Pat Weissner had always avoided writing. She chose her courses in college based on how little writing was required. Pat taught Italian at college level. She also worked as a bookkeeper for various private schools. Before she began her love affair with writing, reading was her first love. “I get lost in it. I always thought that if I were to be born again I would be a writer. I never thought it would be in this lifetime and I love it. I love the creation of it. I love the creating of the story.”
What awakened the writer in her? How did this ‘non-creative writing’ woman end up winning short story awards and play a big role for Women Who Write, Inc., for twenty five years?
“When I was thirteen years old, my cousin who was my age, got a boyfriend. I didn’t have one, so I made one up. Every night, I would create a little story around him in my head. Where he lived, what he was like, how his family was and so on. I wasn’t connected to him, but I was creating him in my night time going to sleep memories—until I turned forty five-years old!”
This information was all in Pat’s head and never shared before with anyone. Until one day, when Pat’s son came home from school angry. Because he had been given a journal assignment. This triggered her memory of Jonathon, her made up boyfriend, who was still sixteen years old.
Pat thought, “What a good idea! I am going to have Jonathon, my pretend boyfriend, write a journal. I started with January 1st and went all the way through, every day I had a calendar, with what he did.” Out of that year when he was sixteen, is where all of her short stories originated. Pat couldn’t believe she was writing, and was excited about it. She even let her friends know that she was writing these great stories.
One of Pat’s friends gave her a clip from a newspaper. It was about a short story contest at The Authors and Writers Network of Montclair State College, in NJ. The categories included a YA children’s writing contest. Her first response was that she couldn’t do this, but her friend encouraged her to give it a try. Pat had no clue how to properly write a short story, so she reached out to a friend who taught English. Pat asked if she would read her work and give feedback. Her fifty-page short story actually needed to be only 2500 words! Her friend critiqued the work, and Pat, was able to shorten and tighten her short story. This gave Pat a great start, but she didn’t want to burden her friend whenever she needed feedback. So she began looking for a critique group, which was difficult to do.
She then heard about one named Mothers Who Write, founded by Victoria Fann. Meetings were held in an apartment with twelve people sitting on the floor as they read and critiqued each other’s work. Not long after that, Victoria moved out of state. Another member, Janice Bultman, continued running the group. Pat remembered Janice saying, “Not all of us are mothers, so why don’t we call ourselves Women Who Write?” They called Victoria to see if she agreed with the name change. Victoria did, and by 1988 Janice had written the original bylaws for Women Who Write and the group at the time became incorporated. Janice was made president and Pat the treasurer of the organization.
Also in 1988, Pat got her first award with her story “Strays”. It won first place in The Authors and Writers Network of Montclair State College. Pat then established a much needed children’s critique group. Additionally, Pat has also been the president for one term and treasurer four times of Women Who Write, Inc.
Pat shows her loyalty and gratitude with Women Who Write saying, “This organization has done a lot for me. I’m very happy with what I have received from my critique groups. I have found a lot of friends. I believe in a critique group, because you’re so in love with your words that you can’t see what you need to cut or fix. Once someone brings that to your mind, you begin to see it. We are there to help each other make the best possible story that we can. We were all beginners at once and we are not there to critique you for being a beginner.” She would like to see the organization continue to grow and would love to see more submissions in Goldfinch, the literary magazine distributed by Women Who Write.
Pat is proud to say that, “There are published authors that are still members which I think is great.”
Pat Weissner is currently the Regional Advisor for the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) of Metro NY. She arranges monthly talks for members with editors, agents, marketing specialists, illustrators and art directors. She’s also a trustee on the board for Women Who Write and is in charge of this year’s conference.
You can find some of Pat’s short stories in the earlier copies of Goldfinch. She continues to write, and is currently shopping around a middle grade novel with three agents. She is very humble about it. I saw such positive energy and joy that emanates from her. I feel so privileged to have interviewed her. I look forward to Pat’s book getting published and possibly be asked to interview her on that journey.
Happy 25th Anniversary!