Today on Tuesday Tours I’m eager to share author Cynthia Lord’s backyard writing shed because it’s so darn cute and looks like the perfect place to write. Cynthia is a former elementary and middle-school teacher who broke into the world of writing for children with her deput mid grade book Rules, which later went on to win a Newbery Honor award. Rules is a beautiful story about a family’s attempt to deal with difference and acceptance in the face of autism, and the community that surrounds them. Cynthia’s other novels, Touch Blue and Half a Chance are equally engaging, addressing issues of belonging and friendship. My daughter’s school chose Touch Blue as an all-school-read book a few years ago, and my family loved reading it together. Cynthia is also the author of the Hot Rod Hamster series, illustrated by Derek Anderson, including the new Hot Rod Hamster Monster Truck Mania, all published by Scholastic. In addition to sharing her studio with us, today’s also special because Cynthia’s releasing her newest book Shelter Pet Squad. She lives in Brunswick, Maine with her family, a dog, a guinea pig, and two bunnies.
How long have you had your space, how did it come to be, and how does it affect your creative process?
I write my books in my backyard writing shed. My first book, Rules, won a Newbery Honor in 2007, and this shed was the present that I bought myself. It was the best money I ever spent on my writing career because it makes such a wonderful difference to have my own space. My family joked that my little shed was like Thoreau’s Walden Pond cabin. So we’ve named my shed “Walden Backyard.”
Are there any kinds of rituals you do before you start creating?
My dog, Milo, loves to come out to my shed with me. I pack up my laptop and say to Milo, “Let’s go work!” He runs right out to the shed. I unlock the door and give him a treat and then sit down to work. Milo usually sleeps while I work, but his enthusiasm starts every work session on a happy note.
Is there anything you like to listen to while you’re working? What are you reading/listening to now?
I have a CD or musician that I listen to for each novel. The musician for my current novel is Spencer Lewis. I picked up a few of his CDs when I was doing a school visit in Vermont, and his music captures the rural northern New England essence of the book I’m working on.
Is there any special item/trinket in your space that inspires you?
My writing shed is full of things that inspire me—kids’ choice awards, items that go with my books, things that children have made for me. Because Rules has a rubber ducky on the cover, people give those to me. I have well over 200!
Wow! That’s a lot of rubber duckies! They make a fantastic display. I bet you’re going to have to add some new shelves soon, especially after people see your collection ;)
If you could magically transplant your writing shed to another location for half of the year, where would it be?
I grew up on a lake in New Hampshire, and I love to kayak. So I would move it to a quiet lakeside in northern New England somewhere.
What advice do you have for people who want to make a personal space where they can be creative?
I would say do it! It’s easy to put your own needs last, especially if you’re a parent. Starting my day early in my writing shed sets my whole day right. I’m a better mom and a better writer for honoring my need to have some space and time of my own.
Yes! As parents we often make spaces for our children and visiting company, yet we often we forget about making a place for ourselves.
What colors inspire your creativity? Are those colors incorporated in your space?
I like soothing colors and nature. So my writing shed has wood walls. Rocks, sticks, and shells line the windowsills. Outside the window, I see my gardens and bird feeders.
You travel a lot while visiting schools for author visits. How does being in a new place affect your writing?
I can’t write well on the road, so I try to arrange my year into three months of writing, followed by three months of speaking, etc. I do very few events in the summer and winter—that’s my writing time. In the spring and fall I do lots of events.
What a great way to organize your writing life with the speaking part of your career! I think working at them equally in concentrated amounts of time would help hold your focus on both ends.
What’s coming up for you and where can we find out more?
This month I have a chapter book series starting called Shelter Pet Squad. It stars a second grader who can’t have a pet of her own and so she volunteers in her local animal shelter. In each book, she will help find a home for an animal. The first book is called Jelly Bean, and he is a guinea pig. You can find me at http://www.cynthialord.com.
What a fun concept! My daughter’s been asking for a pet for quite awhile. I finally gave in and said she could get a guinea pig. Maybe I should’ve had her volunteer at the Humane Society instead! Thanks so much for sharing your writing shed with us, Cynthia. I’ll be picking up a copy of the Shelter Pet Squad on our way to pick up our new pet
Join us next week when author and artist Russ Cox shares his cozy corner in Maine where he creates his clever characters and stories.