Our featured writer for April is Cynthia Patton, an accomplished essayist and poet. Cynthia tackles very personal topics in her writing, and we are so honored that she wanted to share this beautiful work with our Plume community. We hope you enjoy our interview with her!
Plume: When did you know you were a writer?
Cynthia Patton:I’m not sure, but I suspect it was fairly early. My grandfather was a journalist, and I grew up reading pretty much anything I could get my hands on. Mom took my siblings and me to the library every week, and I took full advantage of this ritual. In other words, books and words have always been a part of my life. My 6th grade teacher, the fabulous Olive Sorensen, encouraged me to write, and in high school, I told Mom I wanted to major in English. She suggested I pick something “practical.” I did, but I could never escape the desire to write.
P: Where do you get your ideas?
CP: I’m a poet and a memoirist, so my ideas come from my life. Fortunately my ex-husband and daughter have provided me with more material than I can ever use!
P:Where do you write?
CP: As a single mother of a special needs child, I’ve learned to write wherever I am: coffee shop, waiting room, kitchen table, restaurant, or park. I have a home office that I use when I can, but if I have blank paper or an iPad, I can write almost anywhere.
P: Do you have any writing rituals?
CP: Not really. I tend to write first drafts in longhand, then type (and edit) the second draft. Then the hard work of revision begins. Although I often fight structure, it’s crucial for me. I have a sign in my office that reads: Structure is your friend!
P: How supportive is your local community for writers?
CP: I am blessed with a community that appreciates artists. Of course, I’ve played a role in fostering that support. For years I attended a local writing salon and also founded a branch of the California Writer’s Club. Later, I co-produced and hosted a monthly spoken word event, and then launched the Whistlestop Writers Open Mic, which has been going strong for five years. I’m currently serving as Livermore’s fourth Poet Laureate (2017-2021). I work hard to promote literary arts throughout the region.
P:What are some of your self-care practices?
CP: I have an energetic husky who makes sure that I walk on a regular basis. I also hike and practice yoga. This past year, I began getting a monthly massage. A friend hosts a quarterly candlelight labyrinth walk that I attend as often as possible.
P: What is your favorite book about writing?
CP: It’s hard to pick just one! But if I was forced to do so, I’d probably select Stephen King’s On Writing. Other favorites include Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird, Judy Reeve’s A Writer’s Book of Days, and especially for moms, Pen on Fire: A Busy Woman’s Guide to Igniting the Writer Withinby Barbara DeMarco-Barrett. For poetry, I like John Drury’s Creating Poetry,as well as Steve Kowit’s In the Palm of Your Hand: The Poet’s Portable Workshop.
P:What are you currently working on?
CP: I’m finishing a memoir tentatively called My Guardian Angel Sings the Blues. Itdeals with my unconventional journey to motherhood. I’m also working on a full-length poetry collection and writing civic-inspired poetry in my role as Poet Laureate.
Cynthia J. Patton, poet and memoirist, has published two books on wetland protection and restoration and a poetry collection, Across An Aqueous Moon: Travels in Autism (Finishing Line Press, 2016). Her award-winning work has appeared in twelve anthologies, including five volumes of the best-selling Chicken Soup for the Soul series, numerous print and online publications, as well as her blog, An Unplanned Life. Two of her stories have been performed on stage, and the Museum of Motherhood featured her work as part of Mothers Are Making Art in November 2015.
Patton is an attorney, activist, consultant, and founder of the nonprofit organization, Autism A to Z. She currently serves as the City of Livermore’s Poet Laureate (2017-2021) and hosts the monthly Whistlestop Writers Open Mic, the quarterly Ravenswood Poetry Series, and formerly co-produced and hosted Storied Nights: An Evening of Spoken Word for the Livermore Valley Performing Arts Center. She’s completing a memoir, My Guardian Angel Sings the Blues, on her unconventional journey to motherhood. The Northern California native lives with her daughter and an exceedingly rowdy dog and cat. Learn more about her life and work at CynthiaJPatton.com