Member Profile: Pamela Patchet

Pam Hamilton

Name: Pamela Patchet (sometimes Hamilton, depending on mood)

Joined PWAC: November 2006

Why did you join PWAC?
Writing is a lonely profession, so when I was offered a chance to mingle with other writers, and exchange information on freelancing opportunities, I thought I‚d try it. I‚m looking to pitch more feature articles to magazines and newspapers and figured there would be some good advice. Plus I heard there were free cookies at the meetings.

What kind of writing do you do, and who have your written for?
If you ask my friends, they’ll say I write humorous essays. I just say essays (which is usually met by blank stares, but I‚m not about to proclaim Hey, I’m funny.) I observe the human experience as it unfolds around me, and report on it in a self-deprecating and irreverent way. And the older I get, the more I live by the motto “Take No Prisoners.”
I’ve written for the Globe and Mail, National Post, Montreal Gazette, Canoe & Kayak Magazine, and “Sentinels Along the Way: Stories of Inspiration.” I have a regular column in Watershed Magazine. And, in the past three years, I’ve nailed runner-up status twice in the Bulwer-Lytton Fiction contest, which has another collection in the works.

What was the first piece of paid writing you published?
A Christmas anti-newsletter published in the Globe’s Facts and Arguments in 2003 that evolved from a whinging email to my sister. I did, however, win a national poster contest in 1969, sponsored by the Red Cross, on the evils of smoking. Or was it water safety?

What made you want to be a writer?
I was a shy kid who grew up in a chaotic, volatile household. We moved around a lot, so the library in every new town became a familiar escape, and books became my only constant. Authors were powerful, and if they could create a world like Narnia, and girls like Velvet Brown and Anne Shirley and Anne Frank could rise above their circumstances, well then, perhaps I could too. And of course, I learned about relationships from Archie comics, and how to dress from the Dos and Don’ts in Glamour, and sex from Cosmopolitan magazine, all of which were banned in my house.

What qualities do you look for in an editor/client?
Assuming he/she is competent and has an excellent grasp of the English language and the subtle nuances of grammar and syntax, then I look for a similar sense of humour and a willingness to negotiate.

What’s the best piece of writing advice anyone has given you/that you want to pass on?
Years ago when I was starting out, a friend of mine (Diana Gabaldon) passed on some excellent advice: “It isn’t personal. It’s a job — an important, challenging, and wildly entertaining job — but a job, not a test of individual worth.” This was huge for me, and allowed me to accept criticism without flinching.

“The time spent on writing has nothing to do with either the seriousness of intent or the quality of the writing. Quantity, maybe, but not quality. Time and speed and number of pages do not matter. Ever.
Most people think they need an open space of time in which to create. This
is not true. What you need is only the single act of will — to start. Then
the same act of will each day, to continue.” — D.G.

And my favourite quote:
“It’s never too late to be what you might have been,” which is tacked up next to my computer. I started writing when I was four years old. I didn’t actually submit anything until I was forty-seven. I had twelve articles
published that year.

Who are your favourite writers?
David Sedaris, Jacquelyn Mitchard, Diana Gabaldon, Anna Quindlen, Jodi Picoult, Elizabeth Berg, Bill Bryson.

You can’t write without your…
Laptop and internet (with a large mug of coffee at hand, and my dog Buddy snoring at my feet.) I’ve trained myself to write in the midst of blaring televisions, kids coming and going, phones ringing, etc. I can jot down notes by hand, but I need my laptop to write anything of substance, and the Internet to check spelling, do a bit of research, or procrastinate. I mean ruminate.

If you weren’t a writer, you’d be a…
Hmmm… Forest ranger? London tour guide? Volunteer at the Jane Goodall institute? Perhaps a waitress in a diner. I’ve worked in some amazing places with incredible people, but for a writer, nothing beats serving coffee and eggs to the regulars in a small town diner; it keeps you humble, the entire gamut of the human race will pour through the front door, and the real scoop is handed back to you on a plate if you’re paying attention. And if the cook is in a good mood, you’ll get free pie.

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