DC Published Author Collective: Patsy Buell Stierna

Patsy Buell Stierna always dreamed of being a writer. After two master’s degrees and 36 years of teaching in Minnesota, she retired to Door County with her husband in 2007 and studied writing through seminars at The Clearing, Björklunden and Write On, Door County.

Stierna has now published her first book, Visions from Two Continents: a historical fiction biography of her mother, artist Sheila Buchanan Buell. She is also making the final edits on a memoir.

In what way does your connection with Door County influence your writing?

Door County is where my writing blossomed and grew. The support of the creative community and the natural environment are constant sources of inspiration. Although I now travel in the winter, I insist on coming back to Door County in the spring to see the wildflowers bloom.

Talk about your writing process.

I try to write every day for at least 30 minutes. I also participate in a weekly writers’ group online and belong to a work-in-progress group where we critique each other’s writing. 

I’ve learned that writing is rewriting. You need some space between yourself and your first draft to see where it needs improvement. Having others read it – and reading it aloud to yourself – make things happen. Sometimes I write out my ideas by hand and then finalize them on the computer. 

What, to you, are the most important elements of good writing?

Good writing needs to speak to the truth of the author. It must have an authentic voice, whether it is fiction or nonfiction. I enjoy memoirs and fiction that tell how the protagonist overcame life’s difficulties. I feel there is too much violence and dystopian writing that does not leave any room for hope.

Do you have any advice about the publishing process?

Be very careful in choosing a publisher. There are lots of steps to publishing and self-publishing. I was ripped off by my first publisher, a small organization that went bankrupt. I’m going to look at a larger operation for my next book – something like KDP or Ingram-Spark. I have tried mainstream publishers and found they were unwilling to seriously look at memoirs or stories about people who were not famous. 

What are you currently reading?

I enjoy classics, and I’m reading Main Street by Sinclair Lewis.

The following is an excerpt from Visions from Two Continents

The next morning, I woke up early. Ernest had left for the day. My body was bruised from Ernest banging on me. I crawled out of bed and dragged myself into the kitchen. Aiti put her arm around me. She kept repeating in my ear, “Olen pahoillani. Olen niin pahoillani että hän kohtelee sinua niin.” I felt a warm security from those words that I later learned meant, “I’m sorry, I’m so sorry he treats you that way.” 

I walked quickly away from that tiny cabin into the forest. Thimbleberries appeared along the path, soft and sweet, begging to be eaten, but in my grief I ignored them. My feet stepped without a sound on the soft moss that blanketed the floor under huge pine trees. I lay down in the soft moss next to a fallen log. A tear fell from my eye and landed on a lovely little flower, reaching through the dark forest, searching for the sunlight. A small black insect crawled across the forest floor minding its own business. I looked up and saw the light slanting through the trees. The peace of the forest held me close. Here there was hope.