Erika Coetzee gives her impressions of Patricia Schonstein’s seminar about her practice as a writer

On May 13, Patricia Schonstein presented a seminar to the monthlies about her practice as a writer. She is a poet and author of several children’s books and four acclaimed novels, Skyline, A Time of Angels, The Apothecary’s Daughter and Quilt of Dreams. Her fifth novel, The Master’s Ruse, will be published later this year.

Listening to Patricia Schonstein speaking in the enchanting setting of the Kalk Bay theatre was like tracing the threads of a meticulous and precious embroidery, lovingly crafted. Her orientation to her work is both practical and magical, both orderly and wildly intuitive. She explained how the fictional world of her writing often merges and mingles with the ordinary happenings of everyday life. She seems to traverse, with ease and humour, these precarious and delightful twilight pathways between reality and imagination. Those who have read Patricia’s books would know this to be true. She works in solitude but under a shared sky, a collective writers’ desk, where stories hang like bunches of grapes from the trellis of possibilities, and characters grow wings and borrow names, and the author’s door stands just slightly ajar until the tale is told. Patricia’s respect for her stories is immense. Hers is a world in which characters and even streets can haunt you when they are dissatisfied, and she attends fondly to their concerns. Tuning into the great tapestry of human experience and the perplexing questions of our time, she listens for the stories to unfold. Each one is treated as unique and complete in itself, and is protected during incubation, nurtured with music, gifts of ideas, steadfast attention and discipline.

For Patricia Schonstein, choosing to be a writer is a serious commitment. Her work expresses her disbelief in human cruelty and prejudice, it prods at consciences and assumptions that allow war, genocide and devastation to recur and continue. This is not a task she undertakes lightly. In between the mesmerising story threads and unforgettable characters that inhabit her work, lies a body of tremendous hard work, responsibility and dedication.

If you’d like to read more about Patricia, why not visit her website? There she has details of work already published (books, poetry, children’s books), info on her latest novel, and the text of two presentations, ‘An author’s view of culture’ and ‘A Dream called Peace’.


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