Dorothy Ellen Palmer tells us about Falling For Myself and Wiggins: Son of Sherlock


Welcome to author Dorothy Palmer!


Dorothy Ellen Palmer is a disabled senior writer, mom of two, retired English/Drama teacher, improv coach and union activist. Her adoption-disability memoir, Falling for Myself, (Wolsak and Wynn, 2019), was acclaimed by The Toronto Star, The Globe and Mail, and Quill & Quire. Longlisted for the ReLit Award, When Fenelon Falls, (Coach House, 2010), features a disabled teen in the Woodstock-Moonwalk summer of 1969. Wiggins: Son of Sherlock, featuring a feminist-disability lens appeared this spring with MX Publishing, London, England. Her fiction and nonfiction appear in literary and disability anthologies and journals, including Reader’s Digest, Refuse, This Magazine, Canthius, Wordgathering and Nothing Without Us. Winner of the 2020 Helen Henderson Award for Disability Journalism and the 2021 Cecils Award, she tweets @depalm.


Tell us about your life outside of writing.

I’m a disabled senior, a mom of two, a binge knitter and a retired English/Drama teacher and union activist. In pre-pandemic days, to get around in the world I used a walker, a wheelchair and a mobility scooter. Since March 8, 2020, like much of my disabled community who are under double threat from the virus and eugenics, I have been sheltering in place. I haven’t left my apartment trying to save as many lives as possible. During that time I’ve watched far too much TV and read more Scottish mysteries than I could ever imagined existed on the planet.

Do you have a work in progress?

Yes, I’m working on my thriller, Liar, Liar, Wife on Fire. It’s the story of Roberta Brandt, a mom of twins and a disabled high school history teacher with my tiny feet, who slowly realizes her husband has been gaslighting her for decades. In tense, personal affidavits, in increasing fear and peril, she exposes him as a cheater, a thief, a sex tourist, a serial predator, and worse. Pushed to the brink of despair, Roberta joins forces with other women he has burned - her daughters, her mother, her mother-in-law and a teenaged sex worker in Argentina. Tragically, not every life can be saved, but, together, these charred women rise from the ashes to deliver their own verdict of collective justice.

I’m also working on a picture book, The Scooter Twins, contracted to Groundwood Books. It’s about a pair of feisty twins going shopping for their first mobility scooters.

What was the most difficult section/piece you ever wrote? What made it difficult?

In my memoir, Falling for Myself, I confide many things about my past that were difficult about both my adoption and my disability, but the most difficult section was about admitting that I now wear adult diapers. I put it in, I panicked, I took it out, then put it back in. Surprisingly, I have gotten more email about that, thanking me for it, than about anything else. I think people need to have that normalized and seen.

What sort of research do you do for your work?

It varies book to book. For my novel, When Fenelon Falls, I spent years immersed in the pop culture and news of the year I and the main character turned fourteen, 1969. For Wiggins: Son of Sherlock, I had spent a lifetime as a Sherlock fan, but still researched the specifics of Victorian life to learn more about how a disabled girl might be treated in the 1890s. For my memoir, Falling for Myself, I did a great deal of live, in-person research, consulting with my disabled community about representation and how to present my life in an authentic light.

Which books and authors do you read for pleasure? Is there an author who inspires you?

 During the pandemic, I’ve been able to write about it, but I’m finding it really hard to both write about it and read anything serious. As I mentioned, for escape and pleasure, I’ve been reading endless Scottish mysteries. The authors who will always inspire me are Thomas Wolfe and Audre Lorde, one for his ability to capture human music in words, and the other for helping marginalized disabled women see themselves.

Was there a person who encouraged you to write?

Not really. I was born in 1955. My working class parents didn’t believe in university for girls, let alone the ridiculous dream of being a writer. My English teachers gave me a love of books and suggested I become a librarian. I had to find my belief in my work myself. My now grown children have always encouraged me to write and wanting to be worthy of that support has always sustained me.



In this searing and seriously funny memoir Dorothy Ellen Palmer falls down, a lot, and spends a lifetime learning to appreciate it. Born with congenital anomalies in both feet, then called birth defects, she was adopted as a toddler by a wounded 1950s family who had no idea how to handle the tangled complexities of adoption and disability. From repeated childhood surgeries to an activist awakening at university to decades as a feminist teacher, mom, improv coach and unionist, she tried to hide being different. But now, in this book, she's standing proud with her walker and sharing her journey. With savvy comic timing that spares no one, not even herself, Palmer takes on Tiny Tim, shoe shopping, adult diapers, childhood sexual abuse, finding her birth parents, ableism and ageism. In Falling for Myself, she reckons with her past and with everyone's future, and allows herself to fall and get up and fall again, knees bloody, but determined to seek Disability Justice, to insist we all be seen, heard, included and valued for who we are.

 "Dorothy Ellen Palmer writes to 'channel shame into solidarity, anger into analysis, denial into delight and loss into love,' and this book – full of insight and wild humour, fierce activism and vital intersectional analysis – marks her stellar success. She calls all of us to imagine a world beyond the limits of ableism and a movement where all of us have room to move." – Sonya Huber, author of Pain Woman Takes Your Keys and Other Essays from a Nervous System




On New Year’s Day 1891, Sherlock Holmes summons the limping street urchin, Wiggins, to Baker Street and decrees he must die at dawn. Wiggins, however, has other plans. To fulfil the dying wish of his mother, Irene Adler, he schemes with his two formidable American aunties to keep two important facts from the great detective: Mrs. Hudson is actually his Aunt Grizelda, and he is both Holmes’ child and a girl pretending to be a boy. Through a series of mysterious letters Adler bequeathed to Wiggins, the dark backstory of her parents and all their long-kept family secrets unravel. To flee the mad King of Bohemia trying to claim Wiggins as his heir, Holmes and Wiggins begin their Great Hiatus. From Mycroft to Moriarty, from Dr. John H. Watson to the Baker Street Irregulars, from P.T. Barnum to Jumbo the Elephant, Wiggins learns little is what it seems. Slowly learning to trust each other, Holmes and Wiggins travel from London to Reichenbach Falls to New York City to a small farm in Canada which holds the secrets of their family history. Together, they correct the errors in Watson’s tales, bond over Wiggins’ disability, drop their masquerades, and deduce a father and daughter future.

“Wiggins is full of surprises, pulling us back into the world of 221B from an entirely original angle - as if Palmer had found a secret hiding space even the Great Detective had never accessed!” --  Angela Misri (Portia Adams Adventures).



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