THIS IS US

When we interact meaningfully with someone, maybe in some way, we stay connected forever

Photo: Artur Debat/Getty Images

It is the curse of the humanist to want all the laws of science to apply to people too. I confess to being cursed in that way. A few years ago, when I was researching my novel Weather Woman and was reading a lot of science, I became captivated by the theory of entanglement, which refers to the idea that once two particles have interacted they thereafter always respond in relationship to one another, even when far apart. In a 1935 paper, Albert Einstein called the phenomenon “spooky action at a distance.”

Being a person who thinks more about people…


My voice these days emerges sounding like the slow deep rasp of an old woman; occasionally it resembles the high-pitched chirp of a child. It is no longer under my control. Receptionists and clerks raise their voices with me as if I’m deaf or dim-witted. My husband and friends remind themselves to slow down. I try to behave as if this is all normal, but it’s not. When I choose to speak there’s no way of hiding the fact that something is wrong with me.

Having always prided myself on being a nimble speaker, enunciating words crisply and inflecting my…


When I was diagnosed with an untreatable fatal disease two months ago (bulbar-onset ALS), I had the sensation of stepping off a treadmill. There were/are the expected existential thoughts brought on by the imminence of death, but alongside that I became aware of a delightful silver lining — so much didn’t seem to matter anymore! I could say no to so many things I’d never wanted to do in the first place! Having a fatal disease was the perfect excuse for not mowing the lawn, or cooking dinner, or taking out the trash (though I am perfectly mobile and strong)…


Not long ago I read a thread on Twitter in which dozens of young writers were bemoaning the fact that they had not yet been published. They had set goals for themselves and worried that they had not yet met these goals as they were approaching 30, 35, 40. They had submitted and submitted — what was wrong?!

I worried for these writers. I wanted to calm them down, tell them to chill and meditate and continue doing the work. I wanted to tell them to resist thinking of writing as competitive sport, or as a career in which one…


March is Women’s History Month and March 8th is International Women’s Day. Hooray, let’s celebrate! How can you not want to celebrate women? I come from a family predominated by women: aunts, sisters, nieces. I love hanging out with women of all stripes, working, dancing, crying, gossiping, singing, laughing. It usually takes only a little scratching of the surface to find a connection with most women, and on my list of people to admire there are far more women than men. I am not done with men, but I no longer see them as the movers and shakers, the creators…


Today (Feb. 23) is the 200th anniversary of the death of John Keats who was twenty-five when he died, an astoundingly young age for such a great poet and sage. The legacy of his that has affected me most profoundly is his idea of Negative Capability, which he saw as an essential concept for every writer to embrace. He coined the phrase in a letter to a friend:

“…what quality went to form a Man of Achievement especially in literature and which Shakespeare possessed so enormously — I mean Negative Capability, that is when man is capable of being in…


Now that we’re launched into the month of February, winter has descended on us fully with its own special ways of insisting we respect the power of weather. Often, winter weather is a terrible hassle: the snow shoveling, the frigid temperatures, the skyrocketing heating bills, the blocked roads and attendant accidents, the sudden power outages, the isolation and claustrophobia of being snowed-in.

But I am here now to extoll the myriad pleasures of winter. A blizzard that shuts everything down offers the opportunity to smash routines and see the world anew, to break from the rut of busyness, slow down…


When my son was in late elementary/early middle school, he and two of his best friends favored a gamed I call “How About,” because that was always the way the game began. “How about I’m king of the river and you’re trying to get across and I try to stop you…” They needed no more than a brief premise to be off and running, often chasing each other in pursuit of territorial control. What was striking about the game was the way their imaginations flew immediately into hyperdrive as soon as the How About premise was laid out. They never…


When I began working on my novel Weather Woman back in 2013, I had no idea I was writing Climate Fiction, now commonly referred to as Cli-fi. I’d never heard of Cli-fi before — most people hadn’t — I was simply exploring a What-if premise that interested me. What if a woman were to discover she could change the weather? It was a whimsical beginning to a novel which quickly led me to philosophical questions about the nature of belief, science and intuition, as well as to questions about what it would take to address our climate crisis. …


My writing has taken an unexpected turn in the last few years. I’ve begun to incorporate elements of the surreal — what some might term fantastical or magical realist — into what would otherwise be realistic novels. My 2018 novel, Weather Woman, for example, tells the story of a woman who discovers she has the power to change the weather; she must then navigate her way in a world where no one believes this is possible. Where did this rogue desire to employ surrealism or fantasy come from?

My earliest reading enjoyment as a child came from a variety of…

Cai Emmons

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