Jan Greenberg is the author of more than ten non-fiction art books for children and young adults with writing partner Sandra Jordan. Their latest book, Ballet for Martha: Making Appalacian Spring, is on the best book’s list of many publications including the Washington Post and the Boston Globe. Greenberg and Jordan’s books have been nominated School Library Journal Best Book of the Year, been on Booklist Editors’ Choice, IRA Teachers’ Choice, Bulletin Blue Ribbon Book and every one is an ALA Notable Books. Here she describes how she does it all from a well-lit space amongst tall trees.
All of the Greenberg-Jordan books are featured in the BROODWORK: It’s About Time exhibit.
When I was a teenager growing up in St. Louis, I loved to read and daydream. My favorite class was English. We talked about books. We wrote poems and stories. After that, it was all downhill, except for lunch. When the noon bell rang, I would stow my books on top of the lockers. My friends could identify my pile because of the papers sticking out every which way and the uneven stack of books ready to tumble down. My room at home wasn’t much better. Clothes lying in heaps, wastebasket overflowing, movie magazines, photos of Rock Hudson and Tab Hunter, and novels piled on the desk. It wasn’t until after I was married and had children that I became a neatness freak. If you come to my house now, you’ll notice that both the art and the décor are fairly minimalist. The first and second floors are all orderly and carefully arranged much like in our living room, below.
Unfortunately, this room belongs to a friend of mine, in an apartment with a view of the famous Saarinen Arch. But I’m a writer of non-fiction. I need my reference books, computer, notes, etc. within reach. Her stylish, tasteful study just might intimidate and would definitely inhibit the flow of creative juices.
My house was built in 1910 and looks like a cross between Wuthering Heights and the Bastille. Here is the ideal study to go with my Gothic Revival house.
Notice the built in bookshelves, the paneling, and the elegant chandelier. The fireplace almost makes the room look cozy. This isn’t my study either. It is in the Morgan Library in New York, the former home of the banker, J.P., himself. J.P.’s taste was refined and worldly, befitting a turn of the century tycoon.
But now…my real study, where the ghost of that messy teenager still remains. My study is tucked away on the third floor of my old house. No one ever comes up here to bother me. My husband texts me, wondering when I’m coming to bed. I sit at the computer looking out at the expanse of green lawn lined with towering old oaks and maples. The flowering pears and cherry trees are in full bloom now that it’s spring.
On the long desk in no particular order are writing projects in process: a mystery I’ve been fiddling with for four years, notes for magazine articles, and reference books and an outline for a new children’s book I’m researching. I don’t understand how some people can keep everything on a computer and have a paperless study. There are notes to myself stuck all over the desk, bills in a cubby hole, correspondence in another, invitations, and concert tickets in a special file next to…well…other special files. There are photos of my family on the mantle, along with my collection of green matte American pottery.
Photos tacked on my bulletin board of me with some of the people I’ve written about, including Chuck Close, Frank Gehry, Richard Serra, and Ellsworth Kelly. There are also pictures of my grandchildren, close friends, and my standard brown poodles Henri and Thiebaud. A charming letter my mother, who was in the advertising business, wrote to a colleague in the 50’s and award certificates for some of my books are framed and propped on a shelf.