Some of the stories in Dogwalker were written as long as four years ago, but I wouldn't say I've been working on this collection for four years. I have always been a little unsure of whether I could make it as a writer so I've held other jobs and worked on other projects this whole time.
I have many stories which don't make it to the computer. When I put it into the computer I make some changes and often add a few sentences here and there. I like the typewriter for first drafts because it means you can't change anything right away, you just have to put it all down.
The first story I wrote was "Catface" which was later selected for The O. Henry Collection, so that gave me some confidence to try some more. Gathering these stories together was fun, but I realized when I read them that I have certain mental preoccupations and they keep recurring in my stories.
I make films about people with disabilities as well and I think this question is more relevant in regards to these documentaries where the actual person appears on film. I know these people are proud of who they are and what they are doing with their lives.
I write most of my first drafts on an old manual typewriter, a really old one. It's a big black metal "Woodstock" from about 1920. I try to write everything down at once, in one sitting. The longer stories in this collection are divided up into sections. Each section represents a different sitting, a different idea for the same story.
Dogwalker is a book of fiction, with characters based on the types of people who truly exist in the world. I've seen them and know them - some of them I know really well. Although the stories are sometimes gritty and unsettling, my hope is that in the end they hit a positive note.
I never really set out to research any of these stories. I try to lead an interesting life though. I guess the closest I came to research was when I applied to work at the state mental institution in Austin, TX. I wanted to work the night shift like Ken Kesey did when he wrote One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. I thought that might inspire me to write a book that great.
I'd just like to point out that almost all of these stories in this collection were rejected by some publication at one time or another, some of them have been rejected a lot, in fact. Find people you trust and listen to them.
I'm interested in other animals too though. There's the slug in "Mollusks", and I wrote a story about bees and one about a cat which got thrown out a window by mistake, but those never made it into the collection.
I've worked in several different places, most of my experience comes from spending eight summers at a camp for adults with a wide range of disabilities. For six years I spent every summer living in a small cabin with five men with Downes Syndrome. It was just me and these five guys, all in their forties and fifties. We had such a great time.