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Welcome back to our series of interviews with Alumni!author photo DAoust

This edition features our dear Renee D’Aoust (’06) (with special appearance by her dachshund Tootsie). Renee came to visit us in February 2013 and read from her memoir Body of a Dancer and shared some of her life and advice with our grad students, but now she’s sharing her knowledge with everyone in this lovely interview!

Read on!


Why did you want to become a writer?

I consciously became a writer because I had been a dancer. As a dancer, I experienced the ephemeral retreating experience of live performance and the spiraling decay of the human body. As such, I wanted to create something bound and physical that would last. I wanted to create a lasting gift, something written and made with glue, which could be held in your hands.

I unconsciously became a writer because my mom was a writer, and in my family we were all, all of us, always writing, always reading, always editing. We left notes for each other. We left notes for our dog. And now, we still edit everything—dinner, poems, conversation, e-mails, the garden, and essays. So the process of writing, of reading, of editing is very much in my family legacy.


Who influenced you and helped your development and how?

My mom. She said, “Butt in chair. Pen in hand. Write.” She was my greatest champion.


What advice do you offer aspiring writers?

Oh dear, forgive me; I have a lot of advice. My husband calls them, “Buzzy’s Helpful Tips.” (Buzzy is my nickname.) Here goes:

It’s your choice to be a writer, so don’t complain. (I’ve recently read that Margaret Atwood says this, too.) Don’t be a jerk. Be professional. Send thank you notes. Practice humility. Practice gratitude.

Buy books from independent bookstores. Buy books from independent presses. Subscribe to literary journals. Always give books as gifts.

Eat a lot of dark chocolate.

ReneeandTootsieHikingRescue a dog and go on lots of walks. (You’ll need these walks after sitting so long and after eating all the chocolate needed to write a book. You’ll need the fur therapy and companionship a dog offers).

What my mom taught me: “You wouldn’t be late to a job where someone else hired you. Don’t be late to your page.”

Don’t take yourself or your process too seriously. On the other hand, do take everything very seriously. Words matter. Stories matter. You matter.

Do good work. Carry on. Be generous.


Choose one, two, or three of your books and discuss how the idea originated for the finished book.

photo credit: Frank Dina

photo credit: Frank Dina

Body of a Dancer, published by Etruscan Press, started out as a poem (written back in 1997).

I wrote Body of a Dancer because I wanted to record the voices and stories of anonymous, accomplished, unknown dancers, including myself.


If your book was film optioned, which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

God willing! I’d love Body of a Dancer to be film optioned. Fingers crossed. I don’t care who appears, just to get it optioned, then made into a script, and then made into a movie… I mean, zowie.


How long did it take to complete your first draft of your manuscript?

A long time. A very long time.


Discuss genre, where does your writing fit, or not?

If my writing reaches one person, my writing fits.


Thanks very much to Renee (and Tootsie) for granting us this interview, and for you, dear reader, for stopping by. For more on Renee, trot on over to her website and definitely toot on down to Etruscan Press and buy her book! Perhaps most importantly, check out little Tootsie’s blog, Bicontinental Dachshund for updates on Tootsie’s global adventures!

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