My lifework is in creating experiences where people find the craft instruction to reach for their best writing, find the community to connect meaningfully across backgrounds, and find the lifelong inspiration of the writing life.
To do this, I facilitate the Art of Fiction; host annual writing residencies in Po’ipū, Kaua’i; Kolkata, India; and Kampala, Uganda; and give as a philanthropist to artists and visionaries around the world. I’m currently working on a new book.
What is your idea of perfect happiness?
Whenever I’m working to bring people together through reading and writing. Which is pretty much all the time.
What is your favorite season?
All of them.
What living person do you most admire?
People who live with empathy for others and to serve others, and who constantly seek to understand the world better.
If you could be a non-human animal for a day, what would you be?
Anyone with wings or gills.
What is your most marked characteristic?
What is the trait you most deplore in yourself?
When I forget there’s a difference between the urgent and the important.
What is the trait you most deplore in others?
Hard to say. I’ve found I can learn something from everyone.
What do your friends say about you behind your back?
Who are your favorite characters in fiction?
In terms of memorable “round” characters: Kezia Burnell and Belisa Crepusculario first and foremost, always. Then, in some order: Obi Okonkwo, Niakoro, Ad’jibid’ji, Edna Pontillier, Doctor Mandelet, Friar Laurence, Clara, Carla, Sethe, Paul D, Mr. Biswas, Dorian Gray, Jim, Huck, Alleluia Cone, Gibreel Farishta, Saladin Chamcha, Isabella, Viola, Olivia, Malvolio, Andrew Aguecheek, Juliet, Romeo, the Nurse, Mercutio, Eveline, the older waiter, the younger waiter, the old man, the old man and the sea, the marlin, Jewel, Cora, Matt King, Hatsue Miyamoto, Kabuo Miyamoto, Ishmael Chambers, Stephen Dedalus, Gretta Conroy, Michael Furey, Gabriel Conroy, Jonathan Trout, Linda and Stanley Burnell, Clarissa Dalloway, Sonny, Roy, John, Rose, Flo (thinking here of the Alice Munro character but maybe also the Progressive Insurance character), Iago, Othello, Michael Cassio, Alice Liddell, the Chesire Cat, Mario Jiménez, Hamlet, the ghost, Polonius, John of Gaunt, Robin Hood, Sula, dozens of others I’m leaving out because there are so many. What a great question. Let’s move on.
What fictional characters do you most dislike?
Flat or stereotyped characters who don’t reflect the complexity of what makes up a human being.
What is your favorite music?
Ocean waves, wind in the trees, rain.
Who are your role models in real life?
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about Eddie Aikau, but really anyone who develops their talents in order to live for the direct benefit of others or who live joyfully and with integrity in such a way that other people find inspiration. No one human is a perfect role model, like the quotation goes, in probably nearly everyone you can find something that inspires you and you can aspire to emulate.
What talent do you wish you had?
The ability to, in every interaction, remember to ask myself “what is best for the short- and long-term health and happiness of this individual,” and then act and speak accordingly.
What is your present state of mind?
What historical figure do you most identify with?
Those who bring people together.
What is your favorite journey?
This one. I’ve been thinking a lot about the first voyagers to discover the Hawaiian islands, how they steered with the stars, birds, seeds, clouds, journeying toward a land that they knew was there, even though they couldn’t see it yet. I feel like I’m on a similar journey with a some like-minded people, working to build experiences that help people live deeper, more connected, happier lives, and even though we can’t see the destination necessarily yet with our eyes, we know it’s there.
What living person do you most despise?
What is your greatest fear?
What is your greatest extravagance?
What is your greatest hope?
That everything is unfolding the way it’s supposed to.
What do you most value in your friends?
Empathy, curiosity, humor.
Who are your favorite writers?
Oh wow. A short list: Toni Morrison, Gabriel García Márquez, Katherine Mansfield, James Joyce, and Virginia Woolf, along with Kate Chopin’s “The Awakening” and Juan Rulfo’s “Pedro Páramo.”