The Next Chapter

Patricia Pearson on passing the time at her first writing job

The author of Opening Heaven's Door recalls her first paying job as a writer: scripting letters from the Ontario minister of labour to his constituents.
Patricia Pearson, author of Opening Heaven's Door, explains how she passed the time during her first paying job as a writer. (Russell Monk/Penguin Random House Canada)

As the author of two novels and four nonfiction books including her latest, Opening Heaven's Door, journalist Patricia Pearson has several writing credits under her belt. But when she was 23, her first paying job as a writer saw her drafting letters from Ontario's minister of labour. Read on to find out how she managed to make the hours pass. 

I really didn't have enough letters from the minister of labour to write on a given day, so I kept walking around to the bureaucrats and saying, "Can I help you with something? Is there some research that you want?" But it turns out that in a bureaucracy, everything is fiercely contested and territorial, and no one would give me anything to do. Eventually, I photocopied an entire novel and pretended it was something I was highlighting with a Sharpie, and then just read it at my desk. 

Patricia Pearson's comments have been edited and condensed.