Inspiration isn’t easy to tap into in our plugged-in, oversaturated world. Writers and other creative people often crave solitude, peace, or a place to recharge so they can commit to their work — whether that place is a window on a stunning natural environment, a quiet desk in the middle of urban bustle, a beautiful temple to art, or a cozy chair or kitchen table. We asked 13 fiction writers with books either coming soon or just published to send us a photo of their favorite places to work, get inspired, or welcome the muse — whether they’re crafting YA page-turners or drafting slow short stories.
I like working from corners. Sometimes I sit in this beat-up armchair, covered in a slipcover, and work with my back to the bookshelf. It feels like the literary greats are breathing down my neck — I find it oddly comforting. — Patricia Park, author of RE JANE
I’ve been home in Los Angeles after seven years living elsewhere, and a big change for me is having to drive again. The car is now my favorite place to think about whatever I’m working on, especially in light traffic on a familiar route. This is on the 60 freeway heading west right after the sun has set. — Angela Flournoy, author of The Turner House
My writing setup, clockwise from left: 1. Chipped mug. Pictured empty but would ordinarily have tea in it. I only have tea out of this mug. 2. Pillow with feathers on it. 2. Writing hoodie, for style and comfort. 3. “Doctor Who” blanket. Needed during colder months. Otherwise, serves as decoration. 4. Notebook and pen. For getting writing done without checking the Internet. 5. Writing chair, green. Not pictured: Frustration, anxiety, cat. — Anna North, author of The Life and Death of Sophie Stark
I’ve accomplished some of my best work next door at the Eden Bar just outside the Enzian Theater, which is Orlando’s premiere independent cinema (they generously gave me this picture). Afternoons, I’ve sat underneath the majestic oaks or at the bar with my notebook, drafting new fiction, and have edited my last three book manuscripts there. I’m not sure if it’s the lush, idyllic surroundings or the staff, many of whom are artists themselves–likely some combination of the two. But I held the launch for my first book on Eden’s patio, and a year later struck the film rights’ deal with an indie producer and my editor in the same spot. So for me, Eden Bar lives up to its name – an oasis of creativity that keeps bearing fruit. — Vanessa Blakeslee, author of Juventud
I spent May at Akademie Schloss Solitude in Stuttgart, Germany, as a guest of Stephanie Choi, one of the architects-in-residence. I never thought I’d work on a short story about surveillance while living in a castle. My usual workspace is a glass dining room table in a tiny flat in Hong Kong, but that doesn’t photograph very well. — Doretta Lau, author of How Does a Single Blade of Grass Thank the Sun?
This may seem boring, but I LOVE my desk (particularly during the rare moments when it’s clean). I’ll venture from it occassionally — say a Friday adventure of writing at my local bookstore or library — but, for the most part, this is where the magic happens! — Lamar Giles, author of Endangered
Shooting on my childhood basketball hoop has always been the perfect spot for brainstorming. Since it’s in a tree (I can still picture my dad and grandfather working hard to secure it), the only shot that isn’t affected by branches is the free throw. That’s all I need, though. The shooting motion occupies my body, leaving my brain free to ponder. — Mathieu Callier, author of Loss Angeles
This is my beloved and well-worn desk at PowderKeg, a space for women writers in downtown Brooklyn. I first encountered PowderKeg, the brainchild of Holly Morris & Sharon Lerner, after a residency at the women’s writers retreat, Hedgebrook, in Washington State in 2010. It’s hard to keep track of how it all happened, but I had lots of amazing chats with Holly at Hedgebrook. And then I was invited to a dinner with writers including Gloria Steinem, Monique Truong, and Martha Southgate where we envisioned the space (it narrowly escaped being named “Hedgebrooklyn”). Sharon and Holly invited me to a writers group at PowderKeg; for two years, I went to this group in the evenings after work, sharing early bits and pieces of what would eventually become my novel, The Star Side of Bird Hill. Now, I sublet a desk at PowderKeg whenever I’m home in New York City and need a quiet place to write, read, reflect, and occasionally take a nap. Here’s a shot of my desk from late May featuring the galleys of the novel, seashells and currency from my travels, and my favorite Bic Papermate blue pens (the only kind I write with). — Naomi Jackson, author of The Star Side of Bird Hill.
I went to high school near the Met and since then, I’ve spent many an afternoon wandering its halls, discovering new things. One of my favorite places to mull over a story is in the Hellenistic sculpture gallery on the ground floor. There’s a fountain right in the center of the room and I’ve puzzled through a tricky plot more than once while sitting on one of the benches surrounding it. — Melissa Grey, author of The Girl at Midnight
This is the desk where I do a lot of my organizing and writing, with all of my most important books close at hand. The cork board is a little empty because I’m just starting in on a new novel, but slowly things are finding their way up there. Up until recently I never had one dedicated spot to work in … I usually sat at the dining room table with a pile of books, but having the desk makes it infinitely easier to build something bigger over time. — Kristopher Jansma, author of Why We Came to the City.
This is my kitchen table with my stupid dying plants I tried to grow from grafting my friend’s succulents. I do a lot of work here, in front of the plants I’m slowly killing. I don’t know why I can’t make them grow; I try so hard to keep them alive. Lately, I’ve been really into writing next to these living things I can’t control and I don’t know how to help. It reminds me to let a bit of chaos and desperation into my pages. — Catie DiSabato, author of The Ghost Network
I’m a writer who can’t generate ideas while sitting still. So instead, I do my fiction brainstorming while pacing around the statue of inventor Robert Fulton in Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn. I call him “Fulty” when we’re alone. That’s not weird, right? — Sigal Samuel, author of The Mystics of Mile End
After ten years of living and writing in London, in a flat the size of an atom, my wife and I moved to the east coast of England, to a small town by the sea called Southwold. She’d been coming there, on holiday, since she was a little girl, and we’d got engaged there, on the pier, on Christmas eve, 2003. It’s always been a special place. I’d started writing The Last Pilot in London, but it wasn’t until we moved to Southwold that the words started coming. The sky there is vast; the sea, equal in size. You get a lot of perspective. Out there by the sea, at the very far end of the beach, on the dunes, you feel like you’re standing on the edge of the world. In winter, the wind howls off the North Sea, gets inside your bones, there’s no one else for miles. Too much perspective, though, can be too much, and isolation not healthy. We now live in Norwich, England’s first UNESCO City of Literature, and I can no longer hear the sea in my ears. Southwold will always be a special place. — Ben Johncock, author of The Last Pilot