Work Spaces and Places

4th grade teacher Jennifer Keller sent out this fun tweet:


As I searched for a pic of my workspace to share, I saw many photos I’ve snapped of places I’ve written (or illustrated), so I pulled together a bunch more to share here! I’ve written and illustrated in so many locations over the past 7 years, usually due to traveling while under pressing deadlines, or at best, due to having a creative burst at some random time and location.

First workspace of note: my desk in the corner of our tiny 400 sq foot apartment in Los Angeles. We downsized from a 1 bedroom in order to allow me to go full time into illustration. Even though we out-grew it, I loved that little place…all my books before WHEN YOU ARE BRAVE and HOME IN THE WOODS happened there! 

Desk in the corner of my Los Angeles 400 sq ft studio apartment

Then there are the classic alternate work-day locations: Coffee shops (must have good Hygge) and historic library spaces (also must have good Hygge). Apologies to the architects in the room, but The Muse has a harder time visiting in new modern spaces…

Coffee shops! [left] Beautiful library rooms [Right: LA Central Library]

Speaking of modern spaces, when absolutely forced (i.e. on deadline) I’ve written and illustrated in airports, on airplanes, while waiting for delayed trains in train stations in England, and even in the car while moving across the country from Los Angeles to Minnesota.*

Planes, trains, automobiles

When I was doing visual research in England for the picture book art for JOHN RONALD’S DRAGONS: STORY OF J.R.R. TOLKIEN, I was also on deadline for another book project, so I spent the days collecting visual research and the nights working in hotel rooms.*

Hotel rooms in England (2015): The Plough and Harrow in Birmingham, and The Randolph Hotel in Oxford

*this business of working while traveling might look romantic, but I should be honest in saying that in reality it’s quite difficult to get real work done, and it’s downright exhausting

Possibly the most incandescent place I’ve ever worked was at Scotch Hill Farm, owned by the late Maurice Sendak, for the month-long Sendak Fellowship Retreat. Once of the desks in my studio space there was the same one on which Maurice illustrated ‘Where The Wild Things Are’!

Scotch Hill Farm 2017: desk in bottom-left pic was Maurice Sendak’s work table

Last summer I spent a week collecting visual reference in the Brule River state forest—close to where I grew up in Northern Wisconsin—for my book coming out on Oct 1, 2019, HOME IN THE WOODS. I camped and hiked the North Country Trail, writing and sketching along the way.

While house-sitting at my brother and sister-in-law’s lake home recently, we had a great thunderstorm so I set up a work spot in front of the windows.

While it’s been helpful to learn to write anywhere, I have to admit I never feel as creative or productive as when I’m in my own designated workspace. These days I have my very own room for a studio space, with an open and closed sign to signal welcome or unwelcome interruptions (very important for co-habitants!):

I get to watch the seasons change from our 3rd floor windows. Things get super messy when deadlines get intense. But I can close the door on the mess and the work and keep it separate from the rest of life, and that’s a luxury I appreciate more for not having had it for so many years.

I live up the street from two beautiful lakes in Minneapolis—Lake of the Isles, and Bde Maka Ska—which are these gems of nature right in the middle of the city. They call me down to work by the water often when I feel breezes coming in or the light of a sunset glowing in the distance.

Miss Maple Fan Art by Mary Lundquist!

So, I’m going to be rich. Not because 1 billion copies of Miss Maple’s Seeds have sold, but because I am the proud owner of an original Mary Lundquist illustration! And she’s going to be big time. So, I’m going to be rich. Mary came to my book launch party on April 7th, and brought this adorable fan art:

Art by Mary Lundquist www.marylundquist.com

 

It kills me! That’s me, and I’m sitting on an acorn, drawing, in a tree studio!! I LOVE it.

Mary and I met at last year’s SCBWI LA conference, and her portfolio was incredible. I was super excited when she won a Portfolio award, and even more excited when I heard she got representation with agent superstar Steven Malk, and now has multiple book projects in the works. As you can see, she deserves it.
I was so touched that she made the trip out for my book party, and created this super sweet illustration for me. Thank you Mary!

Check her art out: www.marylundquist.com

A debut novel by the late Bridget Zinn

I’m joining in to spread the word about the debut young adult novel POISON, by the late Bridget Zinn. Bridget was from my hometown, and sadly died of cancer in 2011 at age 33 before she was able to see her novel reach publication. Her family and friends are helping to promote her new book on her behalf.

I was in Jr. High when Bridget was graduating High School, so I only knew her from afar. My strongest memory of her was from when I had joined cross-country and we always watched and cheered for the high-schoolers’ races. Bridget came in far behind the pack every time with a confident smile on her face. She was a beautiful example of doing what made her happy regardless of where the rest of her peers were. That had an impact on me then, and left a lasting impression.

I can’t wait to read her book POISON (Hyperion Books), and celebrate her amazing accomplishment. http://www.bridgetzinn.com

Read the article and review in Publisher’s Weekly.