Elam, Teacher and Novelist
didn’t know how to make money as a writer and survive."
Elam’s career change was a two for one deal. After sixteen years
working as a lawyer and an administrative law judge, she decided
to become a writer. But writing opened the door to still another
occupation, that of teacher. “I love being a teacher,” she said.
“ It is a way to use the writing. It helps me become a better writer.”
This novelist teaches at Duke Ellington Senior High School in Washington,
D.C., a high school for teenagers who wish to give serious study
to the arts. Working with young people who have a gift has been
very gratifying for Elam. “It’s very rewarding to see someone who
doesn’t even know how talented they are,” she said. “Some of these
kids are writing stuff that’s amazing.”
even talented teenagers are still... well, teenagers. Elam said
she found it surprising to see “How lazy some kids are... I shouldn’t
be surprised since I go through that with my own kids,” said this
mother of three.
always knew I was a writer, but I didn’t know how to make money
as a writer and survive,” she commented. So as a young woman, she
decided that since her father was a lawyer and her uncle was a lawyer,
she’d become a lawyer, too. But her destiny as a novelist awaited
is the author of Breathing Room, a novel about the tension
in the friendship between two women. It took six years for Elam
to compose Breathing Room but the path to publication was swift.
A friend introduced her to an agent in the winter of 1998. The agent
sent Breathing Room to thirteen publishers, seven of whom
wanted the book. That led to a bidding war and by Memorial Day weekend
in 1998, her story was bought by Pocket Books, a division of Simon
& Schuster. The next year, 1999, was spent on editing and revision
and by January 2001 Breathing Room was on bookstore shelves.
a long time, I didn't know what the story was about,” she said,
because originally, she had tried to expand on a scenario a friend
had described to her. However, there were characters living in her
imagination and eventually Elam gave voice to those characters and
their stories. Book signings, promotional events and writing workshops
have introduced Elam to readers who get into conversations with
her about the characters. “It’s an amazing experience. I know that
sounds like a cliché.” She explained further. “It really feels good
to have achieved a dream. I don’t know a better feeling - maybe
Patricia Elam’s website at www.patriciaelam.com