Wednesday, May 8, 2024

Q&A with Patti Eddington




Patti Eddington is the author of the new memoir The Girl with Three Birthdays: An Adopted Daughter's Memoir of Tiaras, Tough Truths, and Tall Tales. A journalist, she lives in Spring Lake, Michigan.


Q: Why did you decide to write this memoir, and how was the book’s title chosen?


A: The short, probably frustrating, answer for anyone who has been dreaming all their life of being an author is I never had that dream and never intended to write a book.


I grew up hearing one story about my adoption from my parents and learned a bit more of another (extremely sad) story when I found my biological mother’s family in about 2004.


Then in 2018 I received the results of a DNA test given to me by my curious daughter, met my biological father’s family and felt absolutely compelled to learn more about my story.


I’m a journalist so once I unlocked my adoption records and saw what they contained there was pretty much no way I could not write this memoir.


When I submitted my query to my publisher the working title of the manuscript was “The Greatest Centennial Hula Hoop Queen — Two names, Three birthdays and One Big Secret.” As is often the case, the title needed to change; it didn’t really reflect the story or even indicate it was a memoir.


Brooke Warner, who founded my publishing company She Writes Press, took the time to read my book and offered me about 10 potential titles and seven subtitles. I played with them a bit in various configurations and asked my husband, daughter, and best friend what they would choose. It was a unanimous decision.


Q: The Kirkus Review of the book says, in part, “The adoption narrative is closely interwoven with a more general personal memoir of growing up in Morrice, and it works best as a story of a woman connecting with her origins and discovering who she really is.” What do you think of that description?


A: I appreciate the nice review. I think it’s accurate.

Q: What impact did it have on you to write the book?


A: For a few years now I’ve been railing against the narrative in this country about age. Ageism is one of the last acceptable prejudices.


My 40s were a worthwhile and fulfilling time but I barely remember them as I was working, traveling cross state once or twice a week to care for my parents — who were in their 80s — trying to be active and involved in my teenage daughter’s life, and maintain my relationship with my husband. I feel like I missed middle age.


By my 50s my parents had passed away, my daughter was in college and the freelance writing and design business I had started from scratch had all but disappeared through attrition. I started over again as a newspaper and magazine journalist but it was tough going.


Then when I was 53 I turned an avocation into a part-time position as a dance fitness instructor. And I began writing the book when I turned 60. I think the biggest impact it had on me is I finally convinced myself not to pay attention to age.


Q: What do you hope readers take away from the book?


A: Honestly, that Jim and Millie Eddington were among the best people to walk the earth. And to drop the term “adoptive” from parent.


Q: What are you working on now?


A: I’m delighted to say I am working on my next memoir and it’s coming along really well.


I’ve been married to my husband since 1981, was there when he went through veterinary school, suffered through his first jobs with him, and was by his side when he opened his own clinic in 1988. Owning the practice has been a source of exhaustion, elation, frustration and humor.


I’m now writing about that and the working title of this book is Don’t Look in the Freezer — the True Story of the Life and Strange Times of a Veterinarian’s Wife.


Q: Anything else we should know?


A: Just that I’m grateful for this opportunity to tell my story. Thank you.


--Interview with Deborah Kalb

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