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Dot Jackson’s ‘Refuge’ brings her back to Salisbury

By Deirdre Parker Smith
dp1@salisburypost.com
When Dot Jackson signs her book, “Refuge,” she always writes, “Love.”
And she means it.
“People say to me, ‘You don’t know me, you don’t love me.’ And I say, ‘Oh yes I do. You put your money down and you’re going to take three days to read it. I do love you. And you love me.'”
“Refuge,” Jackson’s one and only book, published in 2006, still keeps her on the road. It earned glowing reviews then (including one from me) and is now available in paperback.
She’ll be signing those books on Saturday, June 21, 2-4 p.m., at Literary Bookpost in downtown Salisbury.
She says “Refuge” has been wonderful.
“Before long I will have finished three years on the road with the book. … I did the first reading months before it was published. … I’ve been out ever since.”
A visit with a book club in Greer, S.C., last week was particularly satisfying. Everyone had read the book and, Dot says, “knew more about it than I did.
“Some of the strangest things come up. I just got settled when this dear lady came over and said ‘I don’t like your heroine’ I said, ‘Well, I know where you’re going and I didn’t like it either.’ “The heroine in question falls in love with the wrong man.
“If she hadn’t done what she did,” the lady said, “It would have been a book about a strong lady who resisted temptation.”
Dot’s delightful laugh echoes over the phone.
She swore, once the decades-long project was published, that she’d never write a sequel. She’d started one, but a burglar stole her word processor and all the backup files. That was it. End of story.
Her daughter has a printout of it, which she had forgotten about. “So if things ever calm down, I may try to finish it. But the whole thing about a book is you know the basics of the story, you know the people you’re going to write about, and you know about how it’s going to start and end. But you’ve got to deal with this vast chasm in between. … Most of the time we really don’t know that much and have to pull it out of thin air.
“You talk to the spirit and say, ‘Now what did you do and then what did you do?’ ”
She’s writing lots of stuff, none of it book length, but “it’s very hard writing short. If it’s worth writing, it’s worth writing.
“I’m not Joyce Carol Oates, I don’t want to be her, with her 183rd novel or something.”
At a certain age and busy with the Birchwood Center for Arts and Folklife in the Blue Ridge Mountains of South Carolina, travel is hard, especially in this heat. Someone goes with her and she relies on a walker.
“My strong point is I have a very, very low center of gravity, so if I fall, I’m extremely well-padded,” she says giggling again.
She loves hearing what readers get out of her book. Everything she’s made from sales has gone back into traveling. “I have been from Washington to Coral Gables with it.”
Writing is precious to her. “My philosophy is, I don’t think anybody ought to presume to write unless they have something to say. Bookstores are full of blathering people who sit down to an empty page and they fill it and it’s still empty.
“One of the very bad things about our times is that once a writer manages to get a book published and it sells, then the publisher is on that person to do six more.
“People kept asking Margaret Mitchell when she would write more and she told them, ‘I said what I wanted to say.’
“In my case, I knew I blew my wad.”
Don’t get her started on certain extremely popular formulaic writers who are making a fortune on writing the same thing over and over. “You can see the blue ink of the cross stitch pattern behind the embroidery.”
That’s Dot ó full of love and never shy with an opinion.
Please come and meet her. She will love you for it.
Contact Deirdre Parker Smith at dp1@salisburypost.com or 704-797-4252.

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