Tuesday, 17 July 2018

A place to write - Tracy Darnton

A woman must have a room of her own far away from the washing pile if she is to write fiction

I have a space in our house to write. Yes, I have to share it (‘hotdesking’ in officespeak) so must keep it clear and tidy but it’s mostly mine. But a succession of neighbours have undertaken major building work over the last couple of years – the kind with workmen with loud radios and lots of tile-cutting. And it turns out I’m not very good with noise so the quest has been on to find somewhere QUIET to work.

A major factor has to be cost, as in preferably none whatsoever. But our local library is in a state of run-down flux as new remodelling plans are underway. There are few working areas and, especially at exam time, it’s hard to find a spare seat to work. I’ve tried cafés but I tend to drink way too much coffee and eat all the biscuits.

So I checked out a trendy, new co-working hub.  I nearly fell over in shock at the cost of a small glass box in a corridor with no window of its own. I could apparently work more cheaply at the colourful beanbag and break-out area with ambient music, explained the hipster very young salesperson. He could not compute that I wanted to be anti-social and definitely didn’t want to network. I need to actually get some work done. In any case, I was getting the distinct impression that middle-aged women in cardigans hanging round the place would ruin the look they were going for. But anyway I found the office atmosphere, however trendy, completely uninspiring.

Because here’s the thing: I like to be surrounded by old books. Yellowed pages, leather bound, wooden bookshelves, library ladders; the whole caboodle. That is my best environment. It’s where I worked best as a student, both as a teenager and as a much older MA student. I yearn for a writers’ club full of book-lined rooms and nooks and crannies in which to sit for the day. The mustier the better.

So last week I found it. Sadly it’s a bit of a commute: at least four hours by car. The fantastic Morrab Library is in the Morrab Gardens in Penzance. 


It’s a two-hundred year old independent library with over 60,000 books spread across charming rooms with a scattering of desks and tables. There are views of sub-tropical plants and trees and out to Mount’s Bay. You can make your own cups of tea, use the Wi-Fi and get lost in writing. Perfect. 

There are book events, lectures, scholars doing research, locals borrowing books. I even spotted YA (including a Sassie) on display in the children’s room amidst the library ladders. Basically the ambience of a club for readers and writers. Just what I’ve been looking for. So how much is it? £30 per year. Or £3 per day for non-member visitors like me. Every town should have one. But until mine does, I’m back to the noise-cancelling headphones.

Do you have a writers’ club in your area?

Tracy Darnton's The Truth About Lies has just been published by Stripes. Follow Tracy on Twitter @TracyDarnton 


Andrew Preston said...

Author has edited this post, I think, and removed some pics.

I guess the one that showed the green table and chairs may have been the children's room.

I rather liked that, it's not just kids that like colour, and thought it a welcome change from the usual public library corporate fare of ubiquitous orange, or austerity blue.

The big leather armchair in the other vanished photo certainly did it for me, my favoured place for reading.

Tracy Darnton said...

I’m intrigued as to the missing pics as I didn’t post the ones you mention and I didn’t remove them either! Maybe old libraries have poltergeists...

Andrew Preston said...

Indeed, though on this occasion more to do with my mistake. I too was intrigued. I'm familiar with that area, family.., and have often been into and around Penzance, and the public library.

I was completely unaware of the Morrab Library, wiki checked it, returned here later, and a merging of images in my mind took place. I hadn't realised that private libraries such as the Morrab existed. The only sign of one that I've ever seen is in the next village from where I live, there is a newsagent with 'Caxton Library' as it's signage.

LuWrites said...

Hope they don't start building work outside the Morrab...also commute time is a bit nuts. But you're right - every town should have one...

Rowena House said...

What a find! I wonder if one find a cheap offseason holiday let nearby, and have a bit of retreat/writing space. If it's not in term time, I'd be tempted! [She says, writing at the kitchen table, far too close to the washing up.