Nashville author Ann Patchett discusses writing, bookstores, and her upcoming collection of essays – The Vanderbilt Hustler

As the author of eight novels and co-owner of a Nashville bookstore, Ann Patchett knows a thing or two about books. In “These Precious Days” she takes readers on a wild exploration of the unexpected joys and sorrows of life.

Ann Patchett’s collection of essays “These Precious Days” will soon be available in libraries. (Photo from

Ann Patchett is the author of eight novels, including critically acclaimed “Bel Canto”, “Commonwealth” and “The Dutch House”, and is co-owner Parnassus Books, an independent bookstore in Nashville. In 2012, Patchett was named one of the 100 most influential people in the world by Time Magazine. His latest collection of essays “Those precious daysWill be published on November 23, 2021.

The Hustler sat down with Patchett to discuss her approach to writing, her tips for students, and today’s must-read books.

The Hustler: You’ve written so many great essays over the years. How did you decide which essays to include in this book? Did you feel any difference in putting together this essay collection compared to the process of compiling your last essay collection, “This is a Happy Marriage Story?” “

Patchet: It was really different put it togetherThis is the story of a happy marriage “ against this book. With the last book, I had hundreds of essays to choose from. And they were mostly bad, because I wrote them on assignment for magazines like “Bridal Guide” or “Seventeen”. Everything has changed since I published this book. Now, I write essays that I want to write, on things that interest me. the intention that it is a book.

Was there a particular way to organize the trials?

Lots of crawling and hanging out. Think of stories as a deck of cards: you try to order them one way, then another. After a while it all started to make sense. The stories in this book are not chronological, but each has elements that lead you to the next story.

How to read a short collection of essays?

They must read the essay books from cover to cover, from start to finish. Don’t jump. I had thought a lot about the order of the stories and the idea that you would learn more about it as things unfold. Even the pieces that you have read before, when you re-read them in a larger context, they start to take on different meanings.

Where do you find inspiration for your essays?

The world is full of interesting things that don’t give a good try. It’s more a matter of something happening, and I’m going to start thinking “this could be a try”. For example, in “How to practice”—My friend’s father Tavia died and we cleaned his house, we looked at other houses and then I decided to clean our own house. All the while, I wasn’t thinking “this is going to be a good try”. Going through things that I had found so embarrassing – all the glasses, all the plates, all the silverware – I had only thought “this is weird, and I’m weird for wanting to do all of this.” It all started when Charlotte came over and saw the typewriter. Because the typewriter was attached to glasses and plates; the story took on a narrative structure. The funny thing is, the minute I realized what a great story this could be, I stopped cleaning. It wasn’t until I finished the essay that I saw how incredibly strange and difficult the project was. And I didn’t want to finish cleaning.

How has opening a bookstore transformed your reading and writing?

I have become a better reader, a very different type of reader. Before opening the bookstore, I read a lot of classics: Henry James, Dickens and Jane Austen; I had my favorites and I read them over and over again. Now I’m reading new books, things that are going to be out in five months. I read much more widely. I never read children’s books before, and now Kate DiCamillo, thanks to this store, is one of my best friends. Reading always helps writing. I’ve always thought that reading and writing was like walking on two legs – you repeatedly do one and then the other. Reading greatly improves your writing as you become a more balanced person.

What are the common pitfalls for aspiring writers? What advice do you have for academic writers?

I’m not a procrastinator, and it’s the most amazing gift in the world. I realized in my twenties that I would write when not writing was getting more painful than writing. When you know a paper is due, there is a little part of you that makes you miserable. You become more and more miserable as the paper continues to hang over your head. Maybe you start writing the day before the assignment date, but it has been eating away at you the whole time. So why not just go ahead and write – cut off the path of misery that precedes writing.

Be prepared to write more than one draft. Think of the review process as a crossword puzzle. Get something on paper and then take care of it. Everything is in our mind: how we work, how we approach work, whether or not we are good at work. These are just stories you tell yourself, and the worst part of all is that you get stuck. This is simply not true. If you can’t solve a math problem, you don’t think, “Well, I have a math block.” You understand that you have to work harder to understand the problem. Writing is exactly the same thing: you have to practice as you would with science or an instrument. Somehow with the writing, we’re assigning all this ridiculous magic – that it’s going to come to me, or that I haven’t had a clue yet. Forget. Sit back and remain seated and step away from your phone until you find the answer to the problem.

What books should college students read today? And what books should we all read today?

A swim in a pond in the rain”By George Saunders, such a fabulous book on Russian news.Little beautiful thingsBy Cheryl Strayed — Whether you’re feeling stuck or unhappy or under pressure, there must be some tips in this book that could help you. For a wellness book, I recommendThe Book of DelightsBy Ross Gay. Gay has made the decision to write something that delights him every day. It’s great, I read a couple of her stories every night before going to bed, and I always had sweet dreams. Read a good book on social justice, a book that tells us how other people live:SickBy Beth Macy,Forced out»By Matthieu Desmond.

Answers have been edited for clarity and length.

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