Writing in the Other Place by Kate Thornton

Kate Thornton is a retired US Army officer who enjoys writing both mysteries and science fiction. With over 100 short stories in print, she teaches a short story class and is currently working on a series of romantic suspense novels. She divides her time between Southern California and Tucson, Arizona.

Writing in the Other Place

Writing is a solitary pursuit; when we write, we are alone with just a gazillion characters, situations, what-ifs and possibilities. It is a good time to create, experiment, and procrastinate.

Writing needs its own space, its own time and place. For some, it is the dining room table after the kids are asleep, or the home office complete with bookshelves and cat. For others it is the local Starbuck’s or the cluttered desk at work before work starts.

For a few of us, it is a different house in a different state.

I live in Paradise, in Southern California, where it is beautiful every single day of the year. I live in the house of my dreams, a mid-century modern masterpiece of light and space, with lush gardens and a small pool. I have my own office, a light-filled room with bookshelves. I am fortunate to see these dreams realized after a lifetime of hard work.

So what’s the problem?

Like a suitor who has been wooing the beautiful sister only to have his heart stolen by the mousy little girl with the great personality, I have been seeing another house on the side for a couple of years. A vacation home to start, it has become The Place and will soon become my permanent home.

I am moving to Tucson, Arizona. 

Photo by Albert Voirin

Yes, the house is smaller, not so beautiful, with a much smaller garden. A garden, I might add, not filled with fruit trees and orchids, but cactus, for crying out loud. There isn’t a home office, just a little desk almost big enough for my laptop. Yes, the light alternates between blinding sun and dark clouds. Yes, it is hotter than buried coals in the summer and it actually freezes in the winter. There are monsoons and floods and heat so dry you could juggle your laundry in the air for 10 minutes and everything would be perfectly crisp.

But what can I do? It is the place where I can write. It is the place where I can be happy. When I am there, I don’t want to come back. When I am there, I write.

I have friends there now, and enjoy the company of other writers. There is a thriving community of arts and letters in Tucson, and now I am a part of it.

So I am moving there. Moving – especially at my age – is a big pain, but it is necessary. I can’t believe how much junk I have accumulated over just the last ten years, but only the necessities are going with us. Yes, my dear husband is on board with this. In fact, he may be even more eager to move than I.

Photo by Albert Voirin

So for now, we make periodic trips across the deserts to take stuff and when I am there, I write. I have dug out trunk novels and unfinished short stories. I spend time at the computer undistracted by television or Facebook or anything. I feel the light and the sun on me, and the gentle whoosh of the air conditioner or the cries of unfamiliar birds through an open door or the crackle of a log in the fireplace. And sometimes, I hear the pounding of rain, relentless, almost frightening in its intensity. But when I get up to look, the sky is already clear and the sun is making steam rise from a hot pavement.

I make a cup of tea and go back to the computer. I dread the night before we leave, when everything gets packed up for the trip back.

I have found my writing place and it is 500 miles from where I am writing this now.

I look forward to this new chapter in my life, although I know I won’t have much of an excuse for procrastination there. All the more reason to do it.

11 thoughts on “Writing in the Other Place by Kate Thornton”

  1. I guess that place in Tucson has been calling you and it's time you answer that call. We never know where creativity lurks; your place seems to be in a beautiful desert. But we do get you back every so often. And some of the landscape might look like one of those remote outposts in space. I can hear Cookie Sullivan gearing up right now.


  2. I empathize, having gone through a similar move in reverse – I now live in paradise. But like you, the change in environment has inspired me to write more. Sure, I occasionally get distracted by the ever-changing views and wildlife, but I enjoy the moment, settle down and get back to my laptop wherever it happens to be. I'm happy you've found a place you truly love and that inspires you to write more – a good thing!


  3. What a lyrical blog post! Who would ever question you are a surpreme writer. Believe me… you don't need to move anywhere to write. Yes, yes, I know, this is a new phase, and perhaps some new type of writing… more lyrical and thoughtful. Sublime? Who knows?

    And PS: Whoa! Thanks for slipping in and taking my spot when I didn't have the interview ready to go. What a good surprise!


  4. Thank you all for your lovely comments – today we got a new neighbor in CA and I showed her through my house. Imagine my astonishment: she is a Facebook writer friend – from Scottsdale AZ!!! It is such a small and delightful world.


  5. It sounds like the perfect place for you, Kate. But I'm sorry to see you go. I know we only bump into each other every once in a while, but I always enjoy seeing you. Good luck with your move.


  6. Thank you, Paul – and not to worry, we will still bump into each other once in a while. I will be in the L.A. area every 3 months or so. It's not the end of my life in CA – it's just an expansion of it!


  7. Mixed emotions reading your post, Kate! So happy you have found the place that inspires and excites you. But I am certainly going to miss your smiling friendly face, generous spirit, and wealth of knowledge. But so glad you have the wisdom and energy to follow your writing heart! Lovely written post.


  8. Kate, I am so envious of you! The American Southwest is a magic place. I lived in Albuquerque for a year, and when I go back to visit I can’t believe anything could ever have induced me to leave. You’re right about the heat and the cold. And there’s the water shortage. How can anyone live there? How can anyone who has ever lived there ever consent to live anywhere else?


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