10 Reasons to Love Ann Patchett
2nd Dec 2013
1. She is an inspiration to all writers stuck in a horrible day job
Ann Patchett worked for the Seventeen magazine for nine years and of her time there, she said “Seventeen was good for me because they were so cruel… the worst organization to work for, but in terms of nonfiction, I lost all my ego. I can write for any magazine now, in any voice. I can do it in two hours, I could do it in my sleep, it’s like writing a grocery list. I give them a lot of credit for making me the workhorse I am today.”
2. She has created an entire gamut of fictional heroes suited to every taste
A soprano, a pharmaceutical company researcher, a mayor, a jazz musician, and a magician’s assistant are just some of the characters that she has created. Her characters all have different professions, emotions, quirks, dreams, and nightmares. There is no repetition here.
3. She puts her money where her mouth is
Apart from giving people the gift of stories, Patchett has set up her own bookstore in her hometown of Nashville. When she saw that it no longer had an independent bookstore, she went ahead, got together with her friend and opened up Parnassus Books;
“In Greek mythology, Mount Parnassus was the home of literature, learning, and music. We will be Nashville’s Parnassus by providing a refuge for Nashvillians of all ages who share in the love of the written word.”
4. She is not afraid to speak (or write) her mind
And her opinions are intelligent and fearless. Here she is railing against the Pulitzer Prize for choosing three, instead of one, finalists in 2012. At For Books’ Sake we’re used to kicking back against judging panels but none of us are published writers. Patchett isn’t afraid to bite the hand that proverbially feeds and we applaud her.
5. She is, just like us, scared of packing
She describes her ‘hard won knowledge’ about dresses being “not too short, because I will be standing on stages while other people are sitting down, or too low, because I will be sitting at a signing table while everyone else is standing up.” And anyone who’s spent the last few years constantly moving (hello to the entire FBS editorial team) will know that packing is serious business.
She is a writer that has honed her craft, not plunging into it carelessly, but toiling meticulously until she carved that niche for herself.6. She’s unique
Patchett’s style of writing is largely unique as she spends a lot of time building up of her characters from their past. Halfway through the book, the protagonist’s journey becomes the reader’s as he/she is led through the storyline in the characters shoes. Not only is that very hard to achieve, it is very difficult to sustain through the plots and subplots of the story. Patchett achieves it with grace and finesse, every time.
7. She said this:
In her (now hugely) famous commencement speech at her alma mater, Patchett opened with
“If all fairy tales begin ‘Once upon a time,’ then all graduation speeches begin ‘When I was sitting where you are now.’ We may not always say it, at least not in those exact words, but it’s what graduation speakers are thinking. We look out at the sea of you and think, isn’t there some mistake? I should still be sitting there. I was that young fifteen minutes ago, I was that beautiful and lost.”
From being a graduate to a winner of some of the most prestigious literary awards of our time, from being ‘that beautiful and lost’ to making it to the Times 100 list of the most influential people in the world, it can’t have been easy but Patchett’s managed it.
8. Her grit and determination
“I was always going to be a writer. I’ve known this for as long as I’ve known anything”. Ann Patchett has degrees from Sarah Lawrence and the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, Guggenheim fellowships and Yaddo residencies. She is a writer that has honed her craft, not plunging into it carelessly, but toiling meticulously until she carved that niche for herself.
9. She helped carve a niche for her mother too
Jeanne Ray,Patchett’s mum, has been a nurse in their hometown, ever since Ann was little. And while, she has always wanted to write, she didn’t find her story until she was sixty! And then came Julie and Romeo, her first novel. And she has written two more since. Having spent her life watching her daughter grow up and learn to write well, she too was inspired. Of Patchett she says,
“I owe my daughter, Ann, everything about my writing. My whole family stood around me and cheered me on, but it was Ann who got me there. She makes me proud every day, not only because of her personal success and talent, but because she is one of the nicest human beings I have ever met.”
[Ed note: Awwwwww!]
10. She keeps it simple
Ann Patchett loves her book shop, her life, her writing, and her Nashville; she doesn’t watch TV, use Facebook, or tweet. In a contemporary culture, awash with technology, where every individual is constantly bombarded with opinions of social networks, maybe we all need a bit of a rest, to kick back in a book shop and to write some stories.