Friday, September 19, 2008

The Remote Writing Cabin

THIS IS MY 400th POST!
And to celebrate, I thought I would go on vacation to the mythical Remote Writing Cabin, and you are cordially invited to come along. Many of you might know of it. It is a place that exists in our minds -- we daydream about it, this magical cabin in the woods where there are no distractions, where writing is easy and joyful, where stories are written in fountain pen on creamy paper, while foxes look on from the edge of the trees. Phones don't ring. There's no wireless. Comfort food is on the menu. You hold hands with your husband while snowshoeing (never having snowshoed, I don't know if this is really practical, but let's go with it). There's a fireplace. You know it, don't you? Well, it has long been a fantasy of mine, and recently in emails, discovered Steph shares this fantasy, and we sort of got caught up in the details of the dream. I thought I'd share them with you and then invite you to help us continue to create this magical place.

First of all, let's stick with winter for now. We want our cabin to be snowy. Here are excerpts from our emails:

Laini: (the modest beginning) I am having fantasies of withdrawing to some little cabin in the woods with no internet, and just writing happily and going for walks. Sigh.

Steph: So your cabin fantasy with no internet and lots of writing and walks? YES. That is my absolute number one most repeated fantasy of all time. Honestly. I think about it constantly. Even more than the one where Matthew MacFadyen shows up on my door dressed like Mr. Darcy and whisks me away in a magical golden phaeton to Pemberley.

Laini: . . . so I think . . . no library of any kind at the Remote Writing Cabin. (This is a difficult thing to say.) If one wants to read anything at the Remote Writing Cabin, one must first WRITE it. Yes? And no TV. Only sitting on a deck with a river swooshing underneath it or a mill wheel turning or something, and foxes watching from the edge of the woods, their eyes silvering in the twilight. And, I think snow would be good. Yes, thick, luxuriant snow, and no possibility of going anywhere for days, unless one ice skates down the frozen river to the store to stock up on organic produce and cupcakes and good wine.

Steph: You forgot one crucial detail at the Remote Writing Cabin. Coffee. Big, beautiful steaming cups of it. Organic, fair-trade coffee from far-away rain forests with hints of cherries and chocolate and hazelnuts. And dinner will be something warm and comforting, like flaky chicken pot pie or stew with big hunks of veggies. And after dinner? Hot chocolate with miniature marshmallows. Because one can't have a snowy evening without a mug of hot chocolate.
And yes! Skating down frozen rivers! I've always wanted to do that! And the cabin will have beautiful, worn wooden desks that smell oh-so-faintly of polish. They'll have tiny vases with branches of red berries and drawers filled with thick sheets of paper and pens that glide with perfect ease.

Laini: Lots and lots of hanging lanterns, the copper and brass variety, puchased in Turkish bazaars. Writing by lantern light. And yes to chicken pot pie and hot chocolate too. Rice pudding. A wood pile, icicles, a loft, down comforters. Really snug slippers. Huge windows with the snow falling outside.

Steph: Rice pudding! A wood pile! Cozy slippers! Yes, yes, yes! And in the morning at the Remote Writing Cabin, the windows are covered in lacy frost and there is a trail of pinprick deer tracks down by the stream. All of the plates and bowls and mugs are handmade, so they all have that nice weight to them, and the bathtub is clawfoot. And the candles in the hanging lanterns (Yes! Writing by lamplight!) are beeswax and smell of honey. There is a bottle of red table wine from France in the kitchen beside a fat loaf of crusty bread and a bowl of tangerines. There is fresh, locally made cheese in the fridge and a few tart apples left from autumn. And pie. Someone left a pie with a criss-cross pastry on the doorstep. No note.

Laini: (new addition, not from the emails) Whoever brought the pie left no footprints, but only a single pin feather, lightly striped, that looked like it came from a hawk. The woodstove has a copper chimney that's gone all crimson and violet and indigo from years of use, and there's a thick wool rug in front of it and a scattering of big plump pillows. A pair of sled dogs with mismatched eyes loll about, lazing between romps in the snow. They catch marshmallows in their jaws at hot chocolate time. There's a table by the window made of beautiful old cherry wood, worn so smooth from use, there's even a little groove where your arm rests when you're writing. Other books have been written at this table, going back across years. It's charmed. When you're sitting at it, the world falls away. You are wearing an Irish fisherman's sweater that was hanging in the closet when you arrived: it's very soft and smells of cinnamon. When you go out on the porch, you hear ever-so-faint snatches of violin on the wind, even though there's no one else around for miles.

Now it's your turn. Got anything to add?

Oh, and how's this for remote?
Oh, and in further celebration of my 400th post -- nice timing! -- here is an interview with yours truly over at Everread -- a book blog. Thanks, Alysa!

*for more "invitations," go to Sunday Scribblings.*

CONTRIBUTIONS TO THE CABIN:
Leximel adds: I am thinking that there are lovely stuffed animals and dolls who whisper ideas in your head. I will take the one in the traditional Russian folk dress as a companion. She can look at me soulfully as I write my innermost thoughts. . . I think cross-country skiing is a good idea, too. And we will take blurry photos with a polaroid camera.

Janet writes that she actually has just such a cabin, near Yosemite no less! Janet, we will be there tomorrow. Think you can make snow fall in September? We want quilts and quilts of it :-)

Tone adds:
A moonlit skiing trip, I think, because when you have written and written at the cherry wood desk, you need to clear your head.

The night is crisp and cold, and moonlight sparkles off the powdery snow. You put your skis on to climb the hill and get a better view. The air is light. It numbs your cheeks and chills your breath, as you swish over rabbit tracks and climb past pine trees slumbering under their cover. Just as your legs are getting tired, you reach the highest hill.

The woods underneath you are dark and hushed with wonderful things to know, and above you even the shyest of the stars have come out to see the girl on the hill. And that, you see, is when you get the snick.

You race back to the cabin, knowing that those thick pages are waiting for your new idea, and when you get there, there is a new present on the stairs: a note, scratched with resin onto a piece of pale bark: I like it.

And from Nerd Goddess:
There must be big piles of old, well worn and loved quilts with once-bright but now somewhat faded patterns intricately done. Crocheted fingerless gloves are a must, and thick wool socks that your toes simply sink into.

Q suggests:
It ought to be IMPOSSIBLE to gain weight at this cabin. (Nice!)

Granny Smith adds:
When you put on your fleece-lined snow boots and walk down through the woods below the cabin you will hear an occasional swoosh and plop as a branch with too much accumulated snow bends and releases its load. Your feet crunch through snow or step onto places so sheltered by the redwoods (yes, my trees have to be redwoods) - so sheltered by redwoods that there is no sound at all because of the soft carpet of needles.

Then you hear it. A faint whisper of sound, a tinkling watery sound, and when you reach the creek with its few dapples of moonlight on its icy crust, it tinkles more distinctly, and you know that water still moves far below.

When you return to the cabin you wonder where water faeries go in winter and your pen leaps into your hand...

From mgirl:
I can see the fireplace and smell the cedar logs as they crackle and spark, flames shooting up the chimney. The heat warming your flushed cheeks after a long walk through Granny's redwood trees.

And LK Madigan must not love doing dishes:
Oh, and of course, you leave your dirty dishes on the porch in a plastic bin with a lid (so the animals can't get them), and someone magically and silently whisks them away.

Contribution from Robin:
And good friends to share the cheer and make music together. Fiddle and mandolin music, and guitars, and traditional songs and tunes, on into the wee hours of the morning. [While it does not sound like we are getting much writing done right now, perhaps once in a while we can have friends over :-)]

From Erinbow:
There should be a huge old clawfoot tub, iron and weighing several hundred pounds, in which you can lean back and submerge yourself to the chin. Perhaps some packets of lavendar seeds or some bergamot oil.

Some Mary Oliver to read. (We can have poetry in our library-less cabin, because you can't use it to procrastinate.) [Yes, I suppose we can allow Mary Oliver!]

And Anno would like to hear some sleighbells jingling in the distance.

Lovely details from Heather:
Let's not forget the little red cardinal who flies to the window ledge to visit when you are feeling least inspired. The huge pot of sweet potato and coconut ginger soup in the icebox that never gets empty. The root cellar full of sweet crisp apples that burst with juice when you bite them. The sun that threads its fingers through the trees first thing in the morning and barely touches you awake so that you can watch it arise in its full glory. The quail family that tottles by just as the sun begins to make its exit. The warmth of the hand-knit baby alpaca toque on your head as you sip your scorching hot drink on the porch.

And Tone has realized we've neglected to mention the bed:
The bed is an old four poster, red with blue painted roses, and a little while before you go to bed, you sneak into the cold bedroom to slip a hot water flask with a fluffy cover under the heavy down comforter. And when you blow out the candle to go to sleep, the cat comes in to curl up on top of your toes, because she can feel the heat throught the comforter and prefers it to any other spot in the cabin. And she purrs.

Missalister adds enchantingly:
About this cherry table…turns out it’s an old writing desk crafted sturdily and simply in Steventon, Hampshire, England, in the 1700’s by the Rev. George Austen for his talented little daughter, Jane, to record her adventures on. Over the years it passed through various other English writers’ hands until Rudyard Kipling brought it with him to America. Legend has it that little Miss Austen once wrote kindly of ravens as a child and henceforth ravens have watched over the desk, and a trip overseas was no exception. Sadly, the desk was left behind when Kipling returned to England after his daughter’s death. But the ravens continued to guard it and saw that it fell into only the most kindhearted and talented writers’ hands. It resides now in a remote cozy cabin in the northern Cascade Range and is frequented by Laini Taylor and friends.

The desk’s legs are strong and tapered square. Its surface is thick and as expansive as a tilled field that invites its writer to spread out and be free. It’s worn in front by the brainstorming motion of many a writer’s arm and toward the back is a built-in ink well and pen tray. Under the desk surface are three drawers, the middle one having slots for pens, rulers, paper, and such. And most importantly, all along the back of the desk is a narrow, eight-inch high hutch that houses cubbyholes, letter slots, and secret doors. Many personal articles from former owners have been found there and pleasant surprises never cease, for the ravens make sure of it. The ravens are never far. Outside the large, frost-laced window, you can see them perched on snowy pine tree branches, the harbingers of good tidings, the guardians of peace, creativity and love.

Oh, dear…I thought it said “Leave your composition”... What can I say that you don’t already know about a match catching on fire? ;-)


Nerd Goddess and Enna Isilee are both down on the snowy cabin idea, and have contributed their own dream cabin ideas; I think there can be another post later on to springtime at the cabin, and perhaps also the Italian cliffside cottage, but for now, here are. . .

Nerd Goddess:
also had/have a cottage fantasy, but mine's in the countryside of Europe somewhere, and there must never be snow. Because I've lived with lots of everlasting snow, and while it's pleasant for awhile, it becomes tiring and just too white after a time. But I digress.

My cottage would be surrounded by a bunch of land which I somehow owned, and there would be little brooks and tall trees, and not any brush underneath to catch on your feet and pants. There would be neighborhood children and a story skirt for me to wear when I told them tales.

Enna Isilee:
No library?! Sounds reasonable. But no books of any kind? What about my friend Dictionary and her sisiter, Thesaurus?

And as for the snow and frozen lake... Cold has never been my true friend, though she does allow me the wonderful luxury of snuggling under warm covers in the night.

No, my cabin would be on a small rainy island off of Ireland. One room would have walls made entirely of glass so that I could see the world and the rain. Another would have walls painted the brightest yellow! Food would be delivered by birds, and my only compainion would be a dog, or two, one small one large. I would sit and write all day, listening to the rain patter against the roof and begin a story. When the rain grew feirce, I would withdraw my scenes of joy and pull out the great clash of hero against villan! And when the sun would emerge I'd flee to the outdoors, underneath a large willow tree and write of true love found, and lost.

Oh! And butterflies! There must be lots and lots of wild butterflies. And plenty of foliage for them to take shelter from the rain.

26 comments:

leximel said...

I am thinking that there are lovely stuffed animals and dolls who whisper ideas in your head. I will take the one in the traditional Russian folk dress as a companion. She can look at me soulfully as I write my innermost thoughts. I will serenade you with my violin, Laini. No need to go out on the porch, but you may get tired of hearing Bach A minor concerto over and over. You will type frantically just to get away from the sound and finish your novel in double-quick time.

I think cross-country skiing is a good idea, too. And we will take blurry photos with a polaroid camera.

Stephanie Perkins said...

Oh, the violin! How lovely! I think I hear it now...

Stephanie Perkins said...

(And the pictures are wonderful.)

Janet said...

We are fortunate to have almost exactly what you describe. Our family's cabin was built in the 40's and has the added benefit of being only minutes from the south entrance to Yosemite. I am adding a link to a photo my daughter made during our last Christmas spent at the cabin.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/jentwo/2137090734/in/set-72157594191457238/

tone almhjell said...

Oh, what to add, what to add? It's so lovely already.

A moonlit skiing trip, I think, because when you have written and written at the cherry wood desk, you need to clear your head.

The night is crisp and cold, and moonlight sparkles off the powdery snow. You put your skis on to climb the hill and get a better view. The air is light. It numbs your cheeks and chills your breath, as you swish over rabbit tracks and climb past pine trees slumbering under their cover. Just as your legs are getting tired, you reach the highest hill.

The woods underneath you are dark and hushed with wonderful things to know, and above you even the shyest of the stars have come out to see the girl on the hill. And that, you see, is when you get the snick.

You race back to the cabin, knowing that those thick pages are waiting for your new idea, and when you get there, there is a new present on the stairs: a note, scratched with resin onto a piece of pale bark: I like it.

Nerd Goddess said...

Contributing to yours: There must be big piles of old, well worn and loved quilts with once-bright but now somewhat faded patterns intricately done. Crocheted fingerless gloves are a must, and thick wool socks that your toes simply sink into.

I also had/have a cottage fantasy, but mine's in the countryside of Europe somewhere, and there must never be snow. Because I've lived with lots of everlasting snow, and while it's pleasant for awhile, it becomes tiring and just too white after a time. But I digress.

My cottage would be surrounded by a bunch of land which I somehow owned, and there would be little brooks and tall trees, and not any brush underneath to catch on your feet and pants. There would be neighborhood children and a story skirt for me to wear when I told them tales.

The inside of the cottage is a lot like your cabin, so I won't go into all that.

The funny thing is, I had this all planned out as my old-maid plan, sure that after I finished college I would have no husband and kids to share my life with, so I'd be The Mysterious Author in the Cottage.

Yeah, um, I'm seeing the light. I'm also engaged, so that one's shot, too. ;)

I'm happy to know that others have such lovely fantasies too. :)

Laini Taylor said...

Everything sounds wonderful! Thanks for the additions. Tone, love the note. Nerd Goddess, I wouldn't mind a springtime European retreat myself. I've got it picked out: a lemon grove terraced into the cliffside above the Amalfi Coast. An ancient ruined watch tower perched just down the cliff, and a long winding path cut down to the beach, where kayaks await. Sigh.

And Lexi, you crack me up with the violin thing. Maybe that IS what I need to write! Not peace, but a really good incentive to finish faster! Also, love the blurry polaroids. A perfect touch.

Q said...

It ought to be IMPOSSIBLE to gain weight at this cabin.

Amber said...

This reminded me of your Laini Lady-- "Indulge"... Niiice.

:)

tone almhjell said...

I got so into the mood that I scribbled my first Sunday Scribbling! Really nice to be off target, even for one night :)

Granny Smith said...

When you put on your fleece-lined snow boots and walk down through the woods below the cabin you will hear an occasional swoosh and plop as a branch with too much accumulated snow bends and releases its load. Your feet crunch through snow or step onto places so sheltered by the redwoods (yes, my trees have to be redwoods) - so sheltered by redwoods that there is no sound at all because of the soft carpet of needles.

Then you hear it. A faint whisper of sound, a tinkling watery sound, and when you reach the creek with its few dapples of moonlight on its icy crust, it tinkles more distinctly, and you know that water still moves far below.

When you return to the cabin you wonder where water faeries go in winter and your pen leaps into your hand...

I'd better stop before I get REALLY carried away!

mgirl said...

What a wonderful place. I can see the fireplace and smell the cedar logs as they crackle and spark, flames shooting up the chimney. The heat warming your flushed cheeks after a long walk through Granny's redwood trees.

K. M. Walton said...

Cool post!

Nothing to add to the already magical visual running through my mind. However, I'd like to just say that I will go there someday and write and write and write. And be so very happy. So very peaceful.

For now, I'm writing and writing and writing in my drafty Florida room with husband jamming Alice in Chains in the other room, like he's 21.

Yet, I'm still happy and I still like husband, a lot. Thank god.

lkmadigan said...

I love this cabin.

Can I come, too?

I usually fantasize about seaside retreats, but a snowy mountain hideaway would be a lovely change.

Oh, and of course, you leave your dirty dishes on the porch in a plastic bin with a lid (so the animals can't get them), and someone magically and silently whisks them away.

:-)

Lisa

Robin said...

And good friends to share the cheer and make music together. Fiddle and mandolin music, and guitars, and traditional songs and tunes, on into the wee hours of the morning.

What a delightful fantasy you've woven.

erinbow said...

There should be a huge old clawfoot tub, iron and weighing several hundred pounds, in which you can lean back and submerge yourself to the chin. Perhaps some packets of lavendar seeds or some bergamot oil.

Some Mary Oliver to read. (We can have poetry in our library-less cabin, because you can't use it to procrastinate.)

A sky light. A full moon.

anno said...

This is lovely! My only addition would be the sound of sleighbells jingling in the distance.

Heather said...

Let's not forget the little red cardinal who flies to the window ledge to visit when you are feeling least inspired. The huge pot of sweet potato and coconut ginger soup in the icebox that never gets empty. The root cellar full of sweet crisp apples that burst with juice when you bite them. The sun that threads its fingers through the trees first thing in the morning and barely touches you awake so that you can watch it arise in its full glory. The quail family that tottles by just as the sun begins to make its exit. The warmth of the hand-knit baby alpaca toque on your head as you sip your scorching hot drink on the porch.

Oh boy, I go on and on with this since I fantasize about it every other day!

tone almhjell said...

One more thing: The bed is an old four poster, red with blue painted roses, and a little while before you go to bed, you sneak into the cold bedroom to slip a hot water flask with a fluffy cover under the heavy down comforter. And when you blow out the candle to go to sleep, the cat comes in to curl up on top of your toes, because she can feel the heat throught the comforter and prefers it to any other spot in the cabin. And she purrs.

Enna Isilee said...

No library?! Sounds reasonable. But no books of any kind? What about my friend Dictionary and her sisiter, Thesaurus?

And as for the snow and frozen lake... Cold has never been my true friend, though she does allow me the wonderful luxury of snuggling under warm covers in the night.

No, my cabin would be on a small rainy island off of Ireland. One room would have walls made entirely of glass so that I could see the world and the rain. Another would have walls painted the brightest yellow! Food would be delivered by birds, and my only compainion would be a dog, or two, one small one large. I would sit and write all day, listening to the rain patter against the roof and begin a story. When the rain grew feirce, I would withdraw my scenes of joy and pull out the great clash of hero against villan! And when the sun would emerge I'd flee to the outdoors, underneath a large willow tree and write of true love found, and lost.

*sigh*

(Wow. I didn't think I'd have so much to say. And now I'm homesick for a place I've never been.)

Enna Isilee said...

Oh! And butterflies! There must be lots and lots of wild butterflies. And plenty of foliage for them to take shelter from the rain.

How could I have forgotten the butterflies?!

missalister said...

About this cherry table…turns out it’s an old writing desk crafted sturdily and simply in Steventon, Hampshire, England, in the 1700’s by the Rev. George Austen for his talented little daughter, Jane, to record her adventures on. Over the years it passed through various other English writers’ hands until Rudyard Kipling brought it with him to America. Legend has it that little Miss Austen once wrote kindly of ravens as a child and henceforth ravens have watched over the desk, and a trip overseas was no exception. Sadly, the desk was left behind when Kipling returned to England after his daughter’s death. But the ravens continued to guard it and saw that it fell into only the most kindhearted and talented writers’ hands. It resides now in a remote cozy cabin in the northern Cascade Range and is frequented by Laini Taylor and friends.

The desk’s legs are strong and tapered square. Its surface is thick and as expansive as a tilled field that invites its writer to spread out and be free. It’s worn in front by the brainstorming motion of many a writer’s arm and toward the back is a built-in ink well and pen tray. Under the desk surface are three drawers, the middle one having slots for pens, rulers, paper, and such. And most importantly, all along the back of the desk is a narrow, eight-inch high hutch that houses cubbyholes, letter slots, and secret doors. Many personal articles from former owners have been found there and pleasant surprises never cease, for the ravens make sure of it. The ravens are never far. Outside the large, frost-laced window, you can see them perched on snowy pine tree branches, the harbingers of good tidings, the guardians of peace, creativity and love.

Oh, dear…I thought it said “Leave your composition”... What can I say that you don’t already know about a match catching on fire? ;-)

tumblewords said...

It sounds wonderful but...I'm waiting for the seaside cabin in the sunshine where the air is warm and only the slightest wrap of scarf is needed in the deep evening.

Cuppa Jolie said...

Congrats on the 400th post, Laini!

Ahh, so lovely. Unless I missed it, there must also be fairies who arrive in the night and make the cabin the perfect combination of comfy and clean. Then the daytime fairies would arrive and drop delicious, healthy food along with a sweet treat throughout the day.

So, I have to tell you, in case you've not heard about it, the quite real place that exist for women writers right here in the Pacific Northwest. It's called Hedgebrook. http://www.hedgebrook.org/
Heavenly! I've fantasized about being able to go for a long time and someday I will apply! The application deadline for 2009 is only a few days away, but perhaps someone can go for it and get their app. in by the 25th.

TD said...

Ooh, everything except the books. I understand why no books. I do. But I just don't know if I could have a dream house without them. A compromise perhaps? There exists a magical library containing all books, but it is behind lock and key. With but the utterance of a word - that you don't immediately know because it comes to you while writing - the library opens and you are permitted two books. After you make those choices, the door is locked anew and you must engage in the ritual again, replacing those books you have chosen with two more. Just a thought... Loved this post.

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