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Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Novelist Dorothy Allison encourages young writers

“There are not enough poor, working class Southern writers,” said novelist and poet Dorothy Allison. “I don’t read comic stories.”

Allison and Stephenson

Dorothy Allison (left) with UNCP professor Dr. Shelby Stephenson

A Greenville, S.C., native and author of several books, including “Bastard out of Carolina,” Allison gave two seminars on December 1 at The University of North Carolina at Pembroke. She read from her works and discussed how she turned her rough and sometimes violent early years into print.

“My mother was a waitress for 40 years and fought cancer for 30,” Allison said. “We never lived anywhere more than seven months because the rent came due.”

“As a writer, your treasure, your gold are these moments of your life,” she said. “I used to be afraid if I told those stories that people would hold my family in contempt.”

Allison quells the demon within by telling stories, she said, regardless of how discomforting they may seem.

“I spent a lifetime reading, and I lived in other people’s stories. I would hide in somebody else’s story,” she said. “What I was looking for is my story - me, mine.”

“There are boys and girls dying every day for the lack of a story,” Allison said. “I can write a good story and make them real, not small.”

“The most powerful story is told by someone trying not to cry,” she said. “Way more of you than you think have a story to tell, but you are afraid to tell it.”

Allison encouraged an overflow audience of UNCP students to take the first step toward being writers. The grist for her stories came from a poor and abusive upbringing.

“I believe in writing out of revenge, and if you’re going to write out of revenge, take large revenge,” she said. “The glory of it is that it does not stay revenge; it will save your life.”

Allison’s mother died in 1991 about the same time as her first novel was published. She lives a more peaceful life today in northern California with her 13-year-old son.

“It’s tough growing up with violent people,” Allison said. “I am no longer a good Baptist, but I believe in God, a loving God.”

The workshops were sponsored by the English, Theatre and Languages Department. For more information, please call 910.521.6246 or email

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