Every Wednesday, I feature a writer and his/her workspace.  My aim is to get to know fellow writers better through their workspace and writing habits, and have them  share some of their writing wisdom here.

Today, I am most eager to welcome Sci-Fi and Fantasy author Erin Hartshorn. 

Welcome, Erin!


Tell us a little bit about yourself. What do you do for a living? What genre do you love to write? What are some of your hobbies or interests? Do you have a hidden talent?

erin hartshorn

Sci Fi/ Fantasy Author Erin Hartshorn

I freelance for a living; I’ve had my own business since 2000, doing copyediting, indexing, and proofreading — primarily for publishers, although I’ve done some work for authors as well. For a number of years, I proofread a lot of travel books, which gave me quite a supply of plot bunnies to use in mix-and-match fashion!

I’m not a specialist, though. I’ve worked on everything from biographies to politics to gardening to wine. That lack of specialization spills over into my writing: I don’t confine myself to one genre. I’ve written a cozy mystery (and am working on the second in the series), paranormal romance, science fiction, fantasy, and middle grade fiction. I read all over the map, so it makes sense that I’m interested in writing all over it as well.

When I’m not writing, I still spend a lot of time creating — whether it’s something simple like baking bread or planting more daffodil bulbs, or more complex like knitting a cabled sweater for my son or working on a quilt for my in-laws. My newest pursuit is needle tatting. I’ve made a couple of bookmarks, and I’m working on some edging to use the next time I sew a dress for my daughter.

On Workspace

1.  Where do you do most of your writing?

I do most of my writing at the computer, although I like brainstorming on paper so always have a notebook nearby to jot down ideas and thoughts. Also, my husband gave me an iPad Mini for Christmas, so I now do some short story work on there, especially on weekends when I try to stay off the actual computer. (I’m eagerly awaiting the Scrivener app for iPad so I can easily work on longer projects. I know there’s a way to sync from Plain Text to Scrivener, but I’m too lazy to figure it out.)

Erins desk

 Erin’s workspace


2.  Where did you get your desk?  How did you go about arranging your work area?

We got this computer desk at a furniture outlet. When we were figuring out where to put it, the prime requirements were no glare on the computer screen and not feeling boxed in (in a corner). It sits between the large front window (which means it feels very open) and the stairs with the front door.

3.  What are some important things on your desk?  Are there specific things you need to have around you as you work?

Things I like to have on my desk: a cup of tea (vital!), notepaper and pen, and a dictionary.


4.  What do you love most about your workspace? Do you have any favorite objects on your desk, or things you use often?

I love the window, which lets in lots of light (but no glare on the screen) and lets me see the world at large. It’s also good for giving my eyes a break from staring at the computer monitor all day. Right outside in the front yard is our dogwood tree. In spring, it’s covered with flowers. In the fall, red berries fill the branches (and birds get drunk and smash into the window). This year, we put up a bird feeder that my son made, and we have cardinals and chickadees that visit somewhat regularly.

view outsideThe Bird Feeder 


5. What’s your writing beverage?  What do you love to drink while you’re writing?

Tea, tea, and more tea. Black tea first thing in the morning. Sometimes I’ll switch to oolong or jasmine green tea for late morning and early afternoon. Almost always decaf black tea for the afternoon and evening.

On Writing

1. Who is your favorite author?  Who inspired you to write?

I have a lot of favorites. The first ever author who inspired me to say, “I want to do that, too” was Georgette Heyer. Since then, the number of authors in different genres is too large to readily count.


2. What’s your typical day as a writer like?  Do you have any writing related rituals or quirks?

I don’t really have a typical day. In theory, I put in half an hour to an hour on writing when I sit down at the computer before opening my e-mail or anything else. Actual practice depends on things like whether I’m currently negotiating with clients for new projects, whether I have an impending deadline, and even whether my kids have the day off from school.


3.  Do you write everyday?  How many hours a day do you spend writing?  What are some of your worst writing distractions?

I don’t write every day. I don’t even write every week, although I know that it’s easier to keep writing than to start writing. When I write, time can vary from half an hour sneaked in before jumping into my freelance work for the day to thirteen hours (or more) when I’m nearing the end of a project and I really want to see it completed.

My worst writing distractions? The usual — Facebook, Twitter, writing forums, blogs. The absolute worst is probably Match-3 style games, like Bejeweled Blitz and Fitz.


4. Why do you write?

I write because I have these stories in my head I want to share. I write because it’s one of the ways I create.  write to try to give others hope, to give them new and interesting places to escape to in their imagination, and to maybe give them a smile or two.

5. Any writing tips or techniques or words of wisdom you want to share with us?  How about a favorite writing quote?

The best way to have a completed project is to keep working. And the only way to have something published is to keep going despite rejections. One of my favorite quotes is from Michael Jordan: “I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life and that is why I succeed.”




Thanks Erin, for giving us a glimpse into your writing life.

Wednesday Writer’s Workspace is an ongoing series, and if you’re interested in being featured here, simply leave me a message in the comment box, and I’ll be sure to email you.


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96 Responses to “Wednesday Writer’s Workspace Welcomes Erin Hartshorn”

  1. Shelly says:

    Wow! She does a lot of different things with her hands.

    Hugs and chocolate,

  2. Loved learning about Erin. Interesting that she doesn’t write all the time.

  3. Misha says:

    Great answers. I agree that the only way to finish projects is by working at it until it’s done.

    • Erin says:

      Thank you, Misha. I don’t always work straight through — I might go back to pick up a short story I started a year or two back, for example — but if I just plain stop, it’ll never get done.

  4. […] Wednesday Writer’s Workspace Welcomes Erin Hartshorn […]

  5. The internet is always good for providing distractions for writers :)

  6. Cozy workspace that seems to invite writing. Loved the birdhouse in the wintry tree.

    • Erin says:

      Thank you! Unfortunately, a storm broke the bird feeder, so we need to replace it — probably this weekend, as the cardinals keep looking for a morning snack!

  7. Pat Hatt says:

    When I write I yank out the internet cord. Then no distractions can be had, except for the cat haha

  8. Fun interview. I’m always interested in how people organize their writing spaces. Mine’s a mess right now. When things settle down, I’m going to clean!

  9. ML Swift says:

    Hey Nutschell!

    Seems like I’ve been under the weather since 2012 and have been rather lax on my visiting. Love your Wednesday Workspaces. Unfortunately, after reading them, I look around and see my messy workspace…so messy that my new space is my bed.

    It’s very nice to “meet” you, Erin. I’m not one who writes first thing…I need too many cups of coffee and an electroshock to kick it in gear, so my emails and no-brainer stuff come first.

    You’ve reminded me that it’s time to hang my hummingbird feeder.

    • Erin says:

      It’s nice to “meet” you, too.

      I’ve only seen one hummingbird since we moved to Pennsylvania, but maybe if I hung a feeder for them, I’d see more.

  10. Talli Roland says:

    Great interview, ladies! I love getting a look at other writers’ desks!

    • Erin says:

      Thanks! I’ve been thinking I’d like to try a sit/stand convertible desk (they say sitting all day decreases lifespan), but that’s going to take a bit of rearranging the furniture to manage.

  11. shell flower says:

    Great interview! My mom absolutely loves Georgette Heyer, so it’s nice to hear she was your inspiration, Erin. Thanks for the rejection advice, too!

    • Erin says:

      Georgette Heyer is wonderful! My mom has been buying re-releases of all the books so she has some that aren’t quite so dog-eared.

      The thing about rejection is that it’s one person’s opinion at one point in time. One of my stories (“Matchmaker,” published by Clarkesworld Magazine) had 13 rejections before it was accepted. Some days, it’s hard to keep going, but perseverance is what makes the difference.

  12. Meradeth says:

    Wonderful interview! I love getting to see where other authors work and how they create!

  13. tcavey says:

    Erin, you sound very dynamic and creative. I bet your books are fascinating.

  14. Jamie says:

    Agreed – tea is the lifeblood of any author … unless it’s first thing in the morning, in which case a swift dose of caffeine is in order.

    Jamie @ Mithril Wisdom

  15. That’s something I need to learn – writing before I check emails and Facebook!

  16. mooderino says:

    As a Brit I fully endorse the tea drinking.

  17. Ah tea! What a great beverage to work with. Love the birdfeeder from the window too.

    • Erin says:

      Thanks! I’d been wanting a bird feeder for a while, so when my son made one, I was happy to hang it up. The next one will be somewhat more sturdy, I think.

  18. Nas says:

    Great interview, thanks for sharing! I love reading writers processes.

    All the best!

  19. Interesting insight into another writer’s style. Thanks

  20. Like that quote from Michael Jordan and the view of the tree. I imagine the birds flying into the window can be startling. It’s my dream to be able to write full time. Hopefully, some day…

    • Erin says:

      Thanks. The birds can be a bit crazy. During migration season, flocks of blackbirds make me look up in wonder as they streak by, and sometimes the local murder of crows provides its own distractions.

      Keep working at the dream!

  21. VR Barkowski says:

    Great interview. It’s fascinating to learn how other writers work. From Georgette Heyer to SciFi and fantasy? Wow, Erin, that is quite a journey!

    • Erin says:

      Thank you. In truth, I’ve always read widely — while reading Georgette Heyer, I was also reading Isaac Asimov and Agatha Christie.

  22. Jemi Fraser says:

    Great post! Lots of interesting tidbits – I’m a tea fan too, although my fave is Chai. LOVE that MJ quote – I’ve used it often in my classroom. He’s got a short commercial based on it too that is fantastic! :)

  23. Brainstorming always works better for me on paper, but I always end up losing them.

    • Erin says:

      If you have a digital camera, take pictures of your brainstorming and upload them to Evernote — it has character recognition that will make your notes searchable.

  24. Thirteen hours or more? Sounds like my days, especially when I am working on a book formatting job.

    Nice to meet you, Erin.

  25. LGSmith says:

    Gotta have a window while writing — preferably with good visual space for daydreaming. All that time staring at the computer screen isn’t healthy for us.

  26. Jay Noel says:

    I’m a fellow Scrivener writer. I imported a 400 page manuscript in .doc into Scrivener. Not too bad. Had to break each chapter up manually into folders. But it really helped me moving stuff around.

  27. I love that Michael Jordan quote.

    Wow, you must be knowledgeable about all kinds of places based on all the travel books you’ve edited. 😀

    • Erin says:

      Well, I know a little bit about a lot of places. If I ever become a bestselling author, I’d lie to visit all these places I’ve only read about.

  28. Mary Pax says:

    Happy Wednesday, Shell!

    Great to meet you, Erin. I’d love to look out at a birdfeeder, but then I’d probably get less work done. :)

  29. Great interview! That’s a lovely view watching the birds. I face a wall so I don’t get distracted!

    • Erin says:

      Thanks! I think if I faced a wall,I’d find myself getting up and walking around a lot more often (which would have its own benefits)!

  30. One day I hope to graduate to a desk!

    Nice interview!

  31. Nick Wilford says:

    Erin sounds very creative! Id love to have my own writing space – one day…

  32. Jodie says:

    Interesting interview and cool desk setup. I really like the idea of being able to look out the window at the little birdhouse in the tree :)

    I want to preface that I’m an animator, not a writer. So this could be a stupid question. I just know the person who puts words on a page is the writer, then there are various other jobs needed to make the books I read :)

    “copyediting, indexing, and proofreading” So this makes you an editor in addition to being writer? I know what proofreading is but I don’t know what the other two are, but I assume maybe an editor does this. Yes?


    • Erin says:

      Not a stupid question at all!

      Editing, broadly speaking, is any changes to the original piece to create a finished product — I’m sure that function exists in animation and film, too. Generally, though, people whose job description is just “editor” tend to have more high-level function — acquisition, contracts, assigning people to work on books, and probably some developmental editing.

      Developmental editing is when you look at a book or story and rearrange the pieces, see what’s missing, think about how to make things resonate better, take out the scene that’s beautiful but doesn’t add to the story, and generally reshape the structure. Some freelance editors offer this service as well.

      Copyediting is more nuts-and-bolts, and the scope of the work depends on the client. It can be as simple as making usage consistent through a book (so you don’t use “website” in one chapter and “Web site” in another, or change the color of the heroine’s eyes) and making sure it conforms to house style in terms of everything from serial commas to subheadings — or it can include making sure styles for headings, body text, titles, running heads, and so forth are applied correctly. It always includes reading for sense and querying if something might be unclear. Most copyediting is done by freelancers hired by publishers, although some is still done in house.

      Indexing is the creation of indexes, such as you find in the back of textbooks, cookbooks, gardening books — in fact, most nonfiction texts. Many indexers will have a special area of expertise, such as physics, computers, or travel. (I’ve done a wide range, including everything from wine books to biographies to neurogenetics.) Editors may edit indexes for length and consistency, and in a pinch, they might create an index, but this isn’t one of their areas of expertise.

      Proofreading isn’t precisely what most people think of — checking for misspellings and the like, although that is becoming more common. Historically, page proofs were compared against original manuscript copy to make sure there haven’t been inadvertent additions or deletions during the typesetting process, but with computer files, this is only needed for new editions where different files may be spliced together. Proofreaders also check to make sure all the various parts — everything from sidebars to chapter titles — are styled correctly and the font doesn’t hange nexplicabl in the middle of a sentence. Proofreaders are a mix of freelance and in-house workers in the editorial or production department.

      Hope that answered your question!

      • Jodie says:

        Oh yeah, we have editors in animation and film. An editor has a lot of creative control in film. The editor along with the director takes hours of footage called coverage and narrows it down to an hour and a half or however long it may be to tell the story they want to tell. I guess sort of akin to the developemental editor in writing. This type of work for animation is done before animation is even started, in the form of simple drawings called storyboards which can be easily changed to figure out story problems. You can make changes in animation, but as far more drawings have to be done for this phase, it’s much more costly for major changes. Anyways, all the creative decisions have largely been made by the time the editor’s job begins in animation. In animation, an editor’s job is largely to assemble the finished scenes sequentially or be yelled at for not being able to follow simple directions :) No, they contribute to production but their roles are not like their live action counterparts. It’s a simpler role. And for mistakes and consistency there are various people during production to check for errors and oversights as they inevitably pop up. The goal is to always make the finished film done by many artists look as if it was drawn by one hand :)

        Well thanks so much for answering! It’s a good and clear explanation :) I didn’t know there were so many types of editors! I thought I knew what a proofreader was but I didn’t…but I know now :) I never even considered that specialized people would have to write indexes! But I’m looking at a biography on Einstein right now, well someone would have to figure out on what page information is on and also figure out what alphabetical words to use in the index. I never gave it much thought when I looked in the index. Well, know when I use the index to find something in a book, I’ll remember that a indexer did this :)

        Well, you’ve answered more than enough so you don’t have to answer this but I have one more question. Why doesn’t the writer do the job of the developmental editor? Seems like that kind of editor has a lot of control over the writer’s work. Rearranging the story, seeing what’s missing, making sections resonate, etc. Is this common for writers? Thanks!

        • Erin says:

          Thanks so much for the description of how editing works in film and animation, and how those are different! 😀

          In nonfiction, developmental editors get used because the writer may know all the material but have no idea of the best or clearest way to present it to a non-specialized audience. You know how sometimes a person will talk about what they do and use lots of specialized terms, or skip a bunch of background, because they forget that not everyone knows that stuff? Developmental editors are really useful for avoiding that.

          In fiction, yes, the writer should be at ht level of control, but sometimes she (or he) doesn’t recognize a gap in the story because its so clear in her head. The developmental editor’s goal is to help the writer match the book that is written more closely to the story as it exists in her head — and the changes aren’t made without the author. Usually, they’re presented as a list (or an editorial letter — where, oddly enough, the shorter it is, the harder it is), and the author goes through and thinks about each item an discusses it with the editor — the reason behind it, why she did it her way originally, maybe other ways to make the change that are closer to her original intent — before actually making any edits.

          • Jodie says:

            Cool, thanks for answering all of my questions :) It’s cool to learn about all the people that make a book possible. Seems like there’s a lot of unsung heroes in literature I had no idea existed. Though I suppose it’s easier for the public like me to remember the name of the author, and if not that, at least the name of the book.:)

  33. Ciara Knight says:

    Nice to meet you, Erin. I tend to write where I happen to be at the moment.

  34. Julie says:

    Glad to meet you Erin. You have a lovely view, and now I’ll be on the lookout for the Scrivener app. Of course I’ll probably need a village to help me figure out how to use it. Thanks for the terrific interview Nutschell!

  35. mshatch says:

    great interview and what a view Erin has! The Dogwood is a beautiful tree.

    • Erin says:

      Thank you! Yes, I love the dogwood. My husband thinks we ought to add a few more, make a little grove of them, and I think that will wind up being gorgeous, especially in blooming season!

  36. Jeff Hargett says:

    A most cool every-Wednesday feature.

  37. LD Masterson says:

    Very nice interview. Thank you both.

  38. I love your writing space, Erin. Great interview.

  39. Miranda Hardy says:

    I’m a tea drinker, too. Lovely to meet you and thank you for sharing your space with us, as well as your knowledge.

    • Erin says:

      Always charmed to meet another tea drinker! Do you have a favorite type?

      It was my pleasure, and Nutschell has been a very gracious hostess.

  40. I must have a mug of coffee. Your work space resembles mine!

  41. tara tyler says:

    needle tatting? sounds like getting ink done!
    i used to love cross stitching… maybe i will again, in my spare time, someday…
    and every writer should have a desk near a window! pretty tree, even when its bare!

    • Erin says:

      Thanks! Yes, I love the tree.

      When I first started taking the tatting class, I had to tell several people “Lace-making, not ink!” I’ve seen some gorgeous work with wire for earrings, but I don’t know if I’m ready to try working with something quite that fine yet.

      I’ve done both cross-stitch and needlepoint in the past, but I prefer the kits that have the design stamped on the canvas to counting the stitches.

  42. Julie Luek says:

    Fun interview– I love seeing the writing spaces, for some reason. It’s like being a voyeur with permission! Erin, I love tea too — although my choice is green mint, and I always have a cup (usually gone cold) on my desk. And I also love creating, whether it be baking or music. :) Thanks for sharing!

    • Erin says:

      I’m also prone to letting my tea grow cold while I work. I usually only drink mint when in Moroccan restaurants or when my stomach’s upset, though.

      Hooray for creating!

  43. Elisa says:

    That was a wonderful interview! I love the quote at the end too, very inspirational. I keep flirting with the idea of writing but I need to stop being coy and just do it. I think I need to work on removing all the books and clutter from my desk. (see procrastination!) :)

  44. Laura Eno says:

    Hi, Erin! It’s nice learning a bit more about you here. Nutschell’s questions draw out different aspects which hadn’t come to light before. Here’s to tea drinkers!

  45. Twitter is my addiction too Erin. An insightful interview as always Nutschel.

  46. Emilyann says:

    Great work-space Erin. I am also a tea drinker, but I sway more toward super sweet tea. I love your words about why you write. I always think that question is such an interesting one. It falls in line with “why do I love, breathe or exist?” haha. Loved your answer.

    Thank you for sharing the great interview Nutschel :)

    • Erin says:

      Thank you, Emilyann. I must admit, I’ve never cared for sugar in my tea, and I only add honey to lemon tea when I have a sore throat.

      Maybe I should add that bit about why I write to my About Me page (with a link here for those who want to read more).

  47. Nice to see Erin’s writing space. Natural light and a view of a bird feeder are definitely inspirational.

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