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From the Writing Desk of: Tasha Coryell

1. I’ve been aspiring to write at this desk since I was five years old. Sometimes I think about getting a new desk, a grown-up desk, and then I look at desks online and realize that most grown-up desks have no drawers in which to put my markers and the various items that I have acquired in the twenty-five years I have owned this desk. I realize too that looking at desks is just another form of procrastination and a different desk is unlikely to help me write more or better. 2. Underneath the desk I have a space heater. I get very cold when I write, despite living in Alabama. I nearly always have a sweater on when I’m working, even when it’s 90+ degrees outside. Just outside the frame of the picture is a pile of sweaters that I’ve worn recently. 3. My desk isn’t ordinarily this clean. I thought about leaving it messy to present my authentic self, but I’ve always resented that my authentic self is messy. Over the semester, my desk accumulates piles of books and papers until it is no longer a desk and merely a place to set things down. My desk is in its pre-semester ideal state. In the far-left corner I have a pile of books to read, as well as a notebook that I sometimes carry around for the purpose of working on my prose poem project. To the right of that, I have a pile of books that I’m going to use in my classes this semester followed by my planner and my gradebook. As a child, I was jealous of teachers because they got to write on the board and fill out gradebooks. These are the dreams I have fulfilled most successfully as an adult. 4. At the front of the desk, I have a friend’s novel draft. Sometimes this is replaced with my own novel drafts or whatever piles of paper I have lying around. I was always told that in my MFA program I would “find my readers.” I guess one of the things I found out is that I don’t particularly want or have readers and I feel very insecure in this as though I have failed in some fundamental part of being a member of the writing community. 5. On the windowsill you will find:

  • A) A picture of my brother at my high school graduation. He was twelve and he argued with my mom the entire time. I cried at both my high school and college graduations for this reason. He cringed when he came to visit me and saw the picture as he is now twenty-four.

  • B) A picture of me with several of my sorority sisters in college, covered in mud from a mudpit. The picture was given to me as a graduation present by my friend Katie (she later clarified that my actual present was a bottle of vodka). I never intended to join a sorority, but I had just broken up with my boyfriend of three years and I was feeling lonely. We were the distinctly un-cool sorority and many of the members joined ironically as I had. I have now spent the past four years of my life writing and revising a novel about sorority sisters, so obviously there was something indelible about the experience.

  • C) A painting that I did in a portrait class. Before my MFA, I taught art at an independent art school in St. Paul called the Art Academy. I’ve always had a natural inclination towards crafts and enjoy drawing, painting, knitting, and cross stitching. Unfortunately, I have no visual creativity and feel no desire to create original work. If you come to my house, you can see the many paintings and drawings I did that are complete reproductions of other peoples’ paintings and drawings.

  • D) A line of elephants. The University of Alabama’s mascot is an elephant named Big Al and thus there are an inordinate number of elephants in my house including a giant inflatable Big Al that my husband and I refer to as our son.

  • E) A card from Robyn Hammontree from that says “This is your year.” I haven’t actually felt like it’s my year, but opening the card made me feel like it might be.

  • F) A framed Alabama A with #rolltide underneath that my friend Blair made me for Christmas several years ago. In Alabama, roll tide means “hello,” “goodbye,” “we got a first down,” “good luck,” “yes!!!!,” “I come in peace,” and basically whatever else you want it to.

  • G) Embroidery that says “Nevertheless she persisted” made by the poet Erica Mena.

Not pictured: 1. Me, on the porch that the window looks out onto. I can hear a drumline practicing somewhere behind my house. It’s 90 degrees outside, which is a cool day for an Alabama summer.

2. The old wallpaper that looks like ribbons woven together. I want to take it down, but more than that I want to finish revising my novel so the wallpaper remains.

3. A pile of broadsides to hang up once the wallpaper is taken down.

4. The coffeeshops and library that I actually spend my time writing in.


Tasha Coryell writes, runs, and teaches in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. Her debut collection of short stories, "Hungry People" was released from Split Lip Press. You can find more work from Tasha at or find her tweeting under @tashaaaaaaa.


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