Mary Stone Dockery’s short story “Off the Map” appears in Midwestern Gothic Issue 3, out now.
How long have you been writing?
I have felt like a writer for about ten years, when I found a writing community to become active in and when I started being able to self-edit more completely, and then when I went back to college and started taking workshops and meeting other writers. But I have been writing since I was a small child, even helping a sixth grade teacher with a poetry unit when I was in fifth grade, and writing plays, casting classmates on the playground, and requesting half days at school to perform them for family.
What’s your connection to the Midwest?
I’ve grown up in the Midwest, living in Northwestern Missouri for most of my life. My grandparents have a farm right by the Missouri River and I spent summers on the farm, playing in the barns, eating corn on the cob, experiencing wind storms, standing on the porch hoping to spot a tornado, and helping family through the floods. The other side of my family also happen to be farmers, and I grew up around the smell of freshly picked pumpkins and gourds. I went to college in the Midwest and currently attend the University of Kansas.
How has the Midwest influenced your writing?
The Midwest has influenced my writing especially in terms of place – it seems bluffs and plains and farms, fields of corn and soybeans, and small towns make appearances in a lot of my writing. But obviously, this isn’t what all Midwest writing is about. Since I’ve grown up in the Midwest, I have to say much of what I’ve experienced in terms of attitude and opportunity has impacted my subject matter as well – the people in the Midwest are often very nice and caring, often there to help anyone out, and yet there is this other side where people seem so afraid of what else is out there, of change – and I think this conflict has helped me explore similar conflicts in my stories. But mostly, the Midwest appears in my writing as the place, atmosphere, weather.
Why do you believe there has never really been a regionalist push for Midwestern writing in the past like there has with the South or even the West Coast?
My family moved to San Diego, California for a brief period when I was a child. During the flood of ’93, we moved back to Missouri to help clean up. There was a stark contrast for me, even as a small child, to the difference in place. Something more stagnant in Missouri, less openness, less freedom. I found myself constantly reaching to the West, to the ocean, wishing I could escape. I wonder if there is a sense of escapism in much of Midwestern writing that makes writers reach for other places, for the ocean, for something bigger. It’s as if the Midwest is crowded in, surrounded, a bit claustrophobic. In fact, it seems like the Midwest is a place to be jealous about the fantastic topography located to our sides, the mountains and oceans in particular, and place is extremely impacting on the self and that feeling of belonging. I even felt this as a child. Perhaps that air of escapism is what the writing of the Midwest is about.
But I can’t be sure why you rarely see a push for regional Midwestern writing. I think that part of contemporary America equates dullness with Midwest (as if it’s all just flat and boring topography). Or, perhaps it’s just because the Midwest is so big and so many people have a connection here. Either way, from what I’ve seen the Midwest has a lot to offer people in writing, with a different kind of richness.
How do you feel about social media to promote your writing, and do you use it?
Only you can promote yourself, really. These days, you have to put yourself out there or no one else will do it for you. Though I am not so good at it, I do try to promote my own writing, but also the writing of friends, because I think it’s important that we use social media to forge another place for writing community. Also, it’s so much easier to get so many more people to know about you. Though I think I could probably learn to do it better.
Many favorite books, though most recently I would have to say The Indefinite State of Imaginary Morals by Rae Bryant.
Macaroni and cheese, BBQ ribs, and wheat beer (can I count beer as food?).
If you could have coffee (or tea or a beer) with any literary figure, alive or dead, who would it be?
Where can we find more information about you?
I have an irregular blog at my journal’s website: www.stonehighway.com. You can also find more of my writing and publication information at www.marykstone.wordpress.com.