I’ve known the writer Dorothy K. Fletcher for years, and we both have tire tracks down our backs from all the author events we’ve taken part in. There were two most memorable events for me—reading with Dorothy at the US Library of Congress in Washington, D. C., and another event that drew little attention but took up a permanent place in my heart.
We both were fulfilling our duty to do public events after a publisher brought out our books. We teamed up and did a “Love Poem Clinic” for Valentine’s. We met some wonderful people, and shortly after that clinic, a young woman told Dorothy how much her mom loved the poem we helped her dad tweak.
Since that time, Dorothy continues to publish widely. She’s done a series of popular books for The History Press, and now she has two new books pending publication. Jacksonville on Wheels: A Car Culture Perspective, a nonfiction work, comes out from The History Press on November 5, 2018.
Dorothy’s novel HOJO Girl will be published by Black Opal Books, and they’re hoping to get that out in 2019.
Dorothy also has published a large body of poetry in various publications and books.
What always intrigued me about my friend and fellow writer is that she loved writing in whatever genre inspired her. She writes well across those genres, but Dorothy also served her community in another way. She was a teacher of English for years. Unlike some teachers who become writers when they retire, Dorothy was a writer long before she became an educator.
I asked her if she knew she wanted to be a writer early on. She said, “My earliest effort was a novel—I made it to 100 pages—when I was in 4th grade. It was about my cat, and I illustrated it appropriately. My spelling was “atroshush”—as I am certain I would have spelled the word—but at least I got the ideas down until I could learn better structure.”
What’s the secret? People ask me that all the time when they want to know how to get published. “I think many people are so afraid of making errors,” she said, “that they fail to get their ideas preserved. That is a big mistake. Simply write! The rest will follow, especially if being a writer is important.”
Anytime you see a writer doing a public event, you can expect people to ask questions about the craft. Sometimes you can expect a fan to walk up and hand you a manuscript. That happened to me, and the real surprise was that the individual wanted me to read it immediately. Dorothy does have some advice for aspiring writers, though:
“If a person is really sincere about writing, he or she must be willing to work on the craft and not wait until inspiration comes down from on high. There is a great deal of grunt work that is part of the writer’s path—researching, writing and editing, editing. I cannot emphasize enough the importance of editing. Readers never see the lonely work a writer must do to be successful, and that doesn’t necessarily mean rich, either. I believe when novice writers see how much work goes into a project compared to the monetary return, they often turn tail and run.”
As with any art, perseverance is key. “It’s important to stick with it,” Dorothy added. “Writing is a process and one gets better at it the more one works at it. My manuscript log is filled with rejections, but there is the occasional acceptance that has kept me going. And that is when I mentally clean the slate and begin the tally anew. Hold on, keep writing and editing, and the acceptances will eventually come. It just may take a longer time than you wanted.”
Most artists can point to an artist who inspired them. In Dorothy’s case, she was inspired by a poet:
“The most profound impact a writer has ever had on me was Emily Dickinson. Her poetry opened my eyes to the power and magic of words. She made me want to communicate so eloquently that those in the distant future would be moved by what I had to say. We will never know if that will come about, but it is a goal to which I aspire. Being a high school English teacher also afforded me the opportunity to read the best words ever written in my language. I have so many favorites, I cannot even begin to list them all.”
Asked what her favorite genres to create in and read in are, Dorothy gives a response that illustrates why she is successful at crossing genres:
“This is another hard to answer question. I love to read poetry. For me it is the most powerful of all the forms, because with powerful imagery it can provide an emotional punch. Writing poems is fun for me because poems require the most precise words since the form usually limits the length. I love the genre of nonfiction because writing in this genre requires research, and I love rooting around in archives and photographs. And I love writing fiction. In some ways, fiction is easier than poetry. In writing fiction, the writer can often take some time to make a point. Historical fiction is my favorite type of reading material, but any well-written novel will keep me happy.”
Dorothy has book events coming up where she’ll sign her new nonfiction book Jacksonville on Wheels:
Friday, Nov. 23 at the San Marco Bookstore; 10 a.m.-2 p.m.
Saturday, Nov. 24 at The Book Mark; 12 noon-2 p.m.
Saturday, Dec. 8 at The Book Nook; time to be announced.
As a writer, I am so happy to see my fellow author gain so much success with her work. I’ve long loved her poetry, and I loved her first novel. As she continues to write and publish, I know I will spend hours in the future with a really good book in my hands, and as I read, I’ll stroll down Memory Lane recalling all those author events Dorothy and I celebrated and on occasion suffered through. I’ll savor those memories every time I read her new works.
[Featured photo shows the cover of Dorothy K. Fletcher’s latest nonfiction book, Jacksonville on Wheels: A Car Culture Perspective. The book will be released by The History Press on November 5, 2018.]
(Kay B. Day/Sept. 24, 2018)