The Firsts column features Windmill writers talking about their own firsts in both writing and life. Interview conducted by Theresa Pham.
Akiko Busch is the author of How to Disappear: Notes on Invisibility in a Time of Transparency, published by Penguin Press in spring 2019. Her previous books include Geography of Home, The Uncommon Life of Common Objects, Nine Ways to Cross a River, and The Incidental Steward. She was a contributing editor at Metropolis Magazine for twenty years, and her essays about design, culture, and nature have appeared in numerous national magazines, newspapers, and exhibition catalogues. She has taught at the University of Hartford and Bennington College and currently teaches at Bennington College and the School of Visual Arts. Her work has been recognized by grants from the Furthermore Foundation, NYFA, and Civitella Ranieri. She lives in the Hudson Valley.
Q: What was the first book you ever loved?
A: A book called Mei Li about a young Chinese girl and her encounter with the Kitchen God.
Q: What was the first thing you remember writing?
A: I sat at my father’s desk in Bangkok and pecked out random letters indiscriminately on his typewriter. I don’t know if this counts as writing, but at the time I believed it did.
Q: When was the first time you knew you wanted to be a writer?
Q: When was the first time you felt successful/like a real writer?
A: When I was twenty-three and published a poem titled “An Item of Glass” in a literary quarterly.
Q: What is the first book that made you cry?
A: Portrait of a Lady by Henry James.
Q: How did your first book change your process of writing?
A: I learned to trust the associative process, the way that one thing leads unpredictably to another.
Q: When did you write your first book and how old were you?
A. Geography of Home, a collection of essays I had written for Metropolis magazine, was published in 1999 when I was 45.
Q: What is the first word that pops into your head to describe yourself and why?
A: I would like to think I know myself well enough to know this word, but it seems I do not.
Q: What was your first dream job?
A: Quitting my full-time magazine job.
Q: How did you celebrate your first book?
A: By having dinner with my husband, my two sons, and the Kitchen God.
Akiko Busch’s essay The Geography of Invisibility is forthcoming in the 2019 edition of Windmill.