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How to curate a reading refuge

Updated: Oct 10, 2022

Together, you and I will create the world for my books. Chances are, you need an escape, a vacation, a refuge, so let's make your own personal magical world where you can get all three. It needn't be expensive or take forever; check out the cinder-block bookshelf in the photo to the right. Indeed, this hideaway can be something you build over time.

But first, a word on dreams. They're great, but they won't do any good unless you make them happen. There are three secrets a writer's life can teach you. The first? Magic is real. The second? You can have that just-returned-from Disneyworld feeling every day--but better. Here's the last secret: It takes work.

The first time you read this blog, just enjoy it, and let the thoughts start brewing. Then, the second time you read this blog, take notes of what you want to incorporate into your life. Make a list of what you want to incorporate into your life, and every week--or sooner, if you can manage--incorporate one of these hints into your life. Make sure you write down these goals into a planner, and follow through. If you're down or life is dull, this process likely will cheer you up. It might fire up your imagination, motivate you to achieve your dreams, and be fulfilling. At the very least, it will improve your life.

Let's start big and get small. The first item on your to-do list won't cost anything, and you can do it while driving your car or on public transport. Imagine what kind of space you need. Do you need privacy? Do you need to hide? Do you need romance? An exotic escape? If you need privacy, create a space in an attic or basement--anywhere kids or parents don't go, if you have them. If you need to hide, install curtains on a porch with climbing plants and a Moroccan screen where you can look out, but nobody can look in. If you need romance, create a cottage or castle space.

Let me know in the comments below if you'd like me to blog about how to do this. I've designed my entire home so it feels like a magical refuge. When I walk in, it looks, smells, and sounds like an enchanted world. Even though it's near a busy road, my home has thick carpets that muffle all outside noise.

Now, let's discuss making your dream space a reality. Years ago, I was a secret shopper assigned to visit an apartment complex. The apartment, itself, was boring--grey walls, carpet--but when you opened a door under the stairs, you glimpsed magic. Inside was a red floor cushion, yellow hanging lamp, plump plushies of a pig, bee, and bear, and a bookshelf bursting with bright, fun books. I wanted that reading area.

You, Virginia Woolf, also need a room of your own--indoor, outdoor, or both. Consider an unused closet, a hammock, a swinging chair, or even a tepee that you can line with luxurious cushions. Your big hint is to make this fortress nest wherever other people aren't. If you have kids, note where they don't go, as many kids consider any attic creepy.

I had a dream, never realized, of creating a village in my house's basement with a cobbled lane and cottage facades leading to rooms each family member could decorate to our liking. In the end, I bought a red, green, and orange Indian screen with tiny mirrors sewn into it and made a tiny room in the recreation room (because the kids didn't recreate there, but in their rooms).

Once you've got a spot, pick a theme, and list the items you'll need to decorate your nest. After (or while) you're collecting, visit a home decorating store (think HomeGoods or AtHome), where you'll certainly find treasure. If you're between paychecks, shop what you already have, and move that to your sanctuary. Many of us already have candles, lanterns, rugs, plants, or fairy lights (see above) that we can simply move into the new space. Perhaps you should plan this step for a week you're between paychecks. Another step for those broke weeks: Check out my playlist Music to Feel Magical By on my YouTube Channel at (9) Music to feel magical by - YouTube. Those songs are some of my personal favorites. If you have suggestions, please leave them below, and I'd be happy to add them to the playlist for other refuge seekers.

All these hints are helpful for anything I write, because I write to give you--and me--an escape. For example, when you read All Hail, Queen of the Freaks, you can enjoy a fancy bath or hot chocolate when the novel's heroine does. After all, aren't we all the queen--or king--of the freaks? Pay attention when the heroine visits her suite, and savor the rituals and celebrations she enjoys that adults downplay or dismiss.

Now let's get more specific. Here's a checklist for elements big and small, costly and cheap, that you can build into your reading sanctuary.

1. Go for the gold. Check out the photos in this post, with their downlighting and gold colors. You can visit the store and buy pricey "warm" lightbulbs, but you can get the same effect with gold furniture, lampshades, and/or lighting little lamps and candles throughout your home. I found some surprisingly cheap lampshades lined with gold, and I plan to put these lights and other cozy lights on timers so I don't have to work to manufacture this ambience every day.

2. Statements aren't just for jewelry. Buy a statement candle. Check out the clearance aisle at HomeGoods and Target, or scroll Amazon for luxury candles that have gone on sale.

3. You need a fireplace. What if your home doesn't have one? No problem! An electronic fireplace will do. If you don't have the space or cash for one, grab a candle with a wooden wick for a delicate but snuggly sound.

4. Glow up. I'm saving up for a Himalayan salt lamp. There's a reason that spas have these everywhere; they give off a peaceful, cozy glow.

5. Rugs upon rugs upon rugs. Just watch your step. Rugs are so pretty--why use just one? If you can't decide between two rugs, buy both and crisscross them. I try to cover every inch of bare floor with rugs. I live near a very busy highway, and it's a delight to find road noise more muffled with every rug I buy. Besides, an extra-cushiony step connotes comfort and abundance.

6. A spot for Snuggles--especially if Snuggles is the name of your animal companion. Depending on your personality, you might want to be alone, but like a Dutch cafe, adding a cat or dog amps up the coziness. So, add a pillow beside you.

7. Wall of sound. Don't forget the rest of your senses. Just because you can't hear the rest of the world doesn't mean you can't see it. While you read All Hail, Queen of the Freaks, listen to the book's sonic playlis