1. My beloved metal tanker desk chair. A neighbor gave me the chair and ginormous matching desk for free about 20 years (and seven houses) ago—the only part I paid for was reupholstering the chair in purple velvet. Most of my books were written at that desk. When we bought this cabin in Tahoe last year, the desk wouldn’t fit up the spiral staircase, so I regrettably had to sell it, but I held on to the chair for dear life. I used the dining table as my desk for a while and eventually found this desk on Craigslist (cheap because it bows in a bit in the middle). When I went to pick it up, I smashed the right back taillight of our Durango against the seller’s huge metal bear safe trash can as I was backing out of their driveway. The trash can was fine—those suckers are just as sturdy as a tanker desk. We still haven’t fixed the tail light cover/part of the bumper that got ripped off, although we did cover the light with clear red tape so we won’t get a ticket.
3. Plastic 70s desk organizers I found on Etsy that remind me of the plastic and colors of my childhood. The stuff in them is not very organized but at least the bins keep things off the main surface of the desk (although that usually gets pretty cluttered, too). On the top left organizer, you will see Ariel Gore’s fabulous and inspiring creation, “The Art Life Coloring Book”, which is filled with her drawings and words; one of my favorites is a woman holding a snake with the words “Transmute Shame into Power” written under her outstretched arm.
4. That stack of paper on the left is mostly workshop pieces for the Sierra Nevada College MFA residency which starts soon—I’ll be teaching at CNF workshop this time around (the workshop pieces are amazing!)—but on top are some fabulous poems by Wryly Tender McCutchen, who sent them via post (such a treat to get poems in my actual physical mailbox!)
4. Thumbtacked on the low wall by my desk are various sweet things that make me feel happy and inspired: a photo of my parents on their wedding day (my dad putting cake in my mom’s mouth), a little strawberry embroidered by a student (the first line of my book Fruitfleshis “A strawberry changed my life), some leaves pressed by a friend with the note “Thank you for writing” attached at the bottom, a Mother’s Day card my youngest son made for me last year in first grade that says “My mom is an amazing and lovely author.”
5. A mug holding various writing implements. My husband ordered this mug for me after my dad died in 2016—it has my two favorite pictures of my dad and me from my childhood. In the one you can see, he is lifting me over his head. Seeing it still boosts me.
6. A unicorn my friend bought for me at a recent book event, a night that feels like a dream now; it took place at Cellar Door Books in Riverside, CA, where I used to live. I got lost on my way there—I guess being away for three years left me a bit disoriented—and walking into the packed store, standing room only, was so moving and overwhelming. It felt a bit like “This is Your Life”—my 27 year old son’s first grade teacher was there; friends from so many different parts of my life were there, former students were there, etc, and I found it hard to catch my breath. My dad had had his first and only book signing in that very store at the age of 93 and I could feel his presence, too. The date also happened to be the 8th anniversary of the day we had learned of my mom’s suicide, so that added another emotional layer to being there and reading from my memoir about her and her death. My friend saw this unicorn at the bookstore and the purple mane made her think of my hair but she also thought my inner little girl could use something to hug in the midst of all this intensity. She was right.
1. Behind me, a bookcase, one of many in the house, plus a stack of books next to it higher than my knee because there isn’t enough space on the shelves.
2. If you were to look over the low wall as I write this, you would see my husband and our 8 year old playing some sort of video game together—Roblox, maybe?—and hear them yelling excitedly. This office is not a quiet, private, space. It is a nook of our bedroom loft, very much open to the rest of the house, which is essentially one big room. Most of the time, this is great—as small and cozy as the cabin is, we have a tall A-frame ceiling that gives a nice sense of spaciousness and makes me feel like my thoughts have room to breathe—but it can be hard to get much done when one or both of the guys are having noisy fun.
3. Photos on the beam to the right of the desk of my parents going under a limbo stick in Jamaica when I was one year old.
4. The pile of laundry over my left shoulder.
5. How often I use the little pedal thingy I put under my desk as a foot rest instead of as a way to exercise while I work.
6. That time I looked out the windows across from the desk and saw a bear in the tree right outside, looking in at me.