A Writer’s Room: Whitney Terrell

I’ve always been fascinated with writers’ rooms. The most important space a writer deals with is the distance from the mind to the blank page. But what surrounds that conduit, providing a physical platform for the connection, is the room the writer fixes around it. It cannot help but reflect the writer’s personality.

On the austere end, you’ve got E.B. White at his rustic desk in cabin, nothing in sight but a lake out the window. On the other end, there’s the cluttered desk of Stephen King, which welcomes the company of a dog, the writer’s feet, a Commodore computer, and stacks of crap. (For more examples, check out The Writer’s Desk by Jill Krementz.)

I recently had the opportunity to visit Kansas City novelist Whitney Terrell at his home, not far from his on-campus office at the English Dept at UMKC, where he’s the New Letters writer-in-residence.

I was on an errand of publicity, actually. A few weeks ago, I’d asked him if he’d sign a basketball to give away as a prize in the Library’s March Madness online tournament of books, called Booketology (which was a hit, by the way).

I’d asked him if he’d let me film him sign the ball, but when the day came to drop by his house, I thought, why not have a peek inside his office?

Whitney was game, and so he gave me a tour, highlighting things like the almighty desk, the typewriter he still uses for first drafts, the visual cues he tacks to the wall, and the guitars he jams on with his son when he’s not writing. And then he signed the ball. (And, shortly after that, KU lost, but that’s another story.)

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2 thoughts on “A Writer’s Room: Whitney Terrell

  1. Only until recently that I realize how important a writer’s room is. In my case, since I work directly with the computer, my desk is surrounded by my shelf of DVDs, a number of statues and action figures from my favorite works of fiction. To my left there’s my LCD TV. In a far corner I have the mandatory bookshelf.

    It’s funny how I’ve unconsciously arranged everything to suit my writing needs.

  2. Hey Joe,

    I think “unconscious arrangement” is the natural order. We all want to go up into Towers of London to write in mystical isolation, but we’re poor writers — just people with cats, DVDs, and stuff and things.

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