Anne Schroeder’s “Room of Her Own”: She transformed an ordinary garden shed into a dream writing room

I met Anne Schroeder through Women Writing the West. You’ve seen her before on Riehlife when I interviewed Anne about her humorous and insightful memoir “Ordinary Aphrodite” which chronicles her attempts to live a balanced life.

Anne’s story of creating her dream writing room out of ordinary materials proves that it’s not the the money, it’s the imagination which makes a difference in our lives. –Janet

by Anne Schroeder

As I write, a carpenter is putting the finishing touches on a writing room in my backyard, complete with a set of solid wood, double pane French doors that I found ten years ago at a garage sale for $30, and a vintage leaded glass window I found at the Edna antique store.

This little room, like The Artist’s Way advocates, is my way of reclaiming creativity after taking care of my mother-in-law and newly retired husband. Everything in my little room will resonate creative expression because I’m incapable of compromise.

My husband thinks the white bead board will make the room seem smaller, but I’ve carried a picture of wainscoting for so long that I’m intractable. It’s painted that very light green that changes to peach when the setting sun infuses shadows in the room. The wicker furniture will be glossy white with airy cushions. A toll-painted makeup mirror from the forties will have a place of honor, with its relic light bulbs left unwired since the only lighting will be a battery powered, faux mariner’s lantern hanging from the open beam ceiling.

My husband’s childhood brass bed will provide a guest room in the garden. We began calling it my writing room when it wasn’t a room at all, but a storage shed, built by a college construction class and delivered on a flatbed trailer.

It was a disappointment from the first day, its lovely eaves chopped off for some indiscernible reason so that it set like a forlorn outhouse in the pasture, slowly rotting from moisture until I asserted my claim of a higher purpose.

My husband and I rolled the shed into the back yard on steel pipes, then jacked it onto concrete pyramid blocks. We built a free-standing deck and rebuilt the roof with real eaves. I hired a carpenter who shares my vision for small rooms and used lumber.
When Eric is finished, I will paint it. I will seal the deck and rails, used wood from a pole barn we tore down years ago. I will polish the vintage brass hinges and doorknobs I’ve been collecting with this project in mind. I will install antique glass pulls on the leaded glass window, and place a screen into the only thing in the room that is new–an Anderson crank window framing a view of the creek.

Every day is a delight, listening to the hum of the Skil saw, the splat, splat of a nail gun. The process makes my heart happy—not the bursting happy when something surprises you, but the savoring joy that occurs when life is good.

My writing room has become a metaphor for taking control of the things in my life I can’t change, even if I wanted to. It’s become a playhouse for me in middle-age, a replacement for the one my father built my three sisters and me so that, ironically, we could practice homemaking.

Unlike previous projects, there is no rush to completion. The process is a journey, not a destination. Paying for it out of my writing income is part of my agreement with myself. Staying true to my vision is giving me a room of my own.

Anne Schroeder writes about life’s small steps. Her first passion was short fiction, secular and mainstream. Two inspirational memoirs followed. Now she is hard at work on her fifth novel, set in Central Coast of California where she lives. Her current challenge is to write with the same passion and discipline that she used to have B.G. (before grandchildren.) She hopes that a new writing room will help. She plans to start her rewrite as soon as the paint dries.

Read more about Anne Schroeder and her work on her website, and on the San Luis Opispo, California “NightWriters” blog.

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  1. Anne, reading this article is a gentle pause in a hectic day. thanks for transporting me to a peaceful place. I can just see your writing room finished and waiting for your written words to embellish the page….

  2. Oh, Anne,
    What a creative journey! I love how you are using all your treasures collected over the years, placing them as they were meant to be.. This endeavor is inspiring as you have made a unique, one-of-a-kind writing place that oozes with your individuality. I may have to come down to see it one day……..Arletta

  3. Arletta (happy birthday!), Debra, and Pamela,

    What is it about writing rooms that primes and eases our minds? Transports us?

    Even if we have a home that nourished us, do we need one spot there to mold our writing habit?

    Janet Riehl

  4. Hi Janet, I really do not have a writing room. I have a room where my knitting, books, writing paraphernalia is but I seldom write in there. Then there is the office I share with my husband and where my computer is. I keep notebooks scattered around the house and in the car so I can write stuff down when I have those fabulous 🙂 thoughts. My greatest thoughts – IMHO – come early in the morning when I am out for our 3.5 mile walk with a dog’s leash in each hand, a dog attached to each leash, and nothing to write on even if I had a free hand.

    We will be moving and I am planning my colored bottle garden shed with a space for my old oak teacher’s desk and hand writing equipment. I hope I get there.

  5. Janet,
    I think a writing place/room is essential to the process. I’ve given mine over to my granddaughter when the family moved in and I miss it very much. My writing space is now a crammed corner of my small bedroom and it shows in the reduction of my productivity, Having family as a crowd surrounding me is tough, not necessarily any worse than when I first started and the kids were at home and my husband was alive.

    Having my research materials at my fingertips, table and shelves to hold my necessaries, a comfy chair and light to re-read the day’s offerings, a glance out the window at my Beagles playing or the sunshine coming in my French doors….Whew! do I miss this? You betcha, and then some.

    I love the new/renewed format as it is much easier to locate columns.

  6. Thanks Janice, Arletta, and Lindy for describing your writing rooms. While it’s possible to write anywhere, anytime there is an aura of repleteness in a place designated as the place your write.

    Happy writing to all!

    Janet Riehl

    P.S. Arletta–glad you like the simplified format. It makes it easier on me, too.

  7. I loved the visual that went with the words–creativity flowing in more ways than one. Every writer needs her own space, and Anne has found hers. I look forward to seeing this special writer’s nook someday.

  8. Dear Susan,

    Did you see the little playhouse covered with magnolias in the original posting? It belongs to my great nieces. Anne does write a vivid word picture of her writing room in the making. The process of creating it out of humble materials inspired me. How inventive we can be to make something happen with the resources we have.


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