Tuesday, March 9, 2010

The Morning Reading: Victoria Patterson in The New Yorker

Coverage of the Story Prize, won by Daniyal Mueenuddin for In Other Rooms, Other Wonders, detours to an appreciation of Victoria Patterson.

From Daniyal Mueenuddin Wins the Story Prize; Victoria Patterson Wins My Heart by Thessaly La Force:

Though Mueenuddin walked off with the prize, it was Patterson who stole my heart. “Drift” is a collection of stories set in Newport Beach, California, where Patterson spent time as a teen-ager. Newport Beach is in Orange County, a place known less for its literary fiction than for its sun-soaked TV shows, but the stories in “Drift” reveal a dramatically darker side of the place than “The O.C.” Patterson’s beaches are populated with troubled transvestites, drug addicts, and alcoholics. When asked about the setting of her book, Patterson—who looks nothing like a Real Housewife (that’s a good thing) said: “While I was in high school, I said, ‘I’m gonna write about this place, and I’m gonna get you back.’ It was definitely a revenge feeling for me. My motives were angry and not so pure. But I did it!” Though her book was not universally well received (according to Patterson, the Orange Country Register refused to write about the book), it struck a chord with like-minded readers...

Patterson also talked about the difficulties of writing while raising children. It took her, she said, eight years to complete “Drift”:

I was developing as a writer, so I think it took even longer than it might have. I have two sons. One is twelve, one is nine, and I wrote all through their childhood. I was very creative in finding ways to work. I used to drop them off at the church daycare and then ditch church. For two or three years, I went to the early service, and then the adult-learning class, and then the next service: I would get about three hours. People thought I was really into church.

I would also carry notebooks around and I’d be at the park furiously scribbling. If I had a babysitter, instead of going to a movie or out with friends, I would go off writing. I used to say I was having an affair with myself. I constantly wanted to be alone, writing. It was a compulsion, an obsession. I once said to another kid’s father, “I have this thing. I cannot stop writing. Do you ever have that?” And he said, “Well, I like to jog.” And I said, “I like to write all the time! I crave it to the detriment of my family.” He didn’t know what to say! What do you say to that?

While there may have been nothing the father could have said to comfort Patterson, it was rewarding to learn that her passion for writing wasn’t derailed by the difficulties of raising a family. Prize or not, that compulsion—for better or worse—is part of what makes her a writer.

To read the rest, click here.


Victoria Patterson will appear on Tuesday March 23 with Tod Goldberg as part of the Pen on Fire series hosted by Barbara DeMarco-Barrett. At the Scape Gallery in Corona del Mar, 7 PM. $20.00. Advance tickets required.

For more information, click here.

Patterson will also appear on Saturday April 10 as part of the Literary Orange Festival on panel titled "Fiction: New Vistas" with Maile Meloy, Dierdre Shaw and Elizabeth Hartley Winthrop, moderated by Andrew Tonkovich. For more information, click here.

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