27 May Book ‘a dream come true’
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by Susan Peterson
When Pattie Howse-Duncan held a copy of her published book, “Letters on the Table,” she said it was “a dream come true.”
But achieving the dream of being a published author did not come easily for Pattie, who retired in 2016 after a 39-year career as an educator, most recently as instructional specialist for the Conway School District’s Department of Special Services.
Pattie’s book project began about 10 years ago when her family commitments abruptly changed. The oldest of her two children received his master’s degree from the University of Central Arkansas and moved from home. Pattie was also assisting with the care of her mother who had dementia and was in a residential facility in Maumelle at the time.
As Pattie was driving home from a care-taking visit with her mother, she asked God for guidance in what she should do. Immediately inspired, she pulled onto the side of the road and story mapped the plot of a book. It included themes she had been thinking about — family dynamics, inheritances and bequests.
But having a story to tell and publishing it are two very different things.
Knowing that she needed help, Pattie attended two writing workshops, one in Alabama and another in Northwest Arkansas. She even met an agent who could possibly represent her after completing another project.
Adhering to her commitment to complete her book and incorporating strategies learned at the workshops, Pattie arranged dedicated writing days for herself. “Some days went very smoothly and the words just flowed. Other days were horrible.” She said that her characters, each of which is written in a different voice, seemed to take on a life of his or her own, and she often thought about them, their likes and dislikes, even during the times she wasn’t writing.
Pattie was disappointed when, after six months and numerous communications, the potential contract with the agent fell through. It was Pattie’s husband, Keith, who encouraged her to persevere. After searching online, he discovered Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) for her to submit her work.
Pattie then worked with a professional editor from Little Rock to polish her story. Months later, she received the suggested edits. Finally, after more corrections and edits, she was ready to submit her work.
She had the choice of an e-book or printed version, and she decided to do both because it was important to her to hold a printed copy and to see it on a bookshelf.
However, uploading and formatting the document proved to be more challenging than they expected, and she had to enlist help for that process. KDP listed several possible companies on their website, and Pattie chose ebookpbook.com, which proved be a good choice. The woman she worked with even helped Pattie find just the right cover for her book.
Finally, the book went “live” and Pattie received her hard copy in January.
Elements of “Letters on the Table” resonate with Pattie’s own life. The setting is Kingston, a small southern town whose inhabitants have stories that intertwine. The themes include loss, family, redemption, promises and secrets. The opening paragraph reads, “None of them had any idea how their lives would be connected by the reading of the will. Having been summoned by her attorney, they gathered to hear what Katherine had bequeathed to each of them.” The why and how of Katherine’s gifts form the basis of the book.
Now Pattie’s dream continues as she watches others clutch her book and then hand it to her for her autograph. She has had various book signings in Conway, and within the first two weeks, more than 300 copies were sold. What amazes her the most is the backing of family, friends and neighbors.
“I personally know of readers in 24 states and four foreign countries who have read it,” she said. “It has sold over 1,000 copies, and of course, that changes frequently.”
Pattie credits her husband for his support. It was during the “book birthing” process that the couple re-connected, got married and built a home in The Village at Hendrix. In true storybook fashion, the two were college sweethearts, but each went separate ways for 42 years. They were married just four years ago. (She says her friends are clamoring for more details about that story in a future novel.)
Pattie’s two grown children and their spouses were cheerleaders for her throughout the process. Her son, Nathan Howse, is married to Caroline. Her daughter, Mary-Phillip, is married to Tim O’Connell. Pattie says her four grandchildren, Reed and Annie Kate Howse and Molly and Lauren O’Connell, “share my love of books, which makes this writer tremendously happy.”
“Letters on the Table” is available from Amazon.com, and signed copies can be purchased at Park Hill Home in Conway and at Wordsworth Books in Little Rock. Pattie can be contacted at lettersonthetable.com or the Letters on the Table page on Facebook.