It’s #RIAuthor Month – Meet Pat Mitchell

Pat Mitchell photo

The Girl, with her fiance, in 1946

A Girl from the Hill is a tribute to my mother, who grew up on Federal Hill during the Great Depression. The collection of essays depicts her life of as one of laughter and love, as well as its share of suffering and sorrow.

Providence’s Federal Hill neighborhood was, and still is, Rhode Island’s “Little Italy.” Thousands of Italian immigrants, including my grandparents, came to Rhode Island at the turn of the 20th century to begin new, better lives. They struggled to assimilate into American culture, and my mother’s parents, Giovanni and Maria, tried their best to become John and Mary. My mom, their youngest of eight children, was full of joy, and enjoyed much of her childhood despite her mother’s struggle with diabetes.

I began the book merely as a simple exercise, to see if I could actually write a book. Once we got going, once I started listening to my mother’s story, I gained an appreciation for her journey, her losses, and how the absence of her mother left a gaping hole in her young heart that never truly mended.

A Girl from the Hill is a story for mothers and daughters alike, as it speaks of the bonds between us as women, both loving and strained by the inevitable growing pains that daughters naturally experience. I remember how sure I was that I knew so much more than my mother. Now, as a mother myself, I see how my own daughter can run circles around me and my self-righteous confidence, which makes me appreciate my own mother more each day. She was right about so much, and my impatience to grow up and away has now become a yearning to return to my mother and her roots in order to understand critical life lessons.

In addition to my mother’s memories and my realizations, A Girl from the Hill also contains some stories that her mother “made up” and my mother further embellished in order to entertain their children at bedtime, as well as Italian lullabies that have been passed down for generations. And did I mention recipes? Some of our favorite family cookie recipes are also included. My mother’s delicious Christmas cookie trays were legendary, and she whipped up dozens of trays each year both for family and for my dad’s business associates.

Today my mother, 93, still loves to laugh, and says it helps her stay sane as she and my 96-year-old father care for each other. She continues to inspire me with her strength as she stubbornly insists on doing all of her own housework and cooking. To me she is still the little girl with the olive skin and big brown eyes that loved to make her family laugh.

Pat Mitchell author Pat Mitchell received a grade-school punishment and had to write a ten-page essay about appropriate classroom behavior. She enjoyed writing so much that she misbehaved more, hoping to get more writing assignments. A Girl from the Hill is her first book.

GIVEAWAY! The author is offering a copy of her book to one lucky winner. Just comment on this blog post to be eligible. One person will be chosen at random and the author will contact you directly. Contest ends one week from publication of this blog post. US residents only, please.

Meet over 100 local authors on Saturday, December 2! The Fifth Annual RI Authors ExpoThe Fifth Annual RI Authors Expo


Nov 9 – Meet RI Author Patricia Mitchell

Mitchel Pat

When did I first consider myself a writer? I never really thought about it. Stories play over in a continuous loop in my head today, and for as long as I can remember. (I’m hoping to go digital soon, but who has time?). Decades of meticulous construction have resulted in what is now my slanted but seemingly parallel universe that places me as star, heroine, beauty, clown, and the most popular victim simultaneously. But identifying the exact moment when pencil met paper and sparks flickered stumped me at first. Then I remembered.

My fifth grade teacher, Mr. Z, punished me once by assigning me a ten page essay about appropriate classroom behavior. Such punishments were aptly named “Sides,” as in 10 Sides, 20 Sides, and for some poor souls, 50 and 60 Sides or more. Each Side represented one page of white-lined composition paper. One could get a Sides essay assignment, or be asked to repeat a phrase, like “I will raise my hand when I want to speak in class” for a given number of sides. I dreaded my first 10-sided essay – what could I possibly come up with to fill so many pages?

Luckily, like many ten-year-olds, I prided myself in expressing sarcasm at every opportunity, and decided Mr. Z needed a good dose for daring to punish me, a stellar, albeit obnoxiously loud and awkward student. I soon discovered as I babbled along I had plenty to say. At the same time I found the assignment most enjoyable. Fun, even.

Fifth grade stumbled on, and I found myself misbehaving in hopes of receiving more essay assignments. Mr. Z did not disappoint. He enjoyed it as well, assigning me essays when he could have easily given me a sentence to repeat forever. “Ten sides, Patricia,” became a lyrical phrase rivaling those of the DeFranco Family, the Bay City Rollers, and Shaun Cassidy, feeding my twisted little fifth grade mind and heart with purpose.

Mr. Z began to write his own comments in reply, and handed essays back for me to read. Sometimes he would simply write “Ha!” next to a particular sentence, egging me on to write more. The punishment morphed into amusing banter and helped me survive fifth grade, the most awkward stage of my life to date (other than menopause); full of peer pressure, hormones and meaningless work.

After nearly a lifetime, I’ve gained the confidence to write for more than just me, or a teacher with an assignment due. It’s with much gratitude I now attribute this special time of learning to conquer what often fails me in the world outside my head: reaching out, connecting, and giving the stories inside me that continue to pile up a chance for release.

Mr. Z, thanks a thousand times over. Or at least 10 sides worth.

Patricia Mitchell recently published A Girl from the Hill: My Mother’s Journey from Italian Girl to American Woman, and is currently working on a teen novel. You can read more of her essays on her website here.