This question is lifted from author Sahar Sabati's informative Ask an Author series, which ran from 2015-2016 and included responses and reflections from English-speaking authors from around the globe. Since I'm often asked these questions by readers, I have republished my answers here with Sahar's kind permission.
The most surprising thing. It’s almost tidy.
What can’t I live without? Books. No, coffee. No, books.
List of items:
Books/iPad. There are always books, both electronic and paper, cluttering my desk: my own books, a book I’m reviewing, or something I’m reading for research. There’s also a pile on my bedside table for reading while snuggled in bed. The tiny book under my pen holder, Cent-un poèmes dans le metro, I’ve kept with me for more than two decades, bought when poems about humanity featured in Paris’ trains and stations. I love this collection; it reminds me of our years spent living in France.
Flowers from my garden. My husband and I recently moved to a double-fronted 1920s wooden house with Cape Cod-style dormers. The house has two old porches, and since we only use one as an entrance, I have commandeered the other as my office. It’s a perfect writing space; tiny, cosy and quiet. There are two windows but as they’re both high, allowing me only peeks of the trees and sky, I like to bring some outdoors in.
Birds. The little blue ceramic pūkeko (New Zealand’s native swamp hen) is a nod to my love of birds, and the yellow origami (next to my coffee mug) is a gift from Jessica, a very special fan, who read my children’s title Battle of the Birds twice.
The blue folder. This folder contains printed sections of my work in progress, as well as colleagues’ work that I’m critiquing. There’s nothing like a paper copy when you’re editing, and it means I can relax on the sofa while I’m working. Okay, I confess, before I took the photo I tidied the pages into the folder because they’re typically strewn all over the desk.
The pen holder and cover. One year, fed up with the consumerism, our family agreed to make our own holiday gifts, and the pen-holder was made for me by my mum of knitted plastic supermarket bags. I love it! It sums up my childhood where things were repaired and recycled rather than bought new — my dad has a reputation for being able to fix anything with an old BBQ plate, for example. I used to have a fancy metallic pen holder, but I wouldn’t change this one now. I’m certain no one else has one of these on their desk.
Keyboard and screen. I like a big screen. Yes, my keyboard is old and clunky and missing some letters, but I am a creature of habit, so I haven’t changed it yet. I reckon it still has some life in it.
Coffee. Like most writers I run on coffee, although I generally switch to tea in the afternoon. The mug was a gift from my husband and features a photograph taken by our local paper when I won my first Sir Julius Vogel Award. Cheesy, I know, but I’m rather proud of it.
Stamp and stamp pad. A recent gift from my Korean sister-in-law, this stamp is fantastic for book launches and author signings where everyone has bought the same book. Being able to stamp mine with my name means I don’t lose them!