Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Life of a Poet ~ PattiKen and the Muses

by Sherry Blue Sky

Hi kids. I hope you had a lovely Thanksgiving and are all refreshed and ready to plunge back into the world of poetry again. This week’s poet claims she isn’t one, but I beg to differ, as I have been enjoying her poetry for a long time now. We are sitting down today with Patti, of PattiKen and the Muses.  For Patti,  I envision, (as it turns out, accurately),  a table at Starbucks,  some foamy lattes, and frequent ka-ching noises from the busy cash registers. Let’s gather ‘round.
Patti and friend

Poets United: Patti, thank you so much for sitting down with us.
Patti: Thanks again for asking me to participate.  The title threw me a bit. I have never seen myself as a poet. I sit down to write and sometimes a poem-like piece emerges, which always surprises me. Any poetry I manage to produce is an accident. Yes, that feels more like it:  The Life of an Accidental Poet.
Poets United: Ha! Good one. I lurked around your site, but found few clues as to your day to day existence. So, Patti, where do you live, and what is your life like, for Those Who Need to Know?
Patti: Ah, see?  Here goes my hard-earned status of being an enigma… :-)
I live in Massachusetts. I don’t know if you’d call my existence rural, but it certainly isn’t urban, more’s the pity. I live in a smallish town with about 5,000 full-time residents (although in the summer, the population swells to 35,000), but in my heart, I’m an urban person.
I chose PattiKen as a bit of a talisman when I started putting my writing out there on the Internet. My mother’s maiden name was Kennedy. Using a bit of that as part of my “nom de plume” was a way of keeping something of her with me, even though she’s been gone most of my life.

Poets United: Oh, Patti, it is hard to lose one’s mother young. Would you like to tell us a little about it?
Patti: My mother died of a cerebral hemorrhage when I was nine years old. She was only 48 years old.  Though I’m sure there was some, I don’t remember any impact at the time. It was when I hit all those life events later that her absence hit home. You know, first date, graduation, marriage, birth of children… That kind of thing. 
I wrote this a couple of years ago:  From My Mother at Christmas  

My father remarried almost immediately, which had a huge impact on me. She was a real Southern belle and … um, an unpleasant person. Here’s a piece inspired by her:  The Other Woman    The good news is that the marriage only lasted five years. The bad news is that they were perhaps the five years when I most needed a mother.

Poets United: That is tough, Patti. I'm glad you made it through so well. And, kids, do check out From My Mother at Christmas - it is very touching.

Patti: My husband and I are empty nesters, except for the two felines who allow us to share their home. Our five children (we each brought kids to our marriage) are all grown, and we enjoy eight (it still shocks me to say that!) grandchildren.
Life at our house is mostly quiet, except for the omnipresent tapping of the keyboard beneath my fingers. You know how that is, I suspect.
Poets United: Your grandchildren are beautiful! Do you have a day job?
Patti: No, I’m not working anymore, at least not for pay, anyway. In my former life, though, my job had a lot to do with writing.  I taught a business writing methodology as well as working as a business consultant specializing in performance management. That’s a grand way of saying that I helped people do their jobs more effectively through training and documentation. I was always writing, but most of it was as boring as all get out.
Poets United: It sounds interesting, though! How did you come to the world of writing? Do you remember writing your first poem, and why?

Patti: Gee, that’s a hard one. It seems like I have always been writing in some way or another.  At age 13, I won a short story contest in school, and the story (which was about a haunted house!) was published in a local scholastic magazine. I was off and running. I don’t think I ever stopped writing after that.
I do remember the first poem I wrote. I was a teenager.  I can’t tell you why I wrote it; I have no idea. Fear, maybe. I do know why I remember writing it, though. It was about breast cancer. I think you know my daughter is a breast cancer survivor. When she was diagnosed at age 33 (while pregnant!), I had a moment of wondering if I’d been prescient all those years ago.
My Kids

Poets United: You must have been terrified when your daughter was diagnosed. Thank heavens she is a survivor.
Patti: My daughter… What can I say?  She is the strongest person I know, a real inspiration. Here are pieces I’ve written about her:

·       The Superhero
·       They Walk
·       Falter  (This was also the first blog post I ever wrote.)

And this is a guest post Lisa wrote on my blog:  She Speaks

But you should know… I haven’t written much about them (I have a feeling they might be a tad embarrassed if I did in any obvious way), but I’m really proud of my guys too. They are terrific people, and have always made me grateful that I was blessed with them in my life.

My Step Kids
Poets United: What a wonderful family you have, Patti.  I enjoy your interweaving of poetry and prose on your site. Which do you find the easiest/hardest to write? Which of the two would you say is your first love, and why? Why do you pick one form one day to express something, instead of the other?
Patti: Prose and poetry… They are so different, and yet so much alike. I would have to say they are equally hard and equally easy, depending on the mood of the muse. Some pieces write themselves and others are a struggle from the first word to the last, no matter which style it is. But, all that being said, I think prose is the style that fits me best. I’m comfortable wearing it, whereas poetry feels like playing dress-up.
Poets United: What is it about writing that keeps you doing it?
Patti: I’m tempted to say that I have to write, and that the need to write keeps me going. That sounds ever so much more worthy than the reality. But I’d be lying, I think. Praise. Praise keeps me going.  Would I stop were there no praise? No, I’d keep writing, fueled by the possibility of praise.
Yeah, I know… I think Freud might have something to say about that.
Poets United: Freud can go soak his head! It is  feedback from other writers that has energized and invigorated my writing, too. Are you satisfied with the amount of time you have to pursue your writing?
Patti: Absolutely. Retirement has many benefits, but the luxury of time is at the top of the list for me.
Poets United: Me, too. I saw on one of your blogs that you traveled to New Zealand. Was that a wonderful adventure? Have you traveled to any other countries?
Hobbitton, New Zealand, where The Hobbitt was filmed. I kept expecting
 Bilbo to show up and demand, "What are you doing in my house?"
Patti: I have been very fortunate. I’ve been many places, mostly through no effort of my own. My dad was in the US Public Health Service, and an assignment to the US Embassy allowed us to live in Paris for three years when I was a child. (Unfortunately, I was only three years old; I’ll never forgive my brother for being 16 at the time!)
Trips to New Zealand, Brazil, Trinidad, England, Canada and all over the US came as job assignments. Just being there and meeting so many great people was a great adventure. I was poor as a church mouse in those days (that was during my “single mom” years), so I couldn’t afford to do much when I was there. I had to do a “Blanche DuBois” and depend on the kindness of strangers.  Those strangers were often very kind and squired me about to see some of the culture.
Oxford School Children
Since retiring, we’ve been back to New Zealand, France, England, Canada and the Caribbean. Italy will be the next destination.  It fills my bucket list almost to overflowing.
Poets United: It sounds marvellous. Sigh. Italy next! You must blog that trip! When you are not writing, what other activities do you pursue?
Patti: I love to read, of course, and I’m a movie fan.  Travel is my favourite “on the go” activity. I used to enjoy hiking, but angry knees prevent me from doing much of that now. I still walk a lot, and enjoy it most in a big city. (Remember that urban heart I mentioned back at the first question?)
Poets United: Do you have a cause that is dear to your heart?
Patti: That’s an easy one. Supporting breast cancer research and treatment is a passion, as you might have guessed. Two years ago, my husband and I walked 30 miles over two days in the Boston Avon Walk for Breast Cancer (AWBC).
Poets United: That’s fantastic, Patti. Who would you say has been the biggest influence on your writing?
Patti: Hmm. I don’t have an answer for that. I’ve certainly been inspired by many writers. The list is as diverse as can be, ranging from Dr. Seuss to Anita Shreve to Stephen King to George Orwell, and so on.  Since I got involved in the blogging community, many writers who post their work on blogs have joined the list. But I can’t point to any one person. Though I don’t write horror, I think the writer whose “voice” is most like mine may be Stephen King.
Poets United: Cool. Do you pursue publication with your writing? Do you contemplate gathering some of your prose pieces together in a book? (I think it would make a great book, especially the Tenth Daughter of Memory series).
Patti: Ah, yes, that’s the big question, isn’t it?  Initially, I claimed not to care about being  published.  Self-delusion, I’m sure. Of course, I’d like to be published.  I mean, think of all the opportunity for praise! (Yes, I know: it would offer endless opportunity for criticism as well.)
I really have no idea how to go about it. I‘ve sent a few pieces out to competitions. So far, I get the “thanks for your interest…” but not even an Honourable Mention.  One of these days, perhaps I’ll get serious with the current Writers’ Market, and actually send some short stories out for consideration.
I’m glad you brought up The Tenth Daughter of Memory (10thDoM).  For those unfamiliar with it:… It’s a friendly twice-monthly writing competition. Entries can be prose, poetry, a video, photograph or drawing. The only requirement is that the entries must be original and written specifically for the current prompt, which we call a “muse.” The votes of the other participants determine the winner, and the “prize” is the right to select a future prompt.
I’ve been participating in 10thDoM for almost two years. I’ve only “won” three times, but I’ve still been a big winner. There is no question that my writing has improved dramatically thanks to 10thDoM. The feedback from the other participants, all of whom are good writers, has been invaluable.
I would encourage anyone who is interested in the challenge of writing/creating for a timed prompt, would like to hone his or her skills, and enjoys a little competition to come and join us.  10thDoM is open to everyone.
Poets United: That sounds very interesting. Another great opportunity for our members. What one thing have you learned for sure in your life?
Patti: One thing for sure?  “We are each the center of our own universe.”  Most of us fail to consider the other guy’s perspective, I think. All of our beliefs, opinions, actions and reactions come from our own “place,” and it often surprises us when someone else (who is living in a different place, after all) sees things differently. “Different” isn’t necessarily wrong. It’s just…  well, different.
Poets United: So very true. When you look back, what are you most proud of?
Patti: Another easy one.  I am most proud of my kids. I have made no greater contribution. Somehow, despite the fumbling about of their mother in her fog of uncertainty, they turned out to be amazing human beings.
Poets United: I love that, Patti. Same here! Do you have a quote you live by, or a philosophy of life you can share in a hundred words or lessJ??
Patti: I think I have to go back to that “one thing I know for sure” of two questions ago. I think it’s really just another way of saying, “do unto others…” Not very original, but there it is.
Poets United: And a wonderful philosophy! Anything else you would like to share with Poets United?
Patti: I’d just reiterate my thanks for your interest and kind words.  As I’ve mentioned, I feel a bit of the imposter when participating in Poets United.  I’m very grateful for the warm welcome you’ve given me.
Poets United: Thank you, Patti, for allowing us a look in to your life, your wonderful family and your writing.

Patti in Seattle, in front of the tallest highway
caution cone I've ever seen :-)!

Isn’t it true, kids, that writers and poets are some of the most interesting folks around? Come back and see who we talk to next. Who knows? It might be you!


  1. A delightful read Sherry and a special treat to learn of you Patti.

  2. What fun to be introduced to such an interesting writer. I love her sense of humor. Accidental Poet is a title I will remember with a smile.

  3. I am delighted in your love and kindness towards the birds and cats in your read as well as the interesting enjoyment you have in articulating via the written word. Beautiful story.

  4. Another fascinating and informative interview, Sherry. Glad to get to know more details about Patti!

  5. patti is an incredible person...i have had the opportunity to read patti for a couple years now...hard to believe at times...and have seen tremendous growth in her...and her personality makes her that wonderful person as is nice to see some other sides as well through this interview...

  6. For the record, Patti's children are just as proud of her, if not more so, as she is of them!

    Love you, Mom! Congratulations!

    (Patti's daughter)

  7. As Patti's (slightly unconventional) 'other Mom', I'd like to take a few moments just to find words for how incredibly proud I am of her. Her writing is enticing, memorable, defined, powerful; her voice is definitely her own.

    It's wonderful to see her life-story featured here, to glimpse yet another facet of all that makes her who she is.

    Patti, you're an amazing writer. I'm honored to know you, to share this part of your journey.

  8. I'm so flattered by this. Thank you, Poets United, for including me in the company of such talented people. Thanks to my friends who have honored me with your kind comments. And Lisa, I love you too. Thank you for being you.

    I'm blown away.

  9. I so enjoyed this interview and getting to know Patti better~! I love your spirit and your view on life~ Well Done Ladies :D

    You won me over; I'm now a new follower ;D

  10. Sherry, this was another interesting intervieew. Sherri, I was not familiar with your blog. This was a great introduction to YOU and your blog. So glad you are part of Poets United, Patti.

  11. Patti, what an honour for us all to hear more about your journey. I am not sure how long I have been reading Patti's tales, but they are wonderful & I am thrilled to see this interview here. Yeah Patti!! :)

  12. What a fantastic interview. Patti is one of my favourite online writers and I am delighted to learn more about her. What I like about her writing the most is her humour, her empathy and her ability to put a twist into a tale. Keep up the good work, Patti. You have lots of fans out there!


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