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In the Spotlight: Kay Patterson

Kay has the heart of a writer. It is in her very soul. I have seen several novelists, journalists, playwrights, and the like “play” in screenwriting but never take it seriously. Thus they never achieved the heights they expected to. Not Kay. She takes this craft seriously and it has paid off. She set her sights on the prize and put her skills to work, which has resulted in her achieving quite a reputation in a short time. Kay proves that with the right focus, drive, and skill you can make your dreams happen. Which is why I am honored to introduce you to her.

This is Kay Patterson…


I’m a ‘Burb girl - born and raised in a suburb of Pittsburgh, PA. I studied Oceanography in college, but my affinity for numbers and math caused me to gravitate towards accounting as a profession.

Growing up, I devoured novels. I wrote fiction since middle school. I’ve published over a hundred short stories, flash fiction and novellas in various print and online magazines, and in anthologies on 3 continents.

I was the creator and senior editor for AlienSkin Magazine for 8 years. We were a paying market, publishing science fiction, fantasy, and horror fiction of writers from across the globe. When I closed the magazine, I stumbled into screenwriting, read dozens of downloaded scripts and how-to books to learn the craft of writing in that medium.

Screenwriting is challenging and exciting. Scripts that don’t sell can be used as a backbone outline for novels so I have no apprehension of maintaining my passion for screenwriting.

Q: How did you stumble upon screenwriting?

Rob Shelsky, a fellow fiction writer, suggested it. He was proofreading and critiquing the first 3 chapters and the outline of a novel I was working on. He emailed me saying, “This would make a killer movie.”

The story was my first foray into writing thrillers. The kind of story I like to read - one I would certainly love to see on the big screen.


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Q: Who/what inspired you into taking this path?

My love of a good story. I enjoy a fair mix of genres – but there are just some movies I can binge watch that can still make me laugh, cry, and sit on the edge of my seat, even though I’ve already seen the movie dozens of times. I’m talking: The Last Samurai, I, Robot, The Ugly Truth, Zathura, Passengers, The Fifth Element, etc. They’re well crafted, full of character nuances, and visually pleasing – not movies I could ever have on as “background noise” while I edit or write.

Q: Who was the first person who believed in you?

My daughter, Stacey. She has enjoyed my stories since she was 8 years old. She was intrigued that I could create so many stories, about so many different things, with characters she found interesting. She’s 29 now; she’s my first go-to beta reader and 24/7 proof reader. When I switched to screenwriting, she read my first thriller in 2 hours saying “OMG mom, this has to be made into a movie!”

My husband, Bob, comes in at a close 2nd as my cheerleader/coach. He never reads fiction, but he’s my brainstorming and travel buddy. I love them both 8.

Q: When was the moment you knew you wanted to be a screenwriter?

When people within the industry thought I was a pro writer after unknowingly reading my first screenplay. They were shocked when told I wasn’t, and even more stunned when I told them I was a self-taught screenwriter.

Q: How do you define success for yourself?

Aside from getting paid for my writing, success for me is achieving that balance in life where you’re no longer a starving artist, working to pay bills while struggling to find time to write and care for family.

I’m close to achieving that. I get paid for most of my writing, and I now have quality write time.

Q: Give us a typical day in your life:

First thing I do EVERY morning is check email on my phone and check my base and clan status on Clash of Clans. The designers of that app own me! But it’s not a time hog like most apps.

Early Bird/Late Bird – I’m a mix. When I’m hot into story writing, I’ll bounce out of bed at 3 or 4am to write. When I’m brainstorming, toying with scene cards, or sketching characters, I’ll work well into the wee hours of the night..

I get my daily puppy time. We have 8 little dogs (a bichon, bichue, and 6 shih tzus - one the size of a Chihuahua.) I settle onto the sofa and sketch out scenes or do story research while pups cuddle me. They love to lay Right on mom’s notebook as I’m writing.

Fav: Breakfast – low-cal cinibun – nuked & Mega Mug of COFFEE!!!!

Fav: Lunch – sushi. Shrimp tempura roll, miso soup and/or an avocado salad.

Dinner – On writing days – Stouffers family meals. Keeps Hubby happy and gets me back writing. Non-writing days - Seafood. Shrimp over salmon, but mainly shrimp. I also make fantastic hot sausage spaghetti.

Go to Snacks – M&M peanuts, mozzarella string cheese or Hershey kisses with almonds.

Q: How do you define a successful day?

When I check off all the Daily To-Do items on my list and crawl into bed dog tired. It’s the only time the characters and stories in my head stay quiet and let me sleep.

Q: What’s been the most important skill you've developed on your path to screenwriting?

Most important – I learned how to prioritize projects. As a writer, you always want to jump in and plug away at a cool idea that excites you, but doing this often produces more rewrite time and frustration when that ‘cool idea’ falls short on drama within the story.

I brainstorm my project ideas, jotting as many plot elements, character nuances, and dramatic scenes, as I can. Then I compare projects by data. Projects that have the most data and offer the most excitement for me as a writer and for readers to experience are the projects I focus on.

Q: What’s been the greatest challenge in your writing so far?

Finding reliable feedback. With fiction writing, critique groups are everywhere, very accessible, with professional writers as well as newbies. With screenwriting, especially here in Pittsburgh, such critique groups blatantly say “We’ve read and critique everything, except screenplays.” Even when I tell fiction writer friends, “a story is a story, forget the format,” they crinkle their nose and deflect to poo-pooing the request. Which means I have to pay for coverage, sometimes too early in a draft, or I host pizza parties with friends willing to do a lame, way-too-long table read that MUST include beer.

Q: What’s been the greatest reward in the choices you've made?

Seeing my hard work, since I made the switch to screenwriting, start to pay off when my very first screenplay climbed its way into the finals of well-known contests, and I started to get calls from screenwriting pros who wanted to talk about my stories.

Q: What do you want to learn from a community of your peers?

How they tackle projects. How they breech the boulder the industry keeps against the door they’re trying to squeeze their foot through. How they network. Are they in L. A. or do they live elsewhere and write?

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