25th Trillium Award

At the Desk: Nicole Dixon

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The desk of Nicole Dixon

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 today's At The Desk feature, Bronwen Wallace award-winner Nicole Dixon shares the story of how her workspace — a storage room known as the "Murder Room" in her hundred-year-old house — was laboriously transformed from a dank and mouldy lair into the inspiring creative space where she wrote and edited High-Water Mark (The Porcupine's Quill), her debut collection of short stories.

Nicole will be in Ontario early in November for readings in Hamilton, Kingston, Toronto and Sarnia. Visit our Events pages for details.

Contest! Win a copy of High-Water Mark from The Porcupine's Quill. To enter, send an email to [email protected] with the Subject heading "Dixon," and tell us what room in your house inspires you. Contest closes October 31. Click here for contest rules.

At the Desk, by Nicole Dixon

Welcome to the Murder Room, a.k.a., my office. Don?t worry, my office doesn?t look like this anymore. But it used to. Let me tell you how the room went from massacre to workspace in just a few long months!

When I first arrived to our hundred-year-old home on the Bay of Fundy in Advocate Harbour, Nova Scotia, my office had mouldy, water-damaged walls, peeling wallpaper and worn, dirty floors. The stains looked like dried blood, which is how the Murder Room got its name. After a couple of years we decided to remove the furniture and boxes and broken fishing poles we stored in the room, renovate it and actually use it. Of course, when I say ?we,? I really mean my partner, writer Darryl Whetter.

With the junk cleared out, the first thing to come down was the plaster, then the closet and chimney. FYI: lath makes for excellent kindling.

Once the plaster was down, the drywall (or gyprock, as the locals call it) went up. The worried dog in this photo is Rustle. He hated when we renovated (so loud! so much swearing!), but he loved us, so he begrudgingly posed for photos.

We (ok, Darryl) didn?t tackle the floors until the walls were mudded, sanded and painted. Then Darryl ripped up every single pine floorboard, ran it through a planer, added some extra insulation, drilled the boards into place, covered the screws with handmade plugs, and finally hand-oiled the boards with all-natural beeswax oil.

Here?s the planer in action.

And, voilĂ ! We still call it The Murder Room, which is appropriate considering I wrote and edited most of High-Water Mark in the room. Not only can writing and editing be murderous, but, to borrow from William Faulkner (or was it Mark Twain?), I have killed a lot of darlings in this room.

Virginia Woolf wrote, ?'a woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction.? I thank Darryl — and dedicate my book to him — for building me this room of my own.

Nicole Dixon has lived in Toronto, Sarnia, Windsor, North Bay and Halifax. Her work has been nominated for the Journey Prize and a CBC Literary Award and appeared in The New Quarterly, Grain, The Fiddlehead, and Canadian Notes and Queries. In 2005 she won the Writers? Trust of Canada RBC Bronwen Wallace Award for short fiction. Previously a French teacher for young children, Nicole maintains her knowledge of conversational French. Nicole is currently electronic resources librarian at Cape Breton University and divides her time between New Waterford, Cape Breton, and Advocate Harbour, Nova Scotia. Visit her at her website, nicoledixon.ca.

For more information about High-Water Mark please visit the Porcupine's Quill website.

Buy this book at your local independent bookstore or online at Chapters/Indigo or Amazon.

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