Monday, October 5, 2009

A Room of One's Own

By Wendy Corsi Staub

I like to think of myself as a spontaneous person. Want to put the thawing chicken into the fridge and get takeout instead? Fine with me. Want to snag this bargain bookcase from a tag sale and figure out where to put it later? No prob. Want to jet off to Barbados? I’m soooo there.
          (Yeah. Like that ever happens.)
          Anyway…spontaneous. Yes, sir. That’s me.
          Rather, that was me--until my husband decided to remodel my home office.  Suddenly, I discovered that I am a creature of habit; that my spiritual, emotional, and financial well-being depends on rising each morning, grinding and brewing a big pot of coffee, and climbing the stairs to my office, where I spend hours creating novels and turning them into my various editors on, or before, deadline.
          Alas, those days are over—at least, for now. My office is no more. My thousands of books are boxed up in the crawl space; my files are buried in a closet somewhere beneath flip flops and down comforters; my computer is sitting, exposed and vulnerable, right out in the living room.
          My husband promised to make this renovation as quick and painless as possible. We both figured the job would involve ripping up the groovy pink carpet and removing the even groovier (pun not intended, but I’ll go with it) plywood paneling we had painted white when we moved in—a quick fix that aimed to transform the seventies rec room ambience into beadboard-esque cottage charm. (No, really.)
          So, a little spackle, a little paint, some new carpet, and I’d be back in business, right?
          So very, very, very wrong. Our little project snowballed, as these things often do, as anyone who owns an old suburban house will tell you.
          Long story reduced to one ugly word: mold.
          My office is now gutted to the studs, and our roof—yes, our entire roof—will be torn off and replaced starting this week. Then my office will have to be re-framed, re-sheetrocked, re-wired, re-everything.
          How we will pay for this unexpected expense, I do not know—particularly now that my on-acceptance payout for the new novel appears to be indefinitely delayed. However, my husband assures me we’ll manage.
          (Had I realized we had thousands of extra dollars at our disposal, I’d have opted to spend it on a fabulous Mediterranean cruise vacation and taken my chances on a leaky roof, water damage and mold. My husband, however, appears to have developed an unhealthy fear of leaky roofs, water damage and mold, and so we are spending our thousands of extra dollars on flannel-clad, ladder-climbing workmen, and shingles. At least I got to order a charming red-speckled gray that matches the shutters. The shingles, not the guys—though they may very well also turn out to be charming, red-speckled, and gray.)
          Anyhoo, I’ve been forced to relocate my computer to the living room, where I am attempting to write my new thriller, SCARED TO DEATH, a sequel to the upcoming LIVE TO TELL (Avon Books, March 2010). As a newly diagnosed creature of habit, I initially attempted to stick to my usual twelve-to-fourteen-hour marathon writing sessions. But I must say, there’s something unnerving about hearing an eleven-year-old munching Cheezits and watching Sponge Bob few feet over your shoulder when your heroine is running for her life.
          Ever since I acknowledged that I am not one of those fortunate, SPONTANEOUS writers who can write anywhere, any time, I’ve had to adjust my schedule so that I work on the book only when I have the living room to myself. Which pretty much relegates my writing schedule to the wee hours, school day hours, and non Yankees-or-Giants-game-viewing hours. As a result, on occasions when I would ordinarily have run up to my desk to pound out a new scene, I have unexpectedly found myself with free time.
          At first, I was at loose ends. I mean, I’m notoriously type A. I am not the kind of person who can turn on the television or pick up a book or magazine in the middle of the day, much less sit idle…unless I’m utterly exhausted. Most of the time, thank goodness, I am not.
          I was worried that I might be frustrated about deadlines and all the writing I could have been doing in my—sob—office. However, I’ve discovered that there’s something cathartic about the homey housewife life. I’ve been keeping busy cleaning out cupboards and closets, cooking and baking, planting bulbs, pruning hedges. In fact, the last few weeks have been kind of a throwback to my contented newlywed weekends, when my husband and I were living in New England with no friends and nothing but time on our hands.
If I had an office I never would found myself at Borders on a rainy Saturday afternoon this past weekend, browsing other people’s books when I ordinarily would have been writing my own. Other people’s books, like a new memoir called THE KIDS ARE ALL RIGHT.
          I had read in Entertainment Weekly and in our local paper about the four Welch siblings—Amanda, Liz, Dan and Diana-- who recently co-authored a book about their extraordinary past—four different accounts of the same past. Privileged children who had lost their father to a car accident in the early eighties and then, a few years later, their mother to cancer, they were split up and farmed out to various people who raised them—or attempted to.
           Having nursed my own too-young and dying mother through her final days with breast cancer, I instantly related to their tragedy on one level—and was awestruck by their perseverance on another. They had not only individually triumphed against tremendous odds, but they had rediscovered each other and rebuilt their family.
           As luck would have it, the Welches were reading and signing at our local Borders yesterday afternoon. I was riveted, and had the chance to chat with several of them afterward. I came away inspired and toting an autographed copy of their book, which is receiving positive buzz. Check it out here:
           Meanwhile, I’ve got a new book of my own out this month: LILY DALE: DISCOVERING, the fourth installment in my hardcover young adult paranormal series. The first three titles, AWAKENING, BELIEVING, and CONNECTING, are all out in paperback at this point. For more info—or to enter my monthly contest—check out my websites at or ♥

BIO: Wendy Corsi Staub is the New York Times bestselling author of more than seventy novels under her own name and the pseudonym Wendy Markham. She lives in Westchester County with her husband and children.


  1. Great post, Wendy! I actually have very little structure to my life, so I tend to write anytime, anywhere. However, when I'm on a self-imposed deadline (because my small press doesn't really inflict deadlines on us), I tend to be much more diligent, putting in full 8-hour days of writing, staying at the desk 90% of the time, etc...

    I hope the re-roofing/remodeling project goes quickly and that you can get back into your routine soon!

    Jerrica :)

  2. Wendy, I think even when we think we are structured, life has a way of opening us and forcing us to be sponetaneous. I think your time out of your office has opened you maybe not in the spontaneous let's go to Barbados way, but in a creative way that has enhanced you, and most importantly your writing!