Sunday, January 31, 2016

365 True Things: 308/Red Threads

In 2004–6, I attended the Antioch University–Los Angeles low-residency MFA program in creative writing. Twice a year for a long week, a hundred-plus of us would gather together to attend lectures and "workshop" one another's work. I got valuable experience at Antioch in writing, and thinking about writing; in reading, and thinking about what I read in terms of writing (craft, theme, language, sensitivity, ethics); in meeting deadlines; in critiquing, and accepting critiques; and more.

But the most valuable gift of Antioch, now, ten years later, is the community of writers, of friends, I found there.

Today I spent the day with one of my fellow Antiochers, Susan. She is the author of Nagasaki: Life after Nuclear War (Viking, 2015), which I read early drafts of (the first few chapters) during and shortly after our Antioch days. As I type here, she is rereading the book to make small changes for the upcoming paperback edition. On an afternoon hike today, she told me some of the ins and outs of the experience of getting this book published and publicized. She is meticulous in every way, and I know the book is wonderful, if hard—meaning the hard subject matter: the life story of five hibakusha, or survivors of the second nuclear bomb. (I have yet to read the book, but it's on my list for my 61.)

Susan and I participated briefly with four other Antioch alums in a writing group we called the Red Threads. The name comes from the traditional Chinese notion that the gods tie an invisible red cord around the ankles (or in the Japanese variant, the little finger) of those that are destined to meet and help one another. Here's most of us, at a get-together at Susan's house in Tempe, Arizona, in 2007:

me, Susan, Khadijah, Anne
A few years later, we all ganged up again in Denver for the AWP (an annual writers conference). We still keep in touch—via FB, with very occasional in-person encounters—but 2010 was the last time we all were in the same place in the same time.

Kim's current FB photo
Other friends from Antioch are my now daily "howling" pals, Sherilyn and Kim. And then there's James, Ed, and Seth, who I hope to meet up with this year at a writers retreat James is building in the Nevada desert. Danielle, who came to visit on her move north from LA back to Washington State a few weeks ago. I see Suellen and Christin on FB.

I feel extremely lucky to have met these talented, thoughtful, committed, industrious, interesting, interested people, who care about language and stories and life so much.


  1. great connections....
    interesting about the red strings - i was thinking it was Kabbalah related. I use to wear a red string around my neck ( as well as joey/beingjoey - flickr-) .....i need to find another one.