THE WOODSHOP with Naomi Kimbell. "I keep all four drafts of my novel piled on top of each other and measure it with a ruler each week to prove to myself I’m making progress." 

30754356658_4b35ab32d9_o.jpg

The Woodshop slips into the workspaces and habits of writers of all stripes and styles. Joan Didion spent the night in the same room as her work when it was almost finished. Don DeLillo kept a picture of Borges close by. Stephen King advises us to “put your desk in the corner, and every time you sit down there to write, remind yourself why it isn't in the middle of the room. Life isn't a support system for art. It's the other way around.”

When, where, and how, do you work?

This glimpse into the writer’s life comes courtesy of writer and videopoet Naomi Kimbell


Where do you work?

I write at an oak desk I inherited from my father. It’s an old, administrative monster from the Anaconda Company, surplused when they closed the smelter and purchased and given to him by my maternal grandmother. She never liked my father, but she liked to make a show of her generosity. It’s about as big as a small car.

31213531148_3faf2dc62d_o.jpg
31213531508_6004fd10af_o.jpg

What do you keep on your desk?

I keep my favorite novels on my desk sandwiched between vintage, puppy-shaped bookends. I keep books on writing filled with rules against semicolons, adverbs, and 50-cent words. There’s a pottery cup my mother made filled with slag from the slag pile in Anaconda—the novel I’m writing has a lot of slag in it—and a handful of pens and pencils in a ceramic hippo. There’s a picture of my dead dog with bows in her hair. A shallow basket that holds marbles, polished stones, and an unopened fortune cookie. A vase of dried tansy. Stacks of poetry. A red NOAA weather radio that doubles as a flashlight. And lists. I keep lists on notecards of things I’m supposed to remember to write. I also keep all four drafts of my novel piled on top of each other and measure it with a ruler each week to prove to myself I’m making progress. 

What’s your view like?

I have a small window with a view of a grapevine that covers our fence. It’s pretty, but the grapes are too sour to eat straight off the vine. Above it, there’s a sliver of sky, and next to it, there’s a red rose putting on an autumn bloom.

44156454995_480b3942d9_o.jpg

What do you eat/drink while you work?

I drink coffee while I work. I drink as much coffee as possible.

Do you have any superstitions about your work?

I have to write every day at 5:00 AM, although on Saturdays and Sundays I sometimes sleep a little later. It isn’t so much a superstition, but a habit that was really hard to develop. It comes from necessity. I have to write before I go to work or I won’t write at all. If I skip a day, I’m afraid I’ll do it again and get used to it and stop writing. Maybe that’s superstitious. If I don’t get up and write, my day is wrong. The world is wrong, more wrong than usual. 

Share a recent line/sentence written in this space.

Rebecca has trained herself to wake before dawn so she can hike to the lake-with-no-bottom just as the sun comes up and wait for the migrating birds.


About Naomi Kimbell:

Naomi Kimbell is a writer and videopoet from Missoula, MT. She has an MFA in creative nonfiction from the University of Montana, and her work has appeared in The Rumpus, The Nervous Breakdown, Crazyhorse, The Iowa Review, and other journals and anthologies. She reviews independent literature for the Atticus Review and teaches online creative writing workshops for WOW! Women on Writing. She is currently working on a novel.


Tell CutBank about your workspace. Submit via email to cutbankonline@gmail.com


“Triscuits and thin slices of Muenster cheese” are essential to this author's craft. Kick back with Mike Mulvey in The Woodshop.

At the first signs of spring, I emerge from my basement office, yawn, stretch, scratch myself, and squint at the light. After a winter of semi-hibernation, I'm hungry for sun and fresh air. I find both out on my favorite writing space - my back deck.

The Artist at Rest

After a morning cup of Irish tea and a half hour watching increasingly depressing morning news, and after the dew has been burned away by the morning sun, I haul my Smith-Corona manual typewriter up to my summer office and carefully park it on a circular wooden picnic table. I park myself in a creaky yellow rocker that, like me, has somehow survived a lifetime of New England winters. "Hello, old friend," I say as I nestle into the wicker seat. I put paper in my Smith-Corona and my feet up on my writing table. I smile as I survey my backyard domain, await my muse, and wait for the caffeine to kick in.

The view from my deck is one I've waited for all winter. I live on a secluded, heavily-wooded parcel of land in eastern Connecticut, equidistant from Boston and New York. I know there are houses on the surrounding properties, but in summer, I see only trees – oak, maple, pine, birch.  They surround, shade, and shelter me from the world and its distractions. My imagination convinces me I'm alone in the middle of a deep but friendly forest. The only sounds are birds, cicadas, and the wind making its way through the assorted foliage.

In addition to my Smith-Corona, I bring notes, a yellow legal pad, a box of white 8 x 11 typing paper, a large glass of un-sweetened green tea, snacks – usually Triscuits and thin slices of Muenster cheese - my bifocals, a paperback Merriam-Webster dictionary and a hard-bound copy of Webster's New World Thesaurus. If it's been a productive winter, I'll bring rough drafts of stories I've work on.

Even though I own several computers, my Smith-Corona is an integral part of my writing process, a process leftover from my college days. This process begins when I try to decipher notes scribbled on assorted scraps of paper. When I've made sense of these scribblings, I arrange and transfer them to a yellow legal pad, revise and edit the sentences and paragraphs, then type everything out on my Smith-Corona. I'll then take these pages and transfer them to the Dell laptop that sits on the coffee table in my family room. Through the sliding glass door I can still see and hear the sights and sounds of spring. Sometimes I'll catch sight of a bird stealing Triscuit crumbs from my plate or a hummingbird sipping from the feeder my wife puts out every spring.

After a hopefully productive morning, I'll have lunch on the deck – last night's leftovers, usually. While carefully re-reading my draft, I might reward myself with a glass of wine. I'm not superstitious, but I sometimes think that if I get over-confident, the piece I'm working on will attract rejection emails like a Trump confident attracts a Mueller indictment.  If it's been an especially frustrating morning or I've inadvertently over-caffeinated myself on green tea, I'll take the bottle out to my summer office - a decent Chianti or a Louis Jadot Pouilly Fuisse. 

On one unusually productive morning, I was able to write the introduction to a non-fiction story I'd been researching and working on for over two years, a story about home.

"One summer, on a whim, I visited the town where I grew up. I'd left in 1965 when I enlisted in the Army and had visited only occasionally, usually on leave from the Army, and later, after I'd been discharged, during semester breaks from college. After a decades-long absence, I expected some changes, but what I found that summer day left me speechless. I stood on the steps of the old town hall and stared in disbelief at what I saw – and didn't see. For the most part, Atlantic and Main had vanished."

A sad and somber tale of a lost city penned on such an idyllic spot.

I read somewhere that life is finite - as is my time in my backyard office. As a New Englander, I know that eventually I'll be evicted. Fall is an especially wondrous time of the year with the blaze of color, but it's also when I'm put on notice. I delay the inevitable by donning a hoodie and sweat pants when I can see my breath, but when autumn leaves begin to clog my Smith-Corona, I know it's time to retreat to my dark and dismal basement workspace. The upside is that without all the distractions of my summer office, I can sometimes be at my most productive. But I'd trade productivity for the view from my back deck any day.

 The Mulvey office in the off season...

The Mulvey office in the off season...


About the author:

Michail Mulvey is a retired educator who taught for over four decades at all levels, from kindergarten to college. He holds an MFA in creative writing and has had short stories published in literary magazines and journals in the US, the UK, and Ireland. In 2013 he was nominated for a Pushcart Prize. He lost, of course, but he did take first prize in the 2007 Southern Connecticut State University Fiction Contest. His work has appeared in such publications as Johnny AmericaScholars and RoguesThe Umbrella Factory, Prole, Poydras, The Front Porch Review, Roadside Fiction, Crack the SpineLiterary Orphans, and War, Literature and the Arts.


The Woodshop examines the work spaces and habits of writers both big and small. Joan Didion spent the night in the same room as her work when it was almost finished. Don DeLillo kept a picture of Borges close by. When, and how, do you work? Tell CutBank about your workspace. Submit via email to cutbankonline@gmail.com


THE WOODSHOP: Diana Raab, PhD. "On my desk ... is a seated Buddha, and in his lap is a neutral stone that says Serenity."

Diana-Raab-7045_600x899_300dpi.jpeg

The Woodshop slips into the workspaces and habits of writers of all stripes and styles. Joan Didion spent the night in the same room as her work when it was almost finished. Don DeLillo kept a picture of Borges close by. Stephen King advises us to “put your desk in the corner, and every time you sit down there to write, remind yourself why it isn't in the middle of the room. Life isn't a support system for art. It's the other way around.”

When, where, and how, do you work?

This glimpse into the writer’s life comes courtesy of Diana Raab, PhD.


Where do you do your work?

DR Typewriter.jpeg

I work in numerous places, depending on my mood. My primary working space is the large wooden desk in my writing studio. I sit in front of my wide-screen laptop and am surrounded by my beloved books. On the top shelf above all my books is my old typewriter collection. I often look at them for inspiration.

Sometimes when I feel I need to have white noise or be surrounded by others who are also working, I take my laptop to public places, such as coffee shops and libraries. On beautiful California days, I might sit outside at my garden table with a Buddha beside me. The Buddha inspires me and reminds me of my trip to Bali years ago—a place I’d love to visit again. I also have some large stones in my yard and sometimes for inspiration I will sit on one and write in my journal. Every so often it’s important to me to change my writing environment.

What do you keep on your desk?

On my desk are the papers I’m referring to for the project I’m working on. On the left corner of my desk between two “hand” bookends is the Oxford American Dictionary. Beside the dictionary is a seated Buddha, and in his lap is a neutral stone that says Serenity. On the right side of my desk is a little box with stones and a large crystal in the middle. Next to the stones is a white candle that I sometimes burn for inspiration—to help me get into the writing zone.

What’s your view like?

When I’m sitting at my desk, the view to the left is of two double doors overlooking a water fountain, which attracts many birds during the course of the day. Beside the fountain is a little antique writing table and chair where I sometimes sit, especially when I want to listen to the sound of water cascading down my fountain. The large-paned picture window behind me faces my rock garden. On the other side of my studio facing my desk is a large bookshelf with many of my favorite books. To the right of that is my closet, and to the left of the bookshelf are two paintings—one is Edward Hopper’s Boxcar, and the other is a portrait of diarist Anaïs Nin, made by my husband for my sixtieth birthday.

What do you eat/drink while you work?

I don’t usually eat while I work, but I always keep a jug of water on my desk. Most often, I’m drinking coffee with at least two shots of espresso. On occasion I will drink a green tea, which I also love. When I need to calm myself at the end of the day, I will drink a cup of chamomile tea.

DR Journaling1.jpeg

Do you have any superstitions about your work?

I have an antique Fabergé letter opener that is always on my desk. It’s purple and green, and I think it brings me good luck, which might be considered a superstition.

Share a recent line/sentence written in this space.

Recently, I was writing about the meaning of life. This is one sentence from that article: “When evaluating the meaning of your life, I think you need to consider what makes you happy, as these things, situations, and people are what give your life the most significance.”


About Diana Raab:
Diana Raab, MFA, PhD, is a memoirist, poet, blogger, speaker, and the award-winning author of nine books. Her work has been published and anthologized in more than 500 publications. She holds a PhD in psychology, with a research focus on the healing and transformative powers of writing.

Raab is the editor of two anthologies: Writers and Their Notebooks and Writers on the Edge; two memoirs: Regina’s Closet: Finding My Grandmother’s Secret Journal and Healing with Words: A Writer’s Cancer Journey; and four poetry collections, including Lust. Much of her inspiration comes from diarist and writer Anaïs Nin. Raab’s latest book is Writing for Bliss: A Seven-Step Program for Telling Your Story and Transforming Your Life (September 2017). Her website is: www.dianaraab.com, and you can find Diana on Twitter, and Facebook, too.


Tell CutBank about your workspace. Submit via email to cutbankonline@gmail.com


THE WOODSHOP: Jody Kennedy "I'm not a desk person by nature."

 Jody Kennedy's main workspace: "I don't have a desk but I do have a bedside table..."

Jody Kennedy's main workspace: "I don't have a desk but I do have a bedside table..."

The Woodshop peeks into the workspaces and habits of writers of all stripes and styles. Stephen King advises us to “put your desk in the corner, and every time you sit down there to write, remind yourself why it isn't in the middle of the room. Life isn't a support system for art. It's the other way around.” Joan Didion spent the night in the same room as her work when it was almost finished. Don DeLillo kept a picture of Borges close by. When, where, and how, do you work?

This glimpse into the writer’s life comes courtesy of Jody Kennedy.


Where do you do your work?

A: I work pretty much exclusively in my bedroom, leaning against pillows in bed with the computer on my lap. When my kids are in school I sometimes end up on the couch in the living room. I've never been able to do any serious writing in coffee shops or libraries though park benches, empty churches, and out of the way beaches are another story. There's quite a bit of sorting out that happens on my daily walks, too.

02_Kennedy Woodshop.jpg

What do you keep on your desk?

A: I owned a desk once when I was a kid but never used it. I'm not a desk person by nature. There's something about the physical contact with the notebook or computer on my lap that makes for a more visceral writing experience. I expect it's something like a sculptor working with clay, no gloves, only sculpting tools and bare hands. So to answer the question, I don't have a desk but I do have a bedside table with a small lamp, pens, a flashlight and scrap paper (when ideas for a project I'm working on show up as I'm falling asleep or in the middle of the night), an icon of the Virgin Mary, and a bowl of seashells collected from Sanibel Island, Florida (also home to one of the best public libraries). On the floor next to the bed, you'll find a stack of current and to read books along with my notebook.

03_Kennedy Woodshop.jpg

What's your view like?

A: A row of tall, beautiful Cypress trees which (thankfully) block the view of the neighboring apartment building.

What do you eat/drink while you work?

A: Chocolate and coffee (when I'm drinking coffee).

Do you have any superstitions about your work?

A: I'm not sure I have any superstitions about my work though I do spend a lot of my writing time staring.

Share a recent line/sentence written in this space.

A: “… having hitherto known only hardship, suddenly sprouted the most glorious wings and peeling away out of our arms, lifted off and left us for more friendly and temperate environs.”


Jody Kennedy is a writer and photographer living in Provence, France. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in DIAGRAM, Electric Literature’s Okey-Panky, Hobart, Rattle, The Georgia Review, among others. More at her website https://jodyskennedy.wordpress.com/


Tell CutBank about your workspace. Submit via email to cutbankonline@gmail.com


THE WOODSHOP: Danny Caine

The Woodshop is a feature examining the work spaces and habits of writers both big and small. Joan Didion spent the night in the same room as her work when it was almost finished. Don DeLillo kept a picture of Borges close by. When, and how, do you work? Our latest contributor is poet Danny Caine.

1. Where do you do your work?

I write poems generally whenever they hit me, and it's often quick. "When" becomes "where," and "where" could be on a napkin, in the periphery doodles of class notes, on the back of a cardboard coaster, or on the NOTES iPhone app like an apologizing celebrity. But if there's a single place lately that has a statistically higher percentage of sentences originated therein, it'd be the record-player half of my living room. My living room is split in two by what's basically an invisible hallway from my front doormy apartment is big but it's an architectural nightmare, as is the case with rentals in a college town. Anyway, one half has a couch, a piano, and a bookcase, and the other has a craigslist armchair and a record player. I frequently write in the record player half. 

2. What do you keep on your desk?

It's not really a desk, then, is it. The craigslist armchair has a vintage Danish side table next to it, which frequently has my writing beverage of choice (cold brew, bourbon, sometimes both). There's also a rotary phone with an old poison control sticker, and some vintage trophies, plus a few candlesticks. It's all for decorationmy wife Kara has a great eye for vintage knickknacks.  

3. What's your view like?

There's a weird little cut-out into my kitchen (again, weird architecture). Sometimes my cat sits up there and stares at me while I work, demanding to be fed. If I turn around and look out the window, I can see the McDonald's that's very close to my house. I can sometimes hear the drive-through speaker.

4. Have you made any rules for how you use this space?

Not really, though sometimes the cat tries to take the armchair when I get up. 

5. Do you have any routines that help you get into the flow?

I feel like inspiration is fickle and sporadic, but when I absolutely need to get something written, usually reading jogs things up a bit so that something can happen. Poetry begets more poetry; it's a blessing and a curse.

6. Do you have any superstitions about your work? 

I don't think so? Now that you ask, I'm wondering if I should. I can't write poems if I'm wearing blue or prose if I'm wearing red. I can't write if the Cleveland Indians lost by more than five runs the previous night. I can't listen to music from 1998 if I'm trying to write poetry. How do those sound?

7. Share a recent line/sentence written in this space.

I wrote a poem here two days ago, probably called "In the Bathroom of the Ritz Carlton Downtown." Here's most of the first stanza: 

"Hey fuck you automatic faucet

no matter what your shitty laser

eye thinks, I am a body"


Danny Caine's poetry has appeared in New Ohio ReviewHobartMid-American Review, and other places. He's music editor for At Length magazine and has reviewed books for Los Angeles Review and Rain Taxi. He hails from Cleveland and lives in Lawrence, Kansas where he works at the Raven Bookstore. More at dannycaine.com.


THE WOODSHOP: Kate Ruebenson

The Woodshop is a feature examining the work spaces and habits of writers both big and small. Joan Didion spent the night in the same room as her work when it was almost finished. Don DeLillo kept a picture of Borges close by. When, and how, do you work? Our latest contributor is Kate Ruebenson, a Brooklyn poet and filmmaker.

1. Where do you do your work?

During my residency at Arts Letters and Numbers in Averill Park, NY, in spring of 2015, I created my favorite writing space. My desk was on the second floor of an old mill, right by two large windows. I built the desk by placing cinderblocks under a door turned on its side and covered with a cloth.

2. What do you keep on your desk?

I kept snacks, beer, a typewriter, tracing paper, pens & pencils, a bulletin board to post visual fodder for writing inspiration, a book of architecture, and a book of philosophy.

3. What's your view like?

I looked out over a narrow two way road up a hill towards another refurbished mill. My second week at the residency, I saw a double rainbow right out of the two huge windows adjacent to my desk. 

4. What do you eat/drink while you work?

Depending on the time of day, I cycle through drinks and meals. Throughout the day, I keep a glass of water on the table and try to refill it no less than five times. In the morning, I have a cup of coffee; in the afternoon, I will switch to tea or a bottle of beer, depending on my mood. At night, I will switch back to tea again, or stick with water. I like to leave my desk for major meals, but I like having seaweed snacks, pretzels, or nuts hanging around in my periphery in case I'm so busy that I forget to have lunch. I never forget breakfast or dinner, though.

5. Do you have any superstitions about your work?

I have tried to write without my phone or laptop in general proximity, but I always end up wanting or needing to research something I am writing about or check synonyms quickly for alternative word use. I must, however, always turn my phone over on the table or shut my laptop when I am not using them. If I see a notification pop up on either, it is too distracting to continue writing freely, as I feel an itching need to check what is going on outside the world of my desk; this is always a losing battle.

6. Share a recent line/sentence written in this space.

And the passing of time / Feels analogous / To the passing of friends / A long and emphatic / Lament.


Kate Ruebenson graduated this June with her MFA in Poetry from Brooklyn College. A New York City native, she lives in Brooklyn but also spends time on the west coast. She is an Adjunct Professor of English Composition at Medgar Evers College and Brooklyn College. Her poetry has been published in Roanoke ReviewYellow Chair Review, Typehouse Magazine, C4 Magazine and Hanging Loose Press, among othersand last year her short film Ephemreel premiered at Noted Festival in Australia. In July 2015, Kate spent a week on Long Island in workshop with Billy Collins. In August 2015, she was a resident at Arts Letters and Numbers in Upstate New York (featured). This past summer, Kate split her time between workshops with Carolyn Forche and Campbell McGrath at Skidmore College and a poetry intensive with Dorianne Laux at the Port Townsend Writers Conference in the Pacific Northwest. She enjoys writing poetry with a view, whether that landscape is the Cascade Mountains or the traffic on Nostrand Avenue.


THE WOODSHOP: Bonnie ZoBell

CutBank continues its online feature, The Woodshop, with this submission from Bonnie ZoBell, as interviewed by Caitlin Summie. Review our submission guidelines here, then submit your own Woodshop to cutbankonline@gmail.com. And don't forget - chapbook contest submissions are open as well! Review submission guidelines and submit your best work here.


ZoBell WoodshopWhere do you do your work?

I work at a desk in an office converted out of a garage. It's mine-all-mine, so I can use whatever wild colors I like without conferring with anybody. My dogs have their own beds out here.

What do you keep on your desk?

I have a miniature Day of the Dead diorama on my desk that I particularly like—a skeletal waiter and waitress with big toothy grins. I have the painting by Sandy Tweed that was used on my current book over my desk as my muse. Knicknacks from various projects I'm working on—books by people I'm interviewing, tape measures to measure my dogs' necks for cool collars I find online, a Firebox I'm trying to figure out how to use.

What’s your view like?

That's another thing I love so much about my office—I have a window and leave the door open so I can see all my plants. I'm an avid gardener.

What do you eat/drink while you work?

My favorite thing to drink in my office is Cherry Fizz, which writer Kim Church introduced me to this past summer. Cherry juice, club soda, and a lot of ice. Yum.

Do you have any superstitions about your work?

Fortunately, no. I confess the picture I'm sharing with you has been tampered with. If it has to be that clean in order for me to write, I'd never get anything done.

Share a recent line/sentence written in this space.

She was so disturbed that her face contorted into a terrible grimace, facial muscles rioting so that her natural beauty became a knotted mask.


Bonnie ZoBell's new linked collection from Press 53, What Happened Here: a novella and stories , is centered on the site PSA Flight 182 crashed into North Park, San Diego, in 1978 and features the imaginary characters who live there now. Her fiction chapbook The Whack-Job Girls was published in March 2013. She has received a National Endowment for the Arts fellowship in fiction, the Capricorn Novel Award, and a PEN Syndicated Fiction Award. She has an MFA from Columbia University, currently teaches at San Diego Mesa College and is working on a novel. Visit her at www.bonniezobell.com.