The Short Story:
Dori Ostermiller left her native California at age 24 to pursue an MFA in writing at the University of Massachusetts. Since then, her work has appeared in numerous literary journals, including The Bellingham Review, Alligator Juniper, Chautauqua Literary Journal and the Massachusetts Review. She is the recipient of a Massachusetts Cultural Council Artist's Grant and a Tobias Wolf Fiction award, and is the founder of Writers in Progress, a literary arts center in Western Massachusetts. She lives in Northampton, with her husband and daughters.
The Long Story:
Dori was born in Los Angeles, and grew up in both LA and the San Francisco bay area. At age six, she was hospitalized with a severe kidney infection. It was there that she first learned the power and lure of an invented life. “I was in that hospital bed for what seemed like weeks and was bored silly, so I made up a new identity for myself: I told the nurses my real name was Dorothy, after the Wizard of Oz, and when they believed me, I decided to invent other stories, including that my family had lived in a hot air balloon and that we kept ponies in the backyard... I think that’s actually when I became a fiction writer—first understood the redemptive possibility of stories.”
Illness, combined with several family moves and her parents’ divorce, created a turbulent adolescence, but Dori found solace in horseback rides through the Mt. Diablo foothills, and in fictional worlds—her own and those of writers she loved. Early literary influences include Mark Twain, Willa Cather, JRR Tolkein and Flannery O’Conner—all writers who evoke a powerful and vivid sense of setting. “As a teenager, I read everything I could steal from my father’s Franklin Library collection while spending weekends at his bachelor pad. He used to tease me that he was going to lock up his books.”
At 20, Dori dropped out of her Seventh-day Adventist pre-med program to pursue writing. After sampling day-jobs as a horse trainer, magazine editor, bookstore clerk and the girl singer of a gospel band, she left California to pursue writing at the University of Massachusetts. Soon her writing began to appear in literary journals, and her work earned several awards, including a Tobias Wolff Fiction Award and a Massachusetts Cultural Council Artists’ grant.
Dori has now been teaching writing and literature for over a decade. She is the founder and director of Writers in Progress, a growing literary arts center housed in the Arts & Industry building (a refurbished old brush factory) in Florence, MA. WIP offers a lively community reading series, along with ongoing writing workshops and retreats led by prominent area authors (including Jacqueline Sheehan, Leslea Newman, Suzanne Strempek-Shea, Diana Gordon, David Lovelace and Dori herself). Many of Dori’s students have gone on to publish books of their own, including Alison Smith, Kris Holloway, Ellen Meeropol, Kyra Anderson and David Lovelace.
Dori is currently working on her second novel in Northampton, where she lives with her husband, two daughters, two cats and a very pampered Australian Shepherd.