After a big year for Rebecca F. John, she gives us an exclusive look into her workspace. She flew out to Canada to pick up the Pen International New Voices award; she saw her debut collection of short stories, Clown’s Shoes, published to much acclaim; and she bought her first house.
Many little girls, I suppose, dream of painting their bedrooms bubble-gum pink and filling them with feathered cushions, frilly curtains, giggling friends. Many want to plaster the walls with tacked up posters of actors and singers. But I was a little girl who wanted to be a writer, and so instead of a pretty bedroom, what I wanted most was a serious writing room. The top item on my wish-list was, therefore, a real writing desk. And I was highly specific as to type: it was to be a big, hulking captain’s desk, inlaid with green leather, the drawers ornamented with curving brass handles.
I imagined myself sitting at it at all hours, lamplight seeping out with my words. I imagined myself living a writer’s life – whatever that might consist of – and at the centre of that life was the desk, under which my dog would sleep.
I had just turned twenty-nine when it finally became practical for me to acquire that desk. And it fits perfectly in front of the window in this, my very first official – and as yet unfinished – writing room. The leather, you’ll notice, is red not green, but I couldn’t love it more!
It might seem a trivial thing, a desk. A writer should be able to write anywhere, you might think. And I have, over the years. I’ve written on my lap sitting cross-legged on my bed, on corridor floors before filing into lectures, in doctors’ waiting rooms, on trains and planes, in the office at work when the boss wasn’t there – and sometimes when he was. But to have a desk, to have a “room of one’s own”, that is a true luxury.
And you’ll see I’ve set myself up with all the clichés: the desk, of course; the leather chair; the banker’s lamp; the boards on which to pin my notes; even the view of the garden. A very generous friend – having noticed that my feet didn’t quite reach the floor when I sat to work – also gifted me this beautiful antique-looking footstool.
The room is cosy, I think. And, in fact, I’ve designed my whole house around this cwtchy, writer’s den feel.
I bought it, my first house, earlier in 2015. This year, too, has been the most successful by far – and hopefully so far – in terms of my writing. It has witnessed the publication of my first collection, a shortlisting for the Sunday Times EFG Short Story Award, my being named the winner of the PEN International New Voices Award, and, very recently, the sale of my first novel. It seems everything has finally come together in this little room, where I can pile books into wobbling towers and leave scribbled notes strewn all about and litter the place with too many pens.
A room dedicated to words and stories and their creation contains, for me, the most satisfying sense of pride. Here, I am a writer. And here, at my long-coveted desk, I have just started plotting a new novel, which is always an exciting time.
I can only hope now that this little room will play its part in many new more beginnings. Of novels, of adventures, and of the friendship too that I’ll form with the dog I haven’t yet acquired, but who will one day stretch into sleep under my desk and dream with me.
We interviewed Rebecca earlier in the year about her new book Clown’s Shoes.