Welcome to another installment of TNBBC's Where Writers Write!
Where Writers Write is a weekly series that will feature a different author every Wednesday as they showcase their writing spaces using short form essay, photos, and/or video. As a lover of books and all of the hard work that goes into creating them, I thought it would be fun to see where the authors roll up their sleeves and make the magic happen.
This is Jennifer Tseng.
Jennifer is an award-winning poet and fiction writer. Her previous books include No so dear Jenny (Bateau Press) and Mayumi and the Sea of Happiness(Europa Editions). She teaches for the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, FAWC’s online writing program 24PearlSt, and the Martha’s Vineyard Institute of Creative Writing.
Where Jennifer Tseng Writes
Like many writers, I have a deep appreciation for Virginia Woolf’s notion of “a room of one’s own” and I have lived my life in search of one. As soon as we moved into our 3rd floor apartment, it was clear that this Woolfian luxury would not be mine in the traditional sense, so I set out to find a way to create a nontraditional room for myself. I experimented with a series of makeshift arrangements in various corners of the apartment until finally settling on the living room window seat. It’s about two to three feet off the ground and long enough for me to lie down in. No one can just walk in; if someone wants to enter they have to climb up. It’s tree like and full of light.
When I climb into the window seat and close the curtain that separates it from the living area, it becomes a small room. I have treated it as such, hanging favorite pictures on its narrow walls, adding a little lamp I got at a garage sale, a wooden box that serves as a tiny table, a row of library books, a basket containing my manuscripts-in-progress, a seat cushion. I have covered the “floor” with rugs and quilts. Having curtains in every direction makes the space feel like a tent. Being so high up, jutting out past the apartment proper, I feel like I’m in a treehouse. From here, I can see the sky, trees, a church, the train, other apartments. I can see people on the street but they can’t see me. (I’ve checked.) Early in the morning, when it’s quiet, I can hear entire conversations being spoken on the ground below. From here, I can see without being seen, hear without being heard. It’s a perfect place for a writer.
Every morning at about 4:30, I go directly to my “room” and write with a pencil on loose sheets of typing paper or, if I happen to have one, in a notebook. Once the rest of the apartment is awake, I go to an ergonomically friendly stand-up station that I built in a slim, doorless closet, and type up my draft. Then I go back to the living room, print the draft, climb into my room and reread.
On rare occasions, I open the curtains and find our cat Didi sitting in my place. More often, he waits for me to wake up, then climbs in after me, sits on my lap or curls up next to me. When it’s cold, he wraps himself like a genie around the lamp. I imagine house cats long to find their own trees in much the same way we writers long for our own rooms. So the two of us find ourselves in the window seat, imagining one thing is another, keeping each other company in the leafy light.