Miriam Selker Dodek, 78, a Washington author who wrote poetry and short stories, died Jan. 13 at Washington Hospital Center of respiratory insufficiency.

Mrs. Dodek, who also was a lawyer, had lived in Washington for more than 50 years and was former poetry editor of the Jewish Week newspaper here.

She had been an enthusiastic writer since her student days at the University of Michigan, and during the 1930s wrote a collection of historical short stories, "River of Wonders, Stories of the Nile," which was translated into Hebrew and published in Israel.

More recently a collection of her poems, "Gloucester is the Sea," was chosen by the chamber of commerce of Gloucester, Mass., as part of its 1976 bicentennial project. Mrs. Dodek had spent many summers in Gloucester.

A native of Detroit, she earned a master's degree in English literature from what is now Case Western Reserve University and a law degree from Northwestern University.

She came to Washington in 1934 to work as a lawyer for the old Resettlement Administration, but she left after her marriage in 1936 to Dr. Samuel M. Dodek and became active in Hadassah. She was chairman of the women's division of the United Jewish Appeal and was the author of the constitution of the D.C. chapter of B'nai B'rith Women.

Mrs. Dodek was a member of the National Press Club, the National Association of American Pen Women, the National Academy of Poets, the Authors Guild Inc. and the Washington Hebrew Congregation.

In addition to her husband, of Washington, she is survived by two daughters, Mariamne D. Brauzer of Coral Gables, Fla., and Samayla D. Deutch of Lexington, Mass.; two sisters, Edith Frank of Detroit and Margaret Frank of Cleveland, and five grandchildren.