Saturday, August 1, 2015

Your Writing Home Away from Home By Martha Crites

Am I the only one who spends too much time at my desk? I just finished final edits in my first mystery novel, Grave Disturbance, and am inching forward with my second. I am swamped with planning for my favorite nonprofit, American Pilgrims on the Camino. Sometimes clearing my email takes an hour. I need to pack up my laptop and get out of the house.

Where to go? Finding my writing home-away-from-home wasn’t easy. My writing group meets in the café at Elliott Bay Book Company. That’s a welcoming location and our relationship with the booksellers has led to three members having readings there. It’s not close enough for my regular writing excursions, though.

I live in Seattle, where the world’s first Starbucks still operates in a rustic storefront in the Pike Place Market. Now Starbucks are everywhere–nothing could be more convenient. Since it became corporate though, Starbucks isn’t always popular in its hometown. Independent coffee shops have signs that say, “Friends don’t let friends go to Starbucks.”

I tried. I really tried all the nearby independents, but something was bothering me. I finally realized that the clientele was too homogenous. Everyone, including me, seemed to be white, middle class and well educated. It didn’t fit because my zip code is 98118. We are rumored to be the most diverse neighborhood in the country. People here speak 59 different languages and they speak them all in my neighborhood Starbucks. It is a cornucopia of different nationalities. I know a man from Eretria whose family fled during the 1999 war with Ethiopia. His elderly father told him that Starbucks is his favorite thing about the United States. He meets friends, drinks coffee and feels at home there. His favorite thing about our entire country–that is a high recommendation.

I’m in Starbuck’s now. Here’s what I see: the young woman next to me studies a Hebrew text, a Pilipino man who from the bank across the street orders his “regular” drink at the counter, a group of Somali men sit at a table by the window, an African American couple meets with a white woman about urban planning. That just scratches the surface of the world that will pass through in the next hour while I settle into my writing. I promise this is not a paid advertisement, but I’ve found my writing home and it feels like the whole world is here with me.

Do you have a favorite place to write when you need a change of scenery?


Martha Crites’ first mystery novel is Grave Disturbance, to be released this fall by Rat City Publishing. She has worked in community and inpatient mental health for twenty years. She has also taught at the Quileute Tribal School on the Washington coast. She lives with her husband in Seattle. When she isn’t working or writing, you will find her walking or volunteering along the Camino de Santiago, the medieval pilgrimage route in Spain. Please visit her at

Advance praise: “Beautifully written, Grave Disturbance evokes the fragile beauty of the Cascades foothills and the precarious balance of the human mind in the grip of fear. The story feels so real you can smell the dirt from the plundered graves.”
            Jeanne Matthews
Where the Bones Are Buried, a Dinah Pelerin mystery


  1. I write at my desk. It is my favorite spot. Up north it overlooks the lake from my second floor loft area. Down south I have a standing desk that I love. It overlooks the main gate and the quiet neighborhood – but if something does happen, I know it.

    When I read my work aloud or work on paper and red pen edits, I choose different spots. Up north I may sit in a chair at the lake’s edge, or on our deck or if the bugs are annoying, on the screened porch. Down south I’m either outside overlooking our lagoon or in the sun room overlooking the lagoon. Either way and either place, water is in view.

    In all cases, I need quiet to concentrate. I could never do real work at a Starbucks or any coffee shop.

    ~ Jim

  2. Ah that sounds lovely, Jim. I might be convinced to trade Starbucks for a lake. For some reason, I can tune out Starbucks noise, but if I'm at home, I'd find music too distracting! Some different brain activity-or I just trained myself.

  3. Hi Martha, Like Jim, I need peace and quiet. I can't focus in coffeehouses. Libraries are a bit better but not always comfortable. Congrats on your first book! Joanne :)

  4. Martha, I live in 98118 too! I know that Starbucks. I've written there many a time because it has big chairs. While I can write just about anywhere, I'm most productive where I can hold my laptop on my lap.

  5. Hi, Martha. Welcome to WWK. Like Jim and Joanne I need to be at home and alone. I can't concentrate if others are anywhere near even if they're quiet. Also, I like to have everything handy like the notes I've jotted down about my characters, etc. I have a sister who lived in Seattle for years, until she and her husband moved to Tacoma. On my times out there visiting them, I've traveled over much of Washington including the Cascades area. I love the area so I know I'll really enjoy your book.

  6. Hi Martha. Your writing home away from home sounds wonderful. The small Starbucks near me is set up to serve commuters so it has three small tables with uncomfortable metal chairs. When I lived in Los Angeles I frequented a beautiful coffee house with overstuffed chairs and a purple couch that drew an artsy crowd. It was perfect place to write except when I got distracted "people watching."

  7. Kate,
    Hi neighbor. I've been appreciating the aircon on these hot days too. Look for me!

  8. Thanks for the support Gloria. My sister who lives in Ohio is getting yours forChristmas. Shall I start w first in series?

  9. Like a few other people, I work best at my usual location, a desk in a bedroom that I've taken over as my office. I don't recall having ever felt the need for a change of scenery. The view out my windows is woods and somewhat neglected flower gardens (for some reason the deer have not eaten all my daylillies this year, and I'm thoroughly enjoying them.)

    I've only been in a Starbucks once, and I have to admit I didn't see the appeal.

    My critique group meets once a month at Cafe St. Amand, an independent little "French" bistro. We get breakfast (the crepes are wonderful) and review the work each of us has brought along. But I don't think any of us have ever tried to write there.

  10. Hi KM
    I love my desk too. Have a nice territorial view. But after awhile I get restless and need to be out. It has helped me increase my butt time!