Jason Gurley

By day, I'm a user experience designer; by evenings/weekends, I write novels from my home in Scappoose, Ore. My newest is Awake in the World, published February 2019 by Roaring Brook Press; my previous novel, Eleanor, was published by Crown in 2016 and has since been translated into German, Portuguese, and Turkish. I’m currently working on a new project.

Sugar shacks and coffee shops

Today I celebrated the release of my short story collection, Deep Breath Hold Tight, with a few hours in a dentist's chair. It seemed like such a great way to commemorate the occasion that I promptly scheduled my next visit – wisdom teeth extraction! – for June 27. 

Know what else happens on June 27? 

Eleanor is released. 

At some point, I'm going to run out of teeth for my dentist to do things with if I keep this up. Maybe to commemorate my twentieth book, you'll find me in the dental chair, having my teeth replaced with marshmallows. 

I'm fairly exhausted. It's almost eleven p.m., and I'd planned on going to bed early tonight. (Our daughter has had a few rough nights, so we've been up at all hours with her.) But it's hot inside our house, and I've got some book covers to deliver, and I also have a stack of edits for Eleanor that I need to work on. Except I'm not doing any of that stuff, and not just because it's hot and I'm tired. It is, and I am, but those aren't the reasons. 

I'm still awake because I'm thinking about yurts. 

Backing up: For as long as I can remember, I have wanted to write books. (I don't necessarily want or need to write books for a living. Just writing them and knowing they're read and enjoyed is usually more than enough.) Part of my fascination with the idea of writing books has always been the life of the authors who write books. I like to know who they are, and what they've done, and whether they feel real or assembled in a factory somewhere. But more than that, I've always been curious about their writing spaces, ever since I turned over a Stephen King novel and saw a photograph of the author reclined at his writing desk in his home office. 

It probably wasn't that photo above. In fact, I'm fairly sure that it wasn't that photo at all, but I can't seem to find the one I remember. It doesn't matter that much, so I won't spend more time looking for it.

But while we're on the subject of Stephen King, don't you think I should have a sweater like this to wear when I someday maybe do book signing events? 

Over the years I've read about authors and their writing spaces, and seen countless photos of where they work. There are inauspicious ones, like King's cluttered, cramped office above (and even more inauspicious ones in King's own history – he often wrote in the laundry room of their trailer when he was a young husband and father), and there are grand ones (I imagine, though I can't remember ever seeing any). Most writing spaces are not overly tidy, it seems. They feel lived-in, and are sometimes located in the strangest or most inaccessible rooms of the authors' houses – attics, mud rooms, guest bedrooms, basements, odd-shaped rooms beneath staircases – as if the weirdness of the space is an attraction, not a detriment. (Though I'm sure many writers end up in odd, otherwise useless rooms simply because the rest of the house is being used for, you know, real stuff.)

My favorites of these writing spaces, though, have always been the ones separated from the authors' homes. Backyard sheds, old barns. Russell Banks writes in a renovated sugar shack that's over a century old, and is a thousand-yard walk from his home, through woods and fields. Michael Chabon has a little cottage in the backyard of his home in Berkeley. And I truly love Michael Pollan's writing space, a small 'writing house' that he built himself, despite never having built anything before

But I want a yurt. 

I'm hard-pressed to recall what the first yurt I ever saw was. I haven't seen many, and I've never been in one. I've seen them now and then in movies. They look wonderful, these circular, ostensibly-temporary huts, with their canvas tops and hardwood floors. Don't they? Look at this thing:

I mean, I would want one without the kid hanging around in front of it. I wonder if he's an optional feature. Anyway, sometimes they look like this inside:

Or like this:

Or this:

At the moment, I don't really have a writing space. In our house, there's a third bedroom that my wife and I share. It's essentially split down the middle, with my drawing table and bookshelves and Iron Giant statue and various posters and things on one side, and her childhood desk and spinning wheels and blocked sweaters on the other. But neither of us uses it, really. It's too hot, the wi-fi sucks up there, the neighbor kids are loud and their voices carry right into that room... These days I do most of my writing in the rocking chair, or at a coffee shop, or even in my Jeep, when I have a couple of minutes to steal. 

But I dream of yurts. And that's really the only reason for this blog post today. 


Well, one yurt. Which I don't own yet, and likely never will. (After all, the ice sheets are irrevocably melting now, and why buy a yurt that's just going to be underwater in eighty or ninety years?)

Yurts, man. 

Just say the name. Say it a few times. Wikipedia says the name comes from "Turkic word referring to the imprint left in the ground by a moved yurt, and by extension, sometimes a person's homeland, kinsmen, or feudal appanage."

Two things about that: One, I love that the word yurt describes the smashed earth created by a yurt. That's a very chicken-and-egg thing, very meta. I love it. And two, I misread 'feudal appanage' as 'feudal appendage', which sounds much more interesting.

Yurts. Yurts.


The Eleanor Sketches

Eleanor is available for preorder!