Last year the faculty of Goddard College’s MFA in Creative Writing Program created an anthology about the life and craft of the writer titled Alchemy of the Word. At the time of publication, America’s worst nightmare seemed to be the divisiveness and polarization of our politics. None of us imagined that 2020 would be the year of the pandemic.

However, several of the essays in Alchemy of the Word did address concerns that have renewed urgency in the face of COVID-19. How can we as writers justify the time and effort we spend on our art, given the sense of emergency that now surrounds us? How can we focus in the midst of uncertainty, chaos, and fear? How can we as writers employ our humble skills to make a difference? In a time of global crisis, what are our words really worth?

We have selected a few of the essays that wrestle with these questions to share with you as a special series, Writing Through the Pandemic. If you would like to order the full anthology, Alchemy of the Word, please use this link at www.bookshop.org , so your purchase will support independent bookstores in this time of need.



There is an important lesson for all of us in Joe Turner’s Come and Gone about how to respond to the current situation. And it is this: there is a tool that is stronger than repression. It is The Word. The power of language. Or, as Wilson says, the “song inside you.” And it is a tool that all of us possess.

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I have no big picture. Like many women of North America who are artists and writers of this time, I have changing pictures of a changing life, and I am lucky to have been able to make change, in some small ways. With few impediments, by some standards, I’ve achieved relative comfort, performing my teaching duties and writing tasks, and answering my calling–poetry that sharpens my days and wakes me day and night. This much I do on a daily basis, like breathing. Most with attention, some worry, not enough lightness, at times.

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The honest reckonings of individuals, the capacity for justice in a society, and a language that is deft, honed, clear and beautiful, are all very much connected. Which makes our role as writers, whether we are writing determinist realism out of the school of Dreiser and Sister Souljah, or gonzo non-fiction in the tradition of Hunter Thompson and Charlie LeDuff, whether we are memoirists or fantasists or poets or playwrights or practice the dark arts of sci-fi and speculative fiction, vitally important in this moment.

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