Meet Patti Ann Browne - (Part 1)
PATTI ANN BROWNE was a TV news anchor and reporter for three decades. Best known for her seventeen years with Fox News Channel, she co-hosted a morning show with Ainsley Earhardt and others for almost two years, appeared nightly on Glenn Beck’s top-rated Fox News program for its entire run, and was a regular on the late-night talk show Red Eye with Greg Gutfeld.
Also a veteran of MSNBC and News 12 Long Island, Patti Ann is a Fordham University alum and has a master’s degree from the New York Institute of Technology.
Having quit the news business in 2018, she does some voiceover work, speaking engagements, and volunteering, while enjoying life on Long Island with her husband and teenage son. She also wrote her first book, Write Your Own Story, sharing stories from her life on and off the air, and urging readers to take control of their destiny and follow their own path to happiness.
You were a TV news anchor and reporter for many years. What inspired you to quit the news business and eventually author your memoir, Write Your Own Story?
I loved most aspects of my career. But the business comes with lots of pressures and challenges, which I detail in the book. After three decades of it, I was burned out. I also wanted to spend more time with my family and volunteering.
Once I was home, I finally had the time to write a book. I started out writing it for myself, just to chronicle my experiences. But once I got going, I realized I had always wanted to be an author, and maybe this was my chance to answer the questions my friends and fans had been asking most frequently about me.
Many people are aware that my son was born very premature and they want to know more about that. Also, young people interested in careers in TV news often ask me how I got to the cable networks, and what life is like as a news anchor. Other people want to know what it’s like to be an identical twin, or how I met my husband. And there are other stories I wanted to tell that no one knew anything about before. There are definitely some surprises in my book!
Please give us a brief synopsis of Write Your Own Story.
Write Your Own Story is a witty and candid glimpse of life in cable news from a long-time anchor who walked away from the spotlight and found joy in faith, family, and life’s simple pleasures.
This upbeat memoir is full of the edgy humor Patti Ann Browne’s fans love. She takes an honest look at the highs and lows of her life, both on and off the air. She provides insights into the turbulent world of television news and weaves in advice for aspiring journalists, parents of preemies, working moms, and anyone trying to stay grounded in a world that increasingly values superficiality.
How did you come up with the title for this book?
To be honest, I don’t love my book’s title, but it works on several levels. Throughout my life I’ve often felt pushed in various directions, and I’ve found myself saying, “It’s MY life. I get to decide how far I want to go and what sacrifices I’m willing to make. I will write my own story.”
In addition, when you’re on the air, many people assume someone else is writing your stories. That is the case once you get to network level (although I still copy-edited my scripts whenever possible.) But in the earlier stages of my career, I wrote my own stories. Even as an anchor, I was writing one or two blocks of the newscasts I anchored. So the title works on that level too.
Having said that, the title has proven to be problematic. It turns out there are a lot of books called, "Write Your Own Story" and most of them are guides to memoir writing. When you search my title online, you have to scroll past lots of other books with similar titles before you get to mine. And my son is getting college brochures now, and several of them use the phrase, “Write Your Story Here” or something similar.
So in retrospect, I wish I had gone with something more original. This was just a tentative title that I came up with to send out book proposals. All along, I was thinking something more clever would come to me as I kept writing. But that inspiration never came and I ran out of time. I was surprised to discover that a book’s title “locks” very early in the publishing process—even before the manuscript is done. So I would urge writers to start thinking about their title early. I had assumed it would be one of the last things I needed to finalize. But it was actually one of the first.
How long did it take to write your memoir once you sat down and began the process? How many hours a day did you write? Can you share any quirky writing habits?
It took me just over a year to write the 15 chapters, but that includes a break described below.
I wrote the first chapter, about my son’s dramatic premature birth, in one long sitting. It just spilled out of me. I went back to the chapter over the next few weeks and tweaked it, but it seemed to almost write itself.
When I wrote that chapter, I wasn’t sure I would go on to write a whole book and try to get it published. I was just following my mom’s advice to write down my life’s most interesting adventures while I had the time and before I forgot them. At the very least, it would be a nice record for me to have, and an interesting read for my son. But people who read that first chapter were moved to tears, and urged me to turn it into a book and try to get it published.
Now that I was considering putting this book “out there in the world,” I realized I needed to take the writing process more seriously. So I took a pause from writing, and read a bunch of memoirs. Then I read a bunch of articles and books about writing a memoir. It became clear that my book needed a structure. It had to be more than just a diary, because I wasn’t writing just for myself. It had to be entertaining and organized and it needed an underlying theme.
I knew the theme would be faith. I know there are countless memoirs with a faith theme, but that is the thing that connects everything else in my life.
The outline was more challenging. My book is basically a collection of anecdotes—some funny and some poignant—from my life on and off camera. But you can’t just call them “Anecdote One” and “Anecdote Two.” I needed to add connective tissue to make one story flow into the next. Drafting the outline was an important exercise. I encourage all writers not to skip this step, as tempting as it is. Outlining forces you to focus your message and avoid redundancy and meandering. You want the book to move smoothly forward. You don’t want to jar the reader by pivoting in different directions.
This “organizational phase” of reading about writing and then coming up with a structure took about two months. Then I went back to writing. This time I gave myself a schedule. My goal was to write a chapter every 3 weeks and I pretty much stuck with it.
I had read that a writer should set aside a certain number of hours per day to write. It’s solid advice, but I have to say, that’s not the way I did it. I would go days without writing a word. And then one morning I would sit down at my computer, still in my pajamas, and write for 11 straight hours, barely getting up to go the bathroom or eat.
Once my thoughts started flowing, I had to get them down on paper before I forgot. And while my outline was a great starting point, I would realize as I wrote that there was a better order to put things in, so I would move paragraphs around and re-work the transitions.
One article suggested doing this with index cards, but I did it on the computer, copying and pasting and then undoing because it didn’t work, and then redoing when I figured out another way to make it flow.
So the 3 weeks per chapter basically went like this:
Week 1) Vomit out the words onto the page and do some preliminary editing.
Week 2) Go back and re-read it and see what doesn’t work and fix it. Move things around. Fix choppy writing. Streamline sentences. Eliminate jokes that aren’t funny or make them funnier.
Week 3) Every third week was actually about the previous chapter. I gave my chapters to my early readers as I wrote them, and they gave them back with notes 3 weeks later. It was helpful to go back and read an earlier chapter fresh, after setting it aside for a while. I’d make some tweaks and incorporate the feedback from my early readers.
Then repeat the cycle.
It’s a very individual thing. I recommend doing whatever works for you. Write your own story. Ha, see what I did there?
Do you have a special writing spot? What is in this space that helps you stay focused?
No, I just sit at my computer desk in my den, facing a wall with no windows.
Did your journalism background play a role in constructing your memoir? If so, how?
Yes, journalists are essentially writers, so I absolutely believe my years as a reporter and anchor helped me to write this book. But writing news copy to be read on the air is very different from writing a book. News scripts are made up of short sentences so the anchor/reporter can breathe and the viewer can follow the story without seeing it written down. And the stories themselves have to be brief and to the point. Writing the book, I realized I had the luxury of going into detail about events. Those details can make all the difference. It was nice to not have a producer saying, “Too long! Cut it down!”
Did you find that writing a memoir was cathartic? What lessons, if any, did you learn during the process?
Yes, I would actually recommend that everyone write a memoir! I’m not kidding. If you have the time, sitting down and reflecting on your life makes you realize things you might not otherwise recognize. In my case, there were experiences in my life that seemed negative at the time, but ultimately led to something better. So writing my memoir gave me a sense of gratitude. But this only works if you can avoid devolving into bitterness. We’ve all been screwed over now and then, so a few times during the writing process, I was tempted to air old grievances. I resisted the temptation, and found that I was much happier discarding those episodes from my book and from my mind. I realized they didn’t have to be a part of my story. I chose to put a positive spin on my past. We all have that choice and I think it’s a healthy one.
What lessons or advice do you hope your readers will take away from your story?
It’s a cliché, but the poem Footprints in the Sand says it all. There may be times when you feel that you are alone and floundering, but have faith and keep your integrity and you might find something good waiting for you at the end of a long tunnel. And you might realize that God never left you.
In the meantime, to learn more about Patti Ann or to pre-order her memoir due out April 26, 2022, visit:
For on-air photos and links to videos: www.PattiAnnBrowne.net
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