Virtual Clean Your Office Day


On Friday of this week, millions of people around the world will bond in a joint cause: to clean their  home offices. Okay, maybe not millions. More like a dozen. Or half dozen. Six of my friends, plus me.

To reboot, on Friday, at least seven people will virtually join me in tackling the horror of paper piles, book stacks, business receipts, dead ink pens, and whatever (Food? Fungus? New strain of rotavirus?) that is turning the bottom of my mouse purple.

Why is office cleaning a blog post? Is it because an unpleasant activity is less painful with a cheerleading squad (yes) or because announcing on social media that you will do a thing will make you accountable and so you will actually do the thing (yes) or that there will be the validation, praise, and maybe ice cream after you do the thing (yes) or that I’m desperate for any blog post topic (yes, and oops, did I write that out loud?)

I live in a clean home. I make up my bed every morning. I can’t go to sleep if there are dirty dishes in the kitchen sink. I change bedsheets every week. Every so often, I go on an anti-bacterial gel rampage and wipe down all the knobs (door, cabinet, bathroom, desk) in the house. I write every morning at 7:00 a.m. at a spot near a window, with a vision board nearby, a cup of coffee on hand, and headphones to block out all noise. I have standards. Habits. Rituals. You might think I’m OCD, until you open the door to my office.


I am fortunate to have a home office where I do all of my editing work and some of my writing work. The décor is modern day functional. There are curtains to keep the sun out of my eyes, an AC  unit to keep my desktop cool in summer, a wraparound desk, an ergonomic chair and a standard office chair as a spare, bookcase with reference materials. If the IRS came to my  home to make sure the deduction I take is legit, I would lead them to my home office with confidence.

And chagrin. Because strewn between the various elements of modern day function are piles and  piles of stuff.

It’s all business-related stuff. Notes to myself about changes to make in manuscripts. Lists of character names. Books I use when I write an online course. Books I’ve edited for when I do promotional events. Business cards—mine,  yours, ours—and several address books. Files with receipts spilling out. Boxes with receipts spilling out. Boxes labeled “ideas” and “columns” and “Cajun French info.” Stacks of CDs because, yes, I still own those and listen while I work. And journals. Rows and rows of clean journals–clean because the one journal I actually use as a journal is in my writing room.

On my desk itself is a big flat paper office calendar color-coded in a way only I and a three-year-old with crayons might understand. Behind the large desktop monitor is a tub of biscotti because if I don’t lock it up in my office, the biscotti will be consumed by my menfolk.

My office is my domain. I spend a lot of time there. To be clear, there is no dirt. The floor is vacuumed and the light switch is always germ-free (see anti-bacterial comment above), so it is clean but it is cluttered, and every once in a while, I look around and the chaos is a slap in the face to my need for orderliness.

There’s probably something to be said for my ability to focus in a messy office, when a messy room in all other parts of the house would drive me batty. But there it is, and that’s why Friday is Virtual Clean Your Office day. When the chaos intrudes on my focus, it’s time to slay those piles of stuff.

But, I hate it. One of the reasons my house stays neat is because cleaning it is so BORING.

And so, when I mentioned the mess on Facebook and a writing friend responded that we should have a virtual clean your office day, I said yes! Let’s do that!

Do you keep an orderly office? Or do you thrive in the mess? Or is it time to find your desk under the piles of stuff?

If the answer is yes to the third question, Friday is clean your office day. Join in virtually by announcing your intentions. My Facebook friends and I will cheer each other on, and when I’m done, I plan to have ice cream. Real ice cream, not the virtual stuff.

Friday. Clean your office. If it goes well, maybe we will do it again next year, because once a year is about how often I clean my office.

Coming Events and Workshops

2016-fall-eventsOne of the perks of being awarded a fellowship is the opportunity to offer free public readings and workshops. (And you have funds set aside for promotional postcards!)

The following are my coming events for October and November, 2016. Some require registration, but all are open to the public. Continue reading

Award Winners XVI

The annual Award Winners exhibition featuring the talents of the Delaware Division of the Arts’ Individual Artist Fellows opens today, August 5, at the Biggs Museum of American Art in Dover. The exhibition runs through October 23.

Award Winners XVI

5 Minutes in Jamaica by Zaneta Zubkova

The 2016 Artist Fellows were recommended by out-of-state jurors based on the high quality of their artwork and receive Delaware State Arts Council approval. Each year, the Biggs Museum invites the award winners to the only group exhibition honoring their combined accomplishments in visual and media arts, literature, and music.

I am honored to have been awarded a 2016 Masters Fellowship in Fiction and to have my work displayed alongside other fine artists from the First State. The Awards Ceremony will be held on Saturday, October 1, when I and two other literature fellows will share some of our writing. There will also be a trombone performance!

To read about the artists and their work, visit the DDoA’s 2016 IAF interviews page.


4 Tough Questions for Your Critique Group

cropped-ramonagravitar.jpgCritique groups are great. I have participated in several, of different sizes and styles, and each one taught me to be a better writer. Reading works in progress allowed me to see how stories grew and, from those lessons, I became a more astute reader. Continue reading

What’s not to like about not?

cropped-ramonagravitar.jpgI gave a brief, impromptu lecture this past weekend on avoiding the “nots” when discussing your writing. This took place at a Read & Critique. For those who may not be familiar, a Read & Critique is an on-the-spot evaluation of the opening of a novel or nonfiction work. The critiquers—three of us this time—do a blind read of a half page synopsis and 2-page opening of a work. The writers in the session listen while the critiquers offer their gut responses to these openings. Continue reading

Self-Myths in Character Building

cropped-ramonagravitar.jpgYesterday, I wrote about self-myths and the “I’m not” sentences we sometimes blithely—and other times insightfully—use to describe ourselves.

I joked that I’m not good at math. My neighbor, a pediatrics ICU nurse, uses algebra all the time at her job. She likes numbers, and I’m glad she does. You want someone who enjoys algebra calculating your meds. Someone who is not me. Continue reading

The Merry Month of Self-Myths

cropped-ramonagravitar.jpgI attended a food truck party this past weekend, an event to support the local arts alliance where I participate in open mics, enjoy exhibits and classes and, this summer, will offer a multi-week course on novel writing.

The party was a smashing success. Despite the drippy skies, we arrived (late) to a parking lot full of students, art patrons, and locals patiently standing in loooong lines to the food trucks. The atmosphere was upbeat. A musician sang. Dogs wagged their tails. Children played around the tents. Even the lights of the firetruck closing off the street seemed festive. It was as much a community block party as it was a fundraiser. Continue reading