An author shares his workspace


I write from my office.

It’s more the idea of ​​an office than a real office, a place where I go to dream. The room I stumble towards every morning after the alarm goes off at 5. It’s nothing more than a separate space in our unfinished basement. Photos hang from the exposed uprights – a faded Polaroid of Charles Portis, wedged between John Coltrane and Larry Brown. There are also books stacked in the studs: the 42 novels by Elmore Leonard. A comprehensive collection of short stories from Flannery O’Connor. Ernest Hemingway. William Faulkner. Toni Morrison, Eudora Welty and many more.

All the old ghosts are gathered here, while the living sleep above me.

The children will be up in two hours. Perhaps less. I can already hear my wife stirring. However, I never look at the clock. I don’t have to; my window shows the time.

There is a lake there and a mountain; the sun rises above the water. Add Lake Dardanelle, Mount Nebo and the new “True Grit Trail” – and you can start to see the view.

There are bald eagles and great blue herons, as well as an occasional river otter. They join me in my office, accompanied by a dog in a red leather chair and a black cat on my lap. Everyone participates in the morning ritual. Birds are a source of inspiration. The dog likes to swim with me when my two hours are up. And the cat… well, the cat does what it wants.

It’s a pretty good setup. I’ll be the first to admit it, but things haven’t always been so pleasant.

I wrote from the back of school buses, a coach’s office in Morrilton, a classroom in Russellville, a condo in Pensacola – every sentence, every word, written in the hope that one day I would be here.

I thought a lot about this place, reconstructing a memory, one hero at a time. My office serves as a gateway to new worlds, realms that I create. Most mornings it works. My characters come to life with the sun and dance until little feet vibrate the beams above me. Sometimes the characters like to sleep.

This column is my attempt to transcribe all the mornings that make up this new journey that I am undertaking, the one I have always dreamed of, the life of a novelist.

The dream first came to me in college, when I was playing quarterback for Ouachita Baptist University and met a professor named Johnny Wink. From there, the dream flew overseas to play a season in Sweden. He got lost when I came back, hibernating while trying my hand at coaching high school football.

When I finally hung up my whistle, I poured the same energy and discipline into writing fiction as I did into my sports career. This is where the morning routine began. Two children, a wife and six years later, the dream has come true.

My first novel, “Don’t Know Tough”, came out in March. The story centers on an Arkansas high school football team and the murder that threatens to tear their town apart. Much like mixed martial arts fighter Bryce Mitchell’s famous quote – “Every time you put a mic in my face, I’m gonna say Arkansas!” — The natural state also occupies an important place in my work.

I was born in the Delta and grew up in the Valley. My parents moved our family from Forrest City to Russellville when I was 4 years old. I’ve since lived as far away as South Florida and Sweden, but there’s nothing like home.

And that’s what this column looks like, a return to basics.

Charles Portis was a columnist for the Arkansas Gazette. I sent “Buddy” a copy of a short story that would become the first chapter of “Don’t Know Tough” in 2017. His brother Jonathan read it to him. They wrote back to me and this letter hangs in my office, just above where I am sitting now.

In future columns, I plan to give you insight into the life of a novelist. I head to Jackson, Baton Rouge, and Little Rock in the fall for their respective book festivals. In the spring, I’ll be taking you on tour for my second novel, “Ozark Dogs.” The columns in between will be written from here, this magical space I call my office, where I’ve always wanted to be.

Although I enjoy the view and my furry companions, writing is still a solitary endeavor. I do hope you will join me.

Eli Cranor is an author from Arkansas whose debut novel, “Don’t Know Tough,” is available wherever books are sold. He can be reached via the “Contact” page at the address and found on Twitter @elicranor.


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