My name is Patrick, and I’m a writer.
It’s a bad habit I picked up at a very early age, and it came to light when I wrote a third-grade story about Santa Claus and a time machine as part of a class activity. Suddenly, family and friends were convinced I was going to be a best-selling author when I grew up, so much so that I became convinced, too. I read voraciously and wrote lots of silly poems and goofy, forgettable stories.
Oddly enough, my first foray into newspapers was as a photographer and photo editor in high school. I had been given a point-n-shoot camera as a birthday or Christmas gift, a teacher saw some of my pictures and shazam! I found myself with a Pentax in my hands at school events. Pardon the pun, but my interest in photography only developed from there. When it came time for college, though, my interest in the written word (mostly) won out. At various points, I was the news, photo and finally editor-in-chief of ESU’s Stroud Courier.
After college, I became a copy editor. It wasn’t through any choice of mine, though – it was the early ’90s, a time when newspapers were experiencing one of their first seismic shifts in readership, ownership and ad revenue. Widespread layoffs hit just as I graduated, and jobs were scarce. To paraphrase one particularly memorable rejection letter from The Philadelphia Inquirer, “Dear Mr. O’Donnell: We have about 10 people in line for each open writing position. Each of those candidates has at least 10 or more years of journalism experience. We appreciate your enthusiasm and enjoyed reading your clips … please apply again when you have some real newspaper experience.”
While I spent some time bouncing from job to job (maintenance worker, cook, warehouse manager, landscaper), my resume landed on the copy desk of The Express-Times in Easton, Pa., where it had been dropped by an editor for the features job I had applied for. From there I started a journey into the dark (working nights) and dreary (working holidays and weekends) world of working on a newspaper copy desk. Think lots of yelling, no respect and loads of stress.
Still, it taught me a lot about the finer points of wordsmithing, how to (and how not) to work with others, and the mechanics of publishing. I’m grateful for my time in the trenches.
These days, though, I’m back to writing and I thoroughly enjoy my job. There’s something about crafting a story that’s deeply satisfying. I love seeing the words come together; I love the process of writing, rewriting, editing and writing again – it’s like polishing a piece of wood and watching the depth of the grain come to the surface in all its glory.
And, like any craftsman, I hope to learn and grow, to refine my work and, eventually, expand my reach.
I hope you’ll join me on my journey.