Flumes Volume 2: Issue 1, Summer 2017 - Page 76

the young author that she decided she wants to write when she gets older, and be surrounded by books and swords- lots of swords, she told me. I have also seen kids who have been through some horrific things by that age. We came to realize that some children, too many, had the experience by a very young age that would either shut them up or give them things to write and express. I asked Dorothy about Flannery O’Connor’s idea.

DA: You can have it [the experience] by eight! It’s tough! I don’t believe people are born one thing or another. I do believe, because we have so many very articulate survivors speaking out these days, there might begin to be this illusion that having survived something gives you a perspective or a power that nobody else has. And then some of that is true. There is knowledge sometimes, a sensitivity that surviving difficult experiences gives you. You have to have a large imagination; you have to be able to step outside your own experiences.

JGH: And see things from a different perspective… is that what you’re kind of saying?

DA: Yeah, yeah… I think you just have to try on a new voice. You just have to teach yourself… what is possible for you to do… That’s the interesting intriguing voice.

I mentioned earlier the excerpt that follows the interview and in it, Dorothy tells us that if you “don’t break out into a sweat of fear, if you’re not terrified [when you are writing] you haven’t gone far enough.”

I shared this quote with a high school creative writing class a few days before this interview while doing a workshop on imagery in poetry. These students had experienced the shooting of a fellow student in front of their school the week prior.

In the excerpt, Dorothy tells us along with the need to “honor our dead” and to “help them to survive”, she says that we must “be mean.” The students had written poems about the shooting and being locked down after one of their schoolmates, who was on independent study, was gunned down. As Dorothy and I are discussing this need to be mean, she tells me the story of her illness. Her doctor asked her if she had taken any vacations asking, “You been running hard since you were five years old. When did you stop to rest?” Dorothy said there she was indicating a sort of “hmm, uh, well…um” answer to the doctor.