diana Gabaldon, one of my favourite authors.

I’d intended to do this as a vlog, or video blog, but I haven’t figured out my new tablet sufficiently to do a creditable job.

I’m going to do this a little differently than my compatriots though.  As with everything I blog, there’s a little story to go with this virtual tour.

Starting with the street on which I live.

My intent was to go out and take a picture of the street sign, but someone crashed into the post on which the sign used to hang last year, and while the post has been replaced, the street sign hasn’t.  So Googlemaps is the best I can do.  You can go there yourself and get the street view, but it’s from a few years ago.

But … did you notice anything about the street name?  That’s right!  It’s my last name.  It provides endless entertainment for just about everyone, and then I have to explain: yes, my grandfather bought the property that became Marttila Dr and then subsequently sold the lots to the city, who named the wee street after him.

And it is a wee street.  Please don’t go assuming I’m rich or something.  I don’t “own” the street, nor does anyone in my family.  I own the little house on the corner with the chunk of pre-cambrian shield in the unfinished basement and my mom owns the house next door.  Poor financial decisions on the part of a number of our family (myself included) mean that the house is all I have.

Sure, I’m gainfully employed and so is my husband, but all we have to show for our collective life’s work is a 2 bedroom bungalow on one of the busiest street corners in town.

We’ve made the best of her though, slowly renovating, inside and out.

Before we head inside, I’d like to point out my summer office.

When it’s not insanely hot (like it’s been this year), I’m outside most weekends, days off, and even evenings with my lap top.  If you’ve ever heard that relocating for revision is a effective way of shifting your creative mind out of writing mode and into editor mode, I’m here to tell you it’s abso-frickin’-lutely true.  Works a charm for me at any rate 🙂

Now let’s move into the office itself.

The first thing that every office needs is a door.  Right now, my office door is one of the originals that came with the house and is painted white … over blue … over white … over ?  When I have a significant period of time off, I want to strip the door and polish up the brass handle like I did last year with the door to our bedroom.  So this is what it eventually will look like when I get it done 😀

The first thing you see upon entering my office is this. Yes, it’s an altar.  I have distinctively pagan-ish, shamanic leanings.  What you may notice if you look down is that it’s also a bookshelf.  Another one of my stripping and refinishing projects, this cabinet used to hang on the wall of my mother’s  sewing room.  Originally, it was from the local school board.  My grandfather used to work there, and when they dismantled one of the schools, he nabbed this cupboard.  It’s crammed, top to bottom, with paperbacks.

Also, in the lower right corner of the picture, you’ll see my honourable mention from Ron L. Hubbard’s Writers of the Future contest.  Having just refinished the room (down to the studs and rebuilt from there) I’m still reluctant to poke holes in the walls, even for cool stuff like degrees and awards.

On the far wall are my three additional bookshelves, purchased to harmonize with the massive desk (in a moment, hold your horses …) I inherited from my mother-in-law when she moved about ten years ago.

The first shelf from the left houses historical and spiritual research books.  The bottom row is devoted to books on gardening and herbalism.  The middle shelf is overflowing with fiction I don’t want to store away, or haven’t read yet.  Like the paperback bookshelf, it runs the gamut from fantasy and SF, YA, classics, UF, to mysteries and literary fiction, etc.

The final shelf is populated with a number of my books on the craft.  Interspersed on the shelves are a number of objects I value: artefacts from family and friends, old tins, kerosene lamps, masks, my degrees, my picture from the alumni address I gave a Laurentian University a few years ago, and a couple of framed poems, “Fire and Ice” which was featured in the ekphrastic art project Fusion, and “The Art of Floating,” the poem I wrote for my dad.

The rest of my books are stored in approximately twelve Rubbermaid tubs in the basement.  Yup.  I’m a book addict, and happily so.

In the corner, you will notice three staves.  Actually, it’s one poplar staff, and one birch and one maple stang. All generously donated by the trees in my back yard (resulting from lightning strikes and wind storms).  Another project for the future: stripping the bark from these lovlies and waxing them to preserve.

Now comes the organized chaos I call my desk.

The first picture shows a collection of journals (the ones I write in and the ones I have subscriptions to), a few key reference books including the Guide to Literary Agents and Novel and Short Story Writer’s Market, research DVDs, binders containing three earlier versions of my novel, my BIG binder of AS critique material, my Brother inkjet printer, and various pens, pencils, highlighters, clips, push-pins, and other tools that I make use of at my desk.

The keen observer may notice the ashtray and the wine glass.   Yup.  You caught me.  I’m a vile smoker and I drink wine on occasion.  Once again, unapologetic about it.

The second picture doesn’t look quite so chaotic, but shows the rest of what’s on my desk.  My computer, whatever project I’m currently working on (in this case, Rachel Walsh’s The Last Scribe) underneath which hides my laptop, my colour printer/scanner/copier (currently on the fritz), a couple of my poetry books, my African violets (green things essential), and my i-pod (in the corner, also essential).

Behind my desk, on the wall, are my cork board and white board.  On my first and second revisions (after the draft has been completed) I use these extensively to map out my story and make notes.  As each piece of paper is addressed, it comes down for shredding and as each note is incorporated into the novel, it’s erased.

Right now, the board it just reminding me of outstanding submissions I haven’t heard back about yet, my blogging schedule, and calendar.

And that’s it.  I didn’t clean up on purpose, because I thought I’d let everyone see what I really work like.

So I hope you enjoyed this little tour.  Take comfort in the chaos!  My office is as much a part of my process as a writer as anything else.

What does your office/writing space look like?  How does it reflect your process?