Space to Write

Guest Post by Hannah Dennison

Thank you so much for inviting me to Writers in Residence today. As it happened, just last week, I was a writer in residence … if you can call hunkering down in my friend’s converted coal shed in the wilds of Wensleydale, a “residence.” It’s a six-hour journey by train but worth it.

My friends have a small farm and I have an open invitation to stay whenever I’m on deadline. I have known this wonderful couple, since we were all just 21. They are fiercely private otherwise I would announce their names in big bold font.

The day starts with eggs from their own chickens for breakfast, followed by four hours of solid writing, a break for lunch, a nap, a walk on the Fell, tea with homemade cake. After another hour or two of writing, the sun is over the proverbial yard arm and it’s time for a gin and tonic.

From the original coal chute window, I have an uninterrupted view of red squirrels (it’s a red squirrel sanctuary), sheep, (this is the home of Wallace and Gromit after all), and, when I’m lucky, I can enjoy watching the hares who really do box.

But, if it sounds like I need peace and quiet to be able to write, that’s not strictly true. One of my favorite books is “Becoming a Writer” by the formidable Dorothy Brande. She urges all writers to train themselves to be able to write at a specific time and anywhere, even if it’s just for fifteen minutes. I can write in a departure lounge, a train station, definitely on a plane, in fact, more or less anywhere.

I was listening to a panel of authors discussing the pros and cons of listening to music when they write. I can’t but I can write to the sound of a coffee shop! I subscribe to an app called Freedom. Not only can you block distracting websites on your Internet for set periods of time—in my case it’s the dreaded Daily Mail—it also has a white noise “coffee shop” feature with the low hum of voices and the occasional hiss and burble from the espresso machine! You can also choose the location of your coffee shop such as Stockholm, Berlin, New York or San Francisco. Believe it or not, they all sound very different.  Another author admitted that she writes to the sound of a World War Two Flying Fortress just cruising along (no bombs dropping) from

Although it’s great to have the ability to write anywhere, I truly believe in having a dedicated space only for writing—even if it is the size of a cupboard. My space is the tiny guest bedroom. I pushed the narrow single bed against the wall and made it into a day bed. If I have visitors (which is rare), then I take sleep there with two huge dogs and give up my bedroom.

Speaking of dedicated spaces, just before the pandemic I taught a writing retreat on a small island called Tresco in the Isles of Scilly. Among the participants was a wonderful Methodist minister who shared how he always approached his writing with a ritual. He liked to put something on the back of his chair—usually a scarf. It was a way of indicating to the creative muse that he was entering his space with intention. I adopted that idea too and, unless I’m in the departure lounge where I’d most certainly be given “looks,” do this 99% of the time.

Since I mentioned Tresco, I wanted to share my latest release, Danger at the Cove (An Island Sisters Mystery), the second book in my new series. I mention it because I was inspired by the beautiful setting of this remote resort, twenty-eight miles off the southwest Cornish coast. I was also intrigued by the idea that there is no police presence, no cars, no streetlamps and no hospital. I have it on good authority that seasonal workers are usually running away from something or hiding from someone. I couldn’t think of a better location to set a mystery. The series is about two sisters who find themselves chatelaines of a crumbling Art Deco hotel on a fictional island in the Isles of Scilly and naturally, murder and mayhem ensure.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on writing to music or white noise and if you do have a dedicated writing space, what can you see from your window?

Thank you so much for hosting me today.


British born, Hannah originally moved to Los Angeles to pursue screenwriting. She has been an obituary reporter, antique dealer, private jet flight attendant and Hollywood story analyst. Hannah has served on numerous judging committees for Mystery Writers of America and teaches mystery writing workshops for the UCLA Extension Writers’ Program now on Zoom. After twenty-five years living on the West Coast, Hannah returned to the UK where she shares her life with two high-spirited Hungarian Vizslas.

Hannah writes the Island Sisters Mysteries (Minotaur), the Honeychurch Hall Mysteries (Constable) and the Vicky Hill Mysteries (Constable)

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Author: Jackie Houchin

First, I am a believer in Jesus Christ, so my views and opinions are filtered through what God's Word says and I believe. I'm a wife, a mom, a grandma and now a great grandma. I write articles and reviews, and I dabble in short fiction. I enjoy living near the ocean, doing gardening (for beauty and food) and traveling - in other countries, if possible. My heart is for Christian missions, and I'm compiling a collections of Missionary Kids' stories to publish. (I also like kittens and cats and reading mysteries.)

14 thoughts on “Space to Write”

  1. Hannah, So nice you could join us today. Your retreat is a story in itself, but all writers can turn what some may think of as “just life’ into something intriguing. As for where I write, I have had and will have again (after I unpack everything from my move from California to Ohio) an office with my reference books and books written by friends and things I have collected. I don’t do music, but I do have a dog who keeps me entertained. I have a routine which usually consists of six hours during the day and a few hours in the evening, but I stop around eight PM just to give myself a break. I am looking forward to getting back to that routine after I get some bookshelves built in this new office and getting my old computer set up. This laptop isn’t my thing. Thanks again for giving us a glimpse of your routine and telling us about your newest book.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for the warm welcome! I love hearing of other writers spaces and routines. I know how it feels to move from California to a new State – it takes a while to settle. Funnily enough, just a few weeks ago, my faithful computer’s hard drive got corrupted. I thought it was time to have a new one and rashly bought one. Fortunately the computer specialist recovered all my data … but to be honest, I just can’t work on my new computer! I’m back to old faithful …

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Hi Hannah
    Thanks for the tips and your lifestyle in dear old Blighty sounds great
    I do listen to music while writing mostly golden oldies but not distracting at all
    I am pea green with envy re the retreat, we sometimes need to get out of our comfort zone and learn to Erie
    Write anywhere,hoping the muse follows along

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I always love hearing where authors can go to write. I have to be absoultely alone, or on a train. Haha. Thanks for visiting us, Hannah. So glad you are continuing to write cozy mysteries. I love them.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. What an interesting post, Hannah! And Wensleydale sounds amazing.
    So happy to get to know you better, and welcome to Writers in Residence(our electronic variety!) And I think I need to visit your fictional isle and the island sisters! Off to Amazon now…

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Hannah, thanks for reminding me of Becoming a Writer by Dorothy Brande. I have a copy that I bought several years ago and never read! It does look nice on my bookshelf, though. I don’t have a ritual—maybe I need one. I’m sure I’d like writing on the train, but I rarely travel that way, even pre-pandemic. My screened porch is conducive to writing, and the WiFi is iffy out there, which is a good thing. Thanks for visiting.

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  6. Hi Hannah – Really, really late – sorry! But I was so glad to read how you’re doing back in Old Blighty. And your writing routine and life sounds quite idyllic. Writing on trains and planes is a nice option, without all those distractions. So glad you joined us!


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