Novelist Ann Patchett recalled the transformation of her personal style of writing throughout the years as part of the Joynes Reading Room Literary Series on Thursday night.
English professor Elizabeth McCracken introduced the author and reflected on the vibrancy of the writing in her novels.
“Her fiction proves that, in a novel of ideas, the ideas don’t have to squeeze out the characters or the plots,” McCracken said. “She’s one of those writers who is just good at everything.”
Patchett spoke about the fervent writing style of her youth and compared it to her experiences with romance during her 20s.
“When I was in love, there was not a single thing I could do about it,” Patchett said. “It was thrilling and wind-milling and out of control, and that was also the way that I wrote back then. I wrote stories that would come over me like a fever.”
Patchett said that after she began writing professionally, she learned that diligence and self-accountability helped to produce more consistent work.
“I got so much work done by making that deal with myself [to write every day],” Patchett said. “Hours spent working equals work produced. I really realize now that so much of how I learn is by sitting down and committing.”
Plan II senior Lillie Noe said she was surprised by Patchett’s lively demeanor and witty attitude.
“She has an interesting ability of being able to spend time alone — like a writer has to — but also being able to word things on the fly and be personable with people,” Noe said.
Noe said she will be able to use Patchett’s advice in her academic life.
“I’m editing a friend of mine’s novel … so a lot of her advice about structure and narrative is relevant on a personal level,” Noe said.
In addition to discussing the mechanics of her writing, Patchett offered insight into the nature of creativity.
“Creativity is a match and being a novelist is spending your life in a warm house,” Patchett said. “The fire in that match will not keep you warm. What keeps you warm is splitting wood and constantly doing the work to feed the tiny flame on the match and keeping that alive.”