Writers At Home 1: What’s to see?

“What’s to see?”

Writers At Home - What's to see

Writers At Home – What’s to see

That’s the question Calvin Trillin asked in a New Yorker article a number of years ago, about author’s homes as tourist attractions. “The labor that makes a world-famous novelist worth writing about was almost certainly done while he was sitting all by himself in a small room. The raw material was probably invisible to everyone but him.”

Trillin goes on to note that “a visitor to Herman Melville’s study couldn’t expect to find any whales.”

And writers’ homes are no great tourist investment. Anne Trubek notes that, of about 55 writers’ homes open to the public in the U.S., most struggle to attract visitors and “many lose money.”  But that’s OK.  Commerce is not our concern here.

Writers simply like to poke around in the lives of other writers. The mysteries of creativity and the writing process itself generate so much curiosity that some inevitably spills over to places where writers pursue(d) their craft. I suspect that a high proportion of visitors to the historic homes of writers are themselves writers (or wannabe writers), looking for a glimmer of inspiration or a motivational shot in the arm.

In a series of upcoming posts I will share some observations about the homes and writing spaces of authors as varied as E.B. White, Stephan Stephansson, Lucy Maud Montgomery, Al Purdy, Peter Christensen and Stephen King.  Over the years I have enjoyed poking around the neighbourhoods that inspired these authors – from Brooklin and Bangor Maine, to Prince Edward Island, to the Canadian prairies and Rocky Mountains.

I’ll also take the opportunity to chat a bit about these and other writers’ philosophies and practices regarding writing places and processes: how do/did they work? What was their perspective on the need for privacy or interaction? What kinds of offices / desks / launching pads did they depend upon?

If you have visited other writers’ homes I would welcome your comments and suggestions – either post them here or send me a note.

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