People: Patsi Trollinger

December 01, 2003|JENNIFER BRUMMETT

Patsi Trollinger is a prolific writer. She spent 28 years writing public relations, sports and news releases until switching gears a few years ago to focus on writing for children.

So when Barbara Hall, music director for the upcoming "Brews and Bach: An Evening at a Leipzig Coffeehouse," asked Trollinger to write the play for this year's holiday feast at Centre College, Trollinger signed on enthusiastically. Trollinger says she wrote skits when she was younger, and did a lot of acting, so it was no problem to formulate a play - she just had to do the research.

"The nice part was that some things were pre-determined," Trollinger said. "There were parameters to begin with - a theme, a length. Barbara could (recommend) books to use, and other resources."

Some of her research on coffee - the "brews" of the play's title - turned up amusing tidbits. She adds she made a "selfish choice" to make "Brews and Bach" light-hearted for a fun and relaxed evening.


The play will be performed Friday through Sunday.

"All my career, I've done news and magazine writing," said Trollinger. "I was public relations director at my alma mater, which was news writing. ... I was a sports information director for 10 years and also wrote about cancer research and preserving the environment. There were always restrictions on what I was writing, and it was all non-fiction," as "Brews and Bach" was.

"That was the type of writing I did for 28 years and got paid for."

Her switch to writing for children came after soul-searching. Her husband, Richard, and she, as well as their twin daughters, came to Danville in the 1990s. Richard Trollinger joined Centre in 1994 and is vice president for college relations.

Patsi Trollinger worked in communications at Centre for several years.

She continues to do freelance public relations work and has sold some work to Ladybug magazine. But her main focus is the competitive children's literature market. Her initial focus has been on picture books, or 32-page books geared toward youngsters, where the text and illustrations have equal weight.

"There is a lot happening in children's books," she said. "Right now, nonfiction is more interesting. There's a notion to introduce children to important historical figures, hoping to intrigue them.

"Picture books are for an age when a child is visual, and a picture book biography is a good opportunity. There is more and more nonfiction coming out."

One of Trollinger's favorite picture books is "Wilma Unlimited," about track star Wilma Rudolph, the first American woman to win three gold medals in the 1960 Olympics.

She said attending a writers' conference was illuminating for her. A featured speaker indicated that writers for children were somehow arrested at the age for which they were writing.

"By his calculations, I'm 10," Trollinger said wryly.

But she likes writing for kids because it is a style that is distinct from writing for adults.

"Children's literature is almost always hopeful," Trollinger explained. "You don't find existential children's books. (The literature) deals in actions.

"And I like being around children. Often, they're more open-minded than adults. I'm just drawn to (children's literature). My goal was and is to make a living as a children's writer - in the worst economic slump in 40 years. It's extremely competitive."

She credits friend Susan Dickinson with introducing her to a writers' group in Lexington. Fellow writers there and other friends like her work-in-progress, "Short Dozen," a book about "spectacular short people." The puzzling aspect of selling the book, though, is the editors' responses to it.

"They say, 'I like it but it isn't on my list.' What does that mean?"

She thinks it means the book is good, but the publishers don't know what to do with it.

Trollinger writes every day - usually from 8 a.m. until lunchtime, then again in the afternoon, as time permits. Or, if she can't focus in an afternoon, she does research.

Trollinger has sold one book so far. "But the publication date has been delayed," she said, grimacing.

"Perfect Timing" is about Isaac Murphy, the first jockey to win the Kentucky Derby three times. Trollinger said Murphy's life "tells an incredible story of slavery, the Civil War and Reconstruction." The title of the book has a double meaning.

"(Murphy's) sense of timing (was 'perfect') because he rode in the only years when a black jockey could ride, could ride under his name, and be paid to ride," Trollinger explained.

Murphy also was known for his "perfect timing" on the race track, an innate ability to time a race win down to the second, she added.

"I was intrigued by him," Trollinger noted. "It's a great sports story."

She also has a "live prospect" with a middle-grade novel that "revolves around a major political event," Trollinger added. "Thrill in the 'Ville" was inspired by the 2000 vice-presidential debate at Centre, although the book is not about the debate.

And she's contemplating her future as a writer of children's books. She set a three-year timeline for publication of her work.

"It was 18 months until I sold ('Perfect Timing')," she said pensively. "Now, it's coming up on the three-year anniversary. The income is pathetic, so I may need to get a structured job or take on more freelance."

Visits where authors go to schools to discuss their works would be a possibility if she had a published book.

"But that is a dilemma for me because I don't have a book," Trollinger said.

"I have a lot of thinking to do right now."

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