Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Guest Post by Paul Durham: The Smallest Spaces Can Take You Great Places

I have a super special treat for you all today! Paul Durham is here to talk about the ex-chicken house he writes in. Yup, you heard me right. And it is AMAZING! Read on to be inspired. 

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.
Sometimes the smallest spaces can take you great places.

Today the sequel to The Luck Uglies releases: Fork-Tongue Charmers. If you haven't read this middle-grade series yet, I cannot recommend it enough. Brilliant world-building and sassy, love-able characters combine to create the type of books that are hard to put down. {Unputdownables}

It's not easy being the daughter of the High Chieftain of the Luck Uglies.

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...

Goodreads | Amazon | B&N 

The Luck Uglies is the first in a tween fantasy-adventure trilogy brimming with legends come to life, a charming wit, and a fantastic cast of characters-and is imbued throughout with the magic of storytelling.

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.

Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes and Noble


  1. I am jealous of that writing space! We're looking at houses now and I keep daydreaming of my own space.

  2. Now *that* is a desk to drool over. May you pen many great books in the coop!

  3. Wow, that is nice! I like the chalkboard doors.

  4. I am in love with that little cottage!
    But now I want both - one coop for chickens, and one coop for me!!

  5. That is actually really cool! I want one now. :)

  6. OMG! OMG! I adore that writing space. I dream of moving somewhere warm where I can write in a refurbished camper in my backyard. It's too cold in the Poconos to write outside.

    I just started Luck Uglies and I'm loving it!

  7. What a lovely writing space and what a great desk! Best of luck with the new release! It sounds like a fun series.

  8. Okay, I seriously am having writer-space jealousy right now! That is awesome. Seriously, this makes me really want to find a little nook for myself--someday!!

  9. I do a lot of my writing in a camper van - that makes an excellent writing retreat.

  10. That is the most fabulous writing space I have ever seen! Totally WANT! The chalkboard piece is so convenient.

  11. okay this is officially the best writing space ever. Not to mention one massive coop!

  12. That is an awesome writing space! I love the map drawn on the doors for reference!

  13. I want one! I want a chicken coop! That set-up is amazing and so cute. Congrats to Paul—The Luck Uglies sounds like a really cool read!

  14. That looks cool! Reminds me of a play house my grandparents had for me and my cousins. I think ours used to be a chicken coop too.

    Congrats, Paul! The Luck Uglies is on my list.

  15. Oh my god, Paul, I totally covet your abandoned chicken coop! It's so cozy and bright and warm and quiet. What a perfect writing space. I hope someday I have one, too!! Congratulations - on the amazing space AND the book, of course :)

  16. The title totally charmed me. So did the coop. I'm not sure I'd want to leave it, though.

  17. Thank you all for your kind words. Everyone should have a little writing/reading space to call their own, whether it be a coop, an abandoned boat, a tree house, or a camper. Happy writing.

  18. Oh wow. I love that little office. That's the coolest thing...and proof that you can make a writing room anywhere. Check out this one...the desk was set up in the corner of a sunroom.


  19. That is the most awesome writing space! And Paul's covers are freaking fantastic. I'm a little jealous. ;)

  20. Ok so...to be fair, when I read those first few lines, I literally thought he was writing in a space where chickens were flitting about. LOL Now as I scrolled through those photos, I have to say...I want one!!


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