We all have something — or somewhere — that fires up the serotonin just by holding it or seeing it: the woods where you grew up playing hide and seek, a cabinet full of your mother’s old copper cookie cutters, the room in your house that makes you feel the most peaceful. In the feature “My Favorite Things,” we invite Northwest Arkansans to share those special things or places that bring them joy.
Michelle Parks’ byline has been in newspapers around Northwest Arkansas since she started on the staff of her junior high publication. She spent 15 years, most of the time as a features writer, at several incarnations of regional newspapers as an adult and is now director of communications for the Fay Jones School of Architecture and Design at the University of Arkansas, where she’s been for the past 12 and a half years.
It’s no surprise, then, that her love of the written word is reflected in her favorite space, her home office and library. Even though it’s the smallest room in her Hogeye home, her three cats often keep her company when she’s working, one of them in her lap, on the back of her office chair or sleeping in the window. “She very much enjoyed it when I worked remotely during the pandemic,” Parks says.
Parks says her office and library is her favorite room because “everything has a story” and “that story gives the thing meaning.”
“The story of my desk is especially meaningful to me,” she explains. “My favorite college journalism professor, Roy Reed, let me know this desk was for sale. It had belonged to the author Donald Harington, who wrote four books over 10 years at the desk, including ‘The Cockroaches of Stay More.’ It’s a simple, sturdy, wooden desk, with scars, stains and peeled veneer.
“My custom built-in walnut bookshelves in this room hold volumes by several authors with Arkansas connections, including Harington, Reed, William Harrison, Molly Giles, Joan Hess and Ellen Gilchrist,” she continues. “A fantastic photo illustration of Harington created by a friend hangs on the wall. There’s also a Royal typewriter here that I bought from Hays & Sanders Bookshop when they closed shop on Block Avenue. And there are two letterpress type drawers and dozens of letters once used on the old printing press at the Northwest Arkansas Times, where I worked my first reporter job out of college — and where Reed called to tell me about the Harington desk.”
I’m always looking to add: Good writing pens and more good books.
If I could change one thing about my space: I have neglected the décor of this space. I would hang more art by local artists.
The item in this space that I love the most is: A lovely cross-stitched “M” that my dear friend of now nearly 35 year made for me the year we both graduated from the University of Arkansas.
The item in this space that I use the most is: The desk. During the pandemic, I worked remotely for about 15 months. I loved sitting at the desk for hours every day.
The item I can’t do without is: My collection of books about writing.
The comment I hear most often about this space is: People say that it’s cozy, and they’re surprised that it has so many books.
The object in this space I have the strongest emotional tie to is: The 1938 Razorback yearbook that my grandmother and her older sister shared when they attended the University of Arkansas. There’s a sweet inscription from the man who would become my grandfather.
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