Charlotte Wood's Literary Space


Charlotte Wood, author of The Children says…

My writing room is a small room above a shed separate from our house in Marrickville, Sydney (I’m told the shed bit downstairs was once a stable; all I can say is that it must have been a very tiny horse). You can see the iron stair rail and the beginning of the steps at the left of the picture.

The room looks out over the back of our house and a wide, leafy laneway beside the house that leads to a big shopping centre nearby. It used to be very good for observing frazzled mothers trying to deal with toddler tantrums (they like to have them exactly outside our house, for some reason) and the old Greek men and ladies who sit on the low garden-fence railings and have a smoke and a natter. But the grevillea we planted grew much taller than I expected and now obscures the view, so that’s a bummer. All I hear are the toddlers’ shrieks and the tinging of shopping trolleys now.

 My desk always looks like as messy as this except I don’t normally have my own books on it! (This picture was originally taken for cutaways for an Australia Council online video thing.) At the top of the stairs in the black frame is a drawing my dad did of my mother once before any of us were born, and the other pictures are of various things – some Indian mynah bird photos I needed to look at a lot for my last book (must take them down now), and postcards people have sent that are too beautiful to throw out, and so on. The white bird on the computer is a little brooch given to me by my publisher, because it reminded her of the creepy mynahs in The Children. On top of the pile of books there is one of my favourites, a volume of letters between Sylvia Townsend Warner and William Maxwell, called The Element of Lavishness. I return to it frequently.

Outside the frame of this picture behind the desk is a wall of floor-to-ceiling bookshelves, built by a friend, including a shelf for a turntable, speakers and my husband’s collection of junk-shop vinyl. To the right of the desk is a double bed we use for guests, but also for me to have little Writing Naps on. I start off reading there, but … especially if I’m reading my own work … zzzzzzz. Actually I have often found that an afternoon nap solves problems – that half-conscious space between sleep and waking has very often provided me with a solution, or at least a fresh way of attacking a problem. The notebook beside the computer will have scribbled bits and pieces in it to go and peruse when I am lost. I write almost entirely on the computer but the notebook is for stray things that come to one at other times. The teak desk was given to me by a friend, and I like its largeness and its warmth. When it’s not covered in crap it’s quite beautiful.  Actually that’s how I feel about the whole room.

See Charlotte’s blog on food and writing.

See also in this series – Michael Gross, Paul Morgan, Damon Young, and Caroline Petit. If you’re a writer, I’d love to hear from you… email contact in ‘About Angela‘.

8 thoughts on “Charlotte Wood's Literary Space

  1. I love this little peek into the writing lives of others. Charlotte, you are a neat-freak compared to me. I love messy-desk writers – somehow they come up with the inexplicable connections and crazy leaps that are one of the most satisfying aspects of both writing and reading. Tidy up at your peril!

  2. Hutchinson, Y.L., ‘Working space entropy as a predictor of literary novelty’, The Journal of Literary Statistics 54 7 (2003): 233-267.


    Using a modified Marx/Dickinson scale, the authors ranked 12,755 workspaces for entropy. Results were further cross-checked with the Jamesian(2) model of literary novelty. The cross-checked data was filtered with a Proust-Gaussian algorithm.


    The authors found a a correlation ratio of 3:2, suggesting an inverse relationship between novelty and entropy. The authors tided up their desks immediately. Subsequent papers were published in the New Yorker.

  3. Pingback: My writing room « How to shuck an oyster

  4. Genevieve, I’m shocked.

    The JLS is the premier academic journal for scientists to examine literary works, authors and history.

    I’m surprised you can write anything without it. I can’t pick up a pen without first consulting the JLS…

    (Did you like the Marx/Dickinson scale? Check out their desks and offices if you get a chance.)

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