Why I Write
I write because I am cursed/blessed with insatiable curiosity, and a restlessness born from having lived in seven towns and having attended ten schools by the time I was eighteen, repeatedly having to re-calibrate to new settings and find (or not find) new friends. I write because “my most absorbing hours are those spent arranging words on the page” (Joan Didion). I love the composting, the unraveling, the “diving into the wreck” (Adrienne Rich), the music that language makes, and, ultimately, the experience of unearthing – not as archeologist, sociologist, or philosopher, but as artist – what it means to be human on this tiny rock in the cosmos.
As the daughter of a Jewish mother born into a tiny apartment in the Bronx and a prosperous Anglo father raised in a two-story house in Lincoln, Nebraska; a woman with the habit of falling in love with women and men from a range of countries and cultures, I write to understand acts of love across boundaries – the intimacy and separation of the Other as well as the uncanny, often transformative brief meetings between strangers.
I write to understand the meaning of freedom, faith, identity and freewill. As a rape survivor, I write to excavate with words, what it might mean for man, woman or child to live in a body that has been physically violated, permanently marked by ancestral trauma, disability, illness, prejudice or war. I write because I believe my human job on earth is to learn compassion.
What I’ve Done
Trimmed pineapples at Dole, waited dinner and cocktail tables, taught poetry in inner-city schools, produced the San Francisco Women’s Building newsletter, toured the West Coast and the Hawaiian Islands with a theatrical conversation between Mary McLeod Bethune and Mother Jones, taught English in Italy and Nicaragua, engaged in community activism, raised two sons, founded a creative writing school in San Francisco where I’ve had the fortune of engaging and guiding over 8000 students.
Journey into Motherhood: Writing Your Way to Self-Discovery (Riverhead), personal/political essays, and short fiction. My collection, The Man with Eight Pairs of Legs, won the 2020 Mary McCarthy Prize for Short Fiction and will be published by Sarabande Books on February 1, 2022. Read more. The title story was published in Ploughshares Solos in October 2021. Other stories in this collection have won first place awards at Arts & Letters, Southern Indiana Review, Briar Cliff Review, and Thomas Wolfe Review; have been finalists at Iowa Review, Bellevue Literary Review, and Glimmer Train, and have been nominated for a Pushcart. I am a grateful recipient of writing fellowships from Playa in Oregon and Ucross in Wyoming. To receive updates on my writing and writing life, subscribe below.
My teachers have been many, including N. Scott Momaday, Stan Rice, Amy Hempel, Lynne Sharon-Schwartz, Askold Melnyczuk, Shannon Cain, Lan Samantha Chang, Jim Shepard, Charles D’Ambrosio, Randall Kenan, Stuart Dybek, Sarah Shun-lien Bynum, Yiyun Li, Anthony Doerr, & Joy Williams. With more to come, I’m sure. I am so grateful for their wisdom.
I currently write, teach, garden, gather, and speak out. I split my time between my ohana in San Francisco and my ohana in Honolulu.