Where Love Exists ~ Mark Beyer’s View From the Keyboard

I knew Mark Beyer when he was a talented graduate student in Chicago some years ago, so imagine my surprise and delight when I was teaching a fiction writing class in Prague and was interrupted by a phone call from the very same Mark Beyer. He had taken to the road sometime after he received his MFA from Columbia College Chicago and after a stint in the publishing biz, following paths that led him to many places in the world, and ending up in (for now at least) Prague. We’ve kept in touch since that phone call in 2009, and I am very pleased that Mark has invited us into his writing space.

Mark Beyer:

I have tucked myself into a corner to write. It’s my best mental space, a corner; no distractions, books nearby, a comfortable chair, the tea kettle ten steps away. The overflowing cork-board has too many pins to make sense, so any peek at it sends me back to the sentence from which I jumped. The room has many windows that give wonderful light. At night, I draw the blinds to create a cave atmosphere; a very writerly space.

I spend 4-6 hours here, four days per week, lately finishing a novel titled WHAT BEAUTY— if I’m lucky with class cancellations I get a fifth day. My writing times are late morning to mid-afternoon. Perfect for my energy level. The other 2-3 hours per day I spend here (seven days per week, in the evening, when my mind is not so sharp) I do book marketing for my last book, THE VILLAGE WIT — or write essays, read online magazine articles, blog for Bibliogrind.com, kibitz with friends.

This space has become my ally, friend, and confidante (yes, sometimes I speak to the cork-board). I trust its comfort. I feel “tucked in” when I sit here. I’m also close to the heater. And if I need help on a grammar question, my wife is just behind me, at her desk.

What you don’t see here (besides my wife) is the view from the window, something I rarely take in myself until the work is done. The view is across Prague 10, a residential area that includes a huge park with its own vineyard. The distant buildings are modern high-rises that let you know they are definitely NOT the Art Deco period of European history, of which mine and the surrounding palace apartments derive. And what you don’t see is a big wood-burning fireplace, which looks a bit like Magritte’s “Time Transfixed”.

I don’t have to write here, staring into a corner; when a hot story moment or piece of dialogue strikes me, I’m comfortable writing nearly anywhere under any light, noise, movement, weather, or duress (!) … But I choose to write in this spot because this is my home, where so many memories are stored, and where love exists.

Excerpt from THE VILLAGE WIT:

And love? Where were the perforations in love’s box? This question, Bentley realized, he no longer had an answer for. But he knew one thing about love that was true. The end happens so fast because that’s how events take their course once love’s core unravels. A word is said, offense taken, action and reaction, more words, slights, the inevitable inability to change course because the river on which this boat has launched is swifter than any propeller set to reverse direction, so that all is lost and the parties know it is lost before the tempestuous river starts to break the boat apart and suddenly the rapids consume everything before “good-bye” is spoken, and all they would have known or said is gone.

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For more by and about Mark Beyer follow these links: sample or purchase the ebook of The Village Wit:
http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/25306; purchase the print edition: https://www.createspace.com/3476161
Check out Mark’s websites: http://www.bibliogrind.com and http://www.european-city-parks.com

Mark, thank you for the tour. And writer friends, View From the Keyboard has slowed some during the teaching year, but let me assure more is to come! In the meantime, I hope that you will consider contributing your own View. Guidelines here. -PMc←

The Sounds Of The Village ~ A View From the Keyboard

Recently I had the opportunity to work with Jo Anne Wilson at the Interlochen Writers’ Retreat, and am overjoyed that she has agreed to be part of View From the Keyboard. A woman with many remarkable stories, Jo Anne is lucky to have writing (and arting) spaces in a couple of beautiful spots in the world. Here she tells us about her work spaces in Provence. That’s France, you know?


Jo Anne: During the first few years in Provence, my writing space was this old desk, located in a building that was once a small shed on a lavender farm.  The shed is now a comfortable vacation house.  From the window I could look out over the lavender fields.   Often I had the company of one of the resident cats.  During the months I spent here, I was inspired by the beauty of the fields and the sight of Mt. Ventoux beyond them.  The quiet, country setting was really an inspiration to me. I often wrote in the morning, and then would head out for a walk among the lavender fields.  Even in winter, the rows of plants have a purple green hue that speaks of the promise of blossoms to come.


More recently, I spend my provençal months in the heart of a small village.  The owner’s of the house restored an old ruin, and created a modern home.  From the corner of the living area, I have a nice desk, my computer and printer, and all the conveniences of wifi.  If I look out the window, I see red tiled rooftops all around me.  This location is much less isolated than the lavender farm and, if I need a break or inspiration, I just walk up through the village to the local coffee shop/bakery and indulge in café au lait and a croissant.    

I had thought I was compiling a book of essays, working title:  Letters From Provence.  That may yet be the case, but in the course of summer workshops, I have found that I might be writing a memoir.  I’ve spent most of the past eight years living in Provence.  What I had thought would be somewhat factual, but interesting stories about markets, and people, and the weather, the food, and the wine…..is turning out to be more about me and how I’ve lived with all of these, and the ways in which they truly changed me as a person and how I live my life.  

I do have a website:  www.meetmeinprovence.com   I enjoy organizing trips to this region for individuals, families and small groups.  I originally called them Creative Retreats and they started (as you will see on my website) primarily for artists and photographers.  I have recently decided that the area is not only beautiful to see and paint and photograph, but is also inspiration for the writer’s spirit!

The following piece was written from the village house writing corner.

The Sounds of the Village

I live in the heart of a village in Provence.  The village is perched, literally, on a rocky hillside, and water flows freely from the rocks. The minute I open a window or step outside, I hear water running.

There’s a fountain in the tiny square outside the house: typical of several throughout the village.  There’s the big fountain in the main square with its tall cement center column.  At the top of the column are several spigots from which water falls into large clay flowerpots….no flowers, just water, tumbling and splashing. 

An old lavoire, a large tub like basin, sits opposite this fountain.  The village women used to do their laundry here. Its wide cement edges are slightly slanted inward … convenient washboard for scrubbing  clothes.  The basin is fed from the rocky sources, and water splashes and gurgles continuously through it.

Some village sounds change with the seasons.  Summer tourists bring a hum of voices, in many languages.  In the fall, children’s giggles drift upward as they head to the local school.   In hunting season, hounds bay and bark in the distance, while their tell tale bells clank and clink as they roam the nearby fields and vineyards.   

Other village sounds continue no matter what the season. Doves chortle and coo on the red tiled rooftops.  The Mistral whistles and wines its windy way around the corners of the houses.  Church bells chime the hour, and the little fountain outside my door burbles on. 

Thanks so much for letting us visit your spaces, Jo Anne. Writers, please consider contributing to View From the Keyboard. Guidelines here. – PMc←

“It’s All Mine” ~ Viki Julian Gonia’s View From the Keyboard

Viki Julian Gonia teaches in the Fiction Writing Department of Columbia College Chicago, and writes a column for her local paper. Yep, a paper that still exists. Fighting the good fight. Just about everything interests Viki; she has a very good eye for the everydayness of things, the way the world’s spin affects our daily balance. Her voice is authentic and friendly, her words funny and often slightly barbed. She writes in the comfort of her home.

Viki: I have two main writing spaces in my house. The first, my “office,” is in the basement. When I bought my little house a year or so ago, my first priority was to create a space for writing that was my very own–something I’d longed for, and kept trying to create (unsuccessfully), when I was married. I hired a guy to come tear down some walls and carve a space. I put together cheap bookcases from IKEA and set it all up and then promptly abandoned it. Weird, huh?

I think that I realized that the whole damn house is my very own (the day I closed, I walked from room to room with my arms opened wide and proclaimed, in every space, “MINE!” like a 2-year-old with sharing issues). I didn’t need to try to carve my own space because it’s all mine.

But, just a couple of weeks ago, I reclaimed it. Organized (mostly–I need a little bit of chaos) the piles of papers. Cleared away my son’s soda cans. Swiped the dust from the desktop. I get most of my “business” writing done there, like writing my newspaper column.

Then there’s my living room. Lavender walls and feminine furniture–it’s a girly and comfortable room. I like to sit on the floor with my back against the sofa and a cat or two at my shoulder and a dog at my knee, or at the desk, where I can look up and out to the backyard. There’s nothing in this space that I don’t love. If I were a living room instead of a human, I would be this room.

Something I’ve written recently in this space:

She pours another vodka tonic, turns up the music, picks up items off the display shelves–a glass bottle of the kind he uses to store the Sands of Beaches, which contains a crumpled dollar bill and on the bottom of which has been written “AVJ” and “Tip” and a smudged date, the family golf and bowling tournament trophies. She wonders why he hung the painting of the Old Ormond Hotel near the window, where it would be faded by the sun, and ponders stealing it for herself. She chuckles at the photos he’s printed out of his grandchildren, stuck in cheap frames he’d picked up at the WalMart, and the poster of  the U of I football team, her brother, thick-necked, his blue-and-orange jersey tight across his chest, in the second row.

She thinks, oddly, about the strangeness of her father’s idiosyncrasies, about his carefully placed mementos, the lightning rods on the roof of the house–a huge expense to address the fear that he might be struck twice after the time in the 70s when Mother Nature tore a hole in the roof of his business, pushing him further into struggling times. His stacks of books–Wealth Without Risk piled atop Raymond Chandler collections, beneath John Grisham novels. His telescopes and books full of constellations, his need to have things be a certain way not because they look best like that, but because that’s the best way to remember everything he never wants to forget.

More from Viki on her blog vikibabbles.com. Thanks for sharing your space, woman. Reminder to the rest of you: still soliciting submissions to View from the Keyboard. Guidelines at the right. Oh, and Happy Spring Sphere Day.←

The Kindness of Strangers ~ Tennessee Williams at the Keyboard

Finally, a writer who looks a bit like the rest of us: disheveled, a little bleary-eyed, and a mess of papers on his desk. Here Tennessee Williams is hard at the writing thing (or so it appears.) The kindness of strangers–this time folks on the internet who posted this image for me to find–bring you a peek into the writer’s space of an American legend.

It’s your turn now; check out the View From the Keyboard Guidelines and send in a photo of your writing space and a bit of your work. John McNally did. Why don’t you?