Dear Santa …

One of the fun things about having a column is that I get to write about (almost) anything I want. For this issue of Indulge, I got to dream a little bit and put together an all-American gift wishlist with items from a few Lehigh Valley businesses. (Santa, if you’re listening, I really want the ‘37 Ford, and I’ve been a pretty good boy all year … )

As the holidays near, think about the children

The holidays are right around the corner, and although they can bring us great joy, they can also bring sadness and stress – especially if a family has been split by divorce. With that in mind, I volunteered for this story, Split Decision, in our latest issue of Inspire Health. If you or someone you know is in one of the more than 43 percent of families that the Pew Research Center calls “nontraditional,” I hope this helps you navigate the sometimes tangled web of blended families, custody schedules and holiday happenings.

Too often, divorced parents can’t rise above bad feelings to work together for what’s best for their children. As one therapist I talked to for this story told me, “parents need to put on their big boy/big girl pants and deal with it, because this is about their kids.”

Also too often, relatives of divorcees make hurtful remarks or are unwilling to be flexible over the holidays. Not only does that add to the stress of the parent trying to juggle everything, it makes it harder on the children caught in the middle.

It’s important that everyone in the family works together – parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, sisters, brothers, and step-relatives – to make the holidays happy for the children.

A haunting we will go

Halloween is one of my favorite holidays — yes, in my house, we call it a holiday. It’s a time for my boys and I to celebrate fun. We decorate to excess, watch spooky cartoons and movies — we even have our own Halloween playlist that we blast while we’re spookifying the house.

That’s why I was excited to tackle a ghost story for the latest issue of Indulge LV. I had the opportunity to interview historians and tour guides, do some independent research, collect ghost tales from around the Lehigh Valley region, and even do some creative photography.

Click here for the result – I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it.




First test a success!

Tonight, I told my boys I had a story for them. I read the first draft of Hope Anne Wells and the Batty Saturday. Audience reaction was a big thumbs up. Then they found out that Dad wrote it, which led to hugs and a cheer of “Yes!”

I found a few spots I’m going to rework, but overall, I’m happy – after all, if the two most important critics in the world love it so far, I must be doing something right!

Feelin’ batty

bat.jpgIt took a lot longer than I expected, but the first draft of what I hope will be one of my first published children’s books is done. It has a working title of “Hope Anne Wells and the Batty Saturday,” should clock in around 30-plus pages, and is in the capable hands of the artist. We’re hoping to have a working concept in the next month or so, in order to present it to the publisher. I’d cross my fingers, but I’m working on other stories, t00, and that would make it hard to write.

Wish us luck!

Eye there!

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.