After her 57-year-old mother died of Lou Gehrig’s Disease, Largo writer Patricia Lorenz decided to memorialize her in a story. “Eighty percent of writers start after a death because they need catharsis,” she says. “I didn’t want to write another ‘Dead Grandma’ story. My mother was funny, and I wanted the world to know her sense of humor.” So Lorenz wrote a short piece titled “The Baggy Yellow Shirt” and decided to submit it to Guideposts, a magazine that features inspirational stories. This decision changed her life.
Born and raised in Illinois, Lorenz graduated from Southern Illinois University with a bachelor’s degree in English. She took a job with an advertising agency and spent 16 years writing ads for radio stations. “I wrote about 40,000 radio commercials,” she says. It taught me how to say a lot in 60 seconds.” Then, in 1982, her story won the Guideposts contest. “They flew me to New York and put me up in a mansion,” she recalls. “I met Norman Vincent Peale, Sue Monk Kidd, Marjorie Holmes, and many other famous authors. They taught me how to write for Guideposts.” Lorenz became so skilled that she began selling her stories to Guideposts and other publications.
In 1992, Lorenz received a phone call from Jack Canfield, a co-founder of the Chicken Soup for the Soul series. He’d read “The Baggy Yellow Shirt” in Reader’s Digest and asked permission to use the story in his second Chicken Soup book. This began a long relationship with the series. To date, Lorenz has had more than 85 of her stories included in 60 Chicken Soup books.
Despite her professional success, Lorenz was less successful in her personal life. After two failed marriages, she found herself a single mother struggling to raise four children. “I always thought I’d have the perfect life, but it didn’t work out that way,” she explains. “I was standing in the wrong line when God gave out the husband-hunting gene.” She decided to share her joys and trials in a book she hoped would resonate with other parents raising kids without partners, and in 1996, her first full-length book, Stuff That Matters for Single Parents” hit bookstores. Since then, Lorenz has penned 14 books and more than 400 magazine and newspaper articles, essays and stories. She is also an award-winning newspaper columnist and a contributing writer for Daily Guideposts books.
Lorenz’s latest book, 57 Steps to Paradise, chronicles her search for love in middle age. She admits that it was the hardest book for her to write because “I had to unzip my soul and expose so much about my foibles.” But she believes this is what will connect with readers. “I learned early that readers don’t like perfection,” she says. “They like to read about screw-ups. When I screwed up, I knew there were millions like me. My take-away message is there’s a way to get through the junk in life.”
Lorenz has just completed what she describes as “a Catholic memoir” titled Slogging My Way to Heaven. She is also finishing a 365-day devotional, Grabbing on for Dear Life with Grit, Gusto and Grace. She hopes readers will enjoy what she calls “the humorous bent” with which she approaches otherwise serious subjects. “There’s not one person that doesn’t struggle,” she says. “As writers, we identify with human struggles. And all our struggles make us strong, more compassionate, more forgiving, more aware of our blessings, and much more interesting.”
Lorenz plans to continue following her dreams while she’s still awake, writing and doing as much traveling as possible. “I have always loved Benjamin Franklin’s quote, ‘Write things worth reading or do things worth writing.’ For me, traveling and experiencing the human condition help me find things worth writing.”
Patricia Lorenz is a sought-after professional speaker. If you or your club, church or organization would like to hire her as a speaker, contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/WriterSpeakerPainter/