Inhabiting Our Work Spaces

By Domenica Di Piazza, Editorial Director, TFCB

I love the Guardian’s “Writers’ Rooms” online series. It’s a great collection of photos and short notes about the spaces in which writers work.

Inspired by the series, I created the “TFCB Writers’ and Editors’ Rooms” photo essay below.

Let’s start with my work space at the Lerner office building. It’s in an old warehouse (think Edward Hopper), and I’m lucky to have an office with a big window. (Note the exercise ball, which I use as a chair to help with the hazards of the editorial life; see my post from last Tuesday.)

work office 1

My work space at home looks like this. The table is from my mother, the desk is from her grandmother, and the chair is inherited from a friend, who bought it in the 1940s.

home office horizontal 2

Below is author Catherine Gourley’s desk—and just as important, her cat Buddy. For TFCB, Cathy has written the star-reviewed Images and Issues of Women in the Twentieth Century series as well as The Horrors of Andersonville, a new TFCB book about life and death in a Confederate POW camp in Georgia.

cathy gourley desk

Below is Christine Zuchora-Walske’s work space. She edits and writes for TFCB. Her most recent authored work for TFCB is Internet Censorship in our USA TODAY’s Debate series. I love Christine’s Swear Jar in the right corner. (Her son’s idea.)

CZWs work space

This is Francesca Davis Di Piazza’s work space. Note the vintage Eero Saarinen tulip chair. A garage sale steal at $20.00! Francesca is one of our star VGS authors (her Zimbabwe in Pictures was a Society of School Librarians International [SSLI] Honor Book in 2005), and she has some exciting TFCB and Lerner imprint projects in the works right now. And yes, we’re related. She’s my sister.

FDPs room use this one

TFCB author Stuart Kallen works out of the space below. He lives in California and taunts me with emailed descriptions of the scent of flowering jasmine and orange that wafts into his study. He’s also a performing musician, thus the guitar. Stuart’s most recent TFCB title is The Aftermath of the Sandinista Revolution, and he has several exciting projects in the works for future seasons with us.

Stuart K office

Alison Behnke writes and edits all kinds of books for Lerner Publishing Group. Among her many TFCB titles are Italy in Pictures, Jack Kerouac, and Kim Jong Il’s North Korea. To make her happy in her work space (below), she says she needs a cup of tea or coffee, music, and reminders of Rome (her favorite city) and of singer/songwriter Morrissey.

alison's desk smaller (2)

And here is the office of science writer Fred Bortz. I love the framed dust jacket (center left) of Catastrophe! Great Engineering Failure–And Success (W.H. Freeman, Scientific American Books for Young Readers, 1995). It was one of nine books designated a “Selector’s Choice” on the 1996 NSTA-CBC list of Outstanding Trade Books for Children. For TFCB, Fred has written Seven Wonders of Exploration Technology in our Seven Wonders series, not to mention Astrobiology in the Lerner imprint series Cool Science.

fred's office

This is Peg Goldstein’s work space. Peg is a big W.C. Fields/Mae West fan (see them on the screensaver?). The first non-Lerner person to correctly identify the name of the movie from which Peg’s screensaver is pulled will receive a free copy of Peg’s favorite authored work with TFCB, America in the 1920s. (She co-authored this Decades book with Edmund Lindop.)

Peg's office

And finally (for now), here is the study of author/editor Deborah Kops. Notice Elsie, Deborah’s Portuguese water dog? For TFCB, Deborah has written Palenque and Machu Picchu in our beautiful Unearthing Ancient Worlds series.

deborah kops desk with Elsie

Wasn’t that fun? Don’t forget to check in next week for more from TFCB!

(Photos: courtesy of the authors and editors themselves)

8 thoughts on “Inhabiting Our Work Spaces

  1. ekariniemi

    Thrilled to see Eero Saarinen furniture featured, and recognized too. Great taste! I have some at home just to make it homey (Finnish), but apparently I haven't been garage saling vigorously enough to find a seller who does not see the value of design, a rare find indeed.

  2. Fred Bortz

    Hi, Domenica.

    You didn't have room to mention everything, so I have to point out one other TFCB bragging point. The Windsor chair was one of my prizes for the 2002 American Institute of Physics Science Writing Award for works intended for young readers. The prize-winning book, displayed on the chair with my certificate, was Techno-Matter: The Materials Behind the Marvels (TFCB, 2001). It also made the LA 100 and the NY Public Library Books for the Teen Age list, and was designated the best YA science book of the year by the Society of School Librarians International. The cash award is spent, but the glory remains 🙂

    Fred Bortz

  3. Jane Lindaman

    Good morning,

    Your posting prompts me to send you a 'book report' I wrote because the book captured me. Based on your photographs, I think you will like it too.

    The Writer’s Desk
    By Jill Krementz

    I love this book. While it would be presumptuous of me to consider the depicted authors my peers, I sorely wanted to find snippets of myself in the pages. We writers all have our quirks about our space and process, but are we really that much different from one another?

    The book was published in 1996, but the black and white photos portray different times with manual typewriters, rotary phones, Dictaphones, new-fangled computers, the youthful faces of some just beginning and the wizened faces of those nearing the ends of their careers.

    Some of the settings may be a bit contrived; others not at all. There are bare feet, cigarettes, pets, pajamas, suits and ties, disheveled hair, stacks of books and papers both neat and precarious. Yes, some of those same things are props for my writing.

    The text alongside is wonderfully enlightening. Dorothy West talks about asking permission as a young child to close her bedroom door so she could think. A few years later, she asked if she might lock her door so she could write. I think I knew at her age that I wanted to be a writer, but I didn’t have the courage to ask for permission to do just that.

    Jean Piaget was the master of mess. Only one paper was ever lost and probably because it wasn’t good anyway. He rewrote it. In my experience, a computer crash handed me the ultimate revision. Trite but true, it was a sinking feeling. I don’t recall thinking I’d been relieved of particularly bad writing. Fortunately, hard copies of the good stuff were filed away.

    Poet, Pablo Neruda, had to return to longhand for a few months when a broken finger prevented him from typing. He was reminded of the intimacy of writing in longhand. For me, longhand is the warm up leading to the need for speed that typing allows when the words need to fly to the page (screen).

    Thornton Wilder admitted to drinking a great deal but gave it no credit for his writing. He did give credit to long walks as springboards. Indeed, thanks to cell phones, a few idea messages to home have been called in from long walks. No comment on my drinking habits.

    Fifty-plus photos are framed in the pages of this ‘photo album’. They fed well the voyeur in me. It’s soon due back to the Springfield Public Library. I don’t think I’m finished with it. Renew or not to renew. Sometimes when you love a book, it’s impossible to share.

  4. Kerry Maguire

    That looks like a scene from My Little Chickadee (1940) on Peg's screensaver. I hope I'm correct… I'd love to have a copy of “America in the 1920s”! (:^D)

  5. Domenica Di Piazza

    Yes, Kerry, you're right. It is from “My Little Chicadee,” so you're the winner! Congratulations. Please email me at and provide your mailing address so I can get your free book in the mail. Thanks!

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