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“Death by Pufferfish”

June 14, 2011

Attending a low-residency program like the MFA programs in writing, writing for children and young adults, visual arts, and now music composition and graphic design at my beloved Vermont College of Fine Arts, means joining a tribe. In the forthcoming Hawaii Women’s Journal Issue 5, Editor-in-Chief Jennifer Meleana Hee uses that word to describe the writers and staff who’ve found ourselves attached at the brain. Tribe. And she aptly describes how we cheer each other on. That cheering arises with my VCFA tribe, whether I’ve met the individual or not. I can’t help it. When I see a name behind a debut novel in the Publisher’s Weekly listing, a name in a list of retreat leaders, a name on a roster of contest winners, a name under the title of a story in a literary journal—well, if the name is attached to VCFA, I get, to put it plainly, excited.

My first workshop at VCFA, mixed-genre, included this fetching lady writer I’d totally Googled before going. She looked so dauntless in her Facebook profile pic (on a bridge! not afraid of heights!), and so literary indeed, all fiction-writer edgy, part of what I believed back then was a sort of glitterati class in the world of writings, these gorgeous fashionable things with old souls and wealthy imaginations and superstar vocabularies and well earned permasmirks. The story she’d submitted was textured and unusual, its main character, Kazuo, relatable enough to make me care, but way, way distant from my known life. Kazuo spoke dangerous things in five-syllable words I’d never heard of. Kazuo, and the author behind him, had something to teach me. Clearly I’d be learning some very important secrets in this tribe.

That author is as awesome as I’ve described her above, but without any of the ostentatiousness I used to assume writers wore like big-print silk scarves in summer. And lucky for me, she’s one of my dearest friends. And doublelucky for me, we share the VCFA tribe and the HWJ tribe, plus tribe-within-a-tribe roomie status. So we’re like supertribe, or microtribe, of the same lineage, sharing quarters and abundant inside jokes.

So when that dear friend told me her story, the one she’d sent to our first workshop, the one that introduced me to her before I knew her as more than a fierce photograph, the one that introduced me to Kazuo and his predicament, was being published in Hunger Mountain, arts journal of our beloved VCFA, I got so excited I think I almost called my mother to have her include the news in her annual holiday newsletter.

Ok. Cheering over for now. Time to read “Death by Pufferfish” by Mayumi Shimose Poe.

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One Comment
  1. suz-ANNE, you just made me CRYYYYYY! In the best kind of way. I also find it freakin’ hilarious that while you were posting this superkind, generous, heartwarming entry, I was sitting on my blog, chewing on your “When one box closes” entry at Cat Fidelity. Is that TRIBE, or what!

    seriously, suz. this and you and us and friendship and publication cheerleading is amazing. Thank you for being TRIBE with me. (All credits of use of word TRIBE revert to Jennifer Meleana Hee.) haha



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