Letter from Seattle — From the November 2012 issue

In the Writers’ Room

Spiraling downward at the Central Library

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A gray divider separates the Writers’ Room from the Map Room. On the divider hang photos of contemporary authors: Amy Tan, Gloria Steinem, Tim O’Brien. Below the photos, atop a bank of dark wooden lockers, sit a dictionary, a thesaurus, a book of quotations, and a dated copy of Writer’s Market. There’s also a stack of Great Books, for quick access to Thucydides’ History of the Peloponnesian War.

As a resident writer, I’d been given a special code to unlock the door to the Writers’ Room. (It was 007.) About twenty people had access, but not many other writers made use of it. My only regular co-occupant was an aspiring novelist named Victor. He was originally from Romania. He spoke with a thick accent and wore a patch over his right eye. Victor retired from a post as CEO of a computer company a few months before he joined me in the library. Retirement, he announced, freed him to pursue his dream of writing a saga about “the real Dracula, only fictional.”

“Dracula is my homeboy,” he told me the day he first turned up. Victor initially intended to write only one Dracula book, but so many ideas started swirling around his brain that he now foresees writing a series. At least six volumes in total, each running to around 100,000 words. He had asked to reserve a desk and a locker for the next five years. He was relieved when the library approved his request. In his first weeks as a novelist, spent out in the library’s Reading Room, Victor didn’t get much work done. “A guy sitting next to me would pass entire afternoons unrolling tobacco from cigarette butts,” he said. “He would just pile the filters into one big pyramid and the tobacco into a smaller pyramid.”

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is a freelance writer and the author, most recently, of This Love Is Not for Cowards.

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