Dawn Dorland

(California) Artist-in-Residence May Residency Year: 2021


Artist-in-Residence Dawn Dorland, MTS, MFA, is a Los Angeles-based writer whose work concerns American poverty, gender, race, and class. Raised on public assistance in rural Iowa, Ms. Dorland’s residency at Surel’s Place continues her work on an intergenerational novel, Econoline, about young Americans rising up from rural poverty. Formerly an advertising executive, and before that, a religious studies scholar, Ms. Dorland’s childhood experiences of dislocation and trauma ultimately led her to pursue work of meaning and connection as a literary writer. An alumna of Scripps College, Harvard Divinity School, and the MFA program at the University of Maryland, where she received full funding, Ms. Dorland is a 2020 Writing By Writers Fellow, a 2020 Logo Foundation Scholar at the Community of Writers, and a 2014 Vermont Studio Center Fellow. Her debut novel has been supported by over a dozen national arts organizations, including the Tin House Summer Workshops, the Ragdale Foundation, Yefe Nof, Hambidge, the Kimmel Harding Nelson Center for the Arts, and more. An award-winning creative writing instructor, she has taught fiction and nonfiction on several faculties including GrubStreet, Writing Workshops Los Angeles, and the Downtown Women’s Center, serving the homeless women of Skid Row. Rich life experience continues to inform Ms. Dorland’s fearless, voice-driven work, with a vision to engage the moral; to make meaning of suffering and foster connection; and, with unflinching candor, allow beauty to coexist with pain.

Saturday, May 15th  |  1:00 – 4:00pm

Constituting a brief lecture, reading, discussion, and guided writing, “Truth and Taboo” is appropriate for fiction or nonfiction writers. Writer Dawn Dorland handles sensitive material in a spirit of openness and non judgment, drawing on her sensibility and training as a group facilitator. This online workshop will challenge writers to consider their own artistic choices and their risks – including the decision as to whether work should be defined as fiction or nonfiction.

Thursday, May 27th  |  7:00pm

Presented with support from the Idaho Humanities Council

Writer-in-Residence Dawn Dorland will read excerpts from her debut novel Econoline, followed by an opportunity for questions from the audience. Econoline, set principally in a trailer court in fictional Hickory County, features a microcosm of American poverty in a 1990s corn town. Interconnected storylines illustrate how some make able ascents in the economy while others falter, stymied by missed opportunities, trauma or cycles of violence, failing the American dream. Ms. Dorland approaches the novel from personal experiences of child poverty but imagines her way into other characters and demographics to produce fiction with political power. She envisions Econoline as a convergence of class experiences and testimonies otherwise siloed by geography, race and/or immigration status. Her aim is a novel in which some of literature’s neglected voices – the children of people of color, working class immigrants, and the white rural poor – speak between the same book covers.