My guest today is Clare Wiener who writes under the name of Mari Howard.
Clare/Mari is a descendant, through her paternal grandfather, of the same family as Sir Ebenezer Howard who created the concept of Garden Cities. As well as a writer she is also a painter, and has held several exhibitions at venues including at the Oxford University Press and at Oxford Artweeks. She enjoys photography, the natural world, and friendships. Now that her children have grown up she has refilled the empty nest with 3 cats.
Here’s her talking about her writing space –
” ‘A Room of one’s Own’ Virginia Woolf believed, was especially necessary for women who write. After the bedroom-based teenage scribbling, and post-Uni typing on a heavy Remington typewriter (a refugee from an MRC unit at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine) in the corner of another bedroom, I graduated to our Mac computer in the dining room. I then achieved my first and oddest dedicated writing space: a small grey room with desk, metal filing cabinets, and a whiteboard, in the top corridor of the Computer Science building at Waterloo University. It was the winter of 1989-90, and we were in Canada while my husband worked with computer experts on the project to digitise the Oxford English Dictionary.
I’d recently sent off my first novel. Laptops were rare and expensive: I hadn’t brought one along. Wonderfully, the department found me space and a computer. While the kids attended Canadian grade school, I wrote … using Vi text editor created for the Unix operating system. And outside, the snow floated softly down on the campus, the coldest winter Ontario had seen for a number of years.
The novel came back with a couple of A4 sheets of detailed notes: stupidly I found this discouraging. By today’s standards it was the next best thing to acceptance. Some years passed when I pretty much only wrote essays, and the annual short story for a group of us who met to celebrate Christmas with a party and readings. Then with an empty nest, a certificate in social and political science, and a bit of clinical work behind me, I began Baby, Baby. As the world of publishing was changing, I decided to be an author/publisher this time.
Today my indoor writing space is what was built as the kitchen. It’s also the warmest room in the house. I share my space with the cats: they have a cosy bed but prefer a comfy chair or even better to invade the desk, inspect the back of the computer, and sit on the keyboard. For them it’s always time for a break, a cup of tea, and a few cat biscuits. I make notes by hand, hate typing, but always compose on the computer: practical and convenient to be able to read what I wrote, easily edit, and print out sections to work on. My view is a blank wall: no problem in dreich weather, frustrating when the sun shines.
The present kitchen looks onto the garden: my outdoor writing space. Laptops are the best invention: since exchanging my bulky iMac for the MacBookPro I use the laptop. Indoors, it’s plugged into a big screen: but in summer I love to work outdoors, surrounded by open air, birdsong, and plants, whenever weather permits. The Labyrinth Year (Hodge 2014) partly –evolved to the sounds of the groundsman mowing the sports field across the way, and even to cricket matches. This year we bought a summerhouse. Fitted up with insulation and electricity, this brilliant version of a room of one’s own should extend my outdoor writing space.”