CutBank continues its new online feature, The Woodshop, with this submission from Andy Hobin. Review our submission guidelines here, then submit your own Woodshop to email@example.com.
Where do you do your work?
A small bedroom in my house that I now call an office because I've thunked a biggish, somewhat important-looking desk down in the middle of the room. All of my writing is cranked out at that desk, but I also do a lot of idea-tinkering in a little seat by the window, which I think counts as work, too. Tobias Wolff said in his Paris Review “Art of Fiction” interview, "All I need is a window to not write." I understand the rabbit hole of distraction a window can provide, but the leaves on the tree outside my window are—at this writing—the green-yellow of Golden Delicious apples, and I can't resist keeping the blinds up.
What do you keep on your desk?
Besides the practical stuff (lamp, coaster, copy of novel manuscript), I keep a lot of miscellany at hand that I can spend a little time with anytime the writing's not going so hot. There's a Catholic prayer book from the 1920s, a friend's poetry collection, and some all-time favorite fictions like Annie Proulx's Close Range: Wyoming Stories, Marilynne Robinson's Housekeeping and William Maxwell's So Long, See You Tomorrow. There's a wilderness survival manual published by the Army in 1970, thanks to which I can identify water hemlock, explain how to set a tidal fish trap, and quote such suitcase nukes of practicality as, "Some tropical ants sting severely and attack in numbers. Avoid them." There's also a framed photograph of Lou's Drive-In, a curbside service fast food joint and Peoria, IL's most enduring institution besides its annual Santa Claus parade. (Longest continually running Santa Claus parade in the nation since 1887, a fact I feel proud to share.) Peoria is my hometown and the setting for most of my fiction. Speaking of...
What’s your view like?
My desk chair faces one of my favorite Christmas presents of all time: an 11 foot by 4 foot print of the downtown Peoria skyline that was salvaged from a garbage heap inside the old Peoria airport. Subtle inspiration is not my strong suit. I love that big sucker because the image is so obviously and deliberately idealized. The Illinois River's perma-murky water is as phony blue as the sky. I write about my beloved yet outwardly unimpressive hometown in a similarly idealized way, by turns amplifying its pedestrian beauty and shoehorning beauty in where none seems to exist. Plus, I get the biggest kick out of the fact that the artist nicely captured the picturesque spire of the Commerce Bank building, the imposing dominance of the Twin Towers, and the handsome sprawl of the Caterpillar world headquarters. And yet, what dominates the lower left half of the mural's foreground? A Hooters. In all fondness: That is just sublimely Peorian.
What do you eat/drink while you work?
Warm non-alcoholic beverages. They last longer than cold beverages; one needs to sip them instead of guzzle, and that means I don't have to leave my office as often. Which is good, because when I leave my office I tend to wander down to the den and then invariably watch an entire season of Damages on Netflix.
Do you have any superstitions about your work?
Not really! The practice of writing is very tough work, and unless you count my being religious, I'm not superstitious about my life's other difficult responsibilities. So why be superstitious about writing? I get irked when people talk about craft like they're reading the copy on the side of an herbal tea box.
Share a recent line/sentence written in this space.
"Anything seems possible to a low man with a gut full of tar."
Andy Hobin received his MFA from Virginia Tech, where he edited The New River and edited fiction for the minnesota review. Find his work in Ninth Letter, The Rumpus, Midwestern Gothic, Staccato, Communicatin