Renee E. D’Aoust

Read a Q & A Session with Renee E. D'Aoust

EP: What kinds of things inspire your writing?
RD: The hundred foot western red cedars on our Idaho forestland; a herd of goats on top of a Swiss mountain; our miniature dachshund Tootsie and the way her lip gets stuck, not always, but occasionally; our big Plott hound Truffle and how he squeaks like a guinea pig; the quirky way my husband flaps his arms like a wet chicken.

What is your writing environment like?
I have two writing environments: one in Switzerland and one in Idaho. In Idaho, I write at a long work table that my dad made my two brothers when we were young, and I can spread out lots of drafts on the table all around the computer. I stare out the window at all our trees and Bee Top Mountain in the distance. In Switzerland, I have not figured out my writing desk. I keep moving the desk to face different directions. Something is also wrong with the chair. I started putting Tootsie up on the desk and then on my lap, but our weiner dog prefers the couch, so I’ve been writing on the couch with Tootsie next to me.

Tell us about a poem, story you’ve written that has special meaning to you?
Every piece has some special meaning. Because the time invested in each project is significant, I have a back story about every piece. I’m thinking about a piece I wrote about Mao’s ear, a poem about Pearl Street in New York, a piece about Matthew Shepard. But in terms of a finished piece, I’ll mention a story I wrote for my dad called “The Fly Fisherman’s Waltz.” Unlike any other piece I’ve ever written, I wrote it in one sitting, sent it out, and published it on the first try in the journal Kalliope. The whole process was so different for me, and if writing becomes particularly hard–well, it’s always hard!–if I become discouraged, I think about the kind note of encouragement sent to me by the editor Mary Sue Koeppel. “The Fly Fisherman’s Waltz” is about dry-line casting–my dad uses a fly fishing rod but just casts the line on land, not to catch fish–and I’m proud of the way the story encompasses the repetitive motion of the arm and the fishing line, the spiraling experience of loss, and the natural world of northern Idaho and western Montana.

Who are some of the authors you like to read?
I love Homer, Sappho, and Tolstoy. On the other end, I am fascinated by Lance Olsen and Davis Schneiderman. I always return to Mary Oliver and Mark Strand. I’m a big fan of Dinty Moore’s writing. For dance writing, I admire Joan Acocella and Claudia La Rocco. Currently, I am very much enjoying getting to know Etruscan authors such as Paul Lisicky, Carol Moldaw, and Jeremy Schraffenberger. My all-time favorite author and writing teacher is my mom. The memoir I think every writer should read is Ruth Kluger’s Still Alive.

What things do you like to do to get away from pen and paper?
Anything dog. Reading in fits and starts and finishes–all over the place. I’m a total newshound. Hiking and walking: in Switzerland, I log countless miles in the Alps with my husband and mini-dachshund Tootsie. Forest work: in Idaho, I log countless hours in our family stewardship forest. I also love being with my nephews and watching their dad, my brother, teach them all sorts of practical, hands-on skills.

What do you hope readers find in your writing?
Connection. An affirmation that renewal is possible. Faith in the creative act, which is really the courage to live fully and to fail beautifully.

Anything else you’d like readers to know?
I love to hear from readers, and I love questions about my work, especially hard, uncomfortable questions that one might be shy to ask. I’d also love readers to know that I visit book groups–we can do a virtual visit easily. And I’d love readers to know that my family writes a blog: bicontinental-dachshund.blogspot.com.

Trained on scholarship as a dancer at Pacific Northwest Ballet and later at the Martha Graham Center for Contemporary Dance, Renée E. D’Aoust performed on proscenium stages and in black box theaters. Now as a writer, she has numerous publications and awards to her credit, including a fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts Journalism Institute for Dance Criticism at American Dance Festival, support from the Puffin Foundation, and grants from the Idaho Commission on the Arts. D’Aoust holds degrees from Columbia University and the University of Notre Dame. For more information, please visit www.reneedaoust.com.