Laurie Halse Anderson Writes in a Hand-built Cottage

Laurie Halse Anderson is the best-selling author of young adult novels including Speak, Wintergirls, and, most recently, The Impossible Knife of Memoryout this week. Based on Anderson’s own experience as the daughter of a WWII soldier, The Impossible Knife of Memory traces the struggle of an itinerant father-daughter pair whose constant relocations can’t help them outrun his post-Iraq PTSD. Here, Anderson talks about where she writes her challenging, beautiful books:

I’ve written in every imaginable location; a repurposed closet, the kitchen table, the bleachers while my kids had basketball practice, the front seat of the car when they were at soccer. In airports. On trains. In the break room when I was supposed to be wolfing down dinner. In the back of classrooms when I was supposed to be paying attention. In line at the grocery store.

Then I married a carpenter.

He had built himself a wonderful house in the woods near Lake Ontario and converted the attic into my writing space. It was a great place to read and goof around online, but the acoustics of the house and the presence of dogs and people and other noisy, lovely distractions made it too easy to not write.

So my husband dug out his tools and he built me a writing cottage, in the woods near our house.

It is a magical space. I only do creative work inside; writing, reading, drawing, and sometimes knitting. He used as many sustainable and recycled materials as possible. I heat it with a wood stove and cool it by opening the windows.

The south wall was originally a rose window from a church built just before the Civil War. My husband found it, glassless and forlorn, in a salvage yard and spent months repairing it with his best friend.

The only thing the cottage doesn’t have is a bathroom, which was by design, because my husband was afraid I’d never come home if he installed one.

In 2014 I’m going to spend a lot of time on the road meeting readers and talking about my new novel, The Impossible Knife of Memory. But I promise that when it’s time to put away the suitcase, I’ll head back to my cottage in the wood and start dreaming up a new story.

All writers should marry carpenters.

Laurie Halse Anderson's desktop


Laurie Halse Anderson's window

  • Chris

    The whole idea of this is awesome. I think a room with a wood stove and windows to open but no plumbing would be my dream. Except that I paint and I’d need a sink!

    • Kilburn Hall

      Stephen King has a point in “On Writing” where he talks about the author’s work space. A lavish work space would make you too comfortable- most authors do their best work in a pirvate but sparse work space, a desk by the furnace, a desk tucked away in the corner of the house. A utilitarian space that you know work is to be done there.My best work space was a small desk with banker lamp in the corner hidden away by book stacks in Barrington, IL.where if I strained my neck I could see the fire in the fireplace. The problem was, it was in the back of a public library and over the years other people discovered my work space and it became so popular I could never get in there even if I arrived when library opened…

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