What are you working on? What’s on your desk?


What’s on my desk?

  1. Barry Hannah’s Bats out of Hell
  2. Mentholatum Ointment
  3. Kroger Maximum Strength Pain Reviver—Allergy/Sinus
  4. A Mechanics Bank beer coozie (a free gift for our house loan, which we just got a month ago)
  5. Pictures of our daughter, Claire
  6. Stack of bills to be paid, including new house payment booklet
  7. Plans for bookshelves we’re installing in our new living room
  8. A sample novel chapter from a friend of a friend (I’m supposed to comment on it)
  9. Two cigar bands from two Cuban Montecristos; I keep my Cuban bands in my copy of Lonesome Dove and have yet to unpack the book to put these in
  10. Unused pages from my just-published novel that I’m trying to fit into a new story
  11. Immodium
  12. A stack of Dumb & Dumber B&W stills somebody gave me—I plan to frame them and make a Dumb & Dumber wall here in my new office—if Beth Ann will let me
  13. A set of those Russian dolls where one’s within another within another within another until they’re tiny; this set is of Russian leaders. The largest, holding all others, is Gorbachev, complete with birthmark.
  14. A flyer for a guy called Pig-Lard Zimmer, who cuts grass and isn’t afraid of wasps
  15. A can of Raid Wasp & Hornet Killer. Out the window of my office I can see a nest, and I keep spraying them through the screen. They—wasps—are in my attic, too, and around the carport and in the eaves. I’ve been stung once in the last few days, but I’ve killed dozens of them.

What am I working on now?

  1. A new novel for William Morrow, untitled as of now. Largely unplotted but set this year. Or last year. One character may have rabies.
  2. A new story called “Christians,” set in southwest Alabama around the 1890s, the time and place of my previous novel.
  3. An essay about Barry Hannah for a textbook
  4. A wasp-free home


My desk is an old wooden drafting table from the 1950s salvaged by my father-in-law from the Yale campus. It currently holds a stack of books: American Gourmet: Classic Recipes, Deluxe Delights, Flamboyant Favorites, and Swank “Company” Food from the ’50’s and ’60’s, by Jane and Michael Stern; The Mind of Mnemonist: A Little Book about a Vast Memory, by A. R. Luria; North Carolina Parade: Stories of History and People, by Richard Walser and Julia Montgomery Street; Speak, Memory, by Vladimir Nabokov; The Seven Sins of Memory, by Daniel L. Schacter; and two orchid plants (more roots than leaves or flowers) and a wooden pull toy from Taiwan of two piglets kissing (when I’m bored I tug them apart, and they scoot back together again with a pleasing bzzz sound). I’m working on a new novel, set partly in North Carolina.


What am I working on? Perhaps the better question is what is working on me. I’ve written a complete draft of a new novel, which I still like after letting it marinate a drawer for a month or so. Now I’m ready to revise and figure out a title. The novel (set in Atlanta) is about a twenty-five-year-old single woman who discovers that she is infertile. “My biological clock went off and I slept through the alarm.” It’s a story about longing and about secrets and disclosure. I love revision. Just thinking about it makes me feel electric.

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