TITLE: Rooms of Their Own, Where Great Writers Write
AUTHOR: Alex Johnson
ILLUSTRATOR: James Oses
PUBLISHER: Frances Lincoln, London (UK), 2022
HARDCOVER: 192 pages, $29.99CAN Amazon.ca
KINDLE: $17.32CAN Amazon.ca
SUBJECT: author biography, creativity, work spaces
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"Any spot is good for daydreaming so long as
it is in an obscure corner and the horizon is vast."
I was immediately drawn to that enchanting illustration on the front cover of Rooms of Their Own, Where Great Writers Write. I wanted to be there—sitting at that desk with its familiar old typewriter in front of that lovely window.* With the click of a button, the book was added to my shopping cart.
In his collection of fifty well-known authors, Alex Johnson focuses on the writing spaces where these famous people worked. He researched details that pique our curiosity of the writers behind the books, transporting us 'to the heart of their writing rooms'. Bios at the backs of novels are usually so brief, there is no way to get a feel of the person who wrote them. Alex Johnson, with well chosen particulars, fills in the blanks for us.
I love these kinds of books. They give me a sense of connection to the individuals who wrote the works that inspire me. I love to envision what they place around themselves, what items spur them on, what they do to keep creativity flowing. Sometimes I'm inspired to try something in my own writing space. Maybe like doing what Michel de Montaigne did: writing his motivational quotes directly on the walls, well, he actually had his quotes on the ceiling above his head.
Margaret Atwood writes her novels wherever she happens to be - in a plane, at a café, lying on her bed. Maya Angelou often booked into a quiet hotel to write. D.H. Lawrence considered the outdoors amongst the trees his writing room. And E.B. White spun out his tales from his writing shed on Allen Cove, Maine, sharing his sea-facing spartan room with a mouse and a squirrel. So many others I wish I had time to tell you about, include authors like: Isabel Allende, W.H. Auden, Ray Bradbury, Stephen King, Hilary Mantel, Dylan Thomas, William Wordsworth, to name a few.
The engaging essays in this book are paired with some wonderful sketches done by illustrator James Oses. With his pencils and paints he gives us charming glimpses of the rooms and spaces where the authors worked. Below is one picture that caught my eye; I actually got to visit this writing room several years ago.
Vita Sackville-West's writing room
My husband and I, during our trip to England, visited Sissinghurst Castle and Gardens where well known gardener and author Vita Sackville-West once lived. Her gardens were breathtaking, but the place that most intrigued me was her writing room in the tower overlooking the gardens. She'd climb the narrow stairwell to this room where she created a wonderful place in which to write her novels and garden books. Something about standing in that space made me feel alive, a little in awe, certainly inspired—as I saw her books on the shelf, her chosen pictures on the wall, and how her things were arranged for her comfort and use.
If I had a bucket list, it would include visits to other famous or not so famous work studios of creators I admire, people like Charlotte Brontë, Emily Dickinson, Beatrix Potter, and Mark Twain. And, yes, their writing rooms are included in this collection. In the meantime, I am savouring this book. And I happily recommend Rooms of Their Own to you.
Alex Johnson, author of several other books, is also a journalist and blogger. He is married with three children and lives in Herfordshire, UK. You can read more about him HERE.
James Oses is a London based illustrator 'specialising in drawing and painting from life'. You can learn more about him HERE.
*Note: The illustration on the front cover (top) is Sylvia Plath's writing room at Court Green in North Tawton, Devon.
Inspired by the beauty of God's world around her, Brenda Leyland writes from her home in northerly Alberta, Canada. She loves writing on her blog It's A Beautiful Life and occasionally posts on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
Brenda, this book sounds delightful. How special that you got to visit Vita Sackville-West's writing space. I once visited Ernest Hemingway's house in Key West, Florida. His writing space was separate from his home but, if I remember correctly, you got to it by a kind of bridge pathway from the second floor veranda of the house to the room above ... the garage, I think. It was spacious and sparsely furnished with table, bookshelf, lamp, a rug on the floor. And the room was filled with natural light. I could have stood there, with my imagination, taking it in for much longer than we had time for that day.ReplyDelete
Thank you for sharing this book with us. The illustration on the front cover captures me too.
Joy, you noticed that the room was filled with natural light. Ha, I'd be gravitating to that detail as well. Rooms filled with natural light and being able to sit near windows -- they're the best writing spots! It's neat you got to visit Hemingway's writing space in Florida. Something special about being there in person. Another place I loved visiting on our England trip was Winston Churchill's home, Chartwell; both he and Clementine had lovely writing rooms. And of course, his art studio was something else!Delete
Thank you, dear Brenda, for this delicious book review.ReplyDelete
"With the click of a button..." I have added this book to my Amazon wish list.
I'm with you in loving the idea of visiting the writing spaces of beloved authors. My own creative space called me a writer before I did. When I set it up as a sewing room, a whisper told me it looked more like a writer's room. Oh my, there's something special about writing rooms.
Haha...that button, Wendy, makes it far too easy. But I love it. I've got some lovely new books in my collection because of it. I love how your sewing room began to hint she was more like a writer's room. I agree, there is something quite special about writing rooms. I'm always glad for a peek at yours when you share on Facebook, especially when your furry girls are posing in it.Delete
Oh! How inspiring! It makes me want to do 'renovate" my current writing space!ReplyDelete
Hello friend, I hope you have fun 'renovating' your current writing space. Thanks for your note!Delete
Did you hear it, another clicking button? I too am putting this book right into my shopping cart! I love these wonderful glimpses we see of how others work and where they take inspiration from. And those illustrations, so sublime! What a great way to spend a snowy weekend. Thanks for your inspiring review!ReplyDelete
Haha, I heard it, Kathy! Thanks for your lovely comment. xoDelete
It's always interesting to see where creatives create, isn't it? Thanks for the book recommendation!ReplyDelete
Thanks, Linda. Like you, I find it so inspiring to see where creatives create.Delete
Thank you for sharing. The picture of the book cover had me hooked.ReplyDelete
That picture was the hook for me as well! I hope you'll add the book to your library collection. It really is lovely. Thanks, Martina.Delete
I love looking at their writing spaces too. What a fun book!ReplyDelete
Thanks, Pamela, for your note!Delete
Would love to have a look at this book.So fascinating to discover what inspires people. Thanks for this review.ReplyDelete
I agree, Sharon, it is fascinating. So often it's hearing what inspires other people that sparks my own creative energy.Delete
This book looks delightful. I love seeing writing spaces, and sewing studios, too. It's always inspiring to see where others create.ReplyDelete
Thanks, Karen! I'm so glad you stopped by. :)Delete
YES Brenda!!!!!🤗THANK YOU for bringing us “another BEAUTIFUL “ thing to look at!!!!!ReplyDelete
I think I mentioned long ago how even when I was a young girl I fantasized having a room in an attic. In my mind I can see the desk that I imagined!☺️. I loved seeing your desk around Christmas time that you shared. The desks in the rooms of my imagination all happen to be “old desks!”☺️. They seem to always call to me that “special place” to write; if even a simple note!!!!
Terrific review of Alex Johnson’s and James Odes’ book!
Can’t wait to share this gift with others!!
THANK YOU for your time to share it with us!!!!~ your appreciative follower!!!💗Ann
Dear Ann, Thank you for your lovely comment. You always affirm my heart. Oh yes, like you I'm often drawn to the 'old' desks in pictures and books. There seems to be something of the romance in seeing them, would you say?Delete
Thank you for such a kind review of our book. I'm so glad you enjoyed it. Sissinghurst is a lovely spot - I was offered the chance to write in the 'gazebo' by the moat for a day last summer which was a marvellous experience.ReplyDelete
Thank you, Alex Johnson! Such a delight to find your note here - appreciate it so much. Oh, and what a lovely opportunity you must have had last summer writing in such a beautiful place. Happy writing and all the best! BrendaDelete