Our chat with Patricia…
It was my mother who suggested that I write things down and call them stories. I remember the first story I was paid for. I was ten and the local paper ran a competition asking children to write a story about Galway. I chose to write about a famous story from this part of the world. It concerned a mayor of Galway called Lynch who had a zero tolerance policy towards crime. When his son murdered a Spanish sailor in a quarrel over a local girl the mayor ordered that the boy should be put to death. But the people loved the Lynch family and no-one would agree to carry out the sentence. And so, the mayor hanged his own son. It has been said that we get the term lynching from that story. I can neither confirm nor deny! I was highly commended for my entry, however, and won a book voucher. I felt like I’d won the lottery.
As an adult, I started to collect original first editions of the books which were unabridged. The versions I read as a child were heavily edited to suit modern tastes so you didn’t have the teachers smoking for example! The Chalet School books are what I turn to when I want to relax and de-stress. They are well written and highly entertaining but they also give a wonderful social history of the time.
Secondly, polish your work. There is such a temptation to send work out before it is ready. Put the finished story in a drawer and wait a month. You will see everything that doesn’t work after a month! Better you see it than an editor or an agent.
Finally, don’t give up. Persistence is almost as important as talent. If you feel your work is good, if you have had professional feedback telling you it’s good, then don’t give up. It can take a long time to get published and a longer time than that to find an agent. It’s the people who keep at it, keep writing, that will succeed.
There’s always administrative work to be done and I love doing events. I go to visit schools and libraries all over Ireland during the winter and do a lot of festivals at home and abroad during the summer. To make time for everything I get up early and I gave up watching television!