Creative Spaces — Guest Post by Cheryl Olsen

Creative Spaces

My workspace is the first expansion in the three-decade DIY project known as our starter (and at this point, one hopes finisher) home. It was a modest bumping out of walls on what apparently, judging by the red concrete floor, had once been a porch. It was our daughter’s first bedroom. It took us four years to finish— laughable when I think about the “rush” permit I wrangled from the city with my bulging obstetrically imminent belly. The kid only used it through middle school; then the lure of her older brother’s former room and the greater privacy of its basement locale won out. But the love that produced it is evident everywhere, along with reminders of the people who own my heart and give me sustenance, who motivate me to be and do better.

The “Almost Famous” sign above the window is redolent of the earnest wish of the young gymnast/dancer who hung it there. Her “Dream Big” posters have long since peeled from the ceiling, but the fame thing makes me smile and I’ve left it up. Adjacent to that wall is the narrow leaded window my husband made, the end cap to the expansion: rectangles of beveled clear and mauve stained glass to catch the first sun as it comes over the eastern hill up the street and spatters rainbows across the opposite wall.

A buttery pine dresser is too large for the space, but it belonged to my mom and I’m not ready to part with it. It’s home to extra sheets and blankets, and the top is covered in plants, including a cutting from a philodendron my mother nurtured throughout my childhood until her death last year. It’s also home to the bees wax candle Sandra Cisneros gave me to anchor a shrine for my mom. The candle is the same buttery yellow as the chest of drawers, smells divine, and is a daily reminder not only of love and friendship, but of the power of words. I’ve re-read Sandra’s Have You Seen Marie? so many times I can practically recite it. It’s the perfect balm for life’s greatest losses.

Creative Spaces guest post by Cheryl Olsen

Cheryl Olsen’s treadmill desk takes center stage in her creative workspace.

A wall of floor-to-ceiling built-in bookshelves still hold our now-adult kids’ school yearbooks and too many photo albums, but little by little, I’m claiming the shelves for myself: Cheryl Strayed’s incomparable Wild, Fred Setterberg’s wonderful Lunch Bucket Paradise, William Souder’s amazing Rachel Carson biography On A Farther Shore, David Abrams’ funny and devastating Fobbit, Bonnie Jo Campbell’s vivid Once Upon a River, David Corbett’s immensely helpful The Art of Character, Matt Salesses’ killer flash fiction novel I’m Not Saying, I’m Just Saying, Liz Stephens’ debut memoir The Days Are Gods, plus the work of former classmates Jennie Fields, Jane Smiley, and Joy Harjo now occupy prime eye-level real estate.

The chin-up bar that conditioned the upper bodies of both Olsen kids until sports gyms took over is still wedged in the doorframe, a clothespinned carrousel for workout attire the only thing that hangs from it now. Somehow it seems important to maintain this insistent link to a more athletic past.

“Walk-in” is far too expansive a term for the doorless closet that’s filled to bursting with seasonal decorations—yet more reminders of family ties and traditions. It’s also home to countless dance costumes, gymnastics teams warmups, and trophies. Plus several boxes of china from my husband’s Russian grandmother. We’re custodians until our son and his wife move to a space large enough to accommodate the Old World place settings our Polish daughter-in-law loved the instant she saw them.

But in this room brimming with memories—and perpetual writing prompts—not everything is about the past. One large concession to the present and a hopeful future takes center stage: my treadmill desk. It faces the window onto the Coast Redwood tree that was an awkward teen when we moved in and now towers over the house. I love that our rescue kitties, Tyson and Riley, expose their soft white bellies on the elevated work surface, seduced by sun. But mostly I marvel at this wondrous machine’s ability to expand time, how when the 3 p.m. depletion hits as it invariably does, I need only turn on my treadmill desk and walk. I usually employ this as a reading break, but I can also do email or social media. And twenty or thirty or sixty minutes later, I feel like writing again.

Cheryl Olsen’s creative spaces guest post Bio: Since earning an MFA from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop an indecent number of decades ago, Cheryl Olsen ( has written articles for publications including Cosmopolitan, Via, Runner Magazine, and others. She was an editor and writer at City Sports Magazine in San Francisco for many years, and a columnist for Women’s Sports and Fitness. Other clients include Time Inc. Health, Summit Medical Center, and Words Without Borders, among others. She also taught college English for several years. Most recently, she scaled a seemingly insurmountable learning curve to become web goddess ( and social media maven (!/2bwriters) in support of We Wanted to Be Writers ( (husband Eric is lead author), a collection of interviews with 30 former classmates about the creative process and the ever-changing lit biz.

Creative Spaces — Guest Post by Kathleen Pooler

Creative Spaces

Clear out a corner of your mind and creativity will instantly fill it.” Dee Hock

We all have creative energies within but the challenge is learning how to tap into them. My writing space is just one of the areas that help me connect with my creativity.

An upstairs office, overlooking the woods that surround our home provides me with a window to the outside world, keeping me connected with nature and its changing seasons. The fact that it is upstairs helps me to block out interruptions as I close the door to the downstairs’ commotion and enter into solitude. I am surrounded by book shelves, files, posters of mandalas and writing exercises I have done, including a trifold cardboard storyboard with bright yellow stars that map out my memoir-in-progress. Pictures of family and friends along with my blog schedule and list of to-dos for the week adorn the window and walls.

Creative Spaces -- Guest Post by Kathleen Pooler

Kathleen Pooler is challenged by clutter in her creative workspace.

In this space, I am inspired by the solitude and dedication to my writing that each artifact represents- my computer, printer, notebooks of vignettes, a bookcase filled with writing resources. I keep my iPad handy in case I want to tune into Pandora radio as background music. A gold crucifix, an angel statue, a lighthouse knick knack, a teacup candle with inspiration emblazoned across the cup all serve to remind me of my purpose in writing- to share my hope and faith with others.

As you can see from my picture, there is some clutter. That was after I cleaned it up. So clutter is my biggest challenge. Even though we live in a digital world, I still feel the need to make hard copies of my work. This necessitates files, file cabinets and space-occupying clutter. Before I can really focus on my work at hand, I have to spend some time, clearing the space. The way I see it, my work space is an extension of me and my mind so if it is messy, I feel out of sorts. Sifting and sorting through the piles of papers and organizing them helps me to clear my mind and feel in better control. Another challenge is staying off the internet to minimize distractions and stay focused on the writing. I use Rescue Time, a time management accountability system that provides me with weekly reports via email on my productivity and how much time I spend writing vs. internet activities.

I have written three-plus years of weekly blog posts, crafted my memoir-in-progress, now in its first revision review with my manuscript editor and launched my career as a writer in this space.

But sometimes, the writing space is not enough to stimulate creativity. Sometimes I need to walk away and let my work “marinate”; sometimes I need to leave my sacred space and take a walk in the woods, or play my piano or listen to music.

I’ve learned to listen to what my body tells me about when I need to burrow myself in my office or when I need to walk away. My creative space can be found in many different places. Some of my best ideas have been spawned during a walk in the woods or as I’m lying in bed trying to go to sleep. When the muse comes, I’ve learned to listen and keep a notebook handy to jot it all down.

Creative Spaces -- Guest Post by Kathleen Pooler Bio: 

Kathleen Pooler is a writer and a retired Family Nurse Practitioner who is working on a memoir about how the power of hope through her faith in God has helped her to transform, heal and transcend life’s obstacles and disappointments: divorce, single parenting, loving and letting go of an alcoholic son, cancer and heart failure to live a life of joy and contentment. She believes that hope matters and that we are all strengthened and enlightened when we share our stories.

She blogs weekly at her Memoir Writer’s Journey blog: and can be found on Twitter and on LinkedIn, Google+, Goodreads and Facebook.

 One of her stories “The Stone on the Shore” is published in the anthology: “The Woman I’ve Become: 37 Women Share Their Journeys From Toxic Relationships to Self-Empowerment” by Pat LaPointe, 2012.

 Another story: “Choices and Chances” is published in the mini-anthology: “My Gutsy Story” by Sonia Marsh, 2012.

Creative Spaces — Guest Post by Flick Merauld

Creative Spaces

I suppose, in many ways, my workspace is like an extension of myself – though I’m not the only person who uses it: my granddaughter claims the computer whenever she comes here, and my partner collects his email from it from time to time. It’s in the hub of the house as well, in the dining room, not in some cosy office or den tucked away from noise and disturbance. Consequently I have people stopping to chat when I’m trying to work (why is it nobody thinks a request not to talk to you can possibly include them!) But somehow this arrangement seems to make it easier for me to get on and write. There are no barriers to break; there’s no countdown to when I have to be there and knuckle down. I can wander off to the kitchen for coffee or a snack or out to the garden. I have dogs coming to lie at my feet and cats wandering across the keyboard. And, of course, the Internet is slumbering under my fingertips, waiting to surge into life whenever I get stuck and need a brief (or not so brief) distraction. Not only that, but the huge mirror behind the computer space reflects the garden, so that I can watch the changing weather and the wheeling seasons, comfortable and sheltered but still feeling connected to Nature and all her inspiring beauty – as I write this, I can see the frosty trees, while later in the year there’ll be daffodils, the unfurling of apple blossom and lilac, then roses, and the flurried activity of birds and squirrels.

Beginning work is easy. I kind of drift in and out, potter and do other things, slip into my space and get absorbed in whatever the current project is, drift off again to the shops or to read for a bit, make some food. I don’t write to music, though, as I find it incredibly distracting. While all this seems very casual and undisciplined, I actually do get a huge amount done when I’m in full creative flow. As I’m a photographer as well as a writer, and process images in Photoshop, my space isn’t for one activity only, and I think that makes my approach more fluid than it might have been otherwise.

Creative Spaces Guest Post by Flick Merauld

Flick Merauld in her creative sanctuary

Thirteen years ago, when I first began writing for publication, I was quite superstitious about my workspace and wouldn’t move or change anything while a book was in progress. Between 1999 and 2004, I wrote a series of books on Paganism for the American Mind/Body/Spirit publisher, Llewellyn, using the pen name Elen Hawke; from the time each of these books was started till it was sent off to the publisher, I wouldn’t move so much as a pen from it’s place on my worktop. When my partner first came to live with me, he decided to tidy up around the computer and I went ballistic – I actually felt invaded. Nowadays I’m less pernickety. Since I began publishing onto Amazon KDP/Kindle, I find I’m quite happy if things get removed or displaced. Maybe it’s the nature of my novels, the Aunt Sally series (The Aunt Sally Team and Aunt Sally & More) and The Sacred Marriage, but I find the whole process of writing much more enjoyable now. Maybe it’s also because I can set my own deadlines, rather than writing to a publishing schedule as I did for Llewellyn. I’m even writing two books at once at the moment, a third Aunt Sally and a sequel to The Sacred Marriage.

I think kind of catching myself unawares — sitting down and looking at what I’ve written, making corrections etc. then deciding to write a bit more, rather than giving myself a strict schedule — works best for me. I love writing, whether it’s answering questions in email discussion lists, chatting on Facebook or Twitter or getting stuck into a new novel. I think I’m privileged to spend my life in activities that I enjoy so much: reading, writing, photography and illustration. So my workspace, where I do all this, is a happy place for me to be.

Bio: Flick Merauld is a writer artist and photographer and plonks around on harp and guitar. As well as training in photography and graphic design at art school, she’s travelled all over the world and done many different jobs including barmaid, farmhand and factory worker. She’s now very happily settled in the beautiful but eccentric city of Oxford (United Kingdom) with her partner and family.

Having had several well known non-fiction books published by the American publisher Llewellyn, under the pen name Elen Hawke, she turned her hand to writing fiction, resulting in novels that include the best selling The Aunt Sally Team (UK visit based on a riotous summer spent playing the old fashioned English pub game of the same name, and its sequel, Aunt Sally & More ( UK visit Both these books combine love, sex, relationships and humour with depth and insight. Her novel The Sacred Marriage (UK visit, set in Brittany and Oxford, is written in a more serious vein.

You can visit Flick Merauld‘s blog, cats dogs & eBooks: life love & having a novel published, and visit her Facebook page

Creatives Spaces by Flick MerauldCreatives Spaces by Flick MerauldCreatives Spaces by Flick Merauld

Creative Spaces is a new guest blog series that invites you to take a peek into writer’s special workspaces. Come back often to read the intriguing guest posts.