Patti Abbott is a writer of brilliant short stories.One of her stories was recently featured in the anthology Between the Dark and the Daylight along with Joyce Carol Oates, Scott Phillips and other big shots.
Her blog Pattinase is an essential port of call in this cluttered blogosphere.
PDB) How did you get into the writing game?
Patti) I was always a voracious reader, but I didn’t write until a course I signed up for on the American Indian (around 1998) had too many books on the syllabus. I was working full-time and taking several course so it just wasn’t possible to read a book a week for one course.
The only other course that fit the times I had available was in poetry writing. I had an encouraging instructor and wrote poetry for about two years-even getting a chapbook and several dozen poems published in lit journals. But more and more, editors would write back, “well, yes, but this is really a story more than a poem.” So I took a few of the poems, and darn if they weren’t blueprints for stories.
I never looked back–and my poetry collection gathers dust still. I took four writing workshops and then joined a writing group, which I still belong to today. Writing saved my life-I never knew I could do anything more than shuffling papers until then.
PDB) Are you part of the writing world’s version of The Osmonds?
Patti) Megan always wrote. As a child, she also illustrated all of her own stories. And if she were to allow me to put them on my blog, I could show you stories that were as noirish as what she writes today. Stories she wrote at 10 years old. Very dramatic stories, influenced by the movies she continually watched as a kid. Never new movies, but old ones from the thirties and forties. For years she was working on her Ph.D. During that period, I got a jump on her with publications, but it was a temporary one. She was born to it; I wormed my way in. She filled a steam trunk with her writing. When she went off to college, we thought we’d take a peek, but it was empty. I wonder where all those stories went?
PDB) Salford. I like Lowry myself but … why?
Patti) My husband taught politics a the University of Salford 1995-96. His university here has an exchange program. We loved living in England—even if it was the north. We lived in a 16th century miner’s cottage in Worsley. It was one of the loveliest years of our lives. A great woods was behind us and we walked there and along the canal—the place the industrial revolution began, went to the pub, traveled around the north country, went to London regularly (the train was cheaper then) read a thousand books, wrote letters and indulged in the BBC.
A year later, we went on a Fulbright to Amsterdam and that was fun, too. But my heart remains in northern England. And I do like Lowry. You had to if you lived in Salford. And Robert Owens. I did a paper on him while in Salford, too. A lot of his papers were housed at the University.
PDB) Has writing changed how you read and what you read?
Patti) Yes, despite my early writing teachers telling me as we mature as writers, we are less likely to pick up styles, I still do. Especially if the style is distinctive so I have to be careful who I read. As I have drifted into writing crime stories almost exclusively, I read more of them. When I look at what I read 20 years ago (I kept a journal) I only read about 20% crime. Now I’d say it was 75%. I am certainly a more critical reader now too. But that may be age. I discard many books after ten pages. Not for the usual reason, that it’s too slow. If the voice doesn’t grab me, I put it aside.
PDB) Have your travels influenced your writing?
Patti) Yes, travels have very much influenced my writing. I have set stories in Croatia, Amsterdam, northern England, California, New Jersey, New York, Boston, Philadelphia, Spain, etc. That is half the fun for me. Digging up the memories and the books and letters to recreate a place–and certain people–certain foods.
PDB) Do your family read your work and what do they think of it?
Patti) My husband reads everything I write and declares it all wonderful. He’s the perfect first reader and then I take it to my writing group. Megan has read some of it, especially early on, but I rarely send her a story since she doesn’t particularly care for short stories. She has read both my attempts at novels.
My son has read a bit of it but I think he finds it difficult. He’s a prosecutor and sees enough of that stuff in his work. My mother, before she died, read all of it. She always said she wished I saw the world a little more favorably. She was waiting for an uplifting book or story from either Megan or me.
It never happened.