Hawai‘i Writers Almanac: Virginia Loo

A companion to our feature “The Hawai‘i Writer’s Life.”

A companion to our feature The Hawai‘i Writer’s Life, this compendium of writers, platforms, resources and more intends to map out our literary communities and individuals. It’s just getting started, but we hope it will grow to help them, and you, find each other, scheme together and maybe get some writing done. 


WHO: Virginia Loo, Honolulu, epidemiologist and consultant.


WHAT: Memoirist, unpublished by choice (so far).


WHY: For some, just the word is enough. Virginia Loo belongs to the Kaimukī Writers Group—not an official name, just a useful one. For the article, Loo was introduced, by a friend of a friend, as the “best local writer no one’s heard of, and never will, because she won’t publish.”


The daughter of a psychologist and a chemist who “ran the lab” at the Hawai‘i Department of Agriculture, Loo says, she gravitated toward the sciences and ended up becoming an epidemiologist. She’s worked in New York City, in Thailand and for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Through it all, she wrote. “I started with poetry. My eighth-grade teacher at Punahou, Norman Hindley, started this poet group called Late Mail. Saturdays we’d work-shop poems. He kept this space for us.”


After a while, though, she says, “I wasn’t writing poetry anymore.” Another Punahou teacher, Joe Tsujimoto, had once told her: “Your poems are so coded. There’s a lot going on, you can hide a lot in it.” Now, she says, “when you’re writing prose you can write it out.” She began a memoir.


As we closed, Loo smiled at the description of her as someone who’d never publish and didn’t want to. “I’m very conscious of the consequences of doing a memoir. How much can I write? But … I feel like it just fell on my head.”


Is it a case of never say never, then? She smiles.


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Read more stories by Don Wallace