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Alchemy of the Word (2nd Edition)

The thirty essays in the anthology were delivered by faculty members of Goddard College's MFA in Creative Writing Program between 2000 and 2018 and focus on some aspect of writing or the writing life. Topics range from craft concerns, such as form and perspective, to issues of artistic ambition and the role of the writer as social activist.
National Book Award finalist Kim Addonizio calls Alchemy, “a smart, exhilarating collection—a true literary conversation, filled with wit, heart, and insight.”
Maxine Hong Kingston, says:
“These authors’ thoughts are mystical and practical, political and inspiring and funny. I’ve found companions on this lonely journey.”

“Whether you’re a young beginner or a veteran writer like me, you’ll get support from reading Alchemy of the Word. These authors’ thoughts are mystical and practical, political and inspiring and funny. I’ve found companions on this lonely journey.”
—Maxine Hong Kingston,
National Book Award Winner and author of China Men, The Woman Warrior, and Tripmaster Monkey

I'm proud to be a co-editor and contributor to the new edition of Alchemy of the Word. If you are a writer, this book is for you!
Alchemy of the Word: Writers Talk About Writing is a book like no other, from a writing program like no other. In this remarkable collection of essays, twenty-five acclaimed novelists, poets, playwrights, memoirists, cross-genre and nonfiction writers engage the reader in a virtual literary conversation, filled with passion, insight, wit, and warmth.

The Goddard MFA was the first low-residency program in creative writing; now there are around fifty operating in the United States. Program Director, Paul Selig says, “What greeted me at my first Goddard residency was the kind of community I had never dreamed possible… the faculty – well, they were teachers of the first order, and I found their dedication to shepherding a new generation of writers came from a place of deep generosity, wisdom and integrity.”

Alchemy of the Word introduces you to this faculty—not through their writing tips, tricks, and exercises, but through their experiences of themselves as professional writers living in the world, tackling issues they care about deeply and reporting back. To read this anthology is to travel to the wellsprings of literary inspiration, and to eavesdrop on a room full of mentors.

Words become us. Our lives become words. So begins the introduction to this powerful collection. The essays that follow are eclectic and range from the practical to the mystical, the humorous to the scientific, and the political to the personal. The book is broken down by topic into chapters (“Composing the Wilderness”, “Originality and Influence”, “Points of View”, “Literary Activism.”) which feature work by writers like Ryan Boudinot, Deborah Brevoort, Rebecca Brown, Bhanu Kapil, Michael Klein, Rachel Pollack, and Rahna Reiko Rizzuto. Throughout, each essay explores, exhorts, inspires, and exhilarates…illustrating in its own distinctive way the transformative power of language: alchemy of the word.

Whether you are a writer, a reader, or either a student or teacher of writing, Alchemy of the Word is bound to become an endlessly inspiring and entertaining addition to your library.



When a plane carrying American journalist Aidan Shaw goes down in Kashmir in 1949, Aidan’s wife Joanna refuses to accept that he is dead. Aidan has been accused of harboring Communist sympathies, and his mission to Kashmir was supposed to clear his name of these charges. Without a body to prove his death, Joanna is convinced that his disappearance involves more than accident. In search of answers, she enlists the help of Aidan’s best friend, Lawrence Malcolm, and leaves the rescue home that she runs in New Delhi, bringing along as translator an unusual native child, Kamla, whom she has saved from an Indian brothel – or “flash house.” Together with Joanna’s young son, Simon, this unlikely band sets off for the northernmost reaches of India, the last place Aidan was seen alive.

The ensuing journey leads over some of the highest mountain passes in the world and is by turns harrowing and heartbreaking, finally landing the rescuers in western China just weeks before the Communist takeover. As one cruel revelation follows another, these four are forced to lean ever more heavily on each other for solace and for courage. But will they be strong enough to endure the ultimate betrayal?

Flash House is a tale of passion and resilience in a world where nothing is as it appears.


Based on the true story of Liu's grandparents, Cloud Mountain recounts the romance of a Chinese scholar-revolutionary and his American bride, from turn-of-the-century San Francisco through China's Warlord period and into WWII.

Available in paperback.


Aimee Liu's first novel deals with issues of racial prejudice and intermarriage, and the connections between memory and survival.

Maibelle Chung's red hair and green eyes marked her as an outsider throughout her years growing up in New York's Chinatown. As a young woman she tried to flee and forget those early years, but recurrent nightmares force her to face the past that haunts her.
And when a childhood friend, Tommy Wah, invites her to photograph Chinatown for a book he is writing about the old neighborhood, she does not refuse.

Maibelle's confrontation with her own past forces her to investigate her parents' past, as well, and reveals a harrowing secret that demonstrates the power of memory, the high cost of forgetting, and the ultimate triumph of hope.


Restoring Our Bodies, Reclaiming Our Lives:
Guidance and Reflections on Recovery from Eating Disorders

Read true experiences of recovery, plus expert advice on all aspects and stages of recovery from eating disorder treatment professionals.

New from Trumpeter Books

Restoring Our Bodies, Reclaiming Our Lives: Guidance and Reflections on Recovery from Eating Disorders

Aimee's latest publication-
An honest, comprehensive, and inspiring resource for those in recovery from an eating disorder.
All proceeds benefit the Academy for Eating Disorders Scholarship Fund.

GAINING: The Truth About Life After Eating Disorders

GAINING is the story of all I know now about eating disorders that I didn’t know when I wrote my first memoir of anorexia, SOLITAIRE, back in 1979. This “sequel” was inspired by a series of reunions with other former anorectics that convinced me all of us still shared core personality traits, habits, and anxieties – even though none of us had had an active eating disorder in decades. Curious to know if our personalities were also consistently different from people who have never had an eating disorder, I began to interview scientists now studying the genetics and temperaments of anorexia and bulimia. I discovered that my suspicions were accurate. The risk for an eating disorder is approximately 60% genetic, and certain key traits are common to anorexia, while others are common to bulimia. It is not true that “anyone can get” an eating disorder.

My decision to write this book was triggered by a brief relapse of my anorexia during my separation from my husband when I was 47. Fortunately, I was in therapy at the time. Instead of developing a new eating disorder I developed a renewed interest in eating disorders. I realized that these disorders are intimately connected to anxiety, depression, perfectionism, and obsessive-compulsive behavior – all of which remained in my make-up, regardless of how much I was eating. Because I had recovered without therapy or treatment, I had, over the years, shifted my obsessiveness and compulsiveness into less dangerous forms of self-punishment, but I had not gained the necessary perspective and understanding to face the underlying causes of my eating disorder.

Most of the women I knew who had eating disorders when I did also recovered without treatment, and several of them had relapsed, as well. Yet most of these women were married, had children and professional careers. By all outward appearances, they had gained success. But I knew how deceiving appearances can be; most of us had been ace students, gone to top colleges, looked good and behaved beautifully – when we stopped eating or started purging. Were we truly recovered? Is it even possible to recover from the core anxieties that shape an eating disorder?

To answer these questions I began to interview my former classmates along with other recovered anorectics and bulimics – male and female from around the world. We compared notes, swapped stories, talked about the strategies, experiences, medications, or practices that had most helped us gain control over our illness, courage in our lives, and confidence in ourselves.
The stories in GAINING are life lessons hard earned.

A Memoir of Anorexia

Originally published when Liu was just 25, Solitaire is America's first memoir of anorexia. Liu describes her battles with food, weight, and alienation, in and out of the modeling profession, as a teenager of the sixties.



This page contains philosophical ramblings, notes on craft, and thoughts about what can and cannot be taught to aspiring writers.


Go to this page to read Aimee's latest book reviews.