Flumes Volume 2: Issue 1, Summer 2017 - Page 74

Which is somewhat awkward, especially for writers. Well, maybe. Probably, I just have the bias of being a writer so I tend to look at it from the perspective of a writer. You try to speak past all of the barriers that are put around you, and you try to speak as a fully human person giving the story of what it means to be a fully human person but from your own individual background. And then if you are constantly put in question, that eats the heart out of your intent to reach outside your own body.

I told Dorothy that, in my experience, I have had the tendency to shrink back into myself when this happens. I become timid, and my usual outspoken, boisterous nature is snuffed out, and I begin to doubt myself.

DA: You absolutely do. The best writing is often largely off a writers own experience, but that takes nerve, it takes courage, it also takes, something we don’t acknowledge, it takes an audience. It takes encouragement. If there is no one who will listen to you, or if all of the response to the stories you have to tell are that kind of dismissive “Oh, you sweet lil’ thang, you’re so cute when you’re serious,” that destroys you. It basically eats the heart out of any attempt to do serious work. Because of course we are not supposed to be serious.

As a child growing up in the south who knew she liked girls, even writing them love poems, Dorothy burned her work, because she was afraid someone would see it.

JGH: So, I know you said [writing] takes a lot of self-control. I know you’ve said you used to burn a lot of your writing when you were younger, do you ever wish you would have saved some of it?

DA: Oh yes! Always. It wasn’t just the writer’s fear. I was afraid of what would happen when the people in my life saw it, when my family saw it, when my stepfather would see it. There’s nothing in the world more horrible than being a working-class kid in junior high who writes poetry and then you’re female. Poets are always touted with derision and then contempt, and I was writing poetry from about the age of 10 and that means that you’re a freak. I mean I was a freak long before I discovered that I was attracted to girls, and it was about being a poet and a writer and loving to read.