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A&E

Where the magic happens: The desk of writer Alissa Nutting

"My desk is both a prison and an escape," says Alissa Nutting, a Schaeffer Fellow at UNLV and author of the forthcoming story collection Unclean Jobs for Women and Girls (October, Starcherone Books). "For me, writing as a career is kind of like an insane asylum that I checked myself into voluntarily: I can choose to leave any time, but I never will." To get behind the scenes of her creative process, we got a glimpse of her workspace.

1. "Crime dramas are my ultimate procrastination indulgence. It's easy to beach myself on the couch in a Snuggie and watch for hours. So I've borrowed the good cop/bad cop routine from the show: The bad cop makes sure I get in a minimum number of words, but the good cop gives me the freedom to make them (and my desk) as batshit crazy as possible."

2. "I can only write alone, dead sober and in the quiet. To make the process less lonely, I bring in silent animal-statue friends. I've experimented with having more human-like dolls on the desk (a ventriloquist dummy's head, for example), but it was a little creepy, and I kept feeling like I had to ask for their input with the story to be polite."

3. "As vital as other works of fiction are for inspiration, oftentimes critical texts serve best for getting me out of a writer's block—it's a nice gear-shift to thinking about ideas and concepts rather than craft. One of my favorites is M.M. Bakhtin's The Dialogic Imagination. It talks a lot about the grotesque, the clownish, the carnival; I'm very interested in the things that simultaneously repulse and attract us."

4. "I like to take traditional concepts or characters and pervert them. Children's books and toys are often a great inspiration because they have this super-pure facade. I found this very old teddy bear at an antique shop and paid way too much for it, but I had to have it because it looked green and sickly; it's like a teddy bear who was bitten by a zombie and is in the early stages of transformation. Eventually the face it was making seemed a little sad, a bit "Why haven't you taken me to the hospital yet?" So I put a lucha libre mask over it."

Photo by Beverly Poppe
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