Flumes Volume 2: Issue 1, Summer 2017 - Page 75

In her book Bastard Out of Carolina, she describes Bone’s uncles as being drunken, brawling men who are put in jail, and who I suppose one would

consider criminals. There are some very undeniable criminals in the story too and, having been a victim myself and knowing many writers who are, in addition to the fact that Dorothy herself has known trauma, I ask a question that has been on my mind a lot lately.

JGH: Do think it helps to have survived or come through difficult things as you have, or do you think it’s helpful in becoming a writer?

DA: You know, the thing that helps is to have a very strong need to tell a passionate story. I don’t believe that you have to have endured or survived, you know, to be a good writer. I did a program once at San Francisco State with “baby writers”. Sorry, I don’t mean to diminish, you know, writers. I like talking about writers as “baby writers” because it gives more space for making mistakes.

JGH: Well, because they’re going to grow, right?

DA: Yes! Exactly! And one of the “baby writers” came up to me. It happened to be a young man, he caught me in a courtyard trying to drink Diet Pepsi before going back in to talk. And he came up to me, and he burst into tears and said “I really wanna be a writer, but how can I be a writer, because nothing has ever happened to me.” That just about broke my heart. You don’t have to go out and port terrible things to develop the consciousness and the ability to tell a good story, but you do have to have a passion to tell a good story. Those of us who have survived, that’s one of the things that we often have, a very strong drive to tell what we know that the rest of the world does not know.

The Flumes editorial board was discussing possible questions for Dorothy a week before the interview, about writers who were young and the need to have experience or not. We had discussed a quote from Flannery O’Connor: “Nothing needed to happen in a writer’s life after they were twenty. By then they’ve experienced more than enough to last their creative life.”

We also discussed a writer who was only thirteen when she wrote her first novel. A teen girl at the middle school where I worked was so inspired by