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While I have written novels and short stories all over the world, there’s one thing I need in place before I start: a designated writing space that’s conducive to me feeling comfortable enough to get the words down onto the page. These days, if you’re on social media and you’re a reader or writer, it’s doubtful you haven’t run across some of these magical pictures of reading and writing rooms with giant picture windows overlooking verdant rainforests or ice blue lagoons in hidden nooks somewhere in Thailand, giant bookshelves made of gorgeous Kobe Walnut, and exotic plants tumbling twenty-five feet from the ceiling like drapes. These rooms are incredible. But most of us don’t have the luxury of that sort of thing. Most of us just write wherever we can—the kitchen table, a desk in the basement, in the garage where the kids never go because, well, there’s no game console or there’s shoddy phone reception in there.

These days I write at the kitchen table. It’s quiet. The kids are at school. And I can pile up my reference books and printer without anyone complaining there’s no room to eat (it’s a pretty large table). As a younger writer, I focused more on this aspect of writing—finding the “right” place. I’d obviously read about where famous writers wrote; I think it’s something beginning writers focus on a little more than older, more experienced writers (famous writers and their writing spaces), because we want to tap into that magic that our heroes did, and what’s more important after writing tools than the where?

I don’t usually post on Fridays, but because Thanksgiving is coming up and everyone will be around the house stuffing their faces with turkey and cranberry sauce, pumpkin pie and green bean casserole next week, I thought I’d show a few of our beloved authors’ writing spaces. Maybe it’ll get your creative juices going before everything comes to a halt when you take your nap next week during the big football games. Enjoy.

Ernest Hemingway wrote in many places and on many surfaces. He was famous for writing standing up, but that wasn’t always the case. He won the Nobel Prize in 1954 for The Old Man and the Sea.

Ernest Hemingway writing outside on a typewriter
Hemingway was a hunter, war correspondent, ambulance drive, and a titan of the 20th century

Hemingway reading in front of a mirror
Hemingway wrote For Whom the Bell Tolls, A Farewell to Arms, The Nick Adams stories, and more.

Hemingway reading a book
Hemingway in his later years. He loved Cuba, Spain, Wyoming, and Key West

Hemingway writing with a pen at a desk
“The world breaks everyone and afterward many are strong at the broken places.” - Ernest Hemingway

Alice Walker, author of The Color Purple as well as other novels, short story collections, poetry collections, nonfiction books and essays.

Alice Walker at her desk in front of typewriter
"The most common way people give up their power is by thinking they don't have any." - Alice Walker

Alice Walker on a bed writing
Alice Walker's The Color Purple starred Oprah Winfrey, Danny Glover, Whoopi Goldberg, Laurence Fishburn & More

Amy Tan, author of The Joy Luck Club, The Bone Setter’s Daughter, and other novels, short story collections, children's books and nonfiction.

Amy Tan writing on a computer at a desk
"In America nobody says you have to keep the circumstances somebody else gives you." - Amy Tan

Hilary Mantel, author of Wolf Hall: Fourth Estate, as well as other novels, short story collections, articles, essays, and a memoir, Giving Up the Ghost.

Hilary Mantel at a desk writing on a computer
"A novel should be a book of questions, not a book of answers." - Hilary Mantel

Hilary Mantel's writing desk
Hilary Mantel's Writing Area

Sir Ahmed Salman Rushdie, author of The Satanic Verses, Midnight’s Children, and other novels, story collections, children’s books, and essays and nonfiction.

Salman Rushdie at his desk.
Salman Rushdie at his desk. He was recently attacked by 24-year-old Hadi Matar.

Salman Rushdie at his desk looking at the camera
"What is freedom of expression? Without the freedom to offend, it ceases to exist." - Salman Rushdie

Isabel Angélica Allende Llona is the author of The House of the Spirits and countless other novels and nonfiction.

Isabel Allende at a typewriter writing
Isabel Allende is a Chilean writer who uses Magical Realism in some of her work

Isabel Allende writing at a computer
"“You are the storyteller of your own life, and you can create your own legend, or not." - Isabel Allende

Thomas Wolfe was so tall he often wrote on the top of a refrigerator. His novels Look Homewards Angel and Of Time and the River are massive books, but he also wrote novellas, plays, nonfiction, stories, and poetry.

Thomas Wolfe reading a manuscript
"You have reached the pinnacle of success as soon as you become uninterested in money, compliments, or publicity - Thomas Wolfe

Jennifer Egan, author of A Visit from the Goon Squad, won the 2011 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, as well as the National Book Critic Circles Award for fiction. She is the author of six novels, a short story collection, and other writing.

Jennifer Egan at her desk
"I think there are ways in which we censor ourselves; that's the most dangerous kind of censorship - that's how hegemony works." - Jennifer Egan

Elmore Leonard, author of Get Shorty, The Bounty Hunter, Rum Punch, and countless other novels, short story collections, screenplays, and nonfiction, started out writing Westerns.

Elmore Leonard editing a manuscript
"I spent most of my dough on booze, broads, and boats and the rest I wasted." - Elmore Leonard

The colorful Kurt Vonnegut, author of Slaughterhouse-Five and many other novels, short fiction, nonfiction, children's books, plays and art.

Kurt Vonnegut with a cigarette in his mouth as he types
"Of course it is exhausting, having to reason all the time in a universe which wasn't meant to be reasonable." - Kurt Vonnegut

Whatever writing space gets you writing, make it happen. Write standing up. Sitting down. Write on your bed. I built a writing desk made of plywood and cinder blocks. I’ve written on a tiny desk overlooking the Alhambra castle in Granada, Spain. In my basement in Colorado. In a car on a road trip. While I was supposed to be working at the front desk where I got one of my graduate degrees.

It doesn’t matter where you write, as long as it works for you. I hope some of the pictures above have inspired you to sit your butt in the chair, let the inspiration come to you as you write, and that you’re successful at your writing pursuits. Happy writing, and Happy Holidays!


Cully Perlman is an editor and author. If you’re looking for someone to edit your novel, he can be reached at 



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17 nov. 2023
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