Author Patricia Engel Shares Writing Process and Advice During Campus Visit

Author Patricia Engel visited Widener’s Main Campus Oct. 18 and 19 as a part of the English and creative writing department’s Distinguished Writers Series. The visit, scheduled after the recent publication of her novel and New York Times Editors’ Choice, “The Veins of the Ocean,” gave students the opportunity to question Engel about her writing process.

“Sometimes I have a sense of where the story is going, but it changes,” she said. “Once you lay down the groundwork for a story, the story starts to speak to you, and you have to give it that freedom to go where it wants to go.”

Published by Grove Press in May of 2016, “The Veins of the Ocean” details a “riveting story of a young woman’s journey away from her family’s painful past towards redemption and a freer future.”

Prior to “The Veins of the Ocean,” Engel published two other novels with Grove Press, including “Vida” in 2010 and “It’s Not Love, It’s Just Paris” in 2013. She also has work appearing in the New York Times, The Atlantic, A Public Space, Boston Review and Harvard Review, among other publications.

“Each book is its own animal,” Engel said. “As I’m beginning a project, I really have to listen to it and feel what its needs are. Very often I have to change as a writer and as a person to meet those needs.”

Engel has already started thinking about her next novel focusing on a much broader and bigger family saga, though it is still considered to be in the very early stages. It will include similar themes to her previous novels, highlighting an interest in family and immigration.

“In order for me to actually finish writing a book, I have to be obsessed with it,” Engel said. “When it comes down to books that I think people love, that stay with them, that you remember years after years, it’s not a sentence, it’s not an image, it’s not a character, it’s the feeling that the book left you with. That’s what I aim for.”

Words of Wisdom for Widener’s Young Authors

During her Widener visit, Engel individually met with several students for tutorials and visited creative writing and English classes on campus.

“Having someone from a totally different background come in and look at my story offers new perspective I wouldn’t otherwise have,” said Kelsey Styles, a senior communication studies and creative writing major who met one-on-one with Engel.

The author concluded her Widener visit with a public reading of an excerpt from “The Veins of the Ocean.” She also answered questions. Speaking to aspiring writers, Engel emphasized, “Read absolutely everything you can get your hands on. Seek out books nobody is telling you to read. Feed your creative spirit in different ways. You have to be diligent about showing up for your writing. There’s a lot to be said for daydreaming, but it’s worthless if you don’t get it on a page.”


Written by Carlie Sisco

Content and image originally published by “What’s Up @ Widener.”

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