Quote of the Week

Find the entry point that will hold up … and the voice that will sustain the work.—Dorothy Allison

Dorothy Allison at the Writing by Writers Workshop at Tomales Bay, October 2013. Photo by Barbara Ann Yoder.

Dorothy Allison at the Writing by Writers Workshop at Tomales Bay, October 2013. Photo by Barbara Ann Yoder.

Last week I was lucky to be part of a workshop with Dorothy Allison at a Writing by Writers workshop. She is the award-winning author of Bastard Out of Carolina, Cavedweller, Two or Three Things I Know for Sure, and the forthcoming She, Who. She is also an amazing teacher.

In this four-day workshop she said a lot of things that moved me. This quote in particular—and the courage I brought home, because of her brave, wise, and compassionate guidance—blew open a door for me into the story I want to tell.

“Find an entry point that will hold up.” That simple advice runs deep. There are many ways to enter a story. Dorothy encouraged our group to experiment until we find the entry point that works. Noting that voice is what draws writers—and readers—into the story, she said it’s important to explore the personality of the narrative voice and play with first, second, and third person until you find “the voice you can use for the whole narrative and the voice that’s easy for you” to sustain.

Over the last week I’ve been following this advice, writing with abandon, looking for “the entry point that will hold up … and the voice that will sustain the work.”

Dorothy says she starts a book with voice, then writes scenes, then builds a framework. I’m going to follow her lead!

Here’s an excerpt from Dorothy Allison’s advice to emerging writers, a talk she gave at the Chicago Humanities Festival. She discusses the need for audience, the need “to have your stories taken seriously,” and the power of the writer’s voice. (6 minutes, 4 seconds)

In this excerpt from Dorothy Allison’s Albert Gallatin Lecture at NYU, she asserts that the book is not dead and shines a light on the nature of ambition. Pure Dorothy inspiration! (7 minutes, 48 seconds)