Back in the early- to mid-1970s, trying to get into journalism school at the University of Tennessee was a daunting task. In the wake of the Watergate scandal and subsequent resignation of President Richard Nixon, seems everyone wanted to be the next Woodward and Bernstein and write their own “All the President’s Men.”
While Fountain City author Patricia Hudson was accepted, once in, she found actually getting into journalism classes a next-to-impossible task.
“Back then, UT was on the quarters system. I was on a waiting list, and every quarter I’d get bumped again,” she said. “I’m a very practical kind of person; I plan everything. I couldn’t keep waiting.”
So she decided to major in history. Long-range plans included a doctorate in teaching. But she started working in the library and pursuing her master’s in library science.
“By my early 20s, I was a graduate assistant and on faculty at UT as a reference librarian,” Hudson said. “During that year, I started freelance writing.”
Just a few steps from the security of a tenured position, she “took a leap, much to my parents’ dismay. I decided to give freelance writing a chance,” she said. “Don’t get me wrong, I love academia, I love the rhythm of it. I just really enjoyed writing and wanted to try to pursue it.”
Hudson grew up in Karns and graduated from Karns High School. She has lived in Fountain City for 30 years. One daughter graduated from Central, but the other went to West because German was offered there.
Her bread-and-butter for years was writing for the magazine Americana, for which she was also contributing editor. She covered the Southeast and Mid-Atlantic regions. After the demise of Americana, her next anchor became Southern Living, primarily for its “Tennessee Living” section.
“By the time I was writing for them, I had two young children, so it was easier with travel,” Hudson said. “I could do a story and maybe only be gone for one night, if at all.”
Her love of history and skills as a librarian are coming together this fall with the publication of “Traces,” a work of historical fiction based on the women in the life of legendary frontiersman Daniel Boone. Hudson said the book has been in the works, off and on, for at least 25 years though “it sat in a drawer for big chunks of that time.”
While in her heart of hearts, Hudson would love to write a straight biography of Boone’s wife, Rebecca, she said “the information simply isn’t there, as is too often the case when researching women in the past. The historical record is much more complete about men.”
Simply put, the only way to write the story was as a work of fiction, with logical extrapolation and embellishment from what is known. One particular plot point turns on the long-existing rumor that one of Rebecca’s children was actually fathered by Boone’s brother.
“Traces” is due to be published by the University Press of Kentucky on Nov. 1. Hudson is going over pages for a final proof – “with a reference-librarian background, it’s hard to ever feel you’ve done enough research.” Her editor is renowned author Silas House, award-winning writer of “Southernmost” and “A Parchment of Leaves.”
“Whenever I open a history book, I hear the women whispering between the pages,” Hudson said. “I’m trying to tell the untold stories between the lines.”