Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Memories of High School You - Pat Esden

As a young adult writer, the foundation for most of my writing starts with my own teenage experience.  Times, fashion, and music have changed but that overall quest for self is still the same.  So in that spirt, I share these bi-monthly interviews:  Memories of High School You.  Fellow MG and YA authors will share their own spin on the hallowed halls.  If you're interested in participating just drop me a line in the comments.

This week it gives me great pleasure to introduce you to Pat Esden.  I first met Patty on Verla Kay's Blue Boards last winter. Since then, she's become my go-to critique partner. And fabulous she is, both in helping out her fellow writers and in the gothic and thrilling stories she crafts. I can't wait to celebrate her successes in the near future. Patty go be found on her own blog and at the group blog, Cabinet of Curiosities.  But without further ado, here's high school Pat!

Tell us about your high school, public or private, size, demographic, location? 
I went to Burr and Burton Seminary in Manchester, Vermont. It’s a private school which was founded in 1829. However, all the local kids attend Burr and Burton because there’s no local high school. The really cool thing about this is that, as a private school, Burr and Burton doesn’t have to follow the same regulations as public schools.  In other words, we had some awesome teachers like retired college professors who’d come in to teach fulltime or to work with a few students—aka great teachers and professionals who don’t necessarily have the certification to teach in public schools. 
My graduating class was under 100 kids. And we had an open campus—which meant we could leave the school and go anywhere during study halls and lunchtime.
Were there cliques at your high school?  What were they?  Who did you hang with?
I floated between cliques from the rednecks and farm kids, to the pot-heads, jocks, outcasts and greasers.  It always struck me odd that there were a lot of kids I like to hang out with that I didn’t get to see much of because I was in the college prep/ AP classes and they were doing fun stuff like tech classes or smoking in butt alley. 
Also, in Vermont there is a distinction between Vermonters and out-of-staters (and it doesn’t matter how long you’ve been in Vermont, you are never a Vermonter unless you were born here). I had lots of Vermonter friends, but I was born in Western Massachusetts so that was one clique I never could belong to. I did however marry a full blood Vermonter.
(J.Ro here - that reminds me of growing up in the South and now living in Appalachia - being born somewhere is the mark of being a "from here.")
Did you have a memorable teacher?  Good or bad?  How did they influence you?
I had a calculus teacher who was a young, single guy and a coach. There weren’t very many girls in the class and he spent a lot of time talking to the football guys about things like how gross it was when girls didn’t shave the backs of their legs. I never shave my legs without thinking about that class. (This made me laugh so hard!)
In freshman year, I had an English teacher who gave me a bit of practical advice which was life altering. He told me that my hand writing was holding me back. He suggested I buy a typewriter and take typing class. His idea was that if I typed all my papers, my grades would go up significantly and I’d be a better speller because I’d be able to see my mistakes. He was right—and that was before computers were common place.
Did you have an inkling as a teenager that you would become a writer?
Yes. When I was deciding what to major in for college it was a toss-up between English or Plant and Soil Science. The publishing world was not as accessible as it is now and so I chose the more practical degree. Once I got to college, I took creative writing for several years and went on to take it as independent study, so I could fit it in with my Plant and Soil classes. But I had a professor who was convinced fantasy was trash, so I put the writing aside. I respected him and was too easily brainwashed by the idea there was no future in writing the genre I loved. 
What book had the biggest impact on you as a high school student?  How?
Oh, my. This is a tough one.  On my own, I devoured Georgette Heyer, Victoria Holt, Mary Stuart and any book with a vampire or werewolf in it.  In class, I read oodles of classics. In my senior year, I did an independent study of Irish writers and had a fairly long love affair with James Joyce’s Portrait of an Artist as a Young Man (I blame him for some of my comma issues) and John Fowles’ Magus.  Hermann Hesse’ books appealed to my teenager-ish desire to think about the esoteric. And pretty much any book which had a sex scene in it—they were the best. (You mean I can blame someone else for my comma errors? Oh, freedom!)
I think all the books I read taught me a joy of playing with words and language, and about the wide variety of ways stories can be told.  
What band could you not get enough of in high school?  Were you an album or a CD kid?  Cover art you remember? 
This is pretty much like the clique question. I listened to all kinds of music depending on which crowd I was with at the time, everything from country to acid rock, rhythm and blues. Wild outdoor concerts and fiddler contests (I’m talking serious weekend long parties of public drinking, drugs and braless dancing) were common when I was a teen, so there were a lot of popular local musicians.
The album cover is an easy question. One Christmas, my best friend’s brother got a copy of a Linda Ronstadt album (at least I think it was her). His mother claimed she was aghast because Ronstadt’s nipples showed through her shirt, so Mom put two Band-Aids on the album cover before giving it to him.  It actually was a fairly tame cover as I recall.
Kate and Anna McGarrible were one of my favorites when I was in a tragic no-one-will-ever-love-me teenager mood.
I recall my father banging on the wall and telling me to stop playing this song—like for the 1000th time

What was the fashion rage - the one article of clothing you either got, or didn’t get that rocked your world?
 I wouldn’t say it was all the rage, but my low-cut black leotard rocked my world. That last You Tube with Linda Ronstadt pretty much summed up my high school wardrobe--except for the really short dress, I never went for shorter hemlines.
What hobbies, activities, sports were you involved in that influence your writing today?
I wasn’t ever into organized sports. I belonged to the drama club, the archeology club, student council and the haunted house club (which was supposed to explore the paranormal).  Also I was worked on the school newspaper. After school, I put time in at my parents’ gift and greenhouse business. On weekends, I cooked at the drive-in movie theater and sometimes sold stuff at flea markets. I also had a love of bird watching. Those years definitely influenced my writing. (A haunted house club? How cool is that! And having been privy to your manuscripts, I can see all this early stuff play into your writing.)
Good kid or wild child or a little of both?  Details? (Mwaahaa)
Both. I probably wasn’t as good of student as I could have been because I had other things on my mind—like partying.  I never had a full-fledged high school boyfriend; in fact I went to dances stag, except for my senior prom when I went with a guy friend who shortly afterwards came out of the closet. I turned eighteen early in my senior year (legal drinking age at the time), and after that got into the bar scene and older guys.
Who was your bestie?  Your frenemy?  Your sworn enemy?  Did you ever have one that switched to another?  Why?
I had several best friends in different cliques, but I never recall having any enemies of any kind—sorry (Nothing to apologize for there!)
If you could say one thing to your high school you, what would you say?
Forget about the older guys. The high school guys you have the hots for are just chicken shit, ask them out! And ask Mom for some cash to go clothes shopping—and don’t take Mom with you, take a friend to help you pick out some cool outfits and buy those funky boots you always wanted. ;O)
How do we find you now? 
I’m around Twitter @PatEsden
My main blog is here:
I also belong to a group blog:


  1. Ooooh, sounds like such a fun and interesting experience! Haunted house club sounds totally creepy--in a good way. And the legs-shaving story made me laugh out loud. Fun!

  2. The haunted house club was fun. I recall going as a group to some lady's house and laying on the floor while she supposedly transported us to another level of existence. As I recall I fell asleep.

  3. Good interview! I cringe at the high school me!

  4. Oh Nancy, sounds like you're ripe for the interviewing!

  5. Fun interview. As for the Linda Ronstadt album -- any chance it was actually Carly Simon?

  6. You know, Marcia, you could be right. I don't recall what the cover looked like, but I remember him liking the song "Your So Vain". And I think that was Carly Simon, right? Did she do a spicy for the '70's cover?

  7. I'm still giggling about the leg-shaving thing too! Fun interview :)

    Every time I read these I keep thinking that my HS was seriously lame, lol!

  8. Maybe it's just in the telling, but your high school experience sounds like it rocked! Not too much of any one thing, and a good amount of spice thrown in for fun! Great interview!

  9. Your school sounds amazing. And the band-aids on the album cover story cracked me up! Thanks for sharing, Pat.

  10. It is a great school. They also host get-togethers around the country for alumni.

    I should add (to tease Jaye)that some kids rode horses to school and left them in the headmaster's pasture.

  11. Riding horses to school would have been right up my alley.


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