25th Trillium Award

At The Desk: Karleen Bradford

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Karleen Bradford's Desk

For each book that sits on our shelves or rests in our hands, a writer has spent countless hours researching, organizing, writing and rewriting. In Open Book?s At The Desk series, writers tell us about their creative processes and the workspaces that inspire them.

Award-winning writer of historical and fantasy fiction for children and young adults, Karleen Bradford, tells us about her favourite critics, her obsessive neat gene and the evolution of her workspace from a tiny hallway nook to a room of her own.


When I started writing, my office was the kitchen table. I would write during the day, (on a manual typewriter, not that anyone remembers those!), then at 3:30 p.m. clear everything away and set out milk and cookies. As I was one of the few stay-at-home moms on the street, kids congregated at my house after school. I would feed them and read out what I had written during the day. They were great critics — although sometimes the praise was greater when the cookies were better. Seriously, they gave me good feed-back: positive and sometimes, especially from my own kids, brutal. Since this was the age group I was writing for at that time, it was all helpful.

I graduated to a nook in the hall outside my bedroom when we lived in the Philippines but, because there was no air-conditioning there, my manuscripts were often soaked in sweat and the typewriter keys slippery. I was forced to move into a corner of my bedroom.

Because of my husband?s job with the Foreign Service of Canada, we travelled around to several different countries. Finally, however, when we were posted back to Ottawa, I got a ?room of my own.? Small, little more than a glorified closet, but a place where I could spread out a bit and not have to pick up and pack up everything every time I finished.

Now I have a real office and it is my refuge, my cocoon and my own private kingdom. I love cats but can?t have them any more because of allergies, so I have pictures and prints of cats on the walls, statues and models of them on the shelves. The statuettes include a regal Egyptian cat goddess, Bastet, that I bought at the British Museum when I was researching The Stone in the Meadow (and whose gold hoop earrings were appropriated by my daughter), and a fierce winged cat that I found while I was writing about my cat heroine, Catrin, in Whisperings of Magic. I have pictures of my grandchildren at eye level. A marvellous dragon that a 12-year old fan painted and gave to me. Lots of space to spread out research notes and books.

My old manual typewriter was replaced by an electric typewriter and finally, dubiously, by a computer, which I now adore and couldn?t live without. The usual other paraphernalia fill the desk: a new printer/ fax machine/ copier/ scanner that I haven?t quite figured out yet, a shredder for mistakes and false starts, a wastebasket for overflow and shelves and shelves for books. As you can see by the picture, though, it?s pretty neat. I didn?t tidy up for the picture, I promise. It just happens that I am cursed with an obsessive neat gene and I can?t work in clutter.

Karleen Bradford is an award-winning writer of historical and fantasy fiction for children and young adults. She has authored 24 books. With the rise in popularity of eBooks, Bradford decided to republish three of her popular young adult novels in electronic form. Readers can now enjoy The Stone in the Meadow, The Other Elizabeth and The Haunting at Cliff House from wherever books are sold and downloaded.

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