I have the great privilege of introducing you to author Matt Patterson! Matt's book is a tender story of his daughter, Emily's, brief life. I highly encourage all to read the book, but especially parents. You will walk away with a deeper appreciation for your children and for life in general. I first met Matt at the ACFW writer's conference this past October. I look forward to his next project and perhaps working with him in ministry....
Hello Matt! So, tell me a little about yourself....
I was born and raised in Baltimore, Maryland – the youngest of two children. I have one sister who is three years older than me. I have been married to my lovely wife, Bonnie, for almost 27 years. We’ve had three daughters – Emily, Lauren and Kimberly. We have called Arizona “home sweet home” for almost 12 years now.
I’ve been involved in communications for more than 20 years – everything from a television news anchor, newspaper and magazine writer/columnist to marketing communications and media relations director for non-profit hospitals and organizations. I guess you could say I’ve been around the block.
I’m a huge sports fan. I have to have my morning dose of ESPN SportsCenter. I also love a good movie – inspirational, suspense/mysteries and comedies tend to be my favorites.
When it comes to books, I love biographies and inspirational stories of individuals overcoming obstacles and hurdles in life.
I read your book, “My Emily”. I must say, it is very moving. A poignant story that reminds all parents to treasure every moment with their children. Tell me how you decided to write your book about your daughter, Emily?
Thank you so much for your kind words, Ruth. Approximately two years ago I went to a writing class at my church with the specific intention of turning an old newspaper column about the life and death of my daughter Emily into a book.
This column’s publication date was set for her birthday – December 6. My beat on the newspaper was to follow the courts and crime. I spent most of my time with city, state or county law enforcement officers, as well as prosecutors, defense attorneys and judges. I made it a point that my weekly column would be as far away from that arena as possible. I wanted my readers to know I was a regular guy – a soft-hearted father with cute kids and mildly hilarious sense of humor.
Writing this column turned out to be a very good release for me. By the time I finished it, I was crying. I sent it to my editor and she called me into her office. She was crying. When the paper came out and copies were delivered around the newsroom – I looked around and people were crying. I then began to receive calls, notes, cards and letters thanking me for the piece. Others would say, “This story needs to be a book.” I started to think that I could have something here.
Thing was, at that time of my life, I lived my life on my timetable. This book was important and special to me, but it only came about almost two decades later because of God’s timing. Not mine.
Ok, so you're good at making readers cry!
In your book, you write of your father: “The man whom I thought was indestructible was brought to tears. With his head bowed, he prayed eloquently and produced the tears that I couldn’t. His prayer was beautiful.”
That part of your book was very touching. To me, it was a perfect picture of how God must have felt: a mighty powerful omnipotent God…with a broken heart because a little baby girl had to leave her family.
I mention in the book that my dad is “a man’s man,” and that’s the truth. I’m almost 6-foot-3 and my dad on a good day, is 5-foot-6. He’s 79 and I can tell you that I don’t mess with him. A steelworker for 45 years, his upper body strength to this day, is remarkable. His nickname in the steel mill was, “The Mule,” because if they needed something moved, they’d come to him.
When Emily passed away, this “man’s man” was brought to his knees. He, for the first time, showed that he had a vulnerable side. He opened his heart to God for possibly the very first time. It truly was a beautiful prayer.
How did your story affect your relationship with God?
Writing this book has certainly strengthened my relationship God. I can also say I have a long way to go. Emily’s story has given me a very deep desire to serve and help others.
Now, the actual journey of Emily’s birth, diagnosis, treatment and passing certainly affected my relationship with God. There were points where I was mad at God – furious, even. I stopped praying. I cut God off. I slandered him. As readers will find out, God, in his own mysterious way touched and taught me in a way that brought me back to Him.
What do you want to accomplish with your book?
I think any author would sit here and tell you they want to sell a boatload of books. I do as well. I have no shame in admitting that, but more importantly I want this book to get in the hands of so many different people.
I want pastors to read it. Teenagers could benefit from it. Physicians, nurses and health care professionals might profit from reading it. Of course, parents of special needs children or those who have little ones battling cancer I believe can relate to some portion of our story. I just want to get it in as many hands as possible. If someone is reading this and already has it – please share it with someone.
I think this story has something for everyone. I write this book tells the story how the life of one little girl with all its perceived imperfections, had great meaning. She also taught those who had the chance to meet her that they should value their lives – even with their “imperfections.”
How has God used your story to affect people around you?
A very good, and yet, very difficult question. From the very beginning, it’s been my hope and prayer that people can walk away from my little book with some sort of lesson learned.
It can be a lesson that’s very emotional – especially if it’s read by a parent who has had a child with special needs, cancer or both. It can also be a story that inspires one to do ministry and help others. I want people to tell me what it’s done for them.
I truly encourage them to contact and share with me what my book has done for them. Whether it’s email, facebook, Twitter – I’m pretty accessible and very much welcome the contact.
What are you working on now?
With the release of My Emily, I’m now in the process of forming The My Emily Foundation. A portion of the proceeds from each sale will go to assist families with special needs children, those with little ones battling cancer or parents grieving the loss of a child. I’m extremely excited about the opportunity to assist others by sharing Emily’s story.
In regards to upcoming projects, I have started preliminary work for two non-fiction books. The first will share my conversion to Christianity from Mormonism. The second will detail my time with my mother during her last five weeks of life prior to passing away after a lengthy battle with vascular dementia.
Why did you choose self-publishing?
Everyone – their situation, story and book – is different.
For me, I really didn’t lean toward self-publishing until I met someone from our church that had shown me their newly-published book. They shared that it was economical to do and the quality truly impressed me. I can say that for less than $300 I published My Emily.
I have to say I was intimidated by the thought of sending out letters and samples to publishers. Actually, in the writing class at our church, we were told to stay away from self-publishing. I didn’t buy that opinion – not for one moment.
I think it’s remarkable that we, as self-published authors, have some control over the final product and the book’s rights. If a publisher somewhere down the line approaches me, I can take the book and move on if I wish.
I do warn those who seek to self-publish not to dole out thousands of dollars to have your book published. There are several economical and very effective ways to have your book self-published. Please do your homework before taking that step.
What advice do you have for someone who wants to write that first book, whether fiction or non-fiction?
Three simple words - Go for it!
Now for the actual advice: I realize or believe that everyone’s story – fiction or non-fiction – is different and should be approached as such.
Don’t approach your book as a hobby. Treat it like it deserves to be treated – like something that is so very important. You wouldn’t be writing this book if it wasn’t important to you. Treat it as such.
Schedule your writing. Whether it’s three days a week, four days or even seven days – schedule it and keep that time. Make that time part of your life. Set it for the same time for each scheduled day.
Pray over your work. Many times I’m guilty of missing this nugget of advice. The Lord has blessed with you with an ability to reach out to others – thank Him and ask Him for clarity and help. Not only will this strengthen your finished work, it will also reinforce your relationship with Him.
Wow! Great advice, Matt! Well, I hope you have enjoyed our time with author Matt Patterson. What a powerful message of encouragement for all of us writers. I look forward to reading more of his books in the future. Here is Matt's biography. You can purchase his book off Amazon.com (I did!).
Matt Patterson is the author of My Emily and an award-winning writer, editor and communications professional. His two-plus decades of experience include public and media relations, as well as print and broadcast journalism. He volunteers his time to helping organizations and charities dedicated to assisting families with children who have special needs or those battling pediatric cancers. He resides in Arizona with his wife and two daughters.
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