I always write first drafts of my books on long yellow legal pads using a pen. Once I’ve finished a new manuscript the pens go into a ceramic cup on my desk.
All the books on my writing desk are by people I have loved or who mean a great deal to me: a book by James Dickey, who was my poetry teacher at University of South Carolina; a book by Robert Doyle, who was my faculty advisor and English teacher at the Citadel; a copy of The Sunday Wife, a novel by my wife Cassandra King, along side a trade paperback edition of her first novel, Making Waves in Zion. Also a poetry book by my sister, Carol Conroy, and another by Jonathan Galassi, one of my first editors at Houghton Mifflin, now my friend. Many years ago in Minnesota, the writer and diarist Patricia Hampl told me I should always write in beautiful journals, and I do. One of the great pleasures I had when I lived in Italy was shopping for leather bound books made with gorgeous handmade marble papers; I have several, all crafted by a family of bookbinders working out of a small shop I discovered in Florence, an amazing city. The best journals in the world come from Italy. Readers occasionally send me stuff, some very special things, like that antique box with metal clasp you see in the photo. Gene Norris, my high school English teacher, prowls antique stores all over the South and comes home with unusual inkwells — he has given me many of them as gifts. Gene personally selected my desk, the most beautiful desk you will ever see, and insisted I buy it. The letter holder you see on the right is also leather; it is filled with letters that need to be answered, letters much too good to ignore.