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About Elizabeth

Elizabeth Evitts Dickinson  was a finalist for the 2016 Baker Artist Award in the literary arts,  and is working on a book of creative nonfiction called The Grace and the Torment: In Search of Wilmeth. About the mysterious life of her late grandmother, portions of this book have already published as essays that have been recognized by The Best American Essays 2016, and nominated for the Pushcart Prize. In 2015, she earned a Sustainable Arts Foundation Award for this work.... more

Elizabeth Dickinson's portfolio

Memoir: The Grace and the Torment

The Grace and the Torment: In Search of Wilmeth is a memoir-in-progress about my late grandmother, Wilmeth. Part memoir, part detective story, part social history, the book is inspired by my family’s secrets—Wilmeth’s suicide in 1965; my father’s silence about it; and my childhood visions and dreams of the ghost of my deceased grandmother. It uses Wilmeth’s suicide (at the age of 48) as the locus for an exploration into the nature of inheritance, family history, and the consequences that long-held secrets and trauma can have across generations.

Using personal letters, photographs, diaries, archival records, interviews, and official documents, this book enters the complicated era of 1960s Washington, D.C., and looks at the life of a woman aching to be more than just a housewife. Science and biology also inform this writing, including the emerging field of transgenerational epigenetics, which studies how we inherit ancestral experiences via changes to our genetic code. I use my award-winning journalism and creative-writing skills to tackle my most compelling assignment: unraveling the story of my brilliant but troubled grandmother and reconciling my father’s secrecy. Ultimately, this is a detective story of the human heart. It is an attempt to resolve the mysteries of what we inherit and to understand how we inhabit our present while living with the ghosts of our past.

The essays "On Nostalgia" and "Notes from a Suicide" are pulled from this work-in-progress.

Fiction: Short Stories

An aging astronaut develops a phobia of small spaces. A man tries to kidnap his wife out of a Nevada whorehouse and gets attacked by a ferret. A young mother debates breaking into a furniture store late at night so that she can take a nap on a sofa in the display window. Rival cultural organizations hear a rumor that one of the wealthiest women in Baltimore is on her deathbed and the hunt for her inheritance begins. These are just a few of the award-winning short stories that I have published over the years in literary magazines and journals.

Roxane Gay, New York Times Bestselling author of Bad Feminist, picked my short story “A Modern Girl’s Guide to Childbirth” as one of the 2015 Wigleaf Top 50 (very) Short Fiction winners. Gay had this to say about her selection : “When I read, I want so much and these fifty stories fulfilled my desires. These fifty stories introduced me to wants I did not even know I had. Each of these flash fictions, these compressed stories, held me in their thrall. These are stories with not a word or idea out of place. These are writers who are willing to take chances and cut through flesh to show us the gleaming white of bone.”

Essays and Radio: Writing the City

For nearly 20 years, I have written about cities, and especially, about Baltimore. I am interested in the human motivations behind our built environment and believe that what we build speaks volumes about who we are as a culture. When I write about a city or a building or an urban plan, I also write about human life and aspiration and the way in which our manmade culture impacts and informs our daily selves.

Here, I've included a number of recent essays, which have appeared in Architect magazine, BMore Art Journal, Johns Hopkins Magazine, and others, as well as on the air for WYPR and WEAA.

  • In Studio at WYPR

    Recording an essay that I wrote for The Maryland Humanities Council. It was aired on WYPR in summer 2015.
  • The Architecture of Civility_WYPR.mp3

    "The Architecture of Civility," an essay read on air at WYPR for the Maryland Humanities Council, 2015.
  • Snake in the Grass

    In 1893, Edward H. Bouton took up an urgent matter with his lawyers. He wanted to know if he could legally keep black people out of Roland Park.
    PDF icon Snake in the Grass
  • Riot Architecture

    Defensive architecture was the answer to the 1968 riots in Baltimore. How will architects respond to the urban uprisings of 2015?
    PDF icon Riot Architecture
  • The Rise of the User Generated City

    The Lewis or Clark of today is sitting safely behind a laptop and instead of mapping terra incognita, he is placing red pin tabs over his favorite tattoo parlors.
    PDF icon The Rise of the User Generated City
  • Mapping Desire in BmoreArt.jpg

    I partnered with Baltimore photographer Nate Larson on a project for the inaugural issue of BMore Art Magazine. Nate and I chose to explore the nature of desire lines in the city and how these act as a metaphor for a larger conversation on race, place, and rights and access to the city. My essay, titled Mapping Desire, was accompanied by images by Nate
  • Mapping Desire

    Desire lines act like contrails of human existence. They have a story to tell.
    PDF icon Mapping Desire

Book: Think Wrong

I co-authored a book on the creative process, ingenuity, and activism with the design firm Future. Think Wrong: How to Conquer the Status Quo and Do Work That Matters (Instigator Press, 2016)

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Elizabeth's Curated Collection

This artist has not yet created a curated collection.