Encounters in Publishing #17: I Think My Office Walls Are Trying to Tell Me Something… by Maria Gagliano

This week marks one year since I’ve inhabited my new office and its walls are still mostly bare. I’m not good about personalizing my work space because I’ve never figured out exactly how to go about it. My last office remained bare-walled for five years until a colleague stormed in and decided something had to change. We hung printouts of book covers and Christmas cards. It helped a little.

Despite the naked walls, a few token items have crept into my office. Somehow, they all seem to be working together for the greater good:

My Zen Fisherman: This is a ceramic figurine of an elderly Chinese fisherman. I bought it in Chinatown back when I was an assistant in a very stressful environment. I got it with the express purpose of having something to look at when I’m really stressing, to remind me of the good things in life. Fishing with my dad in the Poconos. Sitting on the edge of a lake. Forgetting computer screens and breathing. He sits on my desk, right by the computer monitor, where he finds a way to catch my eye just when I’m prone to forgetting what this whole life thing is all about.

A thank-you card from a friend: It’s from a former author-turned-friend who’d sent a sweet note when I started my new job. It has a bird on it, which this author doesn’t know is one of my favorite images. The bird sits alone on my cork board, peering over my shoulder, perhaps throwing signals to the Zen Fisherman whenever she thinks I can use his help.

A stuffed Octopus wearing a scarf: This was a random impulse buy from J. Crew circa 2001. They had a bucket of stuffed toys at the register, wearing ridiculous things. I can’t remember any of the others, but the octopus wearing a scarf really did me in. An octopus! Wearing a scarf! Really so ridiculous, but also kind of perfect. He’s lived on my desk wherever I’ve worked for the last 12 years. When I look at him, he reminds me that we’re all just a little ridiculous, so we better stop taking ourselves so seriously.

The opening page to Summer Pierre’s Great Gals: I worked on this book at my last job, and man, do I love it. If someone had ever told me when I was younger that I’d someday edit a book with Ani DiFranco and Lucille Ball in the cover—two of my absolute heroes—they never would have heard the end of my squealing. The first page is a sort of manifesto on embracing the little things in life, which I keep on my wall and read almost every day (when I remember to look up). This isn’t the first time I’ve shared it on a blog, but it’s significant enough to share again. Everything listed here is small in and of itself, but just try reading it on a bad day. It’s impossible not to smile and think that you really can do it all.

The opening page to Summer Pierre’s Great Gals


Maria Gagliano is a writer, editor, baker, and co-publisher of Slice. Her writing has appeared in BUST magazine, the Huffington Post, Salon, and, among other publications. When she’s not playing with words, she’s teaching herself to sew, garden, pickle, preserve, and cook like her Sicilian parents. She shares her (mis)adventures at