Writing is my dream life. But many writers will tell you, in the modern era our job seems to demand everything but writing. In a typical week I spend hours or days on non-writing chores: fielding interviews, reviewing reprint requests and copy, updating websites, responding to particularly crucial requests, administering the Bellwether Prize, answering queries from translators, reviewing archives before they’re moved off-site, bookkeeping, giving at least a glance to the ten or twenty books sent to me by their authors or editors that week, puzzling over foreign-rights contracts, and supporting other writers and worthy organizations as best I can. When I release a new book, the “fielding interviews” portion of that list blows up into a full-time job. That and traveling for a book tour remove me from writing life for months, and I miss it, with an ache similar to missing my husband or children when they’re far away. I tend to choke up when someone asks me on book tour, “What are you writing now?” Nothing, would be the honest answer, but I wish I were! Still, I understand that meeting readers is an important part of my job, so I go willingly. The hard part is calling it off. The same book will be released in other countries as the translations come out; the requests don’t ever stop. I have to walk away, with firm resolve, from well-intentioned pressures that would keep me talking about the last book and its topics forevermore. It is painful for me to disappoint people, but I do it to save the life of my next book.
“The office of Barbara Kingsolver” is where my assistant Judy Carmichael makes writing possible for me by handling all things that come at us by mail, UPS, telephone, email, or wild elephant. It’s across the driveway from our house, in a remodeled carriage house.
The place where I write, upstairs in our farmhouse, has windows facing into the woods. The walls are lined with bookshelves. To avoid distraction, I write on a computer that is not connected to the internet. (I check email elsewhere in the house.) My companions in this room are the likes of Virginia Woolf and George Eliot, who peer down at me from the shelves, and a blue fish named Bruno. They are all very quiet.