by | May 4, 2024 | Alex Kava, On writing | 4 comments

By Alex Kava
Mark Twain’s sacred place – a private writing study
Mark Twain’s private writing study as it is today, relocated
on Elmira College’s campus in New York.

Ask full-time writers where they write—not how or when, but where—and many will name a specific place that’s unique to us. That place might be a local coffee shop or a favorite recliner. It could be the back porch or a specific writing room. Stephen King wrote “Carrie” in his laundry room on a makeshift desk squashed between the washer and dryer. Mark Twain wrote in a private study that his in-laws built for him on their property. It was entirely separate from the house so he could seclude himself, and his sister-in-law wouldn’t have to put up with his cigar or pipe smoke.

It doesn’t really matter where it is, but usually, there is a place. Wherever it is, that place can take on a sacred view in our psyches. We rely on it to be a safe haven where the words or the voices come to us. The process of creating has happened there before. We come to it in the hopes that it’ll happen again. 

I was well over a decade into my writing career when I finally afforded myself a dedicated writing room. I helped design it after years of dreaming about it, and I have to admit, it still feels a bit extravagant, especially since my previous writing space was a recliner in the living room. This space has a wall of windows that looks out over a backyard patio. Another wall has a fireplace. The third was lined with floor-to-ceiling bookcases that housed my research books, foreign editions of my novels, and autographed copies of other authors’ hardcovers. 

The view from Alex Kava's sacred place of the porch, trees, lawn, and millions of pink flowers.
The view outside my writing room.

Now, more than a dozen years later, I realize how much I took that room for granted. I didn’t realize it until this past January. During a week of subzero temperatures (-19F to -23F), a frozen water pipe burst in a corner of the ceiling.  

Water sprayed everywhere. It raced down the walls and the bookcases, around the electrical panel, through the rest of the ceiling, and spilled out into the other rooms. It was incredible how much damage fifteen to twenty minutes of gushing water could do. I lived in the Pensacola area when Hurricanes Ivan and Dennis hit, so I know the amazing and destructive power of water. At least in this case, no one was injured, and that is always a blessing.

Most of what was destroyed can and has been replaced, except many of those precious autographed hardcovers. For me, the greatest loss was a stack of project notebooks. They included handwritten research notes, ideas for novels, bits of chapters, and all were rendered into a wash of blurred ink on forever crinkled paper.

Alex's make-do sacred place is actually her original writing spot: an old recliner.

Not everything can be backed up to iCloud or Dropbox or onto a jump drive. As writers, our intellectual properties aren’t so easily protected or even recognized until they’re gone.

In fact, the only reason my laptop wasn’t in the room was sheer happenstance. One of my Westies tore his ACL around Christmas. Huck and I had been sequestered in my bedroom while he rehabs his leg. I didn’t know at the time that the small area I set up for the two of us would become my writing space for four months. I reminded myself it was no big deal. After all, a good portion of my novels were written in an old recliner with a dog tucked in beside me and another at my feet.

Renovations are done!

All the repairs are finally finished. There are walls and a ceiling again. I can start moving back in. I’ve even purchased a special lightweight container for my new project notebooks. It promises to be waterproof and even fireproof. 

Then last week, sirens went off all across Omaha, Eastern Nebraska and Western Iowa. In one afternoon, at least nine tornadoes touched down within a thirty-mile radius of our house. One was a massive wedge reportedly a mile wide at one point. The storms moved so fast, there really was not much time to think about what to grab. We gathered the dogs and headed downstairs, and I remember having a fleeting thought. There really is nothing that’s tornado-proof.

The giant tornado which touched down in Omaha in April.
Just one of the tornadoes that hit Omaha, Nebraska on April 26.
Alex Kava, Best Selling Author

Alex Kava is the New York TimesUSA Today and Amazon bestselling author of twenty-one novels that include the critically acclaimed series featuring K9 handler Ryder Creed and the international bestselling series with FBI profiler Maggie O’Dell. She’s been awarded two Nebraska Book Awards, a Florida Book Award and the Mari Sandoz Award. Published in thirty-two countries, her novels have sold over six million copies and have appeared on bestseller lists in the UK, Australia, Germany, Poland, Italy, and Japan. When she’s not writing, Alex enjoys spending time with her pack of Westies who are definitely not as well trained as Ryder Creed’s dogs.

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  1. Karna Small Bodman

    So glad you, at least, were spared those awful tornadoes, Alex. However, I love your writing “view” – with your cute Westies outside. My favorite writing place is in my dedicated office which has a door (!) I have no idea how kids these days can do homework while their playlist is blaring. I must have quiet! As for protecting my projects – I do have everything in my Docs file – seems to work.

  2. Lisa Black

    What a beautiful room. I have my small home office with a massive desk that I bought with my first large advance, but since over the years I’ve often crammed in some writing time during breaks at work, I can write anywhere…especially now with the tablet with detachable keypad. I’ve written in cars, in a chair next to a sleeping hospice patients, airplanes, even on an overturned 5 gallon bucket in a tiny storeroom waiting for the manager to arrive with the password to the video system.

  3. Jenny Milchman

    Oh gosh Alex I feel the loss of those notebooks. I wonder how the unused ideas may morph into something new now?

    Stay out of floods and tornadoes and enjoy your rehabbed sanctuary! And WHAT are those magnificent pink flowers?

  4. Susan Jones

    I love how you let us glimpse into the life of a writer, complete with photos. Very humanizing.