The Smallest Spaces Can Take You Great Places
I write in an abandoned chicken coop at the edge of a swamp.
When I tell people this, they either chuckle or assume that I’m embellishing in some way. After all, I write fiction for kids, so a little fibbing isn’t entirely out of the question. But it’s true. If there’s one part of the description that’s not entirely accurate, it’s that the coop was ‘abandoned.’
When we bought our current home, it included a rather elaborate chicken coop painstakingly built by the previous owner. Granted, it was the Ritz Carlton of chicken coops—8 x 10 feet of nesting boxes, chicken wire, and storage. It was also occupied by several hens. I have nothing against chickens and, like Lottie O’Chanter of The Luck Uglies, enjoy fresh cackle fruit from time to time. But we still had a daughter in diapers and weren’t necessarily eager to clean up after something else that couldn’t use flush plumbing on its own. The chickens were relocated to a good home and, for a while, the “Coop” remained vacant.
But I had always longed for a secluded writing space. Home offices are wonderful, but somehow the hustle and bustle of daily life still finds a way to intrude into even the most private in-house sanctuary (think phones, sibling fisticuffs, and FedEx deliveries). Inspired by images of Roald Dahl’s famous Gipsy House, Michael Pollan’s tiny writer’s retreat, and Dylan Thomas’s ‘word-splashed hut,’ I set out to design my dream writing space from scratch. With the help of a contractor, we refinished the Coop using all natural materials. Wide plank floors and white pine siding mirrored the New Hampshire forest surrounding it. We installed two large windows on either side so that, rather than feeling claustrophobic, it sometimes it feels like I’m sitting outside under the trees. My favorite feature, the desk, runs the length of one wall and is a thick slab of unfinished barn wood, complete with knots and saw marks.
Once finished, I filled the Coop with art and pictures that inspire me. I have a Carnival mask from Venice, book covers, my own sketches, and a wire and metal rooster rescued from a local curiosity shop. The barn doors are painted with black and white map of Village Drowning that I sometimes look to for reference. And, on top of the roof, sits a Dead Fish weathervane commissioned from a local artist.
I’ve written three books in the Coop so far and look forward to many more. When I sludge through the snow and open the door to my little studio, it’s like entering another world where the only walls are the limits of my imagination. Whether you write in a coop, a garage, a basement office, or at the kitchen table, I encourage you to make that writing space your own.
Now an insidious new lawman in Drowning has declared Rye an outlaw, and she's stuck on the strange and remote Isle of Pest. But the island quickly feels much less remote when the battle to control the future of the Luck Uglies moves to its shores.
To defeat the Luck Uglies' bitterest rivals, Rye must defy a deranged earl, survive a test meant to judge the grit of the fiercest men--and uncover some long-buried family secrets. And when Rye leads the charge to defend the island, she and her friends will meet an eerily familiar enemy...
Strange things are happening in Village Drowning, and a terrifying encounter has Rye O'Chanter convinced that the monstrous, supposedly extinct Bog Noblins have returned.
Now Rye's only hope is an exiled secret society so notorious its name can't be spoken aloud: the Luck Uglies. As Rye dives into Village Drowning's maze of secrets, rules, and lies, she'll discover the truth behind the village's legends of outlaws and beasts...and that it may take a villain to save them from the monsters.
The first in a series, The Luck Uglies is an altogether irresistible cross of Lloyd Alexander's Chronicles of Prydain, Stefan Bachmann's The Peculiar, and Chris Healy's The Hero's Guide to Saving Your Kingdom, overflowing with adventure, secrets, friendship, and magic.