Living in New York, trying to write a novel, the library become my sacred space. In the mornings, I would pack my bookbag like I was going to the office and set off for the soothing hum of the library. Since I was young, I’ve been drawn to the library’s atmosphere. The sweet, musky smell of handled pages, the quiet organization, the pleasure of being surrounded by fellow readers, absorbed in new worlds. The library has always primed my brain for prolonged concentration, for challenging myself, hour by hour, to be present in whatever I am doing. There is no pressure at the library to buy another cup of coffee, or to make my seat available for someone who will. It is the only place I know that is not transactional. Audaciously, there is nothing to buy at the library—the chairs, the books, the calm is all free—and it was a singular, liberating feeling that I was welcome to stay and write for as long as I pleased.
I wrote both my novels at my neighborhood library: Columbia’s Butler Library, then the New York Public Library in Morningside Heights, then the Brooklyn Public Library in Clinton Hill. I had a spot in each building, near an outlet and the bathroom, with a good view of who was coming and going. Whenever I needed a break, which was often, I went to the stacks. I’d stretch my legs along the aisles, find a book to peruse standing up, and read until I hit a sentence so good, I found energy to write again. That this was all free—was mine to return to again and again—brought extraordinary peace. It gave me the nourishing, elusive gift of steady routine that was essential to my becoming a writer.
The first time I saw a copy of my own book, feet away from where I’d written it, I felt a disbelief that caused a small tear in my universe. I could not work in the library that day, for fear of exploding with happiness. My second novel, Kaleidoscope, is about a young woman searching for a place for herself, both within the narrative of her famous family and against the chaos of a complicated, globalized world. I hope it resonates with you and your community of readers, and might one day accompany a stretch break for another aspiring writer.