Thursday, May 21, 2009
A WRITER AT HOME: DEBORAH WILES
Where do you work best at home?
I bought a little house in a little woods five years ago, and I made
the entire living/dining room my office, so I'm going to show you my
office in these photos, and how I've tried to make it a place that's
filled with what's important to me and how it speaks to how I live
and write. I work here, sometimes at the desk (which is an old
door), where I do mostly correspondence and administrative tasks, and
sometimes at the green chaise, where I do most of my writing, on my
laptop. (In the deep winter I switch to the overstuffed pink chair by
the family room fireplace for writing stories, and camp out there
until spring comes again).
My office space is filled with afternoon sun, thanks to three
floor-to-ceiling windows. I can shut the doors at either end, and
enclose myself in my own writing cottage -- no one disturbs me, which
is quite a change from the years I was raising four children and put
a sign on the bedroom door, "Do NOT enter when this door is closed
unless you are bleeding or on fire!" It never worked, but hey -- we
have great stories to tell about those days.
What time of day would we find you there?
I tend to write in white heats; when I am in the midst of a project
that has grabbed me by the heart, I will write for long hours, every
day, and not get up from my chair. I don't recommend this, as it's
not good on the back or the circulation, but it is my way -- I have
to grab that story and sling it to the page, wrestle it before it
gets away from me -- and that includes revision and deadlines... I go
to sleep late and I rise early, eager to get back to the page. I seem
to be programmed to write this way. Then, when it's over, weeks or
(heaven forbid) months later, I am totally exhausted, and I may go a
few weeks without writing anything of real substance on the same
project -- I garden, I work in schools, I recover -- then another
white heat. I journal a lot, though, almost every day. I'm a big
believer in keeping a notebook, into which I put everything -- even
What is your favorite comfort food while you work at home?
I absolutely love everything that's bad for me in the way of comfort
food. Homemade grilled cheese sandwiches and tomato soup is a
favorite. If I don't cook for myself every day, I start eating badly
-- whatever's handy. So I also cook great food to eat while I'm
writing. (Not that grilled cheese sandwiches aren't great food!)
How does home feed into your writing?
Home, family, and routine feed me, comfort me, ground me, and fuel my
writing. I also write in airports, hotel rooms, and sometimes I go to
coffee shops in my hometown, but there is a special vibe at
home. E.B. White said something once in an essay about writing at
the dining room table sometimes, where the household tides ran the
strongest. I feel that way, too. We have friends over quite a bit,
play music together, cook, catch up, and create wonderful memories.
Then I go back to the page, refreshed.
I've surrounded myself with photos and momentos from family, school
visits, friends, travels, and in no particular order... I think life
is like that (and so are my notebooks) -- there is no real order to
it. I have to structure a story (I think that's part of why I write
in white heats -- structure is hard for me, and I must stick with
it), but a life is lived in the midst of all kinds of delicate,
strong, terrible, wonderful, challenging, terrific, delicious
events... and I want home to reflect that -- in a serene way! I hope
that makes sense... whatever it is, it's all the stuff of story.
Deborah Wiles is the author of three novels and two
picture books. Each Little Bird That Sings was a National Book Award
Finalist and winner of the E.B. White Read-Aloud Award. Next year
Deborah publishes the first of three books for young readers in The
Sixties Trilogy: Three Novels of the 1960s for Young Readers. She
lives in Atlanta with her husband, Jim Pearce, a jazz musician. Three of her
four grown children live nearby. They still waltz through her closed
office doors to visit, and she still asks them if they are bleeding
or on fire. She is always glad to see them.
Visit Deborah's website and blog.
And while you're at it, visit Jim's website, too.
Did you miss Gail Carson Levine's AT HOME profile?
Posted by Kimberly at 5:30 AM