Thursday, May 20, 2010

Guest Post - Minrose Gwin, author of The Queen of Palmyra

Please join me in welcoming Minrose Gwin, author of The Queen of Palmyra, to Lit and Life!

Thanks for the chance to do a guest posting and talk about the weird work habits of writers. Flannery O’Connor, victim of lupus, wrote in bed. William Faulkner wrote with a gin and tonic in his hand. Virginia Woolf shut herself up. Eudora Welty watched people in the street in front of her house as she clattered away on her typewriter. Gertrude Stein stomped around. I guess there are as many ways to write as there are writers.
It’s late afternoon, my favorite time for writing, the time I usually get a spurt of energy before calling it quits for the day. I’m sitting at my “desk” in my favorite work pose, feet propped on a footstool (padded). My desk is actually my lap, and my “chair” is a well worn futon with a sizable dent on the side I always sit. I’m in my little sun room, lined on three of the four walls with windows, hot in the summer, cold as ice in winter. Around me things are a mess. There are left-overs from last month’s income tax and today’s lunch. There are binoculars to watch the progress of the bluebird hatchlings in my back yard, several pairs of glasses, a calendar, a printer and copier, a globe, some graduation cards I’ve been intending to send, pictures, books, you name it.
I have everything I need to write. At least one cat; this late afternoon it’s the fat one named Violet, as in Not-A-Shrinking-Violet, who digs her claws into my thigh to signal her contentment and keep me alert. Violet tries to bark at people when they come to the house, but it comes out something between a scream and a hairball cough. My dog, Sylvie, named after the character in Marilynne Robinson’s Housekeeping who couldn’t stay put, rolls around on her back and chews on something I don’t recognize. Sylvie’s primary attributes are her ears, which stand straight up and look twice as monstrously large when she’s flayed out like this. Beside the dog and cat, I have a whole sack of 94 percent fat-free popcorn; I can’t write in the late afternoon without it. And a full glass of water.
When I wrote my novel The Queen of Palmyra over the course of several summers, I didn’t have the luxury of my futon. I’m a teacher, so summers are the times for getting away and writing, which often don’t go together. I found myself writing on airplanes, in motel rooms, in friends’ apartments, even in the car until I made myself dizzy. I’ve decided I’m a homebody when it comes to writing, but the truth is most writers have other jobs and we have to write on the fly, sometimes literally. We have to make the writing fit the situation, or else we’re doomed to constant frustration and little satisfaction. We have to be stubbornly intent on writing, come hell or high water, family reunions in Indiana or friends’ crises in California. That’s all too easy for me to say this late afternoon, comfortably ensconced on my futon. Violet has just given a quick nip, as if to say practice what you preach.
Thanks, Minrose! I love to be able to picture authors at work.


  1. I don't think I could ever write a book "on the move" like that. I can't even check messages on my Blackberry while the car is moving. It makes me carsick.

    When I imagine a writer at work I always picture him or her sitting at a desk somewhere, completely closed off to the world but in reality a lot of writers don't write that way.

    I love that she keeps her kitty close by.

  2. Loved this guest post! The author really knows how to invoke a sense of place in her writing. I could see her in my minds eye with her popcorn and kitty, all cuddled up to write!

  3. Thanks for sharing this info from the writer. It's fascinating to hear how people work. I find it especially interesting that authors can write in such bizarre places (motel rooms, cars).

  4. Great guest post! I love this topic. I imagine authors get tired of us readers wanting to know about their writing habits, but I really do find it interesting.

  5. Wonderful guest post. Our pets are our best writing companions, even if they are a bit quirky at times. :)