A friend once called the first-person plural point-of-view “the choral first,” and that stuck with me. It is rather like a chorus, that collective perspective, all these voices piling on top of one another, bringing rhythm and sound to this more intentional, almost incantatory space. I was thinking about that, how voices together feel at once more powerful and more vulnerable, and how that felt a lot like girlhood to me. The world of this story opened up out of that. That the girls would transform—had to transform!—followed shortly after, and felt deeply linked to the sense I had that close friendships between girls always felt sort of magical, or they always did to me. The last thing I came to was the mothers. When I was in high school, I had to create a capstone visual art project, but I wanted to write, not draw. So I taught myself first to make paper, and then—crazily—yarn out of the paper I had made. I built a hand loom, and learned to weave textiles out of this paper-yarn, and out of all this stuff I made a book, and I wrote poems on the pages inside the book. I did all this wild stuff thinking I was scamming the system—I’m writing, and it looks like art. Ha! And when I was done I found I had accidentally cultivated this wealth of knowledge and passion for textile arts. The commune and the mothers and their textile work came out of my feeling that I had to put all that I’d learned to use somehow. Writing “Red” felt like a lot of unlike elements coming together to create a new animal. Which is so like a chorus—human voices coming together to make something that feels very nearly unhuman, something altogether different.
KATIE KNOLL’s stories have appeared in Ploughshares, Black Warrior Review, and The Pinch, among others. Her work has been featured as one of Narrative’s 2013 Top 5 Stories of the Year, awarded a 2016 AWP Intro Journals Honorable Mention, and listed as a notable story in the Best American Short Stories 2017. Her story “Red” was selected for First Place in The Masters Review’s 2016 Short Story Award for New Writers, nominated for a Shirley Jackson Award, and appears in The Year’s Best Weird Fiction 2016.