Brunonia Barry’s Map Room

Brunonia Barry was one of the authors I was dying to meet at Book Expo America, and unfortunately, I was in such a rush with packing and prepping for a week of reviews from my mom that I dropped the ball.  I sincerely apologize to my readers and Brunonia Barry.

Originally, this wonderful guest post from Barry should have posted when she appeared at BEA on Wednesday, May 26.

I loved The Lace Reader and cannot wait to read her latest book, The Map of True Places; to see what I thought of The Lace Reader, check out my review.

Without further ado, here’s a guest post from Brunonia Barry on her writing space, which she calls The Map Room.

My writing space is a second floor ex-bedroom with maps from very old National Geographic magazines glued to the walls. Many of the countries on the maps either no longer exist, or their names have been changed. The room has four big windows giving it great natural light and a view down our historic Salem street. It also has a fireplace I’ve never used, mostly because it has been claimed over the years as a cave by our fifteen year old Golden Retriever, Byzy, who often joins me when I write, or at least he did when he was younger and still able to easily climb the stairs. These days the fireplace has become more altar than cave displaying anything remotely connected with my second book and some leftover treasures from my first.

Our house was built in the style of an old Captain’s house, though I think it belonged first to a minister and his family and later, just before we bought it, to two artists who raised their family here and stayed for thirty-seven years. The room where I write was once their son’s bedroom, and they creatively covered it with those maps which made it a perfect writing room and inspiration for me since I’ve recently been working on a novel titled The Map of True Places. When their son grew up and moved away, the artists set up their easels in this room. That is the way I first encountered this creative space, with easels and paintings in progress and the smell of oil paint, a smell I loved and remembered from childhood because my mother was also a painter.

I cleaned up the clutter a bit before I took these photos. When I’m writing a book, I tend to collect anything that I think might be useful to read or look at or to meditate upon, and I have found many items along the way.  I have been collecting things for The Map of True Places for the last two and a half years and things related to The Lace Reader for a long time before that, so I’ve accumulated quite a bit. Before cleaning up, I took an inventory of the things I had collected. Books were piled on every available surface, including five copies each of every international edition of The Lace Reader, (there have been thirty). I try my best to give most of them away. Whenever I meet people who speak different languages, I always get their addresses so I can send them a book.  The goal is to have just one copy of each edition. I will get there one day. Meanwhile, I am once again on tour and therefore buying more books. I’m going to purchase more bookshelves when the tour is over and turn the map room into a library, making it an even more inspirational place to write.

Here’s a list of some of the items I‘ve collected along the way: All things Hawthorne and Melville. A carved wooden moose on skis that I bought in Bar Harbor Maine on The Lace Reader book tour. Two Revolutionary War soldiers that were once in my parent’s house and now stand facing each other from both sides of the fireplace. Two ship’s models. Several books about pirates. A map of famous New England shipwrecks. Six volumes of romantic poetry. Three envelopes of Gibraltar candies (the kind they packed as ballast and used to bribe custom’s officials on the Salem ships that sailed out of here in the 1700’s). A tattered photo of my maternal grandmother in her wedding gown that I found in an old trunk and will one day  have restored. A piece of lace carved from an eggshell. Two quartz singing bowls tuned to different chakras. Several books on meditation. A ceramic tree my mother- in-law sent us with Celtic crosses and leprechauns hanging from its branches. A seagull that flies upside down and cannot be righted. Several coffee cups from different places around the world. I drank only tea when writing my first book, and only coffee for this last one (both are important to the stories). I drink decaf when I’m listening to my muse, and caffeinated coffee when I’m editing.

I write directly on the computer and have two of them (both Apples but one a Mac Air for when I’m on tour). It’s a good thing there are two, because one of them died the day before I finished my last book. I think I simply wore it out, though they have since replaced the hard drive, and it has recovered. I can’t say enough about the importance of backing up your work and sending it to an outside location. I was lucky to have done that.

I am very attached to my map room and have tried to write in other locations. I can do it, but I’m never as happy with the process. There is something about sitting here, surrounded by books, with that northern painter’s light filtering through the windows that summons the muse better than any other place I have ever written.

Thanks so much, Brunonia, for sharing with us your writing space.  Stay tuned for my review later this month of The Map of True Places.


  1. Great post! I love the Map Room. Looks like the perfect place for writing!

  2. Sometimes life gets away from us, better late than never! That’s a great writing place 🙂

  3. Wonderful post! I love her writing room.I think having a nice view like that is so important for daydreaming!

  4. I love seeing author’s writing spaces! Thank you for sharing this one. I really need to read one of her books. I actually tried The Lace Reader a while back but I got it on audio and I think I just don’t really do well with audio books so I need to get the book.

  5. i can’t get over how much i love her writing. even the writing in her guest post is beautiful! i love the pictures. thank you for sharing!

  6. I think it’s neat to see how different writers’ spaces are from one another. I love the view from the window!

  7. I love the map room, and can see why she’s attached to it. I missed seeing some people at BEA, too, so don’t feel bad.


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