It was August and I was on my way to the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference for the first time. For some reason I don’t remember (bad weather, a loose screw), my plane from La Guardia to Vermont was grounded and I would have to stay the night in Flushing. While I was disappointed I was going to miss the C.K. Williams reading that night, what really bummed me out was the thought that the other writers also accepted as scholars would have their meet and greet, bond, and I would be the odd man out. It had been years since I had last been part of a community of writers so I had wanted to make a good impression in the hope that I would leave Vermont with two or three new friendships.
When I arrived the next day, I was relieved to learn that the scholars had not met yet. As we went around the room and introduced ourselves, I remember thinking how they seemed very down to earth and not intimidating at all as I had thought writers as accomplished as they were (some of them already had books!) might be. I can’t remember if it was then or the next day but at some point we decided that we should have at least one meal together. After that meal, everywhere I went I saw clusters of us sitting together at readings or lounging at the barn or eating breakfast. Something special had happened that first time we broke bread. That new bond we had with each other was cemented during the scholar reading when we all read some of our work in the Little Theater to the Bread Loaf community. Sasha West, the last of our group to read, captured the magic of that night best when she took the podium and said, “I just fell in love hard, 14 times.”
One afternoon when a bunch of us were sitting around a picnic table we did what writers do and had a sublime moment of silliness when we decided we didn’t want to be called by the bland, generic name Scholars anymore. I can’t remember what other names were suggested, but Voltron is the one that stuck. Being children of the 80s, most of us had grown up with the cartoon series, Voltron: Defender of the Universe. In each episode young pilots flying planes shaped like lions would battle evil. Whenever a fight was about to overwhelm them individually, all of the vehicles would join together to form a giant robot.
Before long, the Bread Loaf community started seeing weird signs with VOLTRON!!!! printed on them popping up all over the place. While few people knew what any of this meant, we didn’t care. We were Voltron and that was that. Even though we haven’t all been reunited since that wonderful summer three years ago, I’ve leaned on my Voltron brothers and sisters more times than I can count. I had hoped to leave Bread Loaf with a few friends and instead found a family in my fellow Voltroids James Arthur, Kara Candito, Eduardo C. Corral, Heidi Durrow, Alan Heathcock, Dave Lucas, Marie Mockett, Celeste Ng, Elena Passarello, Dolen Perkins-Valdez, Jim Ruland, Hasanthika Sirisena, and Sasha West.