Dittmar, Trudy 1944-
Dittmar, Trudy 1944-
(Gertrude Addis Dittmar)
Born July 6, 1944, in Neptune, NJ; daughter of George Julius, Jr., and Florence Gertrude Dittmar; divorced, 1979. Education: University of Pennsylvania, B.A., 1966; University of Chicago, M.A., 1967; Columbia University, M.F.A., 1983. Hobbies and other interests: International travel.
Writer. Chicago City College, Malcolm X Campus, Chicago, IL, instructor in English, 1967-68; English and social studies teacher at middle school in Freehold, NJ, 1970-74; Brookdale Community College, Lincroft, NJ, instructor in writing, 1974-81; Estee Lauder, Inc., New York, NY, transactional writer, 1989-91; Brookdale Community College, instructor in writing, 1991-92; freelance writer, 1993—. Resident at Ossabaw Foundation, 1981, and Ucross Foundation, 1986. Conference presenter; gives readings from her works, including appearances at University of Wyoming and New York University.
Pushcart Prize, 1997; writers award from Rona Jaffe Foundation, 2000; Whiting Award, 2003.
(Under name Trudy Dittmar) Fauna and Flora, Earth and Sky: Brushes with Nature's Wisdom, University of Iowa Press (Iowa City, IA), 2003.
Work represented in anthologies, including The Best American Essays of 1997, 1997; American Nature Writing 2000, 2000; Fields of Reading: Motives for Writing, 2001; and Nature Writing: The Tradition in English, 2002. Contributor to periodicals, including High Plains Literary Review, Orion, North American Review, and North Dakota Quarterly. Contributing editor, Baldwin Echoes, 1974-78; fiction editor, Columbia, 1981-83.
Trudy Dittmar told CA: "I began to want to be a writer at age seven. Around that time I wrote plays on little three-inch-by-four-inch pads. The first one was called ‘The Bad Men of Dry Gulch Canyon’ and was about four pad-sheets long. In my early teens I moved into poetry, trying to be T.S. Eliot. In college I wrote short stories, trying first to be Faulkner, then Hemingway. None of this would interest anyone except perhaps my parents, but the point is I've been writing in one form or another forever, though it took several years for me to find my niche.
"I spent seven years in the eighties writing three drafts of a 1,000-page manuscript of a novel. This time I wasn't trying to be anyone else. Most everything about the novel was pretty much my own—but too much so: far from universal, its vision was disastrously idiosyncratic, idiosyncratically skewed. My friend and mentor, Edmund White, encouraged me enormously as he read parts of it piecemeal; but, after reading the whole thing through, he had to tell me (on my birthday, in a two-hour phone conversation between my then-home in Crowheart, Wyoming, and his in Paris, France) that the book wasn't ready: there was a serious flaw. ‘You can do it,’ he said, or some such thing, encouraging as always. ‘All you need is to find the key to the problem and you'll go like wildfire, rewrite the whole thing in six months.’ But at that point there was something broad and important in the world that I was just not plugged into. I was low on Truth and saw the world in a way too narrow and distorted to make a reader feel s/he was reading any kind of truth at all. I tried and tried to ‘find the key’ but finally had to quit, because I was getting so that I'd have palpitations and couldn't breathe right when I sat down to try and rework the thing.
"Finally Susan Sontag came to me in a dream and told me to surrender. Although I'm not a reader of tea leaves or a seeker of omens, at that point I needed a sign; and I took this to mean I just couldn't write and should stop trying. So I did stop, for about five years. When I finally started back again, it seemed, amazingly, that in that fallow period I'd somehow found my way out of my former narrows and into what has come to feel like my niche.
"I divide my time between a farm in New Jersey and a cabin in northwestern Wyoming. The farm is the place where I grew up, where for the first fourteen years of my life its fields, wood lots, wetlands, and streams inspired in me a keen interest in nature, and where I developed a bond with the natural world that became part of my core. After I left the farm in adolescence to go away to school, I neglected that interest and slighted that bond for many years, but when in time I happened upon the Wind River country of Wyoming—where the cabin is located—it pulled me back stronger than ever into my old relationships with the natural world. Between this reconnection with an old, buried part of myself, on the one hand, and the suggestion of another friend and mentor that I consider doing a piece of literary nonfiction on the other, the way was paved for finding my niche.
"Setting out to try my hand at a little nature writing, I found that my experiences in nature kept calling up experiences in my personal life and vice-versa, and I found my visceral life experiences coalescing with my intellectual and aesthetic interests, everything linking together like strands in a web. Eventually I found myself writing essays interweaving diverse—often apparently disjunctive—strands of subject matter, the underlying coherence of which is most often not manifest until the web is tied off, the last strand of it clipped, at an essay's end.
"Always, in everything I write, one of those strands is taken from my observations in and interactions with nature—material drawn from the natural arenas in the two states where I live, encompassing both the stony heights of the Rockies and the sandy flats of Atlantic barrier islands and spits. Always one strand is personal, tracing some personal story or tracking some facet of my development or undoing (or both)—some motive, question, motif—in my personal life. Accompanying these two basic strands, there is always at least one other; and across the body of my essays the topics of these other strands range from scientific theory to environmental considerations to ruminations on psychology, art history, literature, and film. Whatever the spectrum of nominal subjects, however, in the end my essays are about the resonances between human nature and the greater ground of nature at large, and how it's from the kingdoms and realms of the latter that humanity has always learned whatever it is we know."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Library Journal, November 15, 2003, Maureen J. Delaney-Lehman, review of Fauna and Flora, Earth and Sky: Brushes with Nature's Wisdom, p. 95.