From today's Writer's Almanac:
It's the birthday of novelist Ann Patchett (books by this author), born in Los Angeles (1963). She grew up Catholic and went to an all-girls Catholic school in Nashville, where she still lives. She said: "Catholicism really trained me for fiction writing. I think it has to be the greatest religion for a fiction writer because it is so much a tradition of story and parable. I spent my whole childhood on my knees in front of pieces of carved marble, and in my heart I was filling that stone with enormous life. That gets at the essence of storytelling."
She went to Sarah Lawrence College, where one of her teachers was the short-story writer Grace Paley. She said that Paley would cancel classes and take the students to protests, and that she discouraged any kind of pretension in their writing. Patchett said: "She taught me that writing must not be compartmentalized. You don't step out of the stream of your life to do your work. Work was the life, and who you were as a mother, teacher, friend, citizen, activist, and artist was all the same person. People like to ask me if writing can be taught, and I say yes. I can teach you how to write a better sentence, how to write dialogue, maybe even how to construct a plot. But I can't teach you how to have something to say.
Patchett's books include Bel Canto (2001), Truth and Beauty (2004), Run (2007), and most recently, State of Wonder (2011).
I discovered Ann Patchett in the late 1990's when the cover of The Magician's Assistant caught my eye. After reading that novel, I returned to the bookstore and purchased her earlier works. Since then, I have read all her fiction plus Truth and Beauty. The Magician's Assistant (which I have been meaning to reread for years) is still my favorite, with State of Wonder close behind. Bel Canto, probably her most famous work, is my least favorite.
Have you read Ann Patchett?