Welcome to my Second Acts Series!
Today, we have Soul Mate author Patti Smith sharing her multi-act life and her debut novel, Head Over Feet in Love.
I spent much of my life saying that I wanted to go be a lawyer. Almost everything I did was towards that end—do well on the LSAT, earn stellar grades in college, be involved in everything on campus. I went to a top 20 law school, passed the fifth hardest Bar in the nation and then I discovered that I hated practicing law.
Cue the “womp, womp” sound.
After giving it a go for eight years—taking increasingly lower paid jobs every year—I finally cried “uncle” and decided to try something else. I must say that I am extremely privileged; most people would not be able to make this change. But I had no debt from law school and was married so I had health benefits and could therefore work part-time in the legal field while figuring out what to do next.
By chance, I sent in an application to teach part-time at a nearby community college. I completely forgot about even applying and was therefore rather surprised to get a call at my job from the head of the Political Science department. He asked me to come in the next day for an interview. I got all ready, put on the one suit I had left, and prepared as best I could. When I walked in the department head handed me a book and some papers and said, “Here’s the text, a sample syllabus, can you teach the Friday classes?”
Boom. I was a teacher.
I now must mention that I spent my earlier years saying I would never, ever be a teacher. Who on earth could put up with the bratty behavior and the low pay? But something happened to me as I stepped up to the front of the room. For the first time in many years, I felt like I was in the right place. I started talking, teaching, sharing.
I spent two years in this job while I got certified to teach special education. Now it’s 13 years later and I’m still talking, teaching, sharing. The pay is low, the kids can be trying but ultimately, I love the profession and look forward to what each day brings.
Again, I realize how entirely privileged I am to get a second chance and I shared this with my main character. In her reality, she failed the Bar Exam and had to reinvent herself as a teacher. I think we’re both gonna be okay.
New Book Features Feminist, Gen X Heroine We’ve Been Waiting For…
Author Patti F. Smith’s feminist romance book, HEAD OVER FEET IN LOVE, will be released on November 14, 2018. Set in Ann Arbor and highlighting local places and events, Smith’s book features a 40something heroine who keeps moving forward, no matter how many setbacks her brain deals out to her—and that’s really a main focus of the book—that mental health issues are part of your life, but not the sum total. You can still fall in love, live your life, tell your story. “I’ve lived with mental health issues my whole life,” Smith says. “It’s important for people with invisible disabilities to see themselves represented, particularly in love stories. This is the book for Gen Xers, people with mental health issues, or anyone who thinks they can’t find love.”
Rebecca Slater is running away from a stay in a mental health facility, a writing career that never got off the ground, and a dying best friend. She has nowhere to go, but nothing can stop her—until she crashes her car into a tree (possibly on purpose, but probably not). Without a cell phone and in a strange town, Becca starts knocking on doors looking for someone to help her. The only person who answers her knock is Mike Riley.
Becca is a lot of things—feminist, teacher, wannabe author, person with a bipolar condition, lover of all things Gen X—but she has never been in love. Becca and Mike begin a friendship that neither realizes they need. Becca shares her unique life view with Mike, who becomes her friend, her muse, and the love of her life.
When Becca thinks Mike is dead she impulsively runs away again, this time to a place where she thinks no one will ever find her. She prepares for a life without her true love, committed to remaining mentally healthy and strong, continuing a story she now believes will have an unhappy ending.
Like other people with mental health issues, Becca struggles but also lives her life. She keeps moving forward no matter how many setbacks her brain deals, and that’s really the focus of her story: that mental health issues are part of your life, but not the total. You can still fall in love, have a great life, tell your story. And have a happy ending.
I’m driving away. I’m driving away as fast and as far as I can. I’m never going back. I’m going to drive until I get so far up north that no one will ever find me. I’m going to—
Except that I’m not. I can’t leave home now. Not with my best friend in a coma, not with my parents tripped out, not with all that’s going on. Not with bipolar disorder and anxiety and everything else. I’m still driving away, mind you, but I’ll have to go back. As soon as the rain lets up, I’ll turn around and head back to US-23. It’s really pouring though, and I don’t like driving in the rain, so I might have to find a hotel and stay the night. I’ll have to call my parents, except I don’t have a phone anymore, and with Rick in the hospital, it all means—
It means that I have no way to call anyone when my car hits the tree.
An enthusiastic Gen-Xer and feminist, Patti Smith writes about the generation sandwiched in-between the Boomers and Millennials. Lover of all things flannel, grunge, and slacker (although she is not a slacker herself!), Patti focuses her books on women in their 40s facing major challenges in life and love. Her heroines are independent women who don’t want to follow the life path of marriage-children but rather forge their own paths. Often they, like their writer, live with mental health issues but make it clear that they are not their illness and that their lives are full and rich.
Patti lives in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and is a former legal aid lawyer and current special education teacher. She is the author of two books: Images of America–Downtown Ann Arbor and A History of the People’s Food Co-op Ann Arbor and is co-authoring Forgotten Ann Arbor (due out in 2019). She writes for as many local publications as she can and is involved in many local commissions and activities. She is a frequent public speaker around town and is founder/curator of GROWN FOLKS READING (story time for adults) and HERSAY (all female variety show). She lives with her husband, Ken Anderson, her own Gen-X hero.
Where to find Patti…
Patti, Thank you for sharing your inspiring journey. Best of luck with sales.
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What a wonderful story! Thank you, JoAnn and Patti.