Patrick Mondaca grew up in East Hartford, Connecticut, one of five homeschooled siblings. Without television, he spent a lot of time on secondhand bicycles and in libraries wandering dimly lit stacks of books and schlepping piles of dusty old hardcovers home. He did eventually go to one year of high school before reporting to Army basic training in Alabama, his first time outside of the Tri-State area.
After serving in Baghdad with the US Army, he went to college on the GI Bill and graduated with a degree in political science. But restless in suburbia and disturbed by the conflict in Sudan, he soon left for Darfur with a humanitarian organization. There he negotiated safe passage through rebel and militia-controlled villages, responded to carjackings and thefts, and tried to avoid being robbed too many times. When he was not doing that, he shopped in the souks of Cairo, motorcycled Greek islands, and toured Paris and Normandy. Although not a traditional study abroad, he did get to meet many interesting people in many interesting places.
He later worked for the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office and was assigned to the NYPD’s Intelligence Division while earning his master’s degree in global affairs from New York University. It was probably then when he began writing, while commuting on the train from Philadelphia to New York or waiting in Amtrak lounges and hotel bars. But it was not until a near-fatal motorcycle accident in 2015 that he had some time to devote to quieter activities, like writing.
He won the Waterston Desert Writing Prize in 2018, the Monadnock Essay Collection Prize in 2020, and his writing has appeared in The Washington Post, The Globe and Mail, and others. He lives in Clinton, Connecticut where he typically spends too much time working in his yard or being walked by his dogs at Hammonasset. Hypothetically, he should be writing or studying something. More than likely, he is uprooting dandelions from his lawn or repotting last year’s patio plants.