I believe it was my brother Fred who described our grandfather's office desk and the assorted trappings of a writer's life: an L.C. Smith typewriter, pencils, notepaper, pens, paperclips, and stacks of paper and books.... Grandpa Burt wrote five books and taught marketing and advertising at Boston University and Northeastern. His most popular book may have been–and probably still is–The Story of Mount Washington (1960, Dartmouth). He also wrote one called Watch Out for the Racketeers... I find mention of that book in the dust cover of the Mount Washington book, but I don't think I have a copy.
But Grandpa's desk... I know I walked through his study countless times as a boy. In fact, as I write this morning, I can picture the second-floor passageway leading to his office from my grandmother's bedroom. I see shadows of that desk, but back then I wouldn't have understood those papers or his writer's life.
Through most of my writing career, I have kept a messy desk. Every six to twelve months, out of frustration or a new project, I spend a day cleaning the office and that desk. As this book reaches the final stages of revision, I have have begun to clean, sort, file, stack, and discard... it's like living the book in reverse, seeing the connections, the learning, and the moments without a clear path forward and times when the words just appeared. That's writing, I suppose. Or a desk's story, anyway.