Ann Patchett on Grabbing Galleys and Getting Drafts Done
The Author of Tom Lake Takes the Lit Hub Questionnaire
Lake Tom by Ann Patchett, is out now from Harper, so we asked the author a few questions.
What time of day do you write (and why)?
Ann Patchett: In the morning. I wake up smart and talented and energetic and go steadily downhill throughout the course of the day. The problem is this means that everything I want to do in the course of the day (write, read, exercise, see friends, cook, answer the mail) I want to do first thing. I’m useless in the evening. I’d be so engaging if people threw breakfast parties instead of dinner parties.
How do you tackle writers block?
AP: By not believing in it. If I need more time to figure something out I take more time. I’ve never understood why other professions don’t get to claim blocks. They just have a lot more time to work, they have to call a failure a failure. Writers get blocks.
Who is the person, or what is the place or practice that had the most significant impact on your writing education?
AP: Allan Gurganus, my sophomore year of college at Sarah Lawrence. Allan taught me how to work, then throw it out, then work some more. Preciousness is the death of writing, especially when you’re a beginner. At nineteen I would have happily spent a week crafting one perfect sentence. Allan didn’t let us do that, which was an enormous gift since one perfect sentence gets you nowhere.
What part of your writing routine do you think would surprise your readers?
AP: I got the treadmill desk for my fiftieth birthday (I’m fifty-nine now). I wanted one because Susan Orlean had one. Susan Orlean is always ten years ahead of the curve and I strive to emulate her. In the past I had used the treadmill to answer emails or return phone calls but I never used it to write fiction.
Starting a novel is always the worst part for me and for whatever reason I decided to give the treadmill a try. It did wonders for my concentration. I felt like I was stepping into the novel every day, and when I finished work I stepped out of it. I think that walking occupies the restless part of my brain.
How do you decide what to read next?
AP: I own a bookstore. I have galleys stacked up everywhere. I just reach out and grab one. There is no method.
Tom Lake by Ann Patchett is available via Harper.