Dear Reader,

Hello. This is a temporary website to let you know I exist, particularly if you’re interested in taking an upcoming fall workshop at the Sitka center. A new permanent site is being built.

I’m a fiction writer, essayist and poet, originally from Minnesota, and I’ve taught, coached, and encouraged writers for 25 years. My goal is always to hear a writer’s strongest, singing voice, and to help each person write without fear, honestly, sensually and with authority. There’s a shelf of books in my office that has emerged from their hard work.

Living and Dying

Right now I have an unusual job; I write poems about the dying and those who possess the tenderness, skill and compassion to take care of them. It’s a year-long poet-in residence position, to culminate in a book that a Colorado hospice, Hope West, will publish.

I hold the hands of families and patients and follow them and doctors and nurses and social workers and chaplains into this great mystery. It keeps me steady. It makes my heart open until I can hardly stand it any more, and then another poem comes. Humbling, life changing, every day.

I believe in a radiant God that lives in any gesture of love, the touch of the unknown, the sound of owls echoing in canyons before dawn, in something incarnate and more immense than any idea or name, though, like most, I keep trying to name it.

Workshop and Residency at the SITKA CENTER, Oregon coast

This September, when the hospice book is done, I’ll be back in Oregon to teach. I’ve visited Portland and the coast often to research a novel in progress, Girl in the Sea, which takes place on the Salmon River estuary. Last winter I was in residence to write the book for two months at the Sitka Center for Art and Ecology, a very visionary center and UNESCO world site, deep within a Sitka spruce forest on Cascade Head (roughly two hours from Portland). Come take the workshop with me, or another teacher, or just go hike the head, or walk along the river or sea; Sitka is an extraordinary place you will never regret visiting.

I am very jazzed to teach this workshop, which springs from hours among the Sitka trees, following the elk herds and kayaking out to the sand spit to find mask materials:


with Sandy Dorr

Sitka Center for Art & Ecology
Sept. 18-19, 2017

WORKSHOP: Come gather elk bones, shell, leaf or cone to make a mask and write your own myth, in prose or poetry, about this time in your life. Read and listen to sensual, classic tales and poems by Isak Dinesen, Sara Teasdale and Tillamook Clara Pearson, as echoes within writing exercises to find the inner opening of who you are, what you love, and what is arising within you. The group will use the masks in a final reading after two days of discovering our own mythic voice, images, and what the sea and trees have said.

Cost: $220 ($7 materials fee) $227 total

Registration begins Feb. 28th for Sitka members, and March 14th for non-members. See

If the course interests you, and you have any questions, please contact me at I’ll also be happy to chat with you on the phone as well after we exchange emails.

Pre-SITKA Life

After attending, as Garrison Keillor did, the U of M, and some post-graduate years of journalistic writing in Europe, I worked as an editor and script analyst in New York City for seven years. Landed, through great luck, my first agent, Gloria Safier, a literary mother to many, who sold my first short story to Ms.

As dazzling as the city is, it’s a tough place to live, enfolded in a zillion layers of brick, metal and concrete. I started to feel the shape of every tree I walked under and finally escaped to Boulder to finish an M.A. in creative writing, then to Wyoming for a Ucross residency, where I met my husband (which still brings up jokes about “colony affairs,” but it turned out rather well) and had our first child, Julian, in our house on Piney Creek in Story, Wyo. Picture enormous Ponderosa pines in the foothills of the Big Horns, scattered tiny cabins, and everywhere the sound of water.

After an idyllic year, where I taught writing for an extension division of the U. of Wyoming, we moved to Portland, Oregon, in the 1990s.’ Magnificent community and city, terrible weather. I had the great pleasure of teaching writing and literature at Portland State University, Linfield College, Pacific University, and Lewis and Clark College, then directing a writing program for four years at WSU-Vancouver.

With our second child, Lillian, we moved back to the interior West to start a green building company, Serra Homes, and to live again in sun and wilderness in the company of cougars, coyotes, deer and Bighorn sheep. We built our own house, the four of us, with some help of some fine subcontractors, on the edge of BLM land in Grand Junction, Colorado.

Here I’ve wound up teaching writing retreats and intensives in Buddhist and Christian monasteries, out in wilderness sanctuaries, and on river rafting trips, in Oregon, Utah and Colorado. I founded and directed a nonprofit, the Western Colorado Writers’ Forum, an essential writing community in a town that’s four hours from Denver or Salt Lake.


I’ve had over 200 articles, editorials, essays, poems, scripts, radio pieces and short stories published and/or performed (NPR, Oregon and Colorado Public Radio, Earth on the Air, many journals -- Rosebud, The Writer, The Bloomsbury Review, the Denver Post, the Taos Review, others). There’s also twenty-one literary awards, including the American Fiction prize, the Colorado Poetry award, N.E.H. and other national awards, and nine residencies at Yaddo and other colonies.

My first two books were nonfiction, about travelling and women’s health; my third book, Desert Water, a collection of poems, was published by an exquisite regional publisher, Lithic Press, in 2009. After finishing Girl in the Sea, I hope to travel to Spain to work on a love story that’s entangled with a classic Spanish poet.


Safe journeys, happy writing, stay tuned, come back soon.

Sandy Dorr