Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

At the Desk: Katie Crouch

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At the Desk: Katie Crouch

Katie Crouch may be a New York Times bestselling author, but her writing space is purposefully far from grand. Today she joins us as part of Open Book's At The Desk series, where writers give us a glimpse into their workspaces and writing processes. Katie shows us the simple space where she creates her riveting narratives, including her latest novel, Abroad (Knopf Canada). Abroad tells the story of Tabitha Deacon, whose year in Italy turns into a dark, unpredictable cyclone of danger, history and secrets.

Katie tells Open Book about the writers whose photos she's tacked up in her writing space, her first (and even more modest) desk and the importance of disconnecting.
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When I was younger, I could write anywhere. I didn’t have the luxury of “creating” my space; I would just squat in coffee shops, libraries, the laundromat, wherever. For a while, I worked as an editor at a financial company; I had a lot of downtime, so I would write on the trading floor with men in blue shouting over my head. I don’t like to be precious about where I work, because that opens the door to excuses. Oh, the light’s not right! Better blow it off and have a sandwich.

My apartment during the time I started my first book, Girls in Trucks, was a tiny, cramped hole in New York. That was the place I really committed to being a writer. I’d get up at five, write for eight hours, take a run, eat some noodles, write four hours more, then have a drink. I’d often smoke at the desk. It was a miserable, lonely period of life, but I remember being so in tune there. So very hungry to write.

For that reason, now that I have choices of where to write, I’m always trying to emulate that apartment. I live in the country with my family, in a rambling house with lots of good rooms with views of horses. People always come in and say, Wow! How inspiring! But my favourite place to write in the house is a weird little cell the size of a closet. I don’t know what it was originally used for, but it’s dark and tiny, with one little window that looks out at a pine tree. I don’t neaten it ever. There are books and papers all over the place. I make certain to turn off the Internet before I go in, or else I’ll just hide from my family and watch movies.

I have a Thesaurus and a Dictionary in here somewhere. On the wall I’ve tacked up pictures of: Eudora Welty, typing in Jackson, Ernest Hemingway, scrawling in Key West, my daughter, my daughter again, a map of Perugia, Italy, ripped from a 1947 Baedekers’, a contract for a vacation rental I need to follow up on, and a news photo of Sophia Loren checking out Jane Mansfield’s cleavage. It works for me. I fight for time and stay in here until my family pounds on the door for me to make eggs or find a wallet or drive someone to school or the doctor. At which point I print out what I’m working on so I can edit it during life’s blank spaces. That way when I go back into the room, I’ve fooled myself into thinking I’ve done new work, which I really think is the whole trick.

— Katie Crouch

Katie Crouch is the New York Times bestselling author of Girls in Trucks, among other novels. She has written for the Guardian, McSweeney’s, Tin House, Slate and Salon and has a regular column on The Rumpus called “Missed.” A MacDowell Fellow, Crouch teaches at San Francisco State University and lives in Bolinas, California.

Check out all the At the Desk interviews in our archives.

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