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My Studio: Dennis Cooley

My studio is a spacious new room in our cottage looking out onto a large back yard. The family spends a lot of their summers here. Me too. For years after we bought the cottage from Dorothy Livesay in 1980 I stayed for weeks there quietly by myself.

The place was fairly rustic when we arrived—a wood stove, a shabby storage shed, a woodshed, a pair of severely wounded saw horses, a back porch that had been shakily added. The buildings were all named, evidently by earlier occupants with attachments to Nova Scotia (and, remnants inside the cottage would suggest, to the German language). A blue-lettered sign on a quaint outbuilding indicated it was called "The Fundy." The main building, a lovely cottage with high open beams and cedar walls, was called "The Bluenose." Even the outhouse resisted anonymity. In a corner of the big yard it nestled among trees and inside a sign whose blue letters said "Dilly Dally."

We moved in and I coaxed the yard into a full flush of birds and chlorophyll with a sprinkler I ran from a well we punched in as soon as we could.

It was a good place to bounce back from long jammed winters at the University of Manitoba. There were few neighbours and fewer distractions, other than David Arnason, who would arrive with his beer and intelligence and humour to entertain and inspire me. I lead an almost idyllic life. The yard was crowded with trees and shrubs and birds and sunlight and I spent hours sitting on the deck feeding the squirrels and the chipmunks, daydreaming, making notes, reading and writing. Sometimes, at night or when the sun got the better of me, I would hunch with a coffee over a small table that Dorothy had left behind, paper spread around me. In it we found some letterhead that Dorothy had inscribed "Live Oaks."

I composed everything by hand in those days, then typed it out. A few years later, once I got one of the earliest portable computers, I used it full time. Now I have access to the Internet and I'm able to do a lot of sleuthing right there for what I am working on. It was a paradise for a writer in the 1980s, and still is.

The sun and the green and the creatures and the words go on.

These days the cottage is alive with family so I don't do quite as much writing there. Most of it happens in town in a comfortable space where I am buried beneath books and files—something you might call a studio, though it probably would be better to call it a study. So, no studio anywhere really. But the cottage in midst of that green and shining world continues to be a place where I find the chance to daydream over the writing.

Turnstone Press

206-100 Arthur Street
Winnipeg, MB   R3B 1H3
CANADA
 
Ph: 204-947-1555; Toll Free: 888-363-7718

Turnstone Press acknowledges the support of the Canada Council for the Arts, the Manitoba Arts Council, the Government of Canada, and the Province of Manitoba through Manitoba Sport, Culture and Heritage.

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