Write Place, Write Time: Dani Shapiro

Liberty Hardy

Senior Contributing Editor

Liberty Hardy is an unrepentant velocireader, writer, bitey mad lady, and tattoo canvas. Turn-ons include books, books and books. Her favorite exclamation is “Holy cats!” Liberty reads more than should be legal, sleeps very little, frequently writes on her belly with Sharpie markers, and when she dies, she’s leaving her body to library science. Until then, she lives with her three cats, Millay, Farrokh, and Zevon, in Maine. She is also right behind you. Just kidding! She’s too busy reading. Twitter: @MissLiberty

This is my office at home in rural Connecticut.  Sometimes I prefer working at home, and sometimes I wish I had an office outside the house. Both have their advantages and disadvantages. For the last few years I’ve preferred to work at home, so I can stop in the middle of the day and do my yoga practice. And I can talk to the dogs.

Wherever I’ve lived and worked, I’ve always kept a bulletin board over my desk with photos and quotes and doo-dads I find inspiring. To the left of  my desk is the original art from the first piece I wrote for The New Yorker — a personal history piece about my father and his second wife (my mother was his third). And below that is the front page of The Hollywood Reporter announcing that Reese Witherspoon was going to star in the film based on my memoir Slow Motion. Of course, that never happened. But if you’re on the front page of The Hollywood Reporter you have to frame it.

Lots of tags from speaking events and conferences. I’m always happy when I take one of those babies off and hang it on my doorknob. It means I’m back home.

One of my favorite cartoons which has moved with me from apartment to apartment, house to house.

Often when I’m at my desk–especially when working on a memoir–when I feel as if my family is watching me, they sort of are. The boy and girl in the hanging photo are my father and aunt. The two men in yarmulkas are my father and grandfather. The photos in the front are of my husband and me on our wedding day, and me with my dear friend and Buddhist teacher, Sylvia Boorstein.  The dried flowers are from my wedding bouquet–they’re sixteen years old.

The chaise lounge is where I do all of my reading and a lot of my writing.  The dog in the foreground is ridiculously photogenic, isn’t he? His name is Samson and he lies around and watches me work, only occasionally nudging me to take him outside, which is good otherwise I might never move.

Assorted talismans on my desk: the crystals are from Kripalu, a yoga and meditation retreat in the Berkshires where I occasionally teach. The handmade bowl was a gift from a dear friend, and in it I keep wishing stones from the beach in Positano, where I return every year to direct The Sirenland Writers Conference. I always come home with these stones in my suitcase. And the three little vials of aromatherapy oils are titled Inspire, De-Stress, and Focus.

The view from my office window. We traded a Brooklyn brownstone for ten acres. It’s been good for my head, good for the work, and for my family life, but sometimes I still find it shocking that I’m no longer an urban creature.

Dani Shapiro is the bestselling author of the memoirs DEVOTION and SLOW MOTION, and five novels including BLACK & WHITE and FAMILY HISTORY.  Her work has appeared in The New Yorker, Granta, Tin House, Ploughshare, n+1, One Story, Elle, Vogue, The New York Times Book Review, and has been heard on NPR’s “This American Life”. She has taught in the graduate writing programs at Columbia, NYU and The New School, and currently directs Sirenland, named by Poets & Writers the #1 International Writers’ Conference.  Her new book, STILL WRITING, will be out in 2013.  She lives with her husband and son in Litchfield County, Connecticut.