The Goddess of Love

How former schoolteacher Ella Patterson turned her earthy sex guide into an underground best seller

It's the girl's version of lockerroom talk--delivered by the sassiest cheerleader on campus.

And it comes with a guarantee: "Through intelligence and observation, manipulation and concentration, you, too, can become a sensuous woman to the man of your choice."

In 1992, Ella Patterson was an overworked DISD schoolteacher who, in addition to coaching women's sports at Kimball High School and teaching physical education classes, was a wife and mother of three children.

She spent the remaining scraps of her free time working on a master's degree, attending night classes on female psychology, and touring AIDS clinics as part of an intensive workshop on sex education. Patterson planned to use her coursework for recertification so she could teach health classes at Oak Cliff's Kimball High.

"A lot of the students didn't have even a basic knowledge of hygiene," she says. "I felt there was a need for more education."

But a serious car accident in March 1993, would forever shift her focus. Patterson found herself bedridden with painful hip, back, and neck injuries, her normally frenetic life drawn to a standstill.

Unable to go back to work, Patterson began slipping into depression. She complained to her doctor.

"The doctor asked me, 'what do you like to do?' I said, 'well, I like to write.' And she said 'Well, write.'"

Patterson followed her doctor's orders.
Hobbling to the public library each day, she began researching her book. Patterson had gotten the notion to write a guide on sexuality after several conversations with beauty-salon patrons.

"I'd be sitting in nail shops and beauty shops and the conversation would always turn to men and sex," she says. "Some type of way, the conversation always geared in that direction. I sat down and said, 'I am going to write about this stuff we talk about all the time.'"

Patterson, who takes great care with her appearance, had logged many hours in beauty shops. She started interviewing patrons at the parlors she frequented, inviting them to share details of their most intimate adventures. The ladies were delightfully forthcoming. "Everybody was trying to top each other's story," Patterson recalls, laughing. "I just added my own touch to it."

She used the upstairs guest room of her DeSoto home to organize her handwritten notes, slowly pulling together chapters. When she was able to move about more easily, she began hanging out at Infomart, the Apparel Mart, and movie theaters, where, clipboard and pencil in hand, she'd interview women who passed her way.

Patterson queried women of all cultures and nationalities, managing to elude security guards for several months. "I interviewed Pakistanis, Chinese, blacks, whites, every type of nationality I could come across," she says. "I don't know what it is about women, but once they find out you're on the same wavelength, they tend to open up."

If a security guard approached to ask her to leave, she told them a fib--that she was invited "by people."

After months of research, Patterson typed up her first four chapters (including "Becoming a Real Woman" and "Getting the Man You Want"), bound them at Office Depot, and tested them at movie houses on Saturday nights, handing out copies to women and men she encountered in long lines at the ticket booths.

"I saw these two white guys, handed them a copy and said, 'Hi, I'm Ella Patterson, and if you don't like it you can throw it away, but if you have comments give me a call.'

"One of the guys said, 'Hey, I should give this to my wife.' People gave me such a good response."

Patterson eventually quit her job at Kimball to work on the book full-time, adjusting her budget to accommodate the loss of income and extra expense. "The hair got bad," she admits.

Toward the end of her work, she hired Dallas artist Mark Strader to illustrate the book. "I told him I wanted the pictures to be wholesome, but erotic," Patterson says. "I didn't want body parts, but I wanted to get the idea across."

Strader provided her with whimsical, somewhat crude line drawings of women in a variety of environments: lounging on a sofa with a martini in hand, pinching a man's butt, and lolling in bed.

Patterson wrapped up work on her book in the fall of 1993, but lacked a title. An avid churchgoer who prays daily, Patterson says she sought divine help for the title.

It came in a dream, she says.
"I ran out the next day to get it copyrighted," Patterson recalls. "Here I had just thought of it, and I was scared someone would steal it."

Patterson pitched Will the Real Women...Please Stand Up! to several publishers, but got no takers. So the determined author headed for the Southern Methodist University law library and researched ways to publish the book herself.

She began marketing her work before she'd even found a printer, sending press releases to local bookstores.

Orders came in immediately--forcing Patterson to snatch the book from her editor, Lucille Enix, an SMU instructor, before the woman was finished proofreading. "I can't wait for you to finish editing it," Patterson told Enix.

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