THE WOODSHOP: Daniel Lanza Rivers

CutBank continues its online feature, The Woodshop, with this submission from Daniel Lanza Rivers. Review our submission guidelines here, then submit your own Woodshop to  

Desk Picture for Cutbank Woodshop, Daniel Lanza



Where do you do your work?

I generally split my work time between my desk, which sits in my living room at home, and a table at one of a handful of cafes in Oakland and Berkeley. I default to a cafe if I'm reading nonfiction or working through a revision, but most of my typing and fiction reading takes place at home, with headphones in if my partner's around. The reasons for this split probably have something to do with the throb and movement of city life, but on the practical side, my partner and I share a one-bedroom apartment and I find it's easier to ignore people you don't sleep next to.

What do you keep on your desk?

The desk itself was a gift, and it was refurbished by the lovely and talented Rachel Garrison, who also painted the octopus you can see on the right side. Among other things, it houses a picture of my parents in someone's college apartment, and another, smaller photo of my dad's mom, who passed away long before I was born.

  On the desktop, I usually keep a stack of manila folders filled with drafts and articles and the occasional glass of water. To the left of my desk, out of frame, I have a small shelf where I put all my office supplies. If I'm doing research or working through something for my dissertation, the octopus might spend weeks at a time beneath a stack of library books.

What’s your view like?

My work area faces a wall, so I try to keep a lot of landscape pictures up to give myself the illusion of open space. I also tack up quotes I'm chewing on and images that kick up a specific memory or emotional texture that I'm trying to pin down in writing. If I turn my chair around, I've got a nice view of a television, a cat tree, and part of the Oakland skyline.

What do you eat/drink while you work?

I don't eat very much while I'm working, but I might grab a beer if it's late in the day. Often, I'll swap that out for something stronger if I've been at it for a while and I'm trying to push through to the end of a project.

Do you have any superstitions about your work?

I like to keep encouraging rejection letters up on my cork-board, which I guess is a little superstitious. Sometimes I'll toss up the note from a fortune cookie or something I find in my wallet or between the pages of a book. As far as the writing itself goes, I generally assume that whatever thought I'm working through will disappear if I don't get it down right away. But that feels more honest than superstitious.

Share a recent line/sentence written in this space.

"There’s always an excuse,” Cliff said, as we stepped out into the fading heat on his parents' patio.


Daniel Lanza Rivers is  currently a doctoral student in English and Cultural Studies at Claremont Graduate University, where his dissertation explores connections between communalism, utopia, and the environment in American literature and culture. This spring, his short story “Hilmar” earned a favorable mention in the Washington Post after it was published by Connu. "Hilmar" was subsequently republished as a Selected Short from His other fiction credits include Lady Churchill's Rosebud Wristlet, Zephyr, and Toasted Cheese Literary Quarterly.