Writers live these strange double lives. They want to write honestly, but they can’t always say things exactly as they are about themselves and the people they love, because it might be uncouth, or an invasion of privacy, or Too Much Information. Then people think the writer is a paragon of perfection, and stand around waiting to tell her that they feel like they know her when they actually don’t know her, and she can’t tell them that they have really inaccurate ideas about her.
But Dorcas is an author whose writing is as authentic as it is possible to be without being inappropriate. She is as witty as but not as sarcastic as Erma Bombeck, and she is gentle, without being spineless. Dorcas is one of those special people with whom I corresponded long before I actually met her. She advised me to self-publish my book instead of waiting longer for a publisher. It was the push I needed, and I’ve never regretted it. Then when she visited here in Poland and we drank tea together with her girls at her sister-in-law’s table, I saw how gentle and wise she is in real life. Happily, we still correspond now and then, (nearly always about writing) and I always feel safe and understood with her.
Now I get to promote her newest book, Tea and Trouble Brewing.
The whimsical cover illustration looks like the proverbial tempest in a teapot. I was charmed when I opened the cover and saw the table of contents, and that the five sections each had their own tea name. Oolong. Mint. Roiboos. This is going to be tasty! And it was, of course.
The way I can tell if it’s a good book or story is if it makes me laugh or cry. This book did both to me. To you I admit that I cried when Dorcas cried when their dog died. But I laughed aloud when she apologized tearfully to the fish dangling on the end of her fishing pole.
Dorcas graciously agreed to an interview with me. So here we go:
1. How did you decide on those 5 kinds of tea for the book sections?
Actually, I don’t recall. I went for variety, and some of my favorite flavors. And I love the sound of “oolong.” I considered including Kericho Gold Black Kenyan Tea but that’s not really a “kind” of tea in the same sense as green or rooibos.
Weren’t you tempted to include Lady Grey, Spiced Chai, and English Breakfast?
Well, yes. But you know, one has to stop somewhere.
2. Do you drink coffee at all, or is it always tea?
I do drink coffee on occasion. If I go out for breakfast, at church potlucks, now and then with my coffee-living children. I love iced coffee on a hot day.
3. Do you write in quietness in the middle of the night, or in the hubub of your family life?
I wish very very much that I could write in the midst of noise and action. It would make my life much easier. So my best times are early morning, late at night, and when everyone is out of the house. With my youngest being 13 years old, you’d think I’d be home alone all day. Somehow that doesn’t happen very often. And when it does, the phone rings all day. So this is an ongoing struggle for me, to find time to think and write.
4 Your stories aren’t stuffy, but full of depth. Your life experiences and your wise responses to them have given you have a lot to offer your world, but you don’t pour it out indiscriminately. What do you know now that you wish you’d have known when you were 21? (This is your chance to give free advice!)
If I could, I would go back and tell my 21-year-old self: Quit obsessing about everything, especially yourself. Most people mean well. God actually loves you. We are all sinners, so don’t let people intimidate you. You’re going to be fine. You’re as cute as you’re going to get, so enjoy it.
5. What’s the best piece of writing advice that you’ve ever received?
A tossup: Elisabeth Elliot’s “Make every word do its work,” (paraphrased) which means, cut out every unnecessary word. And “You have to write bad before you can write good,” which frees me from the paralysis of fear of beginning. I don’t know who said it. Oh, and Elizabeth Engstrom said that you don’t need to write with an agenda. Who you are and what you believe will come out inadvertently, whether you write novels or essays or advertising copy. That was freeing.
6. You have a gifted way of describing places like the Willemette Valley or Lake Victoria with crisp, simple words that help your readers see the scene. Have you ever considered travel writing?
Ooooohhh, have I considered travel writing. If I could come back and live another life, I’d be a travel writer. I love seeing a new place from the inside out, and telling about it. Going to a women’s party in Yemen and watching all those black robes get shed and those gaudily clad women come alive and party, and then writing about it, was a highlight of my writing career.
7. If time and money were no issue, where would you travel?
Australia. An island off Puget Sound. South Africa and Botswana. Eastern Europe. Ireland. Prince Edward Island. The Civil War battlefields. Jamaica. Somewhere in South America–maybe Paraguay.
8. Your dedication to Amy is beautifully worded. How many more dedications/books to your children are you aiming for? Does this look like hard work or pleasure to you?
You may note the progression of dedications: Paul. My parents. Matt. Amy. I told the children I plan to keep going and dedicate one to each of them. That looks like both pleasure and work. Getting Tea and Trouble Brewing published after numerous delays seemed to uncork something in my head, and now I have freely-flowing ideas for three or four more books.
Thanks, Dorcas, for sharing your world and words with us!
Now it’s your chance to win a free copy of Tea and Trouble Brewing! Leave a comment below to enter the drawing. Or if you can’t log in for a comment, email me at anitayoder-at-gmail-dot-com. The give-away is open for 7 days, and on Dec. 1 I’ll draw a number and send the book to the winner. All the way from Poland!
To buy your own copy , go to Amazon to pay by credit card. To pay by check, send $15 to Dorcas Smucker, 31148 Substation Drive, Harrisburg, OR 97446. . Dorcas is doing a promotion and is selling her 4 books for $40, shipping included.