Sherryl Clark is a widely-read and loved children’s / YA author and expert on all things ‘pirate’ (‘Arrr me pretties’ style, rather than illegal downloads.) Australian kids love her books like The Littlest Pirate, Our Australian Girl – Rose and Sixth Grade Style Queen (Not!). Here, you can sneak inside Sherryl’s writing space and see where her characters are born.
Where did you write your latest book? How important to you is the space in which you write?
I couldn’t begin to list all the different places I wrote Pirate X – at home, the library, out the back in our old bungalow – it was an 11 year project so I think I have blanked out on most of it! But the Rose series (Our Australian Girl) was mostly written at my kitchen table, because my office space at home is such a huge mess; I cannot even walk around in it, let alone write. I was going to give you a photo of it but it’s too embarrassing! I try to write on my laptop so I will stay off the internet, which means a lot of running in and out of the “computer room” to check historical details. Yes, we have a computer room – this is the advantage of a child no longer living at home. Way too much space to fill up with books and tables and boxes and stuff. I do keep trying to tidy up, but sadly within a week it’s back to where it was before.
|Sherryl’s Writing Space ‘Up at the Bush House’|
I do need a space with silence. And a window is good. I have just arranged to hire an office occasionally when I really need to get away from home and my retired husband, but it has no window so I’m not sure how that will go. I’ll try anything that helps! I envy people who have these wonderful writing rooms with shelves of books and a nice desk. I have no excuse for not having one apart from being a terrible hoarder.
Do you transform your space in any way for each book? Do you ‘get into character’ at all?
My current second writing space (up in the bush) is one I have tried to make “inspiring” because someone gave me a little fountain for Christmas, and I got some of my France photos made up and bought a bookcase. But I work on several different things at a time usually, or at least one book, one lot of ideas and some poems, so the space can be anywhere. Only the inside of my head transforms as I imagine myself into the character’s head or the setting. Closing my eyes works wonders.
How has the place that you write evolved or changed since you first began writing novels?
It’s only evolved in that I’ve tried lots of different options. I always come back to the kitchen table, maybe because I can see outside and I need that in some way. A sense of space. What has changed is having my husband at home, which has been very difficult. I have resorted to writing in cafes, where I’m able to block out the noise without any trouble. I did try the library quiet room with laptop power outlets but other people kept distracting me. The hired office might be the new escape option.
Do you keep regular writing hours? If not, when do you write?
I don’t because I work three days a week. I teach, so at different times I either have a lot of class prep to do, or workshopping to read and comment on, or a huge pile of assignments to mark, and that kills first draft writing for me. I tend to write madly during holiday breaks, and the rest of the time I try to write on weekends, and on days when I’m not at work, I go to the cafe. So it’s squeezed in all over the place. Revision is not so intensive so is easier to make time for, and do at home. I would love to write full-time, if I could afford it, because then it’s not just about writing – it’s about having time to read, dream and imagine, and come up with new ideas, and put all of my energy and creativity into writing instead of other things. It’s one of my goals – to write full-time – I won’t say long-term goal because that makes it seem unattainable!!
Do you have a morning ritual? Roald Dahl was said to sharpen pencils. What settles your mind for writing?
No rituals. I just say, “Right, enough time-wasting. Sit down and get stuck in, or you’ll be sorry!” Maybe my ritual involves threatening myself? But I guess going to the cafe has become a bit of a ritual – the coffee, the good bench table, the notebook and pen. It does get me started.