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Recently, a confused reader mistook my title of “Writer-in-Residence” to mean that I’ve been required to do all of my writing on-site in the library this year. Not quite—in this case, being “in residence” isn’t meant so literally. But everyone needs a change of scenery from their home office (or desk, table, or couch) now and then. It’s not always by choice. I know I’m not the only writer-parent who’s dragged my laptop along to the sidelines of soccer practice. But when it is my choice, I’ve learned to choose my spots wisely.

Coffee shops and counter-service cafes with wi-fi are givens, especially if you don't mind background noise (or if you own noise-canceling headphones—which, if my husband is reading this, are No. 1 on my Christmas list!). If you’re trying to keep yourself offline and deep in your manuscript, not logging onto the wi-fi can actually be a good focusing strategy.

But if you’re on a budget, regulating how much caffeine one person should drink in an afternoon, or crave more solitude, you have other options. Good ones.

Whether you're trying to be more disciplined about your writing time, or just looking to shake up your routine, here are three of my other favorite places to write around Cincinnati.


1. The Cincinnati Nature Center

An annual membership isn't just an affordable trade-off for access to well-maintained, safe hiking trails and naturalist programs. In addition to lovely trailside benches that beckon you to write al fresco, behold the visitor center’s library: One of the few places you can camp out with your notebook or laptop all day and not feel obligated to spend another dime. (After all, you’ve already paid for access; day passes are also available.)



The library offers reliable, free, password-protected wi-fi, in a room filled with an assortment of leather recliners or, if you prefer, wooden tables and chairs. All seats have a view of active birdfeeders and the lake, plus a microwave oven for communal use if you decide to pack your lunch. (The snack bar is also well stocked with hot and cold beverages.) Cold outside? The naturalist from the front desk will even pop in and build you a fire in the woodstove.

(Confession: My love for the nature center is evident in my newest novel, Forget You Know Me, as several chapters are set there—and guess where I first drafted them?)


2. The Mercantile Library

While you need a membership to check out books, did you know non-members are welcome to come in, browse, and utilize the space? It's historic. It's gorgeous. It's centrally located and, as such, a gem of a spot to claim small blocks of time as your own. Even if you write only on stolen lunch breaks, that word count can add up big over the course of a year. 

I dare you to read the award-winning CityBeat profile of the space, “12 Hours in the Mercantile Library,” by my good friend Zachary Petit and not want to stop in at your first opportunity.


3. A Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County Quiet Room or Study Room 

You may have noticed that libraries aren’t as quiet as they used to be. In the Branch Library of your choice, look for designated “study rooms” where you can take advantage of the inspiration that comes with being surrounded by books—away from the din. (Or meet with your writing group away from prying eyes.) Reservations are usually required, but can easily be made in advance online—or spur of the moment at the front desk, as availability permits. 

Bonus: When you check-in, the Librarian gives you an old-fashioned key, which means you can lock up your equipment and materials if you need to duck out for the restroom, to use the resources, or to grab a snack, saving you from those awkward “Could you watch my stuff?” conversations with your table neighbors.

Beyond the Library: If you’re on the east side of town, check out the Clermont County Public Library’s brand-new Miami Township branch, where the designated communal “quiet room” is spacious with plenty of laptop charging outlets and even a gas fireplace.

Until next time,

Jessica Strawser
2019 Writer-in-Residence: Public Library of Cincinnati & Hamilton County
Editor-at-Large: Writer's Digest 
Novelist: Almost Missed YouNot That I Could TellForget You Know Me • St. Martin's Press
jessicastrawser.com / t @jessicastrawser / f @jessicastrawserauthor