|Overly Long Unofficial Bio
Edith Pattou was born in Evanston, Illinois at 5 am, just as the sun rose. Her mother reports that it was the happiest moment of her life. Things went sharply downhill after that due to colic, near constant screaming and a lack of interest in things like sleep and baby formula. Fortunately for her parents Edith quieted down considerably when she discovered books.
Her first favorite book was Babar. Her next favorite book wasn’t a book at all but stories that her father would tell her about a series of interesting bears such as Bruce Bear and James Bear (a debonair spy). When she grew up her father confessed that he had leaned heavily on such literary sources as Rudyard Kipling, Ian Fleming, and William Shakespeare to construct his bear stories which explained the comforting feeling of familiarity Edith felt when she saw her first James Bond movie “Dr. No”.
She loved fairy tales which she read over and over in Andrew Lang’s Fairy Books (red, blue, lavender, green, yellow) and she loved to write stories, poems, song lyrics. This is her first poem, written in 3rd grade, which earned her an A+ and great acclaim from her teacher Mrs. Mackenzie.
She and her best friend Sue, inspired by their mutual love of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. and the Beatles, formed an organization called I.S. (or International Spy). It required a blood oath, the ability to rewrite Beatles lyrics, and a talent for shadowing suspected Russian spies. Edith still wears her I.S. dogtag on occasion.
Her parents divorced when she was in fifth grade and she moved abruptly from the suburbs to the city of Chicago. Her first day at her new school was the day after Halloween and all the kids were handing in their Unicef boxes. She didn’t know what a Unicef box was. However, her new school, Francis W. Parker, was wonderful, especially when it came to cultivating creativity. She still remembers fondly the multimedia project she did on the movie Bonnie and Clyde for her “Medium is the Message” class, though the machine gun sound effects didn’t quite go as planned.
As a teenager she aspired to be a hippie and was proud to describe how her eyes stung from the pepper spray the policemen used on demonstrators at the Democratic National Convention, even though she was twenty blocks away from the actual melee. She was friends with a talented aspiring rock band and got to hang out backstage when The Association and Three Dog Night came to play The Auditorium. She was thrilled with the one-verse song her sort-of boyfriend wrote for her and she was of course crushed when they all moved to Los Angeles to make it in the recording industry. She still has the one vinyl record they made.
During high school she spent a summer living in Ireland and fell in love with many things. (1) She loved the Gorbys, the family she lived with. (2) Loved the cute Irish boys with their cute Irish accents. (3) Loved the songs about uprisings and gypsy rovers and drinking whiskey. (4) Especially loved the fairy tales, which sowed the seeds for her Songs of Eirren books.
She went to college in California where the weather was a lot better than in Chicago. She learned to surf, sort of, though the California boys liked to make fun of her. She majored in literature because reading books was still her favorite thing in the universe (next to boys). The novels of Charles Dickens were a revelation and she couldn’t get enough of them. Fortunately he was prolific.
She graduated from college with a B.A. in English Literature and absolutely no clue what to do with her life. Her father stepped in and helped her get a job as an editorial assistant for a medical journal. Her favorite part of the job was collecting character names for stories (e.g., Marluce Bibbo, Christian Smeesters) and because her boss had a penchant for 3 martini lunches she was able to sneak in a fair amount of work on fiction writing, producing a mediocre murder mystery set on-board an ocean liner (with characters named Marluce Bibbo and Christian Smeesters).
After her boss was fired, she fled back to school, getting successive masters degrees in English Literature (very fun except for a sadistic Chaucer professor) and Library Science (not as fun, but practical and she really wanted to be a children’s librarian). Her first job, however, was as a librarian in an advertising agency in Los Angeles and she had a big (for her) salary and wore tight skirts and high heels. That’s when she met her husband-to-be, Charles, who still says that he was hoodwinked by the salary, tight skirts and high heels, since she eventually quit and became a children’s librarian, wearing cardigans and sensible shoes (She likes to think they were cute cardigans, stylish flats and at least she had a salary.)
After they got married, Edith and her husband lived in Denver, Colorado where she worked as a children’s librarian in the Denver Public Library, and then they moved to Durham, North Carolina where there were no children’s librarian jobs so she got a job in a wonderful bookstore in a converted tobacco warehouse and began work on her first YA novel, Hero’s Song. Daughter, Vita, was born the year before Hero’s Song was published. Fire Arrow followed a few years after and then Charles’ career as a professor took them to Columbus, Ohio where they’ve lived ever since.
Vita at book signing,1998
Vita in Wisconsin, 2009
Her third book, Mrs. Spitzer’s Garden, was inspired by her daughter’s amazing kindergarten teacher whose name in fact was Mrs. Spitzer and one of the high points of Edith’s career occurred when she got to ride on the Tremont Elementary School 4th of July float.
Tremont School 4th of July Float, 2002