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New York Times features English professor's debut novel

| Judy Berthiaume

Molly Patterson had a little something extra to be thankful for this Thanksgiving.

The New York Times Book Review featured the UW-Eau Claire assistant professor of English’s debut novel, "Rebellion," online and in print during the holiday weekend.

"I was very excited and happy to have my novel reviewed in the NYTBR because it's the most well-known venue for reviews and it has such a wide audience, which means that more potential readers learn about my book," says Patterson, who teaches creative writing at UW-Eau Claire. "'Rebellion' came out in August so I had given up hope of seeing it appear in that newspaper's pages, but earlier this month, my publicist let me know that the book would get coverage in the NYTBR, after all.

"He didn't know what kind, however — they're very secretive about these things."

A cross-generational story, Patterson's novel tells the story of four women — separated by time and distance — who are forever changed by the disappearance of a missionary during the Boxer Rebellion, the violent 1899 uprising of Chinese nationalists against foreign hegemony.

The digital version of The New York Times review of "Rebellion" came online the day before Thanksgiving, with the print version of the review published over the weekend.

"Rebellion" already has received numerous positive reviews regionally and nationally, with reviewers calling it "beautiful," "addictive" and "remarkable," while describing Patterson as a "talent to watch" and a "natural storyteller."

After years of writing, Patterson is thrilled her debut novel is getting so much attention.

"I worked long and hard on 'Rebellion' — nearly seven years all together — and now that it's out in the world and exists on its own, my greatest wish is that it gets a lot of readers," Patterson says. "As a writer, I live in the world of my story so deeply, and I just want other people to join me there.

"The irony, of course, is that once a book is published, I'm all done working on it — it's separate from me — so I'm no longer in that world. I'm in the world of the next thing I'm working on."

While she does not incorporate the book itself within her class curriculum, her students are learning a great deal about the writing and publishing process from the author because of her novel.

"I talk with my students about the struggles I went through writing it, the decisions I made in terms of construction and plot, and I try to be transparent about the publishing process as well," Patterson says. "The greatest myth about writing is that it gets easier the longer you do it. I think it's helpful for students to see that writers at all stages of their career operate with a combination of dedication, work and blind faith that you're creating something that's worth it."

Blugolds and others in the Chippewa Valley can learn more about "Rebellion" and its author during a December event.

Molly Patterson will be at The Local Store in downtown Eau Claire for a reading and book signing from 3-4 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 16.

Photo caption: Molly Patterson’s debut novel, "Rebellion," is gaining national attention, including from The New York Times Book Review.