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Pen IN Hand
Home Sweet Home Office
By Carol Guy
October, 2004, 13:34

elcome to IN, and my column, Pen In Hand.

Since we are going to be spending some time together here each month, I thought it only fair to let you know what you will be letting yourselves in for if you choose to keep reading this column.

I'll start by telling you a little about myself, but I promise to keep it short. I'm a small-town girl who had one big dream: to be a published author. The road between there and here was paved with a lot of things, including frustrations, detours, rejections and occasional bouts of writer's block. But it also had many rewards.

Sometimes providence intervenes in our lives and throws us a bone. That happened to me when a "too good not to write about" event took place in my church having to do with the minister, three women and charges of sexual harassment. The Ladies' Home Journal bought the article and I was off and running.

Then I discovered something quite startling: one published article does not a career make. I had to continue to produce.

Eventually I landed a job as a newspaper reporter and found out that writing is not only rewarding, it is very hard work. But that job gave me the confidence to continue submitting freelance work to book publishers and magazines.

I write cozy mysteries. My idol was Agatha Christie. My first cozy, Murder at the Ice Cream Parlor, was inspired by a true murder in my hometown. I'm also the author of a true crime book, A Picture Perfect Kid, which is about the murder of my former boss by her 16-year-old grandson.

By now, I'm sure you've caught the theme running throughout this little bio. Events that can inspire a story happen around us every day. As writers we need to be in tune with them and take advantage of opportunities when they present themselves.

In the coming months I'd like to share with you some insights, experiences, and even some advice. After all, I'd like to think I've learned something in the 25-plus years I've spent pounding out stories and articles, first on an old IBM Selectric, then a word processor and finally on my trusty PC.

So what exactly will we discuss here? How about we start at the beginning: organizing your office. After all, if you're going to work at home you'll need to have an area that is used just for that. I've tried writing at the kitchen table (in the very early days) and believe me, it just doesn't work.

Own use

Eons ago, I lived in an apartment where I had only one bedroom for my own use. In order to write there I put up a card table and bought a used bookcase and a two-drawer file cabinet. That was my first "home office."

The important thing is to have that space that is yours, where you can go and not be interrupted.

Ray Bradbury liked to surround himself with unusual items, things he'd picked up in his travels, objects of interest. He said he never knew what might inspire a story.

I've done the same thing with my home office. It's a haven of sorts. A place where I have family pictures on the walls, memorabilia on my desk, certificates of accomplishment (such as they are) displayed, some of my published items in frames, souvenirs sitting around, and so on. I can go in there and feel completely at ease surrounded by memories that represent happy, positive times in my life.

Right now, sitting on the top shelf of my computer workstation is a blue vase with six feathers in it. Five red, one blue. I've picked up these feathers in quirky little shops at various times as I've been out and about. They have absolute no significance other than the fact that I like feathers and they caught my eye.

The point I'm making here is, when you create your work area, or office, make it an extension of yourself, make it a place where creativity can flourish.

Now the most important thing. Whatever you do, no matter how many rejections or acceptances you get, no matter how many frustrations come along, don't ever forget the reason why you first sat down, took pen in hand, and began to write. Remember the joy it brings into your life.

Next time, we'll discuss writers' conferences and workshops and how to choose the ones that are right for you as well as how you can get the most out of the ones you do decide to attend.

Until then, keep writing!

Author Carol Guy is a 2004 EPPIE Award finalist for the mystery novel A Picture Perfect Kid, available from Zumaya Publications and Murder at the Ice Cream Parlor, available from Treble Heart Books You can find her web site at:

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