Where I Write: Elisabeth de Mariaffi

Elisabeth's first novel, The Devil You Know, is a taut and insightful exploration of women's fear of violence. In it, a crime-beat reporter's work seeps into her personal life as she reflects on a long-ago personal trauma. Now at work on a second novel, Elisabeth shares a bright home office in St. John's with her husband, the poet George Murray. His seventh book of poetry, Diversion, will be published this fall.

"We've divided the space exactly equally (except for the fact that the filing cabinets are on George's side... ) Roughly, this means we get the same wall space, bookshelf space, and light; but the dog gets the armchair in the window. 

"First things first," she adds:

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1. This is the outside of the office door, as seen from the front hall. I devised the NO sign as a way to enforce my work time in a busy house with four kids. It’s the pre-emptive answer to all possible questions and needs: Can you make me a sandwich? (No.) Can you drive me to mall? (No.) Can you help me find my other shoe? (No.)  Now and then it needs repeating and enforcing. George often works at the dining table when I need private time, and he takes on the role of enforcer from there. 

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2. I keep things really simple for the most part. I use an ultra-light MacBook Air because I love it for travel; it's small enough to fit into my purse, and I can work on it easily in any space -- even on an airplane tray table. I use the same machine at home, up on a lift. (Until recently, that "lift" was just a pile of dictionaries... ) Most everything on my desk will have to do with the project at hand: hand-drawn maps, timelines, lists, notebooks, and a stack of books that I am either using as reference, or that just seem like they may be of use in future. Some of these books don't actually change, project to project. Alice Munro's The Progress of Love is almost always there. Notebooks: I have a super-cool repurposed vintage Nancy Drew notebook that my daughter gave me for my birthday last year, and I'm really using it -- which is new, because I usually buy gorgeous notebooks (the carnet on my desk among them) but then revert to using tiny, cheap notebooks that I can fill up and discard easily. On the wall and around the desk I keep photographs, and artwork or notes written by my children. There's a painting my daughter did in grade six, and a monologue my son wrote at the same age; tissue flowers made by my five-year old daughter for Mother's Day in 2003, and another set made by my five-year old stepson in 2013. Baby shoes. You get the idea. The blanket on the back of my chair was handmade in Transylvania in the latter part of the 1800s. It was a childhood blanket that belonged to my great-grandmother. 

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3. The wall divider here is a Biedermeier cabinet that belonged to my own grandmother; right now, it mostly houses extra copies of each of our own books. We have a matching one out in the living room that holds old records and my grandmother's collection of librettos -- infinitely more interesting. 

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4. This collection: Three prints by Willow Dawson -- I used to keep these in the TV room in my old house on Bellwoods Ave. in Toronto, but found out later the children were afraid of them. So now they live here. Also: acorn angels made by my daughter in Brownies and a cub car made by my son in Beavers. The origami butterflies were folded for George and me by Wayson Choy, the first year we came to Writers at Woody Point. They sat on my desk for a year or two, but then I found this shadow box to keep them safe. The seated figure is a drawing by my daughter again, who is now 17. 

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5. Here's Mitsou in her window seat. Asleep on the job.