Strata: Caroline Leavitt

Caroline Leavitt has nine books to her credit, as well as a heap of awards.  Her latest novel is Girls in Trouble, and Pictures of You will be published this August.  She writes a regular column about books for The Boston Globe, and reviews books for People.  Caroline has many cool and important things to her credit, but what’s really interesting is her office.

What does your desk—the bare desk itself—look like, and how did you acquire it?

It’s a big long plankish sort of desk, with a light granite top and black (my favorite color) sides and it’s large enough so I (and my chaos) can really spread out. No drawers, but two small file cabinets on one side (black and white) and one huge black one on the left. I don’t remember where I found it, only that I knew it was perfect when I saw it and it is.

What’s on your desk?

My beloved Mac, speakers, a black reading light, various files, lotto tickets, books I’m reading for review, books I’m reading for pleasure or for blurbs, client manuscripts, my manuscript pages, my black phone, reading glasses and photographs of who I believe my characters to be (all staring at me) and a big yellow legal pad where I try to number the things I really should do in the order I should do them. Also, about six pens (at least one of them works and they all are Pilot Precise black rolling balls, extra fine), a nail file, a cell phone that I no longer use, my iPod mini, a stack of CDs, and a wooden monkey from the 1950s.

What do you wish wasn’t on your desk?

Clutter. I try to stem the chaos, but every day it creeps back up on me. The one time in my life I actually had a job, job, I got demerits on my reviews for having a messy desk. Obviously I have never changed!

Are there artifacts in your office that relate to your current project?

Yes, I have photographs of my characters posted up. I have some toys from the 1950s, the time period of my current novel in progress, including a one legged Malibu Barbie, an array of plastic purses from the 50s that my mother in law gave me, the wooden monkey, and old photographs are hanging up, too from that era.

Are there living things in your office (besides yourself)?

Sigh, there used to be a major living thing. For many years I shared my office with a very cranky and very adored 7″ jagged shell land tortoise I rescued from a pet shop. He was a great office mate, and I loved the clicking noises he made with his jaw, and I would often take a break to walk him outside. He had a huge glass tank that sat on a black table in the corner by the window. He died a few years ago, and I couldn’t bear to get another. Now I just have three overgrown, wildly loved plants.

What else surrounds you?

Behind me is a striped couch where I nap during the day if I get overwhelmed, a handmade wooden rocking chair I’ve had for about 20 years with a handmade quilt thrown over it, 75 snow domes on another filing cabinet—many of them have lost their water—and an elliptical trainer to exercise out stress. Also three big bookshelves filled with books, manuscripts, finger puppets, snow domes, plastic toys, a KitKat clock, and more. There’s my very own copy machine, a typewriter that no longer works (an artifact!), shelves full of CDs, and two big windows that look out on our postage-stamp sized urban backyard. I am thrilled to say I also have a fireplace in my office! It was hidden behind wood paneling when we bought out 1865 brick row house, and it was a wonderful discovery. So were the wide plank pine floors that were covered over in linoleum!

I also have a birdhouse on a shelf that a friend made me that is covered with comics about writers and a Mrs. Mustard’s Baby Faces book—one side has six big smiling baby faces, and the other side has six cranky babies. Depending on how I feel, I switch sides!

And I have two decks of tarot cards!

What’s on the walls?

I face a clock my husband gave me as a gift which has as its face a picture of the three of us dressed up like fools for Halloween (Jeff literally is dressed as a fool—a clown, I’m a devil in a blonde wig, and our son is Frankenstein). I have a framed drawing our son made when he was four that says, in his teacher’s handwriting, “That’s Mommy! She’s telling me a secret! I can’t tell you!” There is a black and white photo of me when I was 5 sitting on the porch with my mother, another photo of my mother’s Russian born parents and her 7 siblings, taken when she was 11 or so. I also have a huge bulletin board filled with photographs.

I have two talismans on the fireplace—a tin angel and a lucky charm from Israel to ward against the Evil Eye. On the far wall, I have two presents from my husband—one is a framed album cover he made with me on the cover and it says Caroline Leavitt Sings Turtle Songs, and he listed all the songs we’ve made up about the tortoise over the years. The companion one is a framed mock cover of Goldmine Magazine, a music magazine that my husband used to edit. It shows me and the tortoise and the headline reads Exclusive Interview: Startling new revelation of reptile abuse: “She holds me under the faucet to clean me!” claims tortoise.

What have you lost in your office that you really wish you could find?

I lost a beloved pair of earrings and I have no idea where they are, but I know they are here somewhere.

What tools do you write with?

My beloved Mac, a notepad to write notes, music blasting from Pandora!

Is anyone allowed to come in and clean?

That’s a great question. We used to have cleaning people come in but I would put big huge signs on my desk saying, PLEASE DO NOT TOUCH. They were allowed to dust the snow domes and clean the wood floor, but that was it!

T. Myers is a writer who hasn’t made much headway on cleaning her office, although she has located a pile of old sketchbooks, and her great-uncle Harvey’s fifty-year gold pass from the Illinois Central Railroad.


9 Comments to Strata: Caroline Leavitt

  1. February 8, 2010 at 11:49 am | Permalink

    I am honored to have seen this office! It’s a great workspace – and very Caroline!

  2. February 15, 2016 at 1:31 pm | Permalink

    I really like your writing style, excellent information, thanks for posting :D. “You can complain because roses have thorns, or you can rejoice because thorns have roses.” by Ziggy.

  3. April 11, 2016 at 12:12 am | Permalink

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  4. May 29, 2016 at 3:46 pm | Permalink

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  5. July 4, 2016 at 4:20 pm | Permalink

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  6. August 21, 2016 at 12:18 pm | Permalink

    Magnificent web site. Lots of helpful info here. I’m sending it to several friends ans also sharing in delicious. And certainly, thank you in your effort!

  7. September 1, 2016 at 12:30 pm | Permalink

    I really like your writing style, great information, thanks for putting up :D. “If a cluttered desk is the sign of a cluttered mind, what is the significance of a clean desk” by Laurence J. Peter.

  8. November 27, 2016 at 8:49 am | Permalink

    Only a smiling visitor here to share the love (:, btw great design. “Make the most of your regrets… . To regret deeply is to live afresh.” by Henry David Thoreau.

  9. August 29, 2017 at 6:10 pm | Permalink

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