For our second Author Spotlight, we would like to introduce an interview from another contributing author to the 2011 edition of Amoskeag.
Richard Dokey received his degree from U.C. Berkeley. He is an avid fly fisherman who ties his own flies. He has traveled from Chile to New Zealand in search of rainbow and brown trout. His stories have won prizes. They have been cited in Best American Short Stories, Best of the West and have been nominated for the Pushcart Prize. They are also included in national anthologies and texts, as well as in major regional collections. “Pale Morning Dun,” his last book of short stories, published by University of Missouri Press, was nominated for the American Book Award and the PEN/Faulkner Award. His work has been quite favorably reviewed in newspapers and periodicals from coast to coast. He is also the author of several novels, the most recent of which is “The Hollywood Cafe.”
Amoskeag: Your work, “Stuff,” was featured in the 2011 Spring edition of Amoskeag. Tell us a little about the story behind this piece. How did it come about?
Richard Dokey: My mother’s death some years ago brought home to me the story which all who are left behind must face: what to do with the “stuff.” I saw that the real story, though, was not about things, but the disparate life which each character brings to the story. This is the true “stuff” that can not be given away. Each one’s experience is an artifact which is solely his own. The tragedy of this awareness for the narrator at the end is that the two brothers are irreparably apart, have lived in such separate consciousness and experience that not even a mother’s death can bring them together. They are condemned. They have not even lost the same thing.
Amoskeag: How and why did it take this final form? What were the changes and drafts it went through?
Richard Dokey: Nothing was different from what transpired. The story “wrote itself” out of the death of my mother. “Stuff” went through no drafts, if one means by that the writing out of the story and then another writing and rewrite of the story to “get it right.” I don’t work that way. I rewrite heavily as I write, covering each handwritten page with erasures and corrections and taking notes as I go along. I hack through the jungle of language, and the way must have the sense of inevitability. I often know the end of a story as I begin, and then it is a question of climbing the mountain through the jungle to discover the way to the top. I know that I’ve done it right when I understand that there is only one ending, and I have found it.
Amoskeag: Why do you write? What made you want to pursue writing professionally?
Richard Dokey: I write because I must. I felt the compulsion when quite young. It has never left me. I translate my experience of life through writing because writing is how I understand what I have lived. The word “professionally” is confusing. Writers, I suppose, are sparrows or hawks. Sparrows get comfort from flying together. They fly the same way and in formation. What they write is the same. How they write is the same. Hawks fly alone. It makes no difference that all do not understand. Hawks write for the one, true reader, who is also a hawk, at rest somewhere, leaning against his own solitude.
Amoskeag: What tips and suggestions would you give to aspiring writers?
Richard Dokey: That’s easy. Read. Read the best writers. If you’re a novelist, the best novels. If you’re a short story writer, the best short stories. Stay away from sparrows. Read everything. Philosophy. History. Psychology. Economics. Poetry. Everything. Travel. Look and listen. It’s not about you. It’s about what is and what you can see. How you see becomes the uniqueness of what you can say. The easiest thing to do is to write bad poetry. Bad poetry is about how I feel and what I think. But it’s not about me. A great poet writes one book, and it takes him a lifetime to write it. Forget yourself. Kill your vanity. Ignore rejection. And never quit.
Amoskeag: What are you currently working on?
Richard Dokey: I’ve put together a new collection of short stories, which is seeking a publisher. I have a new novel. My passion, though, is short fiction. I’m usually working on a story or working at working on a story. The only pain, apart from your regular, every day pain, is to be working on nothing. It’s hell waiting for the beginning to begin. The only ending, after all, is the one, true end. Then others will deal with my stuff. I hope they never finish.