Where We Live: In a Notebook

By Melanie Yarbrough

I know what you’re thinking: But isn’t Where We Live usually published on Wednesdays?!?!? The answer is yes. However, we feel pretty bad about missing last week, and wanted to publish what we meant to publish today. Check back tomorrow for our regularly scheduled program from super awesome Jillian Kuhlmann.

Shane and I are pretty excited about this series. We see it as a chance to travel to all the different places that writers and readers live, in a deeper sense than simply geography, but the mental and emotional space they inhabit during their creative lives.

I spent a lot of time at one of my favorite places in Cambridge a couple weekends ago, spending time reading through the Best American Short Stories 2010 and writing some new stories. One of my favorite parts about sitting in a coffee shop so integral to its community is meeting the other people who love it just as much as I do.

My first table companion on Saturday was an essayist featured in this year’s Best American Essays, edited by Christopher Hitchens. Though I haven’t gotten a chance to read his essay on Gettysburg, I definitely will be soon enough. My second table companion was a published author, editor of the anthology Awake! published by now West Coast-based Soft Skull Press and professor from Emerson. We started chatting about writing, about how much writers rely on their computers, how getting it stolen or worse (e.g. a mirror falling on it… it’s happened) can really change the game. He joked that it might be a sign to start fresh. For me, it reiterated how important it is to keep backups of my work. Then I realized, I sort of do this backwards.

You see, usually I write most of my stories by hand. (Yes, that is a picture of my current notebook. I got it for my birthday this year and I love the note my friend wrote in the front: “Dear Mel, never stop writing.”) If I like them and believe they’re actually worth spending time on, then I head to the computer (usually Google Docs) so I can access them whenever and wherever I get the chance. These second drafts on the computer definitely get more attention and quiet time than the notebook stories, but the majority of ideas that I’ve been able to flesh out and work best with have come straight from pen and paper.

How about you? We’re always asking how you read, but how do you write?

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