I originally interviewed Rosanne Parry in 2011 for Creative Spaces when she gave us a peek into her treehouse workspace. (So cool!) Her most recent book is the middle-grade novel The Turn of the Tide, which received starred reviews and was chosen as an Oregon Battle of the Books title for the 2017-2018 school year. The Turn of the Tide was released in paperback earlier this year, and guess what? I’m giving away one copy of The Turn of the Tide bundled with Rosanne’s debut novel, Heart of a Shepherd. Directions for how to enter the giveaway can be found at the end of this post.
Today Rosanne is joining us to share great advice on creating a workspace for yourself on the go, something I’m sure many of us are struggling to manage and embrace during the summer months ahead.
WORKSPACE ON THE GO
by Rosanne Parry
Six years ago Jennifer was kind enough to feature my treehouse workspace on her blog. In the years since I have grown from one published novel to four. Six years ago my oldest daughter was starting college and now the youngest of my four children has finished her senior year. I’ve taken a part-time job at a local indie bookstore and have gone back to teaching but this time in a graduate program at Portland State University. But one thing has remained constant, the need to find a place to work on the go.
When my kids were younger and I was driving them to after-school activities I brought my work along and found these strategies were the most helpful for getting things done in a waiting room or coffee shop.
- Headphones or ear buds are the most useful accessary by far. If you are sound sensitive, then noise canceling headphones are a must. Even if you don’t love music while you’re working, just putting in the ear buds sends the message that you are hard at work and not wishing to be interrupted which is a godsend when you have a deadline and are stuck working in a coffee shop where everybody who walks through the door knows you.
- Either a portable laptop or tablet and key board or notebook and pen are all you really need to get most writing accomplished. One of the gifts of working on the go is that sketchy internet connections and the absence of your home library make it easier to focus. I’ve learned to flag my writing as I go for references I’ll need to check later and keep going which can make the work away from home office flow even faster.
- A cell phone stand is surprisingly useful. I have one that is sturdy enough to prop up a notebook if I’m transcribing notes from my journal. It can even hang over the top of my laptop if space is at a premium. It allows me to access reference photos, maps, and my dictionary app.
- I’ve learned to bring a lightweight scarf along in case there’s a drafty room in the winter or one with glacial air conditioning in the summer.
Recently my family went on a week long camping trip and I knew I’d need to get some research and writing done on that trip. I was very grateful to leave my laptop behind but equally glad to have made solid progress on my newest novel. Here’s what I’ve learned about outdoor workplaces:
- Maybe this is just me getting older but a comfortable place to sit has become much more of a priority lately. Camp chairs vary widely in their comfy-ness so give it a test run before you get one. I am lucky enough to have a hammock chair which was the perfect solution.
- Glare on the page is also a big issue when working outdoors even when you’re not on a screen. I was elated to discover reading sunglasses and could not have gotten anything done on this trip without them.
- A lap desk, a firm cushion, or in a pinch, the stack of newspaper you are going to use to start the fire later, can be used as a writing surface. And since pens fail me twice as often as usual when I’m on the go, a pencil and a pocket knife keep the words coming.
- The woods can be distracting but less so if there’s sunscreen, bug spray, a scarf for those chilly mountain mornings, and a damp bandana for those scorching afternoons.
But here’s maybe the best thing I learned on my camping trip. One of the most important things I do for my productivity is to know when to set the work down. On our last night on Mt. Hood I was all set to hang out fireside and finish my research—a collection of diaries written in Ireland 100-150 years ago, so captivating—but I got an urge to take one last canoe ride. So my husband and I set out on Trillium Lake. It was utterly still and eerily quiet. The moon hadn’t risen and there were thousands of stars. Stars so thick I couldn’t find my favorite constellations at first for all the extra stars I don’t usually see. The Milky Way arced across the eastern shoulder of the mountain. The Pliedies fell on us like rain, and every star and falling star was reflected in the water. We paddled around for almost an hour in the pitch dark and barely said a word. It was an absolutely ethereal journey and intimate in a way conversation could never be.
Is that moment going to be useful? Will I write it in a story some day? Probably not. But here’s what I want to capture in every book I ever write from now on:
- the sense of wonder at the enormity of the universe
- that slight edge of fear even in a moment of beauty (if we’d flipped the canoe it would have been a long cold night indeed.)
- the pride I felt in paddling a canoe my husband had built himself from a stack of boards to a thing of beauty
- the awareness of life’s fragility I felt having taken a night paddle like this in 1975 on Spirit Lake in the shadow of Mt. St. Helens. Five years later the mountain erupted and Spirit Lake and the entire forest surrounding it was gone in less than a minute.
- the love I feel for my family, the family I grew up in that taught me to appreciate the wilderness, the family I raised that has happily followed along on all our adventures and the families yet to come who I hope and pray will find joy in this same wilderness we are privileged to care for.
I hope every character I ever write feels at least some of these things what ever their story circumstances may be, and in the end I think that was the most productive hour I spend of my entire week in the mountains.
To learn more about Rosanne Parry and her books, visit her website.
To enter the book giveaway, re-tweet this post and follow me on Twitter (@jabertie) so I can message you for your address if you win, or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org with “Book Giveaway” as your subject and a mailing address in the body of your email. I will randomly select one winner next Thursday, June 22, 2017. (US entries only)