Enclave – #AtoZChallenge

Apr 7, 2021 | Creativity & Inspiration

Messy deskNeat desk

Spring Cleaning

The external environment isn’t the only one that needs tending. For a long time, I worked downstairs, not bothering to go “up to the office” when working from home. Ironically, I use my home office more, now, in “retirement” but it needed a creative makeover. You can see the “Before” and “After” pictures for yourself – just use the little slider in the center.

I was inspired – to my husband’s delight – by the OWFI Photo Challenge, to declutter and decorate in order to show off “my writing space” on Instagram. God forbid I should skip a day. I mean, there’s a contest. I don’t even know what the prize is, but that just appeals to my “weirdly  competitive” side even more. I say “weirdly competitive” because I’m not at all competitive when the stakes are high. I’m more collaborative, when it really matters. Or, in desperation, I channel my inner drill sergeant to get others to do what they ought to be doing. The inner drill sergeant is a total control freak who tends to slack off until the 11th hour, when the enemy is within sight. He then kills the sleeping sentry, rallies the rest of the troops, and starts barking orders. He shares control with no one, because he thinks no one knows how to do their jobs better than he does. No one wants to rouse the inner drill sergeant. He’s really not “collaborative” at all, and probably not the best of leaders.

My “weirdly competitive” side only kicks in when there’s fun involved.

Who’s Who and What’s What?

My friend Corinne commented, on Instagram: “Lovely! I feel like I want to know the story behind every piece.” I wonder if accountants or engineers ever consider “story” behind the objects on their desks, or if they just appreciate the utility of them? I’m kidding – we all have a little bit of the creative spark, and these folks don’t get credit for it often enough, in my opinion. They are the ones who often gave me credit for intelligence when others didn’t have the imagination to see that a writer or artist could merge the flights of fancy with logic and critical thinking skills. I know what flights of fancy and imagination those accountants and engineers have lurking below the surface! They also have some of the coolest desk toys.

Never mind the “Before” version; in the “After,” we have “The Critters.”

Oh, these are not all of them! Just the original crew. First, there’s Plot Bunny. Plot Bunny joined me after the 2016 OWFI Conference. He had tales to tell! We got acquainted over breakfast, one morning.

Some days, I’m just a little bit afraid of Plot Bunny! But he and Herman Hootabout make great traveling companions.

Herman is a wise little owl, currently on my other desk, playing with more of the critters!

My mom collected owls. The wood block print is one of the bits of artwork and figurines from her collection; I wish I had more, but I think most are gone – probably through various moves over the years, before she died. This one looks over Herman and Fluff Bunny, who are arguing over who makes the best magician’s assistant. The pathetic top hat is a slouchy little dress-up prop I crocheted for them.

Armando the Armadillo came from a trip to San Antonio with several of my March Moms friends. Lloyd the Llama is in another room; he came home with me from the same trip. He likes to reminds me that he ought to be Alfie the Alpaca, technically. But then he gets all philosophical, and starts wondering, “What’s it all about?” and I threaten to send him to London – so he’s Lloyd. Of Houston.

Purple Ninja: He who will not divulge his name likes to lurk in potted plants or play-fight with Papier, the Purple Dragon. I don’t remember where my son got him, but he has vanished and reappeared many times over the past fifteen years or so. He’s mine, now. When my son, who is now 25, went off to college, I couldn’t bear let him toss the Purple Ninja into the trash. Now, the little warrior thinks he can protect the whole menagerie. Here, it looks like Papier has got the better of him, but of course he lets the tiny paper dragon win, sometimes. All writers know that an utterly invincible character would be utterly boring, and wise characters know never to be that, lest they have all their scenes cut. 

Horatio Hootabout, perched next to Papier, came to visit his cousin Herman, and stayed. He’s a bit sterner, less contemplative than Herman. In fact, I think that he conspires, from time to time, with my inner drill sergeant to remind me to apply butt to chair, and write.

RangaRoo was a gift from a former colleague, Tom. He seems to love chocolate, for some reason – especially single-sourced or little airline treats. I can’t quite figure out why, but his fur often smells of it and I know he’s been into the Godiva while I’m sleeping. He likes to pretend he’s the magician – his boomerang is his “wand.”

The iridescent Intel Bunny People are originals from 1997 and the announcement of MMX technology and Pentium II. I was working for Compaq, at the time. Now, they have turned an empty file folder into a jungle gym – which I think is a much better use for that thing than holding dead trees!

There is a 3D acrylic dragon and a little frog my my husband brought me from a business trip to Puerto Rico – he looks like he’s fallen into a butter churn.  There’s a glitter globe full of pink flamingoes that my mom gave me (another thing she collected). It’s from Daytona Beach – my hometown. There’s a Frankoma pottery coaster from The University of Tulsa, where I earned my BA and met my husband. The little Lennox chickadee sits on a nest of Holly, and behind him there’s a pewter box adorned with unicorns. You may have guessed, by now, that I collect dragons and unicorns and other tiny critters. 

On the other side of my writing desk, just below the ring light, there’s Nevermore, the raven, cradling Tiny Yorick’s grinning skull. He’s ready for his close-up!

On the little “bookshelf” behind the monitor, we have the Tripe Marketing Board Diary 2021. Did you know that I am Regional Director, US Southeast, of the Tripe Marketing Board? I was invited to join the Board after they saw my promotional YouTube series, “Adventures in Tripe.” You, too, can join Tripe Club

Next, there is The Deluxe Transitive Vampire; an aspirational copy of the 2020 Writer’s Market (one day, we’ll look back and say, “There was a market for writers, in 2020? What did people do – eat them?”); a copy of The Chicago Manual of Style (16th Edition). The astute viewer will have noticed something about that from the “Before” and “After” photos. There is also a copy of Save the Cat! Writes a Novel; Writing the Novel by Lawrence Block; and How to Write Science Fiction & Fantasy by Orson Scott Card. 

I haven’t read any of them, of course. 

Perhaps you noticed the National Geographic. I have paper copies going all the way back to 1979; this particular issue was sitting on my desk, and although its main feature is about Mary, mother of Jesus, I leave it here for the subtitle: “The most powerful woman in the world.” I’m not sure I aspired to be so powerful. Not even that famous. Maybe memorable; positive and influential in my own small way. 

It provides food for thought.

The plant is the great grand-child of the first purple zebrina that started my houseplant jungle.

Some of you may recognize The Haunted Photo – now secured, I think, in a bookstand. 

There’s a headset, a small mobile phone tripod, and noisy little fan (also a hand-me-down from my son). A corkboard that needs to be filled with current things and colorful inspiration. A ring light (a gift from my sister-in-law) that I use during Zoom meetings, Toastmasters, mostly, so that I am not subject to the whims of weather and natural light through the two windows nearby, or the ceiling fan that’s in the center of the room. 

That’s it. Now to put it all to good use.

If you think that I used the wrong word, “enclave,” I did not. I share space – a large game room – with my husband. His side of the room is neater, more orderly, filled with useful items and tools (I’m always having to borrow the tape or the scissors or a tiny screwdriver, or something – and he’s always having to remind me to give them back). I must cross into his territory to get to the door. Of course, there’s an easement; he has not walled me in with a cask of Amontillado (or even Armand, the Armadillo), but we are distinctly different – complementary, and it has worked well for us over the years. A year into retirement and the “house arrest” of a pandemic, we still like each other. Love is one thing, and of course we love each other. But you can love someone without liking them very much, and that would not bode well for the next forty years or so. I think that we will make it to our 75th or 80th anniversary, after all.












Holly Jahangiri is the author of Trockle, illustrated by Jordan Vinyard; A Puppy, Not a Guppy, illustrated by Ryan Shaw; and the newest release: A New Leaf for Lyle, illustrated by Carrie Salazar. She draws inspiration from her family, from her own childhood adventures (some of which only happened in her overactive imagination), and from readers both young and young-at-heart. She lives in Houston, Texas, with her husband, J.J., whose love and encouragement make writing books twice the fun.


  1. DoD

    I sure wish my office looked so good!

  2. Marian Allen

    I hope you and your friend JJ do make it to your 80th wedding anniversary, still in love and still in like. 🙂 <3

    • I have confidence, they will.

      I have confidence, they will.

      • Holly Jahangiri

        🙂 You should know, better than most!

        • Ferguson Bill NMI


    • Holly Jahangiri

      That’s my dad, there – betting on us – in case you didn’t know, Marian.

  3. Bob Jasper

    Nice job on the desk reorganization. I appreciated seeing the before/after shots. Does the ring light plug into a USB port or the wall?

    Love the stuffed animals, too. My daughter has quite a collection of those fluffy things, too. She’s also into naming them.

    I only have Energizer Bunny and a cow with a huge fishing weight for an udder (or is it a bull with a monstrous gonad?) that my 92-y.o. aunt gave me years ago.

    I enjoyed the rundown on your various desk characters, but I had trouble matching some of them up with the photos. Still fun to get this glimpse of your writing companion buddies. I bet you’ll be able to write more and better in the newly cleaned and organized workspace. Do you follow Trista Ainsworth on Medium? She’s big on cleaning and organizing.

    BTW. “Snow Stakes” is the only thing that shows up on the RSS feed or whatever it is at the bottom of the comment space.
    Bob Jasper recently posted…Snow StakesMy Profile

    • Holly Jahangiri


      The ring light plugs into the USB port. I have not tried plugging it into a USB charger… might work. Might not.

      I love my little critter collection. I have most of the Folkmanis finger puppets – well, a LOT of them. I don’t know that I even have half of their collection. Now and then, I treat myself a new one or two. I used to be better at naming them. I seem to be revisiting a childhood phase of naming everything “Herman” or “Oscar.” We need to play together more, then maybe they’ll tell me their names. I’m waiting for that, but they may be waiting for me to give them names. It’s hard to tell, sometimes.

      ROFL on your cow-bull. Picture?

      I’m not “big on cleaning and organizing.” Trying to get better at it, but too neat can be stifling. Too messy can be chaotic. Something in between works.

      That CommentLuv thing is a mystery!

  4. Corinne Rodrigues

    Thanks for writing this – I knew there was a story to each of these items. I love how they all come together to make such an interesting space!
    I hadn’t read the post on the ‘haunted photograph’. Didn’t realize that you were 5’11”. Do you know I’m 4’11 and some! 😉
    Corinne Rodrigues recently posted…Before Your Feet Hit The GroundMy Profile

    • Holly Jahangiri

      Oh, my gosh – no! I pictured you much closer to my height! Well, one of my very best friends was 4’11” and always annoyed because it was so hard to find shoes her size – outside of the children’s department. I have the opposite problem: finding sexy women’s shoes in size 11 that are comfortable! I’ve given up, for the most part, and wear men’s New Balance cross-trainers or let my toes run around nekkid. My feet are LOVING the pandemic, let me tell you!

      Thanks for asking about all the objects – happy to give a tour of the “office.” 😀


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