Mr Ordinary Goes to Jail

How did Mr Ordinary Goes To Jail come about?

Wil Patterson talks about how Mr Ordinary Goes To Jail came about

So much happened in my first three days of prison that I knew I would need to write it down to make sense of it.  So I started a diary. My diaries have always been written like a letter; I find that if I’m talking to someone it helps me get my thoughts out on paper. I found the process especially helpful in prison and I came home with pages and pages of handwritten (no computers in jail) notebooks of events and encounters from my time inside. They were written to someone, but it was never my plan to publish them …

Almost two years after leaving prison I was listening to the excellent podcast Australian True Crime. Hosted by Meshel Laurie and Emily Webb. I had been thinking for a while about how I could use my story to perhaps help others. I sent Emily two sections of my diary and an email, letting her know I thought I had a story to tell and would love to be a guest. They invited me on and the podcast was great. Emily and Meshel are terrific interviewers and it felt cathartic to be able to turn some of my experiences into a story that interested others.

A week or so after the podcast Emily, who is a true crime writer in her own right, called me. ‘There is a publisher who wants to talk to you,’ she said. ‘She’s legit and I think she wants to talk to you about writing a book.’ I was flabbergasted.

‘A book?’ I asked Emily. ‘Really?’

‘Oh Wil, as soon as we heard your story we knew it would be a book. It’s quite a process, have fun!’

I called Sam from Finch Publishing and since then it’s been kind of like being on the coolest rollercoaster ever. I love rollercoasters.

I love the anticipation of a rollercoaster, climbing and climbing toward something new, then firing down into the ride, wind rushing past your ears, whipping your hair, you’re just holding on, and if you’re lucky, taking time to enjoy the experience.

That’s how I feel about the process of writing my book. The people involved at Finch are genuine, honest and I’ve always felt like they are trying to make me the best I can be. My fiancé is brilliant. She’s Latin and gives her brutal honest opinion, followed by incredibly insightful and valuable advice. I recall giving her the chapter called ‘Anonymity and Apology’ to read.

‘It’s garbage,’ she told me as I was walking out the door to go to a meeting. ‘I don’t know why you’ve written it, you’re wasting my time.’

A few hours later when I called her to let her know I was on the way home, she said,

‘What I meant to say earlier was this. The chapter is about loss. It’s about showing you’re sorry and losing people you love. But I don’t care about the people you’ve written about. There are no stakes. If you want to show me how it felt, write something that hurts.’ I rewrote the whole chapter with her feedback in mind, and it is so much better.

I know how lucky I am. I know how many people fight to have their book looked at, let alone get approached and then have one spring fully formed into the world less than a year later. I have experienced fortunate event after fortunate event. It’s an immersive rollercoaster; I think about writing, I remember stories, sometimes I even dream about the book, and I try to remember to enjoy the experience, and be grateful for the opportunity.

The Dalai Lama said, ‘Some mistakes have greater consequences than others – but you don’t have to let one mistake be the thing that defines you.’

I think, as is so often the case with the Dalai Lama, he expresses simply and beautifully how I feel about the life experiences my book is based on.

Mr Ordinary Goes to Jail is about a mistake I made, and it was a big one. It is also a book about redemption, grace, courage and life getting back to ordinary.

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