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Sharon Canfield Dorsey – Scenes from a Writing Life

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(From an interview conducted by my son, Steven, who is starting a writing career of his own.)

WHY DO YOU WRITE?

It’s a combination of entertainment and therapy. I kept diaries as a teenager which evolved into journals as an adult. When life was good, I celebrated it in poems and stories. When it was bad, I created satire as a way of taking away the heaviness – kind of like late night comedians do now with politics of the day. Writing is like breathing for me, necessary for survival.

IF YOU COULD TELL YOUR YOUNGER WRITING-SELF SOMETHING, WHAT WOULD IT BE?

Write what you know. When I first started writing, I didn’t think my life was interesting enough to write about. I grew up in a small coal mining town in West Virginia – what’s to write? But looking back, most of the stories and books I published came from my life.

WHEN DID YOU START WRITING FOR PUBLICATION?

I was in my twenties. One of my early children’s stories was for a magazine with a feature called, My Father Is… I wrote about my Dad working in the coal mines. My first job was a secretarial one for the Executive Assistant to the Governor of West Virginia. He was a bachelor with a string of girlfriends. His antics became funny short stories in secretarial magazines. Interesting side note – they were published in shorthand and then “translated” in the back of the book. When I married your Dad and had you and Shannon, I was a stay-at-home Mom who did crafts to stay sane. I published articles about those projects in crafting magazines. Later, when your Dad and I divorced, I wrote articles for single-parent magazines and children’s stories. My memoir, Daughter of the Mountains evolved from a scrapbook about my life that I created for you and Shannon when you were grown. Many years later, when I met your stepdad, our travels around the country became a beautiful travel book called, Road Trip.

HOW HAVE OTHER WRITERS HELPED YOU BECOME A BETTER WRITER?

I’m a member of a poetry group called the James City Poets. Before I joined that group, I had never really studied poetry. I just always wrote it, both rhyming and free verse. Through the group, I learned to write form poetry and through their critiques, I learned to edit ‘til it hurts. My first poetry book, Tapestry, resulted from those classes. We also published an anthology together, Captured Moments. I think every writer should at least attempt to write poetry. It teaches you to be concise, value each word, and take out anything unnecessary.

TELL ME ABOUT YOUR CHILDREN’S BOOKS.

The first two, Herman the Hermit Crab and the Mystery of the Big, Black, Shiny Thing; and Revolt of the Teacups were done in collaboration with a talented artist friend, Vivien Mann, who did the illustrations. The third one, Buddy and Ballerina Save the Library, wasabout a bookworm who wanted to read the books instead of eat them. It was illustrated by a couple of talented artists you know well, your daughters and my granddaughters, Adaline and Emma. They were only eight and ten at the time and that was such fun for me.The fourth book was a spin off, Buddy the Bookworm Rescues the Doomed Books.

SO WHAT’S NEXT?

I just finished a new poetry book, Walk With Me, which should be released this month.

HOW IS IT DIFFERENT FROM YOUR OTHER POETRY BOOK?

This one is a coffee table book that is a combination of art and poetry. It’s really unique and beautiful. I can’t wait for everyone to see it.

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