Word Spaces(4): Laura van den Berg
I met Laura van den Berg at AWP one year. She had written something nice on a rejection note to me after I sent something to Redivider a while ago, and so I tracked her down and said hello. Since then we’ve been in touch, seen each other around, though she’s a bit busier than I – she’s on staff at Ploughshares, Memorious, and West Branch, and she has a book of stories called What the World Will Look Like When All the Water Leaves Us forthcoming from Dzanc this November. A recent story of hers can be read online at the Boston Review site.
Anyhow, I thought it would be interesting to see where she gets her work done (and then somehow exactly recreate it in my own apartment).
Here’s what Laura has to say:
My workspace is in the kitchen of a house in North Carolina, where I’ve been living with my boyfriend since September. My computer is set up on the kitchen/dining table, near a kind of big bay window. I love windows. I have wanted all my writing life to have a workspace with lots of windows. Since our town, Blowing Rock, is up in the mountains, there’s crazy fog sometimes—fog so thick I can’t see the shapes of the trees or the car in the driveway. It’s beautiful and eerie and I love it.
On the wall behind my chair, I’ve taped up postcards, pictures, Obama paraphernalia, and a map of Boston, where I used to live. On one side of my computer, there’s a basket that my brother brought back from Morocco, a mug/pen holder, a picture, and shoeboxes, which I’m using to store random office supplies. On the other side, I have phones, my planner, and a box of notecards that say “I only have a kitchen because it came with the house.” To the right of my chair, there’s a little table, where I keep some books—right now, it’s Amy Hempel, Joy Williams, Alice Munro, Diane Williams, Kyle Minor, Deb Olin Unferth, Allison Amend. Also: lit mags; a photo book of Borneo, where I was going to set a novel; my notebook; a story I’m revising; a box of cards from the Met; a newspaper article on Darwin and Russell Wallace; Poets & Writers; another shoebox full of office supplies. The Joy Williams book I have here—The Quick and the Dead—is one of my favorite books of all times. Sometimes I open to a random page and read a paragraph and I’m always floored. Page 155, for example: “The television was on again. A startled bull with a ring through its immense nostrils stood in a river. Piranha swirled about. The bull turned gray like a block of chalk, then transparent, and then it was a skeleton, floating away.”
A set of headphones are nearby, in the basket, since I usually listen to music while working. I have somewhat schizophrenic taste in music—lately it’s been New Order, Postal Service, Sam Phillips, Jane’s Addiction, and David Bowie. My desk can be a little schizophrenic too—especially now, since I’m still unpacking from a long trip and have lots of little things that I don’t have good places for. There’s a lot of stacking going on. Pretty soon, we’re going to have to think about eating dinner elsewhere.
Thanks, Laura, for sharing.