Strange Attractors: Lives Changed By Chance

“A collective spiritual autobiography like nothing I've read before." — Elisa Albert

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Has a stunning surprise or lucky encounter ever propelled you in an unanticipated direction? Are you doing what you always thought you would be doing with your life or has some unseen magnetism changed your course? And has that redirection come to seem inevitable? Edie Meidav and Emmalie Dropkin asked leading contemporary writers to consider these questions, which they characterize through the metaphor of “the strange attractor”, a scientific theory describing an inevitable occurrence that arises out of chaos. Meidav’s introduction and the thirty-five pieces collected here offer imaginative, arresting, and memorable replies to this query, including guidance from a yellow fish, a typewriter repairman, a cat, a moose, a bicycle, and a stranger on a train. Absorbing and provocative, this is nonfiction to be read in batches and bursts and returned to again and again.

For review copies, contact Courtney Andree at the University of Massachusetts Press at For other queries, contact the editors at

Connect with us on Facebook and Twitter @WritersOnChance.

Press and Reviews

“Each essay reckons with contradictions, consequences, and risks. The moving, muscular collection holds an unexpected sort of magic, a sparkling nudge to stay open to change.” —Nina MacLaughlin, The Boston Globe

“These essays on chance encounters and redirections are absorbing, unexpected, yielding—I am a genuine fan.” —Beth Kephart, author of Strike the Empty: Notes for Readers, Writers, and Teachers of Memoir

"A wonderful book, unique in all ways, truly and deeply full of wonder.  What a stunning constellation of seekers, believers, wanderers, questioners.  A collective spiritual autobiography like nothing I've read before." — Elisa Albert, author of After Birth

Strange Attractors reminds us that even chaos has a pattern, and now more than ever, we are grateful for it. Attraction is evidence of the sublime. The very idea sparks revelation.” — Annie Liontas, editor of A Manner of Being: Writers on Their Mentors

“Chance—the charm of chance—that permeates these stories is startling, often dazzling, and always life-affirming. You’ll wish most of these talented women writers were your friends.” —Susan Fox Rogers, author of My Reach: A Hudson River Memoir

“Urgent and reflective, infused with a revelatory grace, Strange Attractors is a wondering wander of a book, a curiosity shop of stories filled with surprise and clarity, longing and transformation. Lyrical, experimental, or conversational, this collection's voices explore encounters that change the course of our lives.” —Cathy Chung

Excerpts from Strange Attractors

  • Find a lovely exploration of strange attractors, Nietzsche, alternative facts and more in this dialogue between Andrea Scrima and Liesl Schillinger for 3 Quarks Daily

  • Read Thaisa Frank’s tale of a typewriter repairman on LitHub

  • Read Debra Jo Immergut’s reflection on how a moment torqued the course of her life in Narrative

  • Read R.O. Kwon's piece about a stranger on a train in The Sun

  • Read Jenni Quilter's essay about a plane crash, a proposal, and Zeno's paradox in Avidly

  • Read Sejal Shah’s meditation on a series of rings and relationships on LitHub

  • Read Quintan Ana Wikswo’s exploration of the aftermath of violence and a man who is also a coyote from The Rumpus

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Edie Meidav is the author of Kingdom of the Young (Sarabande), short fiction with a nonfiction coda, and three award-winning novels, Lola, California (FSG) and Crawl Space (FSG) the most recent. She is on the permanent faculty of the MFA for Poets and Writers at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

Emmalie Dropkin is a lecturer at the University of Massachusetts Amherst and a Coordinator for the VIDA Count. Her work has appeared in McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, Electric Literature, and the Kaaterskill Basin Literary Journal, and her fiction has been nominated for the PEN/Robert J. Dau Short Story Prize for Emerging Writers.


Strange Attractors Readings & Events

Portland, OR

March 29, 5:00PM ~ Book Launch

March 30, 12:00PM ~ Panel & Book Signing @ AWP - Editor in conversation with Debra Jo Immergut, Jenni Quilter, Sejal Shah, Rebecca Wolff & more

Point Arena, CA

April 1, 1:00PM ~ Point Arena Fringe Festival - Readings, Music & Workshop with Edie Meidav & Carolyn Cooke

San Francisco, CA

April 2, 7:30PM ~ Booksmith - Readings & Music with Carolyn Cooke, Sarah Ladipo Manyika & Melinda Misuraca

Montclair, CA

April 4, 7:00PM ~ Great, Good Place for Books - Readings & Music with Edie Meidav, Elizabeth Rosner & Melinda Misuraca

Amherst, MA

April 13 , 11:00AM ~ Juniper Literary Festival - Conversation with Donna Grover, Noy Holland, Debra Jo Immergut & more

San Francisco, CA

April 24 ~ Flash Fiction Collective @ The Bindery - Readings by Thaisa Frank, Sarah Ladipo Manyika & Elizabeth Rosner

Brooklyn, NY

May 15 ~ McNally Jackson - Readings by Jenni Quilter, Clarinda Mac Low, Liesl Schillinger & more

Rhinebeck, NY

May 16 ~ Oblong Books - Readings & Conversation with Edie Meidav, Donna Grover, Pam Thompson & Rebecca Wolff

Brooklyn, NY

June 13 ~ Community Bookstore - “The Craft of Memoir: Strange Attractors on Writing and Chance” hosted by Liesl Schillinger with Debbie DeFord-Minerva, Bonnie Friedman, Danica Novgorodoff, Terese Svoboda, and Emmalie Dropkin

Berkeley, CA

June 13 ~ Pegasus Books Solano - “Strange Attractors: The Craft of Memoir” Elizabeth Rosner and Thaisa Frank in conversation with Richard Wolinsky of Pacifica, KPFA

Berlin, Germany

June 28 ~ Berlin Writers Workshop - Andrea Scrima, Heather Sheehan, and Edie Meidav in conversation with Madeleine LaRue