Tuesday, September 13, 2011


I used to have an office all to myself. That’s where the first drafts of two novels were finished last year.

The space is in the basement, next to the furnace room. My feet rest on the newish concrete where the plumber jackhammered the floor and dug up the drain. There is clutter on the walls, on top of filing cabinets, and around the desk (I like it that way). A pair of sound deadening headphones is close by (helps me concentrate). The kids call this place my man cave. They used it to store stuff when they were in between houses. And it was the place where Shar (wife) stored stuff when her room upstairs overflowed. We’re at the stage in our lives where all that stuff we’ve accumulated over the years is slowly being given away, donated, thrown away. It’s either that, or it’ll push us out the door!

Grandkids Indy (three and one half) and Ella (13 months) are regulars this year. Their Mom (daughter Karma) is back to work.

Shar had a great idea to plan for this new reality. “Take that old table top, add some legs, put the playpen down there for Ella, and the table will be a desk for Indy. That way you can get some writing done.”

So, we made a visit to my Dad’s garage where all manner of scavenged wood lines the walls and fills the rafters. Legs were found and the table set up. An old rolled up rug covered the hole in the carpet where the plumber replaced the drainpipe. The plan looked like it might work. Ella sleeps, Indy works at his desk, and I work at mine.

And Indy loves to work at his new desk. Loves to pluck Batman and Spiderman stickers out of sticker books and stick them on blank paper until something takes shape. Loves to colour. He also loves my chair. I find myself using a rocking footstool and waiting for another chair to arrive.

When his Dad (Luke) came to pick him up, Indy said, “Come and see my office.”

That’s when I knew that the best-laid plans of this man were about to go in a whole `nother’ direction. Ella doesn’t sleep much during the day, and she isn’t the kind of girl who will be kept in the close confines of a playpen when she’s awake. Nor is she into compromise. Indy, however, has made a concession. It’s now called `our’ office.

I’m still finding time to write (this blog is evidence of that). Just not at the time I used to write. It’s spread out in a series of moments throughout the day and into the evening. As this is being finished off, Ella is playing with a fire engine and a toy that says, “Cow, Cow, Cow, Mooo.” And Indy is building a road while adding a running commentary. Check back with me in a year to see if I’m able to finish two more first drafts.

Garry Ryan taught for a little over thirty years in Calgary Public Schools.
His first published novel was Queen’s Park (2004). The second, The Lucky Elephant Restaurant (2006), won a 2007 Lambda Literary Award. A Hummingbird Dance (2008) and Smoked (2010) followed. Malabarista was released in September of 2011. In 2009, Ryan was awarded Calgary’s Freedom of Expression Award.


  1. Ah Garry! You remind me of my early comedy writing days...trying to write devastatingly clever lines with kids underfoot. Now it's just the Frankenpoodle underfoot. Sweet post.

  2. Hey, Garry! That room sure worked when you wrote Hummingbird Dance. I am reading it now, and loving it. I imagine there will be more cow cows in future books.