Stephen Stark (stephenstark.com) kicks off Writing Spaces, a new series dedicated to the desks, cafes, libraries and retreats where Fictionaut writers work, providing a window to the physical places where some of the stories on the site originated.
I grew up in the Washington, DC suburbs of Northern Virginia, and after spending more than a decade living elsewhere, moved back here in early 1996. One of the selling points of the house my wife and I bought back in 2001 was the barn in the back. When my brother saw it, his response was, Man you’ve got to believe there’s a God. Empty, it seemed huge.
I divided it, and a third of it is my office, which I’m not going to show you because it’s such a mess, and the other two thirds, roughly, is my shop, which I’m also not going to show you for the same reason. In the shop, I mostly just collect nice pieces of wood and turn them into sawdust. But occasionally I manage to get something out of it, and behind me, as I write this, on a folding table that also has a box full of my father’s letters home from India during World War II, is the electric violin that I’ve been trying to build for my daughter for the last three or four years.
It’s often said that you can write pretty much anywhere, and I have, but I’ve sort of hollowed out a little space here that in reality likely has lousy feng shui, but when I’m here, I’m not really here, so I don’t really notice. The truth is, though, if we actually had enough room inside the house where I could set up an office, I’d vastly prefer that. More than once, my “disappearance” into the barn has caused some domestic friction.
At least in my mind, as important as place is set up. I wrote my first novel in Iowa on an IBM Selectric III, rewrote and revised it in New York on a Macintosh, circa 1985. Behind me, in addition to the letters and the violin and assorted bits of electronics that will go in it, there’s a Selectric III that I bought at a yard sale for 50 bucks, a couple of other Macintoshes that have been retired, but still refuse to break. Currently, I use a MacBook Pro with an external monitor attached. On the Mac’s monitor I have Apple’s Pages program open, with the novel I’m currently working on, THE BOB DELUSION, open. On the external monitor, I’m running Windows XP virtually on VM Ware Fusion, and dictating this using Dragon NaturallySpeaking. I love this program, not least because it will translate dictation from a digital voice recorder with remarkable accuracy. I spend a tremendous amount of time in traffic, and so, in addition to writing TBD in the barn, I’ve probably drafted seven or eight chapters of this novel driving on the Capital Beltway.