Susan Patron
Susan Patron
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SHY
When I was growing up, I was very shy.  Often it was hard for me to talk because I couldn't find the right words to express what I was feeling or thinking.  I discovered that when you write, you can take all the time you need to get the exact words and to put them in a precise order so that they mean what you want them to mean.  No one will realize that you are shy or poor at speaking. 

Susan Patron
 
THREE SISTERS
The middle sister of three, I perfected the skills of eavesdropping, dreaming, washing cars, shining shoes, mowing lawns, and keeping secrets.  My older sister cleared the way through the thorny path of our childhoods, and as long as I kept pretty close behind her I managed to stay out of serious trouble.  It was my job to give my younger sister a nightly bath, and she wasn't supposed to get out of the tub until she was clean--which was determined by the degree to which her fingertips were wrinkled.  Patient waiting on both our parts was required, so I sat on the lid of the toilet, inventing stories to pass the time.  You can read about this childhood storytelling ritual in my book, Maybe Yes, Maybe No, Maybe Maybe.

Susan Patron and Sisters
From left to right: Susan, Georgia, and Patricia

Maybe Yes, Maybe No, Maybe Maybe by Susan Patron
 
A POWERFUL MOMENT
I remember the exact moment when I decided I wanted to become a writer.  Our 4th grade teacher had just finished reading Charlotte's Web aloud to the class.  I was leaning my head on my arms, and by peeking to the side I could see that a lot of other people had their heads down, too.  It is a very private and personal moment, when you hear about Charlotte's death; I didn't want anyone to see my face.  But at the same time I felt connected to the teacher and the other kids and especially to the author, E.B. White, in a way I'd never before experienced.  The book was both intimate and universal.  I wanted to be able to do that, to write so powerfully that people stop everything and are quiet because of the story's filling them up inside.


Susan Patron Drawing Susan Patron Drawing
These are two of my early stories and drawings.


BECOMING A READER
The same children's librarian who had recommended Charlotte's Web as a read-aloud to the teacher later brought an armload of books that she said we could borrow and read on our own.  I'd never been to the library and wasn't much of a reader at that point.  But I was mesmerized as the librarian told us a bit about the books, stroked them, ran her fingers over the interior pages, smoothed the jackets, and hugged them to her chest.  No one I knew had ever interacted with books in such a sensual way, as if she actually loved them.  I rode my bike to the library after school and turned into a voracious reader almost overnight.
 
TEEN YEARS
This self-portrait, at around age 16, was done during a period of intense poetry-writing inspired by e.e. cummings and nature writing inspired by Henry David Thoreau.  My plan was to live in a maid's room in Paris, writing novels under a pseudonym so as to reveal all truths without my parents' knowing it was me.
Susan Patron

ROMANCE
After college, I thought maybe I could be both a librarian and a writer; I'd have books and reading right in the center of my life.  As it turned out, I married a young French rare book restorer, who would also have books at the center of his life, and together we discovered the beautiful Eastern Sierra region of California, the setting for the stories about Lucky and her town of Hard Pan.

Susan and Rene Patron Susan and Rene Patron

 


Susan and Rene Patron
 

LIBRARIAN AND WRITER
So after hanging around the Los Angeles Public Library for a good part of my childhood, I did become a children's librarian when I grew up, and then a senior librarian.  I told stories, visited schools, and shared my favorite books with kids.  And I began to write books myself, spending all of my vacation time and weekends learning how to tell stories on paper. 

Susan Patron and Map of LA Libraries
As a new Children's Librarian for the Studio City Branch of the Los Angeles Public Library, here I am holding a map of all the Branch libraries in the system.  Also holding the map are some of the children I served in the Library.

 


Susan Patron in the Newspaper
Below is the little cabin in the desert where I try to find the exact words I need and arrange them so that they mean just what I want them to mean.  And often what I end up saying is a complete surprise to me:  by writing, I find out what I didn't know I knew.
Desert Shack  
 
Interior of Cabin Light Sconce
Interior of Writing Cabin
Wall light replicates those used for candles in mines
 
Desert Signpost

 

Illustration by Matt Phelan

This is a signpost with hanging tea kettles like the one that appears in my book, Lucky Breaks.

"...they watched the truck as it slowed at the post with Short Sammy's address on it. Nine dented and rusty enamel teakettles were bolted to the post, which made it interesting and noticeable.  Short Sammy had painted '230 Dry Gulch Street' in red letters that began at the top and went down.  No one else bothered with posts or street signs or addresses, because it was just as easy to give your visitor directions like, "Turn left at the 'Slow Children at Play' sign" or "Go just past the cabin with four washing machines in the front yard," and all the mail came to P.O. Boxes at the post office.  But Short Sammy said he liked having an actual address and wanted it to be visible on his teakettle post." - from Lucky Breaks by Susan Patron


 

DATES, PLACES, PEOPLE
Born March 18 near Los Angeles, California. 
Grew up and attended public schools in Hollywood. 

Married to Rene Patron. 

Began working as a children's librarian at the Los Angeles Public Library in 1972.  Retired in 2007. 

Published first book, Burgoo Stew, in 1991.  For publication dates of other books, please click on MY BOOKS.

Received Newbery Award in 2007.

Currently living in Los Angeles.

 


 
www.susanpatron.com ©2009    Illustrations ©2006 by Matt Phelan     Contact:  susanpatron@susanpatron.com