Patricia Tilton — Spotlight Worthy

February 22, 2012

Today, the spotlight is focused on Patricia Tilton, who blogs at Children’s Books Heal, is a retired journalist with a keen interest in spirituality and humanitarian outreach, as well as serving children with special needs.  She lives in the United States.

Pat is also an active member of Emma Walton Hamilton’s Children’s Book Hub, and we met in person at SCBWI LA ’11 (the annual Summer Conference of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, held in Los Angeles every summer). As I mentioned in my blog post on Monday, four of us, Pat, Joanna Marple, Diane Tulloch, and I have shared this association, and I am grateful for this connection.

Pat, thanks so much for participating in this Spotlight Interview. Could you tell us briefly about the life-path that has led you to where you are today?

Thank you, Beth.  Your choice of words “life-path,” is perfect for me.  And, it certainly has not been traditional.  I may not know what is around the corner, but it has been rich and full of opportunities, unexpected twists and turns, sadness, trauma, beauty, joy and wonder.  I may think I know where I’m headed, but my life experiences have taught me differently.  My 35 years on newspapers and in public relations was excellent professional training.  My humanitarian work has always been a priority. But, my real life training began when I embarked upon my spiritual path.  I have spent 25 years studying with wonderful teachers and mentors, most of whom have been “wise women” in my life.  That training prepared me for a life-threatening brain injury in 2004, which altered my life considerably.  When I came out of a coma, I was a woman trapped in an infant’s body unable to move, speak, walk, eat, or care for myself.  I knew that all I could do was live in the moment and do what I needed to at that time.  I spent three years in intensive Rehab and had to retire from my career.  Looking back, I don’t have any regrets.  Each experience has enriched my life carried me to a new place.

 

What prompted you to consider writing for children?

I often thought about writing for children, but I was busy professionally and raising a family.  After my injury I began to read again.  I started with familiar children’s books and novels.  I felt so much joy as I delved into the enchanting world of children’s literature.  That joy rekindled my earlier passion. Two years ago, I felt I was ready to reinvent myself, and I knew I wanted to write for children.  I felt I may have something to offer.  I knew writing in a new genre required a teacher.  That teacher appeared in Emma Walton Hamilton.

 

What sets your writing apart? What is your focus? Without giving away proprietary details, what sorts of projects do you have in the works?

Right now I’m writing picture books with an emphasis on children with special needs, but my 12×12 PB lists reflect other story ideas too.  Both of our children had special needs growing up. They also were adopted.  I know how important it is for children to see and read books about themselves.  I hope the books I write are more inclusive characterizations of children with special needs.  I want children to be seen for who they are, and not for the limitations of their disabilities.  I know that as an adult with a disability, I want people to see my abilities.  Kids feel the same way.

 

Tell us a bit about your blog, what you do there, and what you hope to add to the Kidlit blogosphere through your particular focus?

I specifically chose to use “heal” in my blog name, because I felt it more inclusive of what I wanted to communicate — books have the power to heal.  It’s a broad category ranging from the autism spectrum, cerebral palsy, OCD, autoimmune disease, hearing and visual impairments to Down Syndrome, anxiety, ADHD, adoption, divorce, pet loss, PTSD, suicide, and grief.  I also target books that are multicultural, about peace, conflict resolution, homelessness, virtues, and the power of music and the arts to heal. Each book is hand-picked for the quality of its message.

The one thing my blog has taught me is that there is a huge gap in the number of PB, MG and YA novels for children with special needs.  With over 7 million special needs children in the US attending public schools, kids should be able to find books where they can read about someone like themselves. There has been a significant increase in recent years in books on autism, some with very strong protagonists telling their stories.  But, try to find a good book for your child/teen on Lupus, or cerebral palsy – there are very few.

 

You have taken the Just Write For Kids online/home study course in picture book writing, as have I.  What, for you, was of the most value in the course? Would you recommend it to other aspiring writers?

Yes, I would recommend JWFK to aspiring authors.  I have a number of books about writing for kids, but there is nothing like a hands-on course led by an experienced teacher like Emma Walton Hamilton.  Just Write For Kids was comparable to taking a college writing course.  Her program is very comprehensive and good!  Each lesson builds upon the previous lesson.  I learned so much about ideas, character development, narrative, plot sequencing and finding my voice as a writer.  Emma was very present as I worked through each lesson and answered my questions.  When I finished I had a completed draft.  I have all of my JWFK lessons in a notebook on my desk and I still refer to favorite pages when I begin a new draft.

 

You’re also active in the Children’s Book Hub and the Children’s Book Hub Facebook Group. Could you share with us briefly what the Hub means in terms of your writing life?

Joining the Hub over a year ago was my first real contact with other authors and aspiring writers.  The community is very important to me as it provided such a secure and supportive place for feedback and discussion.  We have the benefit of Emma’s monthly expert interviews (webinars) with the top authors, editors, agents, marketing specialists, and publishers in children’s literature.  I was thrilled to have access to so much information and wisdom.  My favorite webinars are the Q&A sessions with Emma where we get down to the nuts and bolts of writing, character development, strong narratives, developing plots, writing query letters and creating our platforms.  I appreciate her preparation and the research she does on our behalf.  By the time I attended the SCBWI conference in LA last summer, I felt very prepared for the conference.  I already had a great deal of insight into the publishing world and could keep up. Joining the Hub was the best decision I made.

 

You’re a member of SCBWI – what does that provide in your life as a writer?

I had so much fun attending the national SCBWI LA conference last summer, and meeting you, Joanna and Diane.  It was a wonderful opportunity to learn from seasoned authors, agents, and publishers.  I had fun networking with so many people and making new friendships.  And, it was exciting having the chance to have my manuscript and query letters reviewed by top agents and my peers.   It is important to be a member, because of the many services SCBWI make available to aspiring writers.  Joining SCBWI is the first thing an aspiring author should do.

 

Everyone is busy these days. I’ve discovered that “Busy” has become a standard answer to the question “How are you?” How do you carve out writing time in the daily demands of your own life?

It’s a balancing act.  Two years ago, it was so much easier.  I wrote daily with little distraction.  Now that we have to focus on building our platforms through social media and self-promotion, I’m finding it more challenging to find my creative writing time.  I can write any time of the day.  But, I do find that I am most creative late at night.  Sometimes, I wish I could turn the clock back a year, when my manuscripts were the center of my universe. I’m finding it important to set boundaries.  I know I’m not alone.

 

Any words of advice or encouragement for other writers?

Only the author advice that has meant the most to me – write what you want to read, write and rewrite, and find your own unique voice as a writer.

 

Quick and Quirky:

Of all the places in the world, where would you most like to visit and why? I’d like to visit Pondicherry, India, because we adopted our son from an orphanage there.

Favorite food? Salmon with fresh asparagus.

What is your favorite non-book-related way to relax? Meditating, listening to classical music and walking.

If you could spend a day with any fictional character, who would it be? Anne Shirley, “Anne of Green Gables.”

Favorite real-life hero, if any? Mother Teresa

 

45 People reacted on this

  1. You have been on such an incredible, distinctive life journey, Pat, one that would have thrown many off their focus. Your inner strength, spirituality and serenity have carried and continue to carry you. This shines through your wonderful blog, which has opened my eyes so much more to different needs and the beautiful healing books that do exist. Your experiences will give you great authority, I am certain, as you add your contribution to books that heal. I am grateful to know you. Thank you for this interview, Beth.

    1. Joanna, thank you for your heartfelt comments. It is nice to know that you see what I’m am trying to do. My experiences have encouraged me to help others in a new way through my blog and through writing. I am grateful to know you, Beth and Diane. What a fun and interesting journey it has been for us!

      Thank you Beth for shining the spotlight on me today!

    2. Thanks, Joanna, for this beautifully worded tribute to Pat.

      Pat, I so appreciated being able to facilitate the sharing of your story with others. Thank you.

  2. Great interview Ms. Stilborn and Ms. Tilton! I liked hearing about Ms. Tilton! I really like your blog and the books you review because they help people know about all the different challenges people have, and how we can make the world better. I’m glad I got to know you better with this interview! 🙂
    Erik

    1. Thanks so much, Erik! I just love Ms. Tilton’s blog, too. She’s helping so many people whether she realizes it fully or not.

      And Pat — I’m glad I got to know you! There’s a whole lot of glad going around the universe this week!

  3. I loved learning more about you Pat. I enjoy the focus of your blog. It’s interesting to see that we share this in common: ” I may think I know where I’m headed, but my life experiences have taught me differently.” Well said and well lived. I look forward to reading your posts and reading one of your books one day!

    1. Thanks Stacy. I’m glad you like my focus of my blog and appreciate your noticing early on. We have to live a while and gain the wisdom to realize that we have to be open to what’s around the next corner — and go with the flow.

    2. Stacy — I’m certainly looking forward to Pat’s books, too. Knowing how good her blog is, I can just imagine what her books will be like.

      Pat — thanks for sharing your wisdom here and on your blog.

  4. Another excellent interview! Thank you so very much for sharing your life’s journey, Pat. It’s always interesting to learn about what drives an individual’s passion. Your blog is a great resource for parents and I appreciate the time you spend writing there.

    1. Heather, I’m glad you see my blog as a good resource for parents — I try very hard to find the right books! Will have to admit that working with Emma and the Hub was a big boost for me in finding my focus. I’m glad you enjoyed the interview!

    2. Heather, I find Pat’s writing so inspiring, as well. Thanks so much.

      Pat, I’m always amazed at the wonderful books you find. I’ve just started reading “Out of my Mind” which I ordered through interlibrary loan. It is just as good as you said it would be.

  5. Hurray Pat! I enjoyed your interview and I applaud you for your open, honest account of your passion and life-path. I am always proud to point readers to your website to find carefully chosen, quality books to help them address life’s challenges with their children and families. Bravo!

  6. Wow! Thank you Cathy. I will admit I was a bit nervous about sharing what has led me to writing for children and creating a very focused blog for children with a wide variety of issues in their lives. I try to find high quality books and I really appreciate your referrals.

  7. Pat, you are an inspiration to us all! I did not know about your own injury and journey toward healing. How amazing that you turned that experience into a way to help others – both parents and children who are facing the same issues. Bravo!

    Thanks to Beth for bringing these interviews, allowing us to get to know our fellow writers better. I realize that social media takes a lot of time for all of us, but it’s reading things like this that make it so worthwhile. 🙂

    1. Thanks so much, Julie. I so appreciate you taking time out of your incredibly busy schedule to stop by and make such thoughtful comments. You are a treasure.

  8. Thank you Beth and Pat for a very interesting interview. I am impressed and touched by your story and the choices you made to move forward and contribute in such giving ways. Thank you for the book reviews you contribute to Perfect Picture Book Friday. The books you highlight are incredible selections.

    1. Penny, I’m so pleased you enjoy my PPB selections. Giving up wan’t a choice — but giving to others was a choice. I hope my own experieneces add credibility to what I write about in children’s literature and review on my blog. Thanks for your comments.

    2. Thanks so much, Penny. I, too, am impressed by Pat’s story. She’s a wonderful woman.

      Pat — I love what you just said, “Giving up wasn’t a choice — but giving to others was a choice.” I’m so glad you chose giving to others, because you have so much to give.

  9. What a wonderful, inspiring interview, Beth and Patricia!
    And thank you so much for the shout-outs for the Childrens Book Hub and my Just Write for Kids course. It is a genuine pleasure to work with you both, and I so appreciate your continued energy and enthusiasm for what we do on the Hub. It’s contagious!
    Keep up the great work!

    1. Thank you Emma! It’s very easy to be enthusiastic about the Hub and JWFK. The shout-outs are sincere. It has been such a great learning experience and a supportive community. And, we’ve had a lot of fun working together.

    2. Thank you so much, Emma. It’s easy to give shout-outs for people and things that mean so much to us. It has been, and continues to be, a blessing in my life to work with you.

      Pat — I agree wholeheartedly.

  10. Thank you Julie. It certainly has been an fascinating journey. Much to be grateful for! I owe so much to Emma for helping me reinvent myself when the time came — although I’m not sure she realizes that. I can honestly say I am happier and enjoy what I’m doing now, than before my injury. I’m still finding my way, as we all are. Agree with your comment about the social media.

  11. Renee, I appreciate your kind words. I should take all of your comments and post them up on a board to remind me of the great friends I’m making through this experience. I’m glad you enjoy my blog. I see it as a service.

  12. Like Joanna and all the others here I applaud your incredible strength Pat, your selfless wish to help others through writing and your own experience, your wonderful blog that is uniquely yours and shines a light for all and opens our eyes. I am so blessed we met in person and will never forget how we felt like we knew each other for years, instantly. Your warm, genuine friendship means alot. Thankyou Beth for allowing us to get to know a little more about each other. Wonderful interview.

  13. Yes, meeting and spending time with you, Beth and Joanna last summer was such a highlight. Can’t forget that last year you’d get up before 6 a.m. in the morning (NZ time) to talk me through the steps of setting up certain parts of my blog — there were times I was pulling my hair out. That’s a friend. The four of us have many sharing moments — and that is what the Hub has been about! And, we’ve had so much fun! Thank you for your kind comments about my blog focus — but you certainly helped!

  14. Patricia,

    What an amazing woman you are! You take my breath away – truly. (Fantastic interview by the way, Beth.) I just visited your Blog, Patricia, and signed up as a follower. I recall seeing your posts over at Emma’s Children’s Hub site, but had absolutely no idea as to your background. I’m truly inspired.

  15. Thank you Beth for including me in your spotlight interviews, and for all of your kind words of support regarding my writing and blog. It certainly has been an exciting journey for all of us. Tomorrow I look forward to the spotlight shining on Diane!

  16. Great niche, Pat, writing for special needs’ children! You have a nice blog filled with wonderful resources. I hope to see your book on your blog some day! Thanks, Beth, for this interview so we can get to know our fellow writers!

  17. Another wonderful interview! Thank you so much, Beth and Pat. It’s so great to have the opportunity to get to know you a little better. I have a whole different understanding of your blog now, Pat, and why you are so passionate about special needs individuals having a voice and being able to read about people like themselves. And I love that you would want to be Anne Shirley 🙂 one of my all-time favorite book characters ever. I used to want to marry Gilbert 🙂

    1. Thanks, Susanna — Pat’s blog is, indeed, made even more meaningful knowing the experience that lies behind it.

      And to both of you, Susanna and Pat — do you have any idea how delightful it is to hear two Americans confessing their love of a Canadian book character!? Gilbert Blythe forever!

  18. Thanks Susanna. Yes, I had a crush on Gilbert too. I love the movies too and watch them at least once a year. I’m glad Beth’s interview gave you insight into what I hope to accomplish on my blog and as an author. I appreciate your commments and thank you for visiting.

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