25th Trillium Award

At the Desk: Don Gutteridge

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For each book we readers eagerly open, there's a writer who's spent countless hours researching, organizing, writing and rewriting. The place where all this happens is unique to every writer, and we love nothing more than to get a behind-the-scenes glimpse at the site where it all happens! In Open Book?s At The Desk series, writers tell us about their creative processes and the workspaces that inspire them.

Today Don Gutteridge, author Death of a Patriot (Simon & Schuster), talks to Open Book about his writing routine, the importance of a good chair and a writer's need for private space.


When I was younger and married with two children, there was no separate study for me. Instead I purchased an antique secretary and set it up in the master bedroom. I wasn?t exactly surrounded by books and inspirational matter, but it turned out to be a very quiet spot in a busy and noisy household.

When we moved into a house, finally I was awarded my own room as a study. I immediately had bookshelves built along one wall and purchased a comfortable easy chair, which I set opposite to it so that when I wrote I was facing the rows and rows of books. I then set up a desk and computer, but I did all my writing, poetry and fiction, sitting in the easy chair and occasionally rocking back and forth. Beside me was my trusty pad of yellow, lined paper and my fifty-cent ballpoint pen. With these and the quiet of the room, I was able to write for two or three hours every morning. Whenever I got stuck as I was writing a novel, say, I would, summer or winter, take my Scottie dog for a long walk in the nearby park and work out plot ideas or visualize new characters who were about to make their appearance.

In the quiet solitude of my study I would write longhand and double-spaced on the yellow, lined paper (white seemed too imposing). The first draft was written entirely in longhand. For the second draft, I would make revisions in the space left between the lines or append whole pages where necessary. Then I would move to my computer and slowly type a third draft, revising as I typed. This proved to be a slow but rewarding process, as once I saw the book in a typed form (analogous to the way it would look in print) my revision instinct took firm hold, and I made small but crucial revisions. I then printed out the third draft. Then it was back to my comfortable chair, where I could read the printed page slowly and carefully, making the final revisions for what was really the fourth and final draft.

Like most writers I write in an atmosphere of complete silence, hearing the prose (and especially the poetry) in my head before and as I write. That is why it is so important to have a protected place to write, where one can let the creative juices flow. Poetry is a little different from my fiction. I often first conceive a poem as I?m lying quietly in bed, with the rest of the household abed as well, and at some point, if the start seems promising, I then move to my study, take out my clipboard, put a fresh, blank (and unlined) piece of paper on it, and begin composing the poem. I then leave the poem alone until the next day, when I come at it fresh and begin the laborious revision process. Finally the poem goes on the computer, 99 percent completed. In many ways my private space is the most important part of my life as a writer.


Don Gutteridge is the author of 40 books: fiction, poetry and scholarly works. He taught high school for seven years and then joined the Faculty of Education at Western University in the Department of English Methods. He is now professor emeritus and lives in London, Ontario.

For more information about Death of a Patriot, please visit the Simon & Schuster website.

Buy this book at your local independent bookstore, online from the publisher or at Chapters/Indigo or Amazon.

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