It’s my pleasure to welcome author Patrick Roland to my blog.
Please tell us a little bit about yourself.
My name is Patrick Roland. I am a gay, bi-polar, drug addict, alcoholic, widow who is now sober, healthy and happy. I wrote a self-help book about grief and addiction called Unpacked Sparkle. My hope is that my experience, strength and hope will help others unpack their own sparkle and learn to love themselves exactly as they are. I’m still beautifully broken, but I’m joyful and hopeful about it!
How long have you been writing for?
Ironically, the first thing I wrote that got any attention was a poem in the sixth grade about my dog who had died. I won second place in a state poetry contest. Now, 30 years later, I’ve written a book about grief. I’ve been a writer my whole career – mostly journalism – but this subject matter seems to have chosen me.
What is your writing process like?
For this project, I made a list of all the things I wanted to write about and then did so. I didn’t write things in order of how they happened because that isn’t how I think. That’s also not the way they appear in the book. Because grief isn’t linear. Grief is kind of a puzzle that you have to put together, so that’s what I did with this book. The narrative is like a tapestry, weaved together by the friends who kept the lights on for me while my sparkle was dimmed.
I wrote the majority of the book in about 12 days. It poured out of me. But it didn’t feel “done.” I also only had about 100 days of sobriety when I wrote it so I fleshed out the first six months – when it ends – about a year later. There were some key things that happened that became the last three chapters that really completed the puzzle and made everything come together.
Do you have a writing routine? If so, what’s a typical day like for you?
I was so inspired when I wrote this book. I wrote it on lunch breaks. I wrote after work. I wrote all weekend long. The same was true of the editing process. I blocked off a week and went to Iowa and sat on a lake – my lifelong dream – and completed the final manuscript.
What motivates you to write?
I was trying to write myself out of pain. Everything that happened to me when my partner died was very traumatic, but as long as it stayed inside me, it was going to haunt me. I became an entirely different person as a result of writing this. I moved from victim to survivor; from pain into power. As I grew as a person, I became motivated to tell my story to help others. I felt like I went through all of this so that I could help the next person not suffer as much as I did. I’m here to say you can overcome whatever you are struggling with. I am living proof. I’m also here to say you are not alone and you are worth it. Loving yourself as you are is the first step to a glorious new life filled with joy and possibility.
What was the first thing you did when you found out your book was being published?
I texted my best friend, Megan. We’ve been best friends for 20 years but we were fighting when what happened in the book transpired, so I initially wrote the book to “fill her in.” Plus, when we reunited after our five year hiatus, she had given me some freelance work that was super creative which got me feeling like I could pull this book off. I owe a lot of the success of this to her in a way; so I wanted to have a private moment with her before it became public.
Are you currently working on anything new?
I wrote a children’s book with similar themes that needs to be illustrated and I want to turn Unpacked Sparkle into a screenplay. I so feel like it could be a movie!
If you weren’t a writer, what would your career be?
I know I would be helping people. I’d either be a counselor or a pastor or something like that.
What is the easiest part of writing for you? What is the hardest part?
It’s easiest to be honest and it’s hardest not to be. I think that’s why this book poured out of me. It is my truth. It it directly from my heart. I wouldn’t have even done it if it wasn’t honest. It wouldn’t be worth it if it wasn’t.
What’s one thing you learned through writing that you wish you knew before you started?
Well, it’s not nearly as glamorous as it’s made out to be. And just because you’ve written a book and gotten it published- which is a pretty major accomplishment – it doesn’t automatically mean people are going to care about it. But I think I did something amazing – and my friends and recovery community have really embraced me – and that’s beautiful.
What is your favorite book or genre? Is there a special book that made you realize you wanted to write?
I’m probably most inclined to read a self-help memoir because I am always interested to learn about other people and how they overcame things they thought they couldn’t. There is something very intimate and human about that – and that’s what I was going for with Unpacked Sparkle. So somewhere along the way, I was inspired by say Maya Angelou or Augusten Burroughs and I decided that I wanted to be as open and brave and free as they were, and I was.
I also love Toni Morrison. She doesn’t write memoirs per say but her words move me to my core.
What advice do you have for aspiring writers?
Don’t give up. If you believe in yourself and love yourself as you are, you will be successful. It all starts with you!
Is there anything else you would like to share?
Always remember this: “The very things you are the most afraid of are the very things that bring the most growth. It’s in facing those intimidating and unrelenting fears that we become who we are. The other side of fear is always a miracle. Magic isn’t created when you are comfortable, it manifests when you are not.”