These quirky comments by Steinbeck charmed me – first his reaction to the first room he chose to work in, and then his decision to move elsewhere on the old property they rented near Glastonbury.

‘We lived in an ancient cottage that was listed in the Doomsday Book. It had a thatched roof, stone walls three-feet thick, and sat high in a meadow.  John wrote in a letter, ‘My little work-room on the second floor overlooks hills and meadows and an old manor house – there is nothing in sight that hasn’t been here for centuries.’

Yet somehow, as occasionally happened in his search for the ‘right’ writing space, he then chose another spot on the property, the byre.  Why?

‘”Cows and pigs and chickens have lived here and now I do,” he wrote.’

For other examples shared by his wife Elaine, see his dual purpose writing room, his own comment on the house they lived in soon after they married, his preference in writing implements, and when it all began.


Source: Elaine Steinbeck, Foreword, The Grapes of Wrath (London: Mandarin Paperback, 1995), p. v

Photo credit: Annie Spratt at


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