Globe Features Writer Leslie Mitchell discovers how a fellow author, Lee-on-the-Solent’s Patsy Collins, developed her natural talents to create a dream job…
SOMETIMES life throws a curve ball at you and how you deal with that, whether by catching it or ducking away, can set you on a totally different career path. There have been a lot of people affected in this way, in the past two years especially, and one who made a success of changing direction several years before the pandemic is Lee-on- the Solent author Patsy Collins.
When she moved to this area to take up another position as a Civil Servant over 20 years ago it meant a completely new start for her. This was a far cry from the family farm Patsy had grown up on, where she had helped look after orphan lambs, making up stories to entertain her younger brothers. She had no family or friends nearby.
Reviewing her situation, she decided that attending an evening class would help her settle in locally and maybe make some new friends. Applying to St Vincent College in Gosport she learned that most of the adult education courses were already full for the coming year. Only two had spaces. ‘Wine’ and ‘Creative Writing’. She enrolled in the latter and with the encouragement of her tutor and classmates her confidence and interest in the subject steadily grew. One of the first competitions she entered was a 40-word short story competition organised by Gosport Borough Council. To her surprise she was the winner receiving a £20 book token and having tea and cake with the Mayor of Gosport as her prize.
Her tutor encouraged her to enter a national competition and though she did not win she just became more determined to keep trying. She sent off short stories to several publishers and agents and, like many budding authors, often received no response at all or rejection slips.
‘Turning a negative into a positive, I shred the rejection slips and add them to my compost heap
“Rejection is tough,” Patsy admitted to me. “Turning a negative into a positive, I shred the rejection slips and add them to my compost heap so they in time help the flowers in the garden grow!” She continued over a cup of coffee and delicious home baking: “A lot depends on whether your writing fits the profile of the magazine you are submitting your story to and some take months to make a decision on whether to accept or reject.”
Patsy decided that she felt comfortable with short story writing for women’s magazines when she began. Unconventionally, her first story that was published arrived by post in a copy of the magazine before she had been told it had been accepted due to a communication fault on the magazine’s side. There was a gap of almost another year before the next one was accepted but she persevered and soon her accepted titles built up as magazines like My Weekly, The People’s Friend, Ireland’s Own and others accepted her stories.
After a few years she successfully applied for a position as a Tour Guide on HMS Victory in Portsmouth Dockyard. She settled in happily to her job and thoroughly enjoyed her role telling the story of Nelson’s ship to visitors for the next seven years. She adapted her narration of the history for whatever group she showed around making it entertaining for local visitors, tourists, ex-service personnel or children. Then eight years ago came redundancy and another life-changing decision. She told me that up to this time she had never considered pursuing full time writing as an occupation.
Now she has had more than 700 short stories published, not only in the UK but in magazines in Ireland, Europe, South Africa, and Australia. Spotting a niche in the market she has also published 24 collections of her short stories( each book contains 24 stories). Some have a common theme like gardening, family, cookery, ghosts and romance and her latest collection will be published in October this year. She has also expanded and developed her skills to write novels with five successfully published. Patsy told me that she largely used the period of lockdown to put a temporary hold on writing short stories and concentrate on finishing her sixth novel which she had started some years ago and this much anticipated latest novel which is set in Lee-on-the-Solent and Falmouth with action in local areas, among them Portchester Castle, will be released on November 28.
In a nod to that very first success she runs an annual 40-word competition and sometimes a 100-word one
Keen to encourage others to develop their own writing talent, she wrote ‘a Year of Ideas: 365 Sets of Writing Prompts and Exercises’ and has co-written another book with Rosemary Kind ‘From Story Idea to Reader: an accessible guide to writing fiction’. In a nod to that very first success she runs an annual 40-word competition and sometimes a 100-word one for fellow members of the Solent Writers Circle.
Since taking early retirement eight years ago Patsy and her husband, Gary Davies, a professional photographer (who also designs the covers for her books), tour extensively in their motor home – pictured – finding lots of inspiration on their travels.
Patsy Collins has demonstrated that it is possible to change direction in midlife, as she turned a chance encounter at St Vincent College while looking for an evening class through hard work, persistence and developing her natural talents into her dream job.
Her latest book, CRIMINAL INTENT a collection of 24 short stories with a crime theme will be available as an eBook from Amazon on October 5, 2021, priced £1.99.*
Paperback from Amazon or ordered from most book distributors and retailers at £6.99.
*Readers of Fareham and Gosport Globe who Pre-order Ebook copies of Criminal Intent before the publication date can purchase at 77p each.
ACTING LIKE A KILLER, her latest novel, which Patsy describes as an Amelia Watson Romantic Mystery will be on sale from November 28, 2021.
eBook priced £2.99 from Amazon.*
Paperback £10 from Amazon or through most book distributors and retailers.
*Readers of Gosport and Fareham Globe can Pre-order copies of the eBook before the publication date at £1.99 each .
Her Womagwriter’s Blog is full of very interesting news and advice, details of writing competitions etc for established and aspiring authors.
There is also a Womagwriter twitter account which will keep you right up to date with Patsy.