At the Desk: With Marilyn Brant

Marilyn Brant's Desk
Marilyn Brant's Desk

I have friends whose offices are a study in well-organized shelves, neat piles and dust-free cabinets. Mine? Not so much. My bookshelves surround the room (I have one against every wall), and all of them are packed with books like the one in the picture. Some hold books on writing craft, others have my “keeper” novels, one has all Jane Austen-related works — both research guides and fiction, and another (the largest) has the stacks of print novels I’ve bought but have yet had a chance to read. My desk itself is mostly taken up with the computer and telephone, but the remaining space is a cluttered collection of paper scraps and notecards on which I’ve jotted messages to myself. Many of them are quotes, sometimes with shades of contradiction (i.e., “The mind is everything. What you think, you become.” ~ Buddha vs. “You have to make mistakes to find out who you aren’t. You take the action, and the insight follows: You don’t think your way into becoming yourself.” ~ Anne Lamott). But I like that. I don’t think ideas are always neat and easy and, to me, writing creatively requires the ability to tolerate ambiguity and paradox. Above my desk, I have a poster from one of my favorite classic movies, “Roman Holiday.” To my left, I have one from “The Philadelphia Story” and, to my right, a poster featuring Shakespeare’s works — inspiration for good dialogue! I’ve written over half a dozen novels in this little space and, though my office is messy and sometimes dusty, it’s still my favorite place to write.


MarilynBrantDesk -- up close
See the little bits of paper with the quotes and the notes? I spend a lot of time writing down reminders for myself -- and even more time trying to find them later.

MarilynBrantDesk - office shelves
Not only do I have the books on the shelves, but they're also stacked on top of the shelves, in piles on either side of the shelves, in front of the shelves... Oh, and I have my woolly white sheep from when I was in Australia. He guards the books.

Marilyn Brant's Desk
Marilyn Brant's Desk

MarilynBrantDesk - more office shelves
I wasn't kidding about being surrounded by books in my office! And, well, also my Elvis magnets. I like the one where he's strumming his guitar and silently serenading me

MarilynBrantDesk -- on floor
Often, when I'm struggling with a scene and need to do something to jumpstart the process, I'll spread the papers I'm using for reference around me in a semi-circle (in a corner of the house somewhere) and I'll write by hand. While this doesn't necessarily produce stellar prose, it usually helps me to get past whatever issue is bothering me at that point in the story.

Here I am actually doing this at a writing retreat with friends: scribbling my way through the start of a scene...scratching out most of it...writing another few sentences by hand...hating all but one of them...and, finally, rewriting the opening paragraph of what became Chapter 5 of my manuscript-in-progress.


Marilyn Brant – Award winning Woman’s Fiction Writer.



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  1. Okay, maybe we weren’t separated at birth after all.  I am an OCD neat-freak!  Everything has to be in place for me to write.  If not, my pea-sized brain can’t move past the tiny piece of lint on the corner of my desk.  The only thing slightly chaotic are my notes and even then, there’s reason to it.  I loved the semi-circle idea…I may have to steal it!  Loved this post, Marilyn, and the peek into where your brilliance is born. 🙂

    • LOL, Jill — okay, maybe our desks look different, but our choice of snacks must be identical (chocolate-covered strawberries…Oreos…xox), and I do really wish I could keep my workspace more organized. Not sure what that says about the state of my mind :-).

  2. i love to read books….
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  3. Your bookshelves look like mine.  Mine are in desperate need of organization.  I have just been too lazy to do it.  Love your books and can’t wait for something new. 

    • Oh, Chris, thank you so much!! I’m working on something new and hope it’ll be a story you’ll like. 😉 And I’m very glad to know I’m not alone with the wildly disorganized bookshelves! I don’t even know where to start. I think I’d need another whole room with lots of extra shelves to even try…

  4. Thanks, doll.  I don’t feel so alone, now.  My bookshelves are taller and, like yours, filled to overflowing.  My desk is a disaster with even the pullout things (you know the ones, supposedly for extra space like a built in kitchen cutting board) have reference books on them. 

    • YES!! I know *exactly* what you mean, Gwynlyn ;). Almost every bit of available space is spoken for… Wouldn’t it be nice to add on a room extension, just for reference materials?!

  5. I Love it Marilyn, we’ll have to swap pictures and have dueling shelves. You know who’s you should really see is Becke Davis’ from B&N mystery, wow.
    thanks for sharing

    • Deb, I’m not at all surprised that you and Becke have a ton of books, too!! These overflowing bookshelves are just an outward sign of our great love of reading, right? 😉

    • LOL, Jan!! I’m just thrilled you think that there’s some small bit of organization amidst all the chaos — I try! Thank you :).


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