Patricia Walkow is an award-winning editor and author of fiction and nonfiction including magazine articles and newspaper columns, essays and short stories, and memoir and novels. Her newest release is Life Lessons from the Color Yellow (February 2023), a story collection of people and events who have influenced her life. You’ll find Pat on her website at PatriciaWalkow.com, on Facebook, and her Amazon author page. Read more about her writing and editing projects in her 2016 and 2020 interviews for SouthWest Writers.
What is at the core of this memoir collection?
This collection of stories represents significant people, events, and places that have shaped me. It is not an autobiography, but a collection of separate stories from my childhood through the present day. I have learned something about life from each of these stories, not only as I lived them, but also, years later, as I wrote them.
Which story in the book means the most to you? Which one revealed something unexpected as you wrote it? Give us a one-sentence description of each story.
“Golden Meadow” holds a special place in my heart, as it tells the tale of sharing my youthful dreams and aspirations with two friends, all in the encompassing embrace of a beautiful meadow. What surprised me was how difficult, emotionally, it was for me to write “My Mother’s Kitchen.”
“Mr. Howard’s Roses” — a school-age child learns how to care for roses. Lesson learned: Friendships happen between people even when they are quite different from each other, and there are things in life worth fussing over.
“The Dog Against the Yellow Wall” — a dog photographed by the author turns out to be almost identical to the dog she adopted many years later. Lesson learned: Serendipities exist in this world. Enjoy them without analyzing them.
“Sunny” — the author encounters a woman who always wears yellow. Later on, she finds out why. Lesson Learned: Despite terrible things that can happen to a person, it is ultimately a choice to be happy.
“Lemon Love” — some relationships are intense and beautiful, but cannot last. Lesson Learned: Always be true to yourself.
“My Mother’s Kitchen” — a dysfunctional family forever affects your life. Lesson learned: You can get beyond the issues of your childhood.
“The Promise of the Yellow Box” — when life gives you a gift, make the most of it. Lesson learned: Make your choices reflect your hopes and dreams rather than your fears.
“The Estate Sale” — a young woman comes across an estate sale and realizes she would have enjoyed knowing the person who once owned the house. Lesson Learned: Seize the moment to make a new friend.
“Golden Meadow” — three teenage girls bond during weekly hikes through a meadow as they share their hopes and dreams for the future. Lesson Learned: Friendships on the cusp of adulthood are among the most precious.
Why did you decide to write short pieces as opposed to a longer-length memoir?
From my past, I wanted to distill specific people and events that helped form the person I am today. As a result, I wrote the book as a set of discrete short stories, unrelated to each other, rather than creating a flowing set of chapters in sequential order over a long arc of time. I know this approach is not the typical way of writing a memoir, but it is the method I found satisfying.
What was the most challenging aspect of putting this project together?
The most challenging part of writing this piece was deciding which events and people helped form me into the person I am today.
Tell us about the book’s connection to the color yellow.
As I wrote, the color yellow surfaced over and over in my stories. It is not as though I was seeking out the color…or any color at all. Yellow simply turned out to be an integral part of each story and revealed itself as my teacher over the years. It was a surprise to me.
What do you love about your writing in this book?
Writing each story reconnected me to parts of myself, to people, to places I had not thought about in years.
What writing projects are you working on now?
I coauthored Alchemy’s Reach with SouthWest Writers’ member Chris Allen. It is a murder/mystery with a romantic undertone set in southern New Mexico’s Sacramento Mountains. It was published by Austin Macauley on August 18, 2023 and is available in paperback, e-book, and audiobook.
Another project I’m working on is The Far Moist End of the Earth. It’s a literary novel about a young widow who volunteers to work at a Methodist mission in Siam in the early 1900s. Prejudice, limitations on women’s lives, and multicultural appreciation are the key themes in the book. It is scheduled to be distributed to beta readers by the end of 2023.
KL Wagoner (writing as Cate Macabe) is the author of This New Mountain: a memoir of AJ Jackson, private investigator, repossessor, and grandmother. Kat has a speculative fiction blog at klwagoner.com and writes about memoir at ThisNewMountain.com.