A Writer’s Study: Q & A

Hi. Barb Here.

In past posts, Lea Wait has taken us on a tour of her writing study and her day, Kaitlyn Dunnett has shown us the evolution of her study as technology has changed and Vicki Doudera has shown us the fantasy-come-true spot where she writes in the summer.

Since it always astounds me how many questions even non-writers ask about a writer’s environment and habits whenever I do a panel or presentation, I thought I’d answer some questions about where I write.

Blue Study

It looks from the pictures like you have two studies. Is this true?

Yes. The blue study is at the top of our house facing north. It’s my “thinking” study. It’s for problem-solving, sketching, time-lining, even writing by hand which is something I do when I am really stuck. And revising and copy-editing on paper.

Green Study


The green study is where I carry one the “business of writing”, answering e-mails, filling out marketing questionnaires from my publisher, doing volunteer work for Sisters in Crime New England and New England Crime Bake, Level Best Books business, etc. Also, because the “good” computer is here, I do a fair amount of the actual getting-it-down-on-the-page part of writing here. What you can’t see in the pictures is the room has a big sliding door to a balcony and a southern exposure.

Blue Study

Do you feel guilty that you have two studies when your husband who also writes has to rent space outside your home to work?

Well, yes and no. When we gut-renovated our home and both of us were working long hours outside the house, the open plan seemed like a great idea. (The blue study is a loft and the green study is an open space off the kitchen.) But after about five months of both being home all day, we had to admit it wasn’t working.

Green Study

He claims he was annoying me by breathing. This is a slight exaggeration. He was annoying me by breathing in our living room during daylight hours. There’s a difference. Anyway, he’s rented office space in a commercial building half a block from us and we are both happy and incredibly more productive. It’s short money and much cheaper than a divorce.

As the saying goes, “For better or for worse, but not for lunch.”

These studies look suspiciously tidy. Did you clean them for these photos?

Why do you think I am posting these photos a year and a half after we started this blog? I had to wait until the studies were clean enough to stage for the photos. As it is, there is a pile of crapola outside the frame.

Is crapola a fiction-writing term?

If it isn’t, it should be. Despite the vast amounts of stuff stored on my hard-drive and somewhere in the cloud, fiction-writing still generates a ridiculous amount of crapola.

Of course, not all the crapola is mine. Some of it is generated by my husband’s hobbies of

–saving cords for small appliances and electronics we no longer own
–saving small electronics no longer useable in this century
–collecting cookbooks he no longer uses because he finds all the recipes he needs on the web.

You sound bitter.

Actually, no. I mean I know I sound bitter, but I’m not. We all have our foibles.

Perhaps we’ll let him guest blog someday and he can tell you about mine.

Or maybe not. The more I think about it, that sounds like a terrible idea.

Can we have a tour of your studies?

With pleasure.

Here's my desk with the Cozy Covenant and the First Draft Prompts I've previously blogged about.


This is a sort of inspiration wall for my Maine Clambake series in the blue study. My husband bought me the tin signs on Portobello Road last year. The wooden houses are from Boothbay Harbor which is where our house is and the inspiration for the fictional Busman's Harbor in the series.


Tins of Mortal Terror and Collywobbles in case I need to stir them into the plot. My daughter got them for me when she was volunteering at the Ministry of Stories in London.

Also from my daughter and very necessary as I am working on the first draft of my first-ever second in a series. Douglas Adam's "Don't Panic" might be more appropriate. Though come to think of it, Adams was a famously blocked and deadline-missing writer. So maybe not.

The cover of my first book. A quote I particularly love from George Eliot, "It is never too late to be what you might have been" because I am a late-blooming writer, or at least a late-blooming published writer, and the cover of my next book, Clammed Up!


What is your workplace like?

About Barbara Ross

Barbara Ross is the author of the Maine Clambake Mysteries. Her books have been nominated for multiple Agatha Awards for Best Contemporary Novel and have won the Maine Literary Award for Crime Fiction. She lives in Portland, Maine. Readers can visit her website at www.maineclambakemysteries.com
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10 Responses to A Writer’s Study: Q & A

  1. Barb, I want that desk lamp!!!

  2. Deanna says:

    I too want that lamp!!! Dee

    • Barb Ross says:

      Deanna and Kaitlyn

      The lamps (I have two) came from the Touch of Class catalog in something like 1996–for a different room in a different house, but I just couldn’t let them go.

  3. MCWriTers says:

    I am NOT going to share my study. Not cleaned in a year. A small, narrow space with all my reference books, all my research files, multiple drafts from 2-6 rewrites of 22 books, two of them true crime that require multiple thick notebooks, ,the papers from two estates, being president of Sisters in Crime, eleven years of the Crime Bake. And did I mention that I’m a hoarder?

    Gack! Your lovely photos make me want to go and clean my room.


  4. John Clark says:

    Great post, love all the accompanying photos. My writing area is so bad it won me a $100 Office Depot card in their messiest workspace contest on Facebook. In fact, it could be made into a poster to use when scaring small children into cleaning their room It would be captioned “How many monsters can you find among the piles? Let this happen to you and grow into a demented fantasy writer…or worse!!”
    I totally understand your husband’s need to hold on to cords for small appliances. It’s a genetic Guy trait. I have at least 2 dozen of those small adapters for electrical and electronic devices that should have been marked when separated from their other half back in the mists of antiquity. I didn’t and have no clue which goes to what or if I even have the other part any more, but ya just never know, so they fill one entire drawer in my filing cabinet.

  5. Ramona says:

    Beautiful office space! And so neat! I love the orderliness.

    I have a proper office, which is an overflowing wreck, so I’ve moved over to the guest room, which is getting a bit untidy, so lately I’ve been eyeing the dining room table….

    • Barb Ross says:

      Ramona, I LOVE working at the dining room table. In fact, back when I had the only job I ever had where I got to custom order my office furniture, I got a dining room table instead of a desk.

      I always want to work on my dining room table here, but other people seem to want to eat there. So annoying.

  6. Lea Wait says:

    Barb, I’ve been lucky enough to see those offices in person — they’re wonderful. But that neatness does concern me. I know you said you cleaned up for the picture. I understand. But … where are the seventeen first drafts you might need to check again? The notes for the next seven books in the series? The files of ideas for the 25 books you haven’t written yet? All the back up notes for the books that published (or almost published)? Your stack of marketing ideas? Blog ideas? Title ideas (for all those books to come?) Not to speak of all your back-up office supplies in ADDITION to those necessary cords …I don’t know, Barbara. You just look too organized to be a writer to me ……!

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