The Novelist—a New Take on the Game of Life?

For the most part, I am not a gamer. Okay, for almost any part, I’m not a gamer. I’m married to one. I have friends who are addicted to one game or another (or several all at once). But it’s never really called me. Once the Atari went the way of the T-Rex, I kind of lost all interest.

But when I saw an article (or three) about this game, The Novelist, I was intrigued. I’m trying to be a novelist after all, so this seemed to hold potential. So, I watched this trailer and…kind of lost all interest.

First of all, I’ve read too many VIDA statistics about how the deck is stacked in favor of male writers not to be a little disappointed that the game’s creators chose a male writer. Although given the male-dominated world of gaming (or at least the perception by men that it’s their world and not ours), I guess it’s not all that surprising.

To make this game even more difficult to want to play, The Novelist and his artist wife seem to be spending the summer in a giant house by the water during which time neither of them have to work in a way that, well, earns money. But they struggle! You have to help them navigate their struggles to juggle work and home life. I’m not saying that being a full-time artist doesn’t come with it’s own time-management problems. I’m just saying that two parents with this kind of money aren’t struggling in the same ways that the vast majority of writers and other artists are.

Even aside from this, the idea of spending any of my free time (or $14.99!) on a game that’s all about the difficulties of juggling work and parenting seems…like life not entertainment.

Sure, this isn’t supposed to be real life—it’s a game, after all. But I want some fun and escapism in my down time. And a game about a writer struggling to write and take care of his kid sounds a little too much like art poorly imitating art (some of us have to work, too, after all!) for me to take the plunge on this one. But if you do, let me know what you think.

Where I Write

If you enjoy blog posts in which a writer lovingly photographs and details their office and/or writing space, well…you’re likely in for a disappointment here.

As documented previously, I have no garret, office, or even proper desk at which to write in my little yellow house. It’s the lone (though tragic) flaw of the place. I sought to remedy the situation by buying a tiny, rather gorgeous desk to fit into a corner of our dining room from Craigslist. When we brought it home, though, it was clear that while it did fit into the corner of the dining room, it didn’t really fit me.

writing space

 

It is, however, the perfect size for someone quite small to use to complete homework and write letters to pen pals. There are little cubbies that hide markers, crayons, and fancy pens with which to tackle tedious homework assignments. The green felt has even been baptized with Elmer’s Glue.

SAM_0184

So, the desk is a win for my kiddo, even if not for me.

The place where I actually write not only doesn’t belong to me, but isn’t even in the same small town that I call home. It’s a coffee shop in Salem, Massachusetts called Jaho Coffee and Tea.

Jaho Coffee and Tea, Salem, Massachusetts

Everyone at Jaho is very kind, their music is good but never too loud, and they allow me to sit there for far too long while I write. Also on the plus side: there’s also no laundry at Jaho to wash, dry, or fold, no dishes to do, no house to clean—nothing but a fine cup of tea.

Jaho Coffee and Tea, Salem, Massachusetts

I love this little coffee shop, both for what it offers me inside, and what it offers just outside its doors.

Because just steps from Jaho, is a portal back in time. The House of Seven Gables is just down the street. A schooner is docked next door. There’s a lighthouse to walk down the wharf to when you need to stretch your legs.

Derby Wharf, Salem, Massachusetts

And Salem’s Custom House is right smack dab in the middle of it all.

Custom House, Salem, Massachusetts

Turn back from the lighthouse, and the view can almost trick you into believing that you’ve stepped back in time, and that Nathaniel Hawthorne is going to come striding out his job at the Custom House (and into my waiting arms?) at any moment.

Schooner Friendship, Custom House, Salem, MA

In other words, the place has what Anne of Green Gables would call scope for the imagination.

So, I while I long for a cozy, artfully appointed writing space, I’ll make due with Jaho for now.

 

Jo March—Writing Gal’s Hero

Jo March, Little WomenLong before A Room of One’s Own was a twinkle in Virginia Woolf’s eye, Jo March was escaping upstairs, donning her writing garb, and “scribbling” in the garret. While she inexplicably welcomed the presence of a rat named Scabbers in her writing pursuits, in all other ways, Jo was my hero.

She has had, from the moment I made her acquaintance in Little Women in the fifth grade, a profound influence on me.  While I could appreciate Meg’s yearning to make things beautiful, Beth’s tragically gentle ways, and Amy’s wish to be an artist and marry Laurie, it was Jo who captured my imagination and my heart.

She was strong, brash, smart, and absolutely dedicated to the people she loved. She sold her hair—her one beauty!—to help her parents. She doggedly pursued her dream of becoming a writer. She broke out on her own and tried to find her own path. She dreamed big. And she married an intellectual-type who supported her writing and called her “heart’s dearest” (yes, I even love old Fritz Bhaer).

Jo and her sisters transformed me from a normal fifth grade reader into something much more passionate—an intense lover of literature. Over the years, this love of reading has evolved into a career editing children’s books, and even eventually, to writing them myself.

Alas, I do not have a garret, or indeed any space of my own in my little yellow house in which to do my own scribbling. I write where and when I can. But I do have legions of family and friends to encourage me, a daughter who makes her own books at age six, an intellectual-type husband who supports my writing (though, sadly, he doesn’t ever call me heart’s dearest)—and a rather scruffy guinea pig (no rats in this house, thank you very much) to keep me company as I write.

So, here’s to you, Jo March. And while we’re at it, here’s to Louisa May Alcott, as well. I raise my cup of tea to character and creator—and then will put it down again and get back to revising the lost soul of a picture book manuscript on which I’ve been working.