• Beaufort Lifestyle Magazine
Features

Everyone Has a Pat Story The Making of the Our Prince of Scribes: Writers Remember Pat Conroy

story by Maura Connelly
How does a dedicated flock of wordsmiths pay tribute to a beloved friend, an impassioned teacher, a world-renowned author, and a mentor who guided them? They put words to the page and share stories about him. Pat Conroy (1945–2016) was many things to many people—husband, father, brother, instigator, truth-teller— but he remained foremost a teacher and mentor. He taught people to savor the beauty and power of language, to champion those who could not always advocate for themselves, and to make art that empowers and challenges.
The sixty-seven writers who lend their remembrances of Pat to Our Prince of Scribes run the gamut—from Pulitzer Prize winners Rick Bragg and Kathleen Parker to National Book Award-winning poet Nikky Finney to a pantheon of Pat’s close friends and family members, many who live and write here in Beaufort County.
The book was conceived of and nurtured by Charleston novelist and artist Nicole Seitz and Pat Conroy Literary Center executive director Jonathan Haupt. It will be published on September 18 by the University of Georgia Press (directed by another of Jonathan’s mentors, Lisa M. Bayer) with the support of the Georgia Writers Hall of Fame, which inducted Pat in 2004. Royalties from sales of Our Prince of Scribes will benefit the Conroy Center and Friends of Story River Books.
Nicole and Jonathan envisioned the book as a chorus of voices from across the full span of Pat’s writing life, from his boyhood to his final years. The collection is meticulously and poetically structured. Pat’s life and books are divided chronologically into three nautical sections: Headwaters; Flow and Floodplains; and, Tributaries and Delta. Each section centers on a different era and place in Pat’s life and charts the varied roles that he assumed. The reader sees Pat as a young man in the 1960’s and 70’s, as student and teacher, bucking the flow, going against the tide. He then ventures from his treasured South and heads first to Europe then to San Francisco, swept away by fame and loose moorings. Finally, Pat returns home again to his beloved lowcountry and embraces the anchorages that led to some of his most productive and fulfilling years and gave him the opportunity to serve as sage elder to his tribe of writers.
In her preface Nicole notes, “Pat’s was a messy fellowship of people from all walks of life.” Those myriad storytellers have collectively captured a vibrant vision of Pat, not as he saw himself, but as others came to view him. As Jonathan remarks in his introduction, “This collection is our gift to writers and readers; we honor Pat by sharing his stories and our own—our truths as we know them to be. ‘Tell me a story,’ Pat would say. These are the stories writers tell of Pat Conroy, our friend, our teacher, our Prince of Scribes.”
Anthology. In its Greek origins, the word meant a collection of “flowers”, or short writings by various authors. Our Prince of Scribes brings together many literary flowers, not in mourning of a fallen friend, but in celebration of him and to blossom anew so that others might also find inspiration in these recollections. In his memoir My Losing Season, Pat wrote of one of his own mentors, “The great teachers of the world fill you up with hope and shower you with a thousand reasons to embrace all aspects of life.” Pat was that kind of great teacher too, in the classroom and beyond. Sixty-seven of the writers he inspired remember him fondly and powerfully in this anthology, a treasure trove for fans of exceptional teachers and storytellers.
Featuring essays by:
Dottie Ashley
William A. Balk Jr.
Rick Bragg
Sonny Brewer
Sandra Brown
Jonathan Carroll
Ryder Carroll
Mark Childress
Katherine Clark
John Connor Cleveland
Cassandra King Conroy
Melissa Conroy
Tim Conroy
Debbi Covington
Nathalie Dupree
Walter Edgar
Stephanie Austin Edwards
Margaret Evans
Nikky Finney
Connie May Fowler
Jonathan Galassi
Judy Goldman
Scott Graber
Cliff Graubart
Cynthia Graubart
Anthony Grooms
Jonathan Haupt
Alexia Jones Helsley
Patti Callahan Henry
Mary Hood
Josephine Humphreys
Janis Ian
Terry Kay
John Lane
David Lauderdale
Ellen Malphrus
Andy Marlette
Bren McClain
Teresa Miller
Wendell Minor
Mary Alice Monroe
Michael Morris
Kathy L. Murphy
Michael O’Keefe
Steve Oney
Kathleen Parker
Mark Powell
Ron Rash
Sallie Ann Robinson
Lawrence S. Rowland
Jonathan Sanchez
Alex Sanders
Valerie Sayers
Sean Scapellato
Bernie Schein
Maggie Schein
Nicole Seitz
Lynn Seldon
Catherine Seltzer
Anne Rivers Siddons
George Singleton
Barbra Streisand
William Walsh
John Warley
Ashley Warlick
Teresa K. Weaver
Marjory Wentworth
Conroy –My Losing Season.  Pat nurtured and coaxed children and adults into new lands, always pushing the familiar boundaries, handing them new passports, while always reminding them to never forget home. He started as a humble, impassioned teacher in a small Daufuskie classroom with 18 children in 1969 and went on to become a best-selling author, a mythical literary figure, replete with scars and tragic flaws. Throughout his journey, his venture to many ports of call, he never forgot what he revered as his true calling: teacher. This book is an embrace by many to one man: their Prince of Scribes.
SIDEBAR: Featuring the editors and a dozen of the local contributing writers, a book signing reception is planned for Our Prince of Scribes for the evening of Tuesday, September 18, the official publication date. Details will be posted later this summer on the Pat Conroy Literary Center’s website and Facebook feed: www.patconroyliterarycenter.org and www.facebook.com/patconroyliterarycenter
Previous ArticleNext Article