A novel that celebrates the indestructibility of the human spirit...The only literary novel I know of about how women survive the street and prison, written with gut-wrenching realism by a woman who has been there. The humor takes you by surprise... This book is destined to become a classic ... brilliantly written. --Elena Bradshaw in The Village Advocate
The center of these stories is the survivor's spirit and the ways in which women prisoners nourish that spirit in themselves and in each other...Keeping alive in spirit is the ultimate challenge-and victory-of life in prison. McConnel is a terrific writer. She handles voice and character and drama with great craft; she slips the reader inside her characters, where we ought to be; she destroys the safety and distance sociology offers. --Martha Boethel in New Directions for Women
None of McConnel's prisoners are stereotypes. They are women with an awesome determination not to be destroyed. They are real people, and they will change the way you think about felons. --Allan C. Kimball in The Houston Post
About the Author
Patricia (Toni) McConnel has had a distinguished career: by her sixteenth birthday she had already ridden freights and hitchhiked across the country and had accomplished the first of several incarcerations. Before she was out of her teens she had been fired from two waitress jobs for general inefficiency, one job as a B-girl for the same reason, and two jobs for refusing to sleep with the boss. Desperate, she joined the WAC (Women's Army Corps), but was discharged in less than a year for general inadaptability. After a series of short-lived jobs in machine shops and cocktail bars (she had learned to quit before she was fired), she turned to a life of crime, which seemed to offer high wages for people like herself, that is, with no particular skills. After failing at that as well, eventually ending up in prison, she tried marriage, the worst disaster of all. When you've failed at everything you ever tried, what's left? To become a writer, of course. As a writer, McConnel continued the pattern of failure for many, many years, but eventually found an agent who saw some value in her work. In 1986 her first book was published: The Woman's Work-At-Home Handbook: Income and Independence With A Computer (Bantam Books). While working on that book McConnel won her first creative writing fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts (1983) for work that eventually became Sing Soft, Sing Loud. A second NEA fellowship came in 1988. Her short story "The Aviarian" was chosen as one of the Ten Best PEN Short Stories of 1984. In 1985 she was invited to give a reading at the Library of Congress. Her short stories appear in eight anthologies. Although McConnel never finished high school, she taught creative writing for a year at the University of Nevada at Las Vegas, but she failed to adapt successfully to the academic environment. She now visits jails and prisons to give readings and teach writing workshops, and, having accepted once and for all that she is unemployable, makes her living at home as an independent contractor doing technical writing and editing. She teaches occasional writing workshops, and is at work on a novel, The Quest of Elizabeth Halfpenny (pronounced hay-penny), which is an attempt to write a heroic quest myth that has relevance to the lives of 21st century women. McConnel lives in northern Arizona with two cats, Samantha and Mitzi, and two old trucks, Serafina and Suzie, at least one of which is not running at any given time. McConnel attempts to repair them herself but, of course, usually fails.