Slow and steady wins the race for American novelist Ann Patchett, who painstakingly plots and plans her fictional masterpieces, which flow so effortlessly on the printed page.
“I am much more of a tortoise than a hare,” says the New York Times bestselling author, who will visit Tulsa Dec. 5 and 6 to accept the Tulsa Library Trust’s 2014 Peggy V. Helmerich Distinguished Author Award. “I like to work out my stories in my head for a very long time – sometimes for months and months – before I actually sit down to write. If it weren’t for my nonfiction, which comes together more easily, no one would know I was alive!”[pullquote]“It’s very important for me to write about things that interest me and to set certain challenges for myself especially when writing a novel,” says Patchett. “If a story isn’t challenging enough, I won’t finish it.”[/pullquote]
Hailed as one of the most interesting and unconventional writers of her generation, Patchett has dazzled readers for more than two decades with her award-winning novels, including The Patron Saint of Liars, Taft, The Magician’s Assistant, Bel Canto, Run and State of Wonder. Just as intriguing are her three nonfiction titles: Truth & Beauty, a memoir about her friendship with writer Lucy Grealy; What Now? an expansion of her graduation address at Sarah Lawrence College; and, most recently, This Is the Story of a Happy Marriage, a collection of essays examining the theme of commitment.
“It’s very important for me to write about things that interest me and to set certain challenges for myself especially when writing a novel,” says Patchett. “If a story isn’t challenging enough, I won’t finish it.”
As the co-owner of Parnassus Books, an independent bookstore in Nashville, Tenn., Patchett devotes a great deal of time to reading the works of others. At the time of this interview, she had just finished reading Rick Bragg’s biography of Jerry Lee Lewis. Since opening in 2011, Parnassus has flourished, and Patchett has become a spokeswoman for independent booksellers.
“Maybe it’s working because I’m an author, or maybe it’s working because Karen (Hayes, the co-owner) toils away like life depends on this bookstore … or maybe we just got lucky. But this luck makes me believe that changing the course of the corporate world is possible,” she says. “[Large websites and online bookstores don’t] get to make all the decisions; the people can make them by choosing how and where they spend their money. If what a bookstore offers matters to you, then shop at a bookstore. If you feel that the experience of reading is valuable, then read a book. This is how we change the world: We grab hold of it. We change ourselves.”
Peggy V. Helmerich Distinguished Author Series
Honoring Ann Patchett
Award Presentation at Black-tie Dinner
Friday, Dec. 5, at 7 p.m.
Librarium, 1110 S. Denver Ave., Tulsa
Call 918.549.7366 to purchase tickets.
Free Public Presentation
Saturday, Dec. 6, at 10:30 a.m.
Hardesty Regional Library, 8316 E. 93rd St., Tulsa
Visit www.helmerichaward.org for related events and more information.