Pat Brisson photo  Pat Brisson
  Send Email to Pat at: brisson@enter.net
  Visit Pat's website at: http://www.enter.net/~brisson

Authors Among Us - Children's Writers Who Are or Who Have Been Librarians

Featured Titles by New Jersey author Pat Brisson.
 
 Forthcoming books by Pat Brisson:
 Three picture books with Boyds Mills Press. 
 The first two are tentatively set for publication in 2002.
 Hobbledy Clop, illustrated by Maxie Chambliss
 The Star Blanket, illustrated by Erica Magnus.
 Mama Loves Me From Away. An illustrator hasn't been chosen yet; pub date not established.
  Purchase Pat's books at your favorite independent bookstore.
  Find out more about Pat's books on her website at:  http://www.enter.net/~brisson
What influenced you to become a librarian, or to work in a library? 

    I decided to become a librarian after I got a job in my local public library as a clerk, and discovered just how wonderful libraries are. I had two preschoolers at that point and knew I wanted to have more children, but I decided that when the youngest was in first grade, I'd go to library school and get my degree. I eventually had four sons and when the youngest was in first grade, I headed off to The School of Communication, Information and Library Studies at Rutgers in New  Brunswick, NJ, and a year and a half later, with my MLS in hand, I got a part-time reference job back at my local library. I stayed in that position for nine years, leaving in July 2000 to pursue writing full time. I also do about thirty school visits a year.

Which came first in your life, your work or career as a librarian, or writing for children?  Did your library work have anything to do with becoming a children’s writer? 

    The Phillipsburg Free Public Library got me started on two careers. When we first moved to town, I'd take my boys there and bring home bags full of picture books. After reading hundreds of them, I decided I wanted to try writing some. It took me five years of efforts before I wrote one good enough to sell. That was MAGIC CARPET.

    I had also gotten a part-time job as a clerk at that library and decided I wanted to be a librarian. My first book was published in 1989 and I started library school in 1990. The decisions for both came about the same time, and both were a result of the influence the Phillipsburg Free Public Library.

Did your library work directly influence your work as an author?

    Working in a library was a great benefit to my writing. Whenever I needed to look something up or get a book about something, I could do it in between things on the job. Just being in the library meant I came across books in the course of the day, that I might have missed otherwise. Seeing so many new children's books was both daunting and inspiring. I could look at some and think, "How could I ever compete against this?" and then look at others and think, "Well, if this got  published, surely mine will, too."

    In my second published book, Kate Heads West, I have the main character writing a letter to her librarian while she's on vacation. I named the librarian character in the book Mrs. Heath, after the real children's librarian who had worked in my library. In Wanda's Roses, the title character goes to her school librarian looking for information on rosebushes. The librarian is invited to a tea party in Wanda's rose garden at the story's end and she even brings the muffins!

What were the greatest benefits of being a librarian to you as a writer? 

    It's difficult to say what the greatest benefit of being a librarian was. There was the advantage of having so many children's books always available, the reference skills I knew from the job that I could use for my writing work, the perk of being able to say "Let's get this for the collection" when I wanted a book on writing that the library didn't own, and the enthusiasm and encouragement from co-workers who actually read review journals.  One co-worker enthused to me before my first book was published, "Just think - some day you'll be in Books in Print!"  That was something even my family couldn't have seen the significance of.

Were there any drawbacks to being a librarian and also a writer? 

    I think the only drawback about being a librarian and a writer was the fact that it was a job and like any other job, took time away from the writing.

If you wrote while working as as librarian, how do you manage the time-juggling act?  How did your employment impact on how much you write and when you do it?

    A friend of mine who was a full time writer had been after me for years to quit the library job so I could spend more time writing. I was lucky enough to be able to work only part-time, but I finally did leave the library in July 2000. By that time, I had eleven books published. I mostly write picture books and I've wondered if this is because I was only able to carve out small chunks of time for writing.

    I think having four kids forced me to get very good at organizing my time. But I also feel like I eased into full-time writing. When my sons were very young, they were my first priority and I considered writing to be an avocation. As they got older and more independent, I put more time into writing and also did more school visits, attended more conferences, and joined writers' workshops to help keep me motivated.

Did you find any conflicts or job-related difficulties in being both a writer and a librarian?

    I didn't find any conflicts between my writing career and my library job, except when a conference or school visit fell on a day I was supposed to work. My colleagues were very gracious and flexible about it, though, and things generally worked out. I always felt encouraged by my co-workers. Many of them bought my books for grandchildren or friends, and I was often pointed out to visiting students as a "real live author" who also worked at the library.

Special Quote from Pat Brisson:

    To all the librarians out there who continue to deal with decreasing budgets, expanding technology, and irate members of the public who want to censor library materials: please know that you are appreciated by writers everywhere for the effort you put into getting our books into the hands of the children who need them. You make a difference. Thank you.

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Last Updated October 21, 2003