Toni McConnel, whose literary persona is 'Patricia' McConnel, has had a distinguished career. By her sixteenth birthday she had already ridden freights and hitchhiked across the country and had accomplished the first of several incarcerations. Before she was out of her teens she had been fired from two waitress jobs for general inefficiency, one job as a B-girl for the same reason, and two jobs for refusing to sleep with the boss.
she joined the WAC (Women's Army Corps), but was discharged in less
than a year for general inadaptability. After a series of short-lived
jobs in machine shops and cocktail bars (she had learned to quit before
she was fired), she turned to a life of crime, which seemed to offer
high wages for people like herself, that is, with no particular skills.
After failing at that as well, eventually ending up in a federal prison,
she tried marriage, the worst disaster of all. When you've failed at
everything you ever tried, what's left? To become a writer, of course.
a writer, McConnel continued the pattern of failure for many, many years,
but eventually found an agent who recognized the value of her work.
In 1986 her first book was published: The Woman's Work-At-Home Handbook:
Income and Independence With A Computer (Bantam Books). While working
on that book McConnel won her first creative writing fellowship from
the National Endowment for the Arts (1983) for work that eventually
became her book of autobiographical fiction, Sing
Soft, Sing Loud, about women on the street and in prison, published
originally in hardcover by Atheneum and now available in paperback from
second NEA fellowship came in 1988. Her short story "The
Aviarian" was chosen as one of the Ten Best PEN Short
Stories of 1984. In 1985 she was invited to give a reading at the Library
of Congress. She has won several other literary grants and awards, but,
with few exceptions, literary magazines still do not publish her work.
two published books in lieu of academic credentials (in fact, she never
finished high school), McConnel taught creative writing for a year at
the University of Nevada at Las Vegas, but she failed to adapt successfully
to the academic environment. She now visits jails and prisons to give
readings and teach writing workshops, and, having accepted once and
for all that she is unemployable, makes her living at home as an independent
contractor doing technical writing and editing. She teaches occasional
writing workshops, and is at work on a novel, The Quest of Elizabeth
Halfpenny (pronounced hay-penny), which is an attempt to write a
heroic quest myth that has relevance to the lives of 21st century women.
McConnel lives in northern Arizona with two cats, Samantha and Mitzi, and two old trucks, Serafina and Suzie, at least one of which is not running at any given time. McConnel attempts to repair them herself but, of course, usually fails.
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