Pat Valdata received an MFA in fiction writing from Goddard College. She has two published novels: Crosswind (Wind Canyon Books, 1997) and The Other Sister(Plain View Press, 2008), which won a gold medal from the Árpád Academy in 2009. Her poetry chapbook, Looking for Bivalve (2002), was a finalist in the Pecan Grove Press chapbook competition. In 2009, three poems from the chapbook were set to music and performed in New York City by composer Dennis Tobenski.
Pat says her writing strength is in providing descriptive detail that lets her readers picture the characters, setting and action in her books. “People who have read The Other Sister tell me that they couldn’t put it down, which is wonderful to hear, so I guess I am good at telling a compelling story, which is really what I try to do.”
She goes to writers’ conferences and workshops whenever she can, and believes if a writer stops trying to improve then there’s not much point in writing at all. She says, “We are all students all the time, aren’t we?”
The part of being an indie author Pat finds most challenging is the marketing/publicity, especially after the first few months. “When a book first comes out it’s news, so you have a reason for people to print press releases and bring you in for a reading, but after a while, you’re not news anymore. Both of my novels were published by very small presses, and they just don’t have a marketing budget, so as an author, I’m expected to take care of much of the publicity. The publisher of The Other Sister, Plain View Press, did make a point of putting ads in Poets & Writers and having a display at the AWP Conference Bookfair, which was great, but authors had to contribute toward those expenses. Of course, there are professional publicity agencies out there, but I can’t afford to pay for that, and I doubt most indie writers can. So we have to be our own publicists, which is really time consuming, and takes away from the precious few hours we have to write new work. It’s a huge challenge to try to juggle all that as well as a day job, family, and friends.”
Pat says she reaches out to the reading public any way she can. “I have a website, and I send press releases to local media when I have a new publication. I have my book in local, independent bookstores (bless them!), and I sell it at area festivals and book fairs. I attend writer’s conferences as both audience and speaker; for example, I’ll be talking about researching a historical novel at the Bay to Ocean Writers Conference on February 25. I do readings, book clubs, talk at the local library. I look for new opportunities wherever I can. Most recently, I’ve contracted with The Palette and The Page, an arts co-op in Elkton, Maryland. They hold readings and signings, and do a lot of publicity locally. They have been terrific promoters of my books, and those of other local authors.”
In addition to reaching out to readers, Pat also thinks it’s important to network with other writers. She does so through organizations like the Maryland Writer’s Association and the Writer’s Center in Bethesda. She also belongs to a local poetry group, attends and gives workshops, attends and gives readings.
She says it all helps, but one of the most beneficial social media in her experience is the “old-fashioned” listserv. “I have belonged to CREWRT-L since the mid-1990s, and I have learned so much about writing and the writing business from the people on that list! I met my poetry publisher through CREWRT, and I don’t think I would be published as much as I have if not for the connections I’ve made on that list, and more importantly, the encouragement I’ve received from people who are now my friends, even though I haven’t met most of them except through email.”
Pat says the publishing industry has “gone corporate,” and the focus is on profits, not on nurturing authors. The result being that the indie movement is filling a big gap for the rest of us. “It’s very exciting that so many people who want to write now have a way to get their writing in front of readers. This is a great time to be a writer.”
However, she is dismayed at the poor production quality of some indie books. “I have seen books with lots of typos, grammar mistakes, spelling mistakes—things that should have been changed by an editor or caught a proofreader. I think anyone who wants to self-publish needs to make sure their manuscript is pristine before they send it off to a book producer, because the people who make books these days don’t seem to take care of editing and proofreading.”
Her advice to aspiring writers? “For someone who is serious about writing well, I recommend reading as much as possible in one’s genre. I think that avid reading is the best tool we have to become better writers. Reading magazines about the craft is also helpful, but how-to books and articles can take you only so far. You need to read what people are writing to absorb technique and to see what trends are emerging.”
Pat adds that persistence is also important. She says it took her seven years to find a small publisher for her first novel. “I submitted my poetry manuscript, Inherent Vice, to contest after contest, and to open readings, arranging and rearranging it, until I finally started to get personal, encouraging notes on the rejection slips, which let me know that I was finally on the right track with it. If I’d given up with the first few rejections, I would never have had it published.”
Her newest book, a full-length poetry book titled Inherent Vice (Pecan Grove Press), was published in March 2011.
“Inherent Vice takes its title from the scientific property of objects to decay, to deteriorate, whether those objects are man-made or natural, human or not,” says publisher H. Palmer Hall. “From the title poem to ‘Hawk Mountain, September’, which ends the book with its eloquent evocation of birth and growth, we are treated to Pat Valdata’s empathy with growing things and with, often, her sly and appealing wit.”
Author Pat Valdata has twice received Maryland State Arts Council Individual Artist grants and she was selected for residencies at the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts in 2006-2008, 2010, and 2011. She is an adjunct associate professor at the University of Maryland University College (UMUC). A native of New Jersey, she lives in Elkton, Maryland, with her husband, Robert Schreiber.You can check out author Pat Valdata’s books from her Amazon.com Author Central page. Be sure also to visit her website and follow her on Twitter.