readers finish a collection of essays titled "This
Is the Story of a Happy Marriage," they will likely
experience a newfound appreciation for Ann Patchett’s
last essay, "The Mercies," is a heartfelt
salute to women who chose a simple but demanding path by
joining the Sisters of Mercy, a Catholic order of nuns
founded in Ireland. One nun, Sister Nena, taught
Patchett the skills that led to her success.
can’t put too fine a point on the fact that she taught
me how to read and write" and much more, Patchett
said in a telephone interview.
the author who gave us "State of Wonder,"
"Bel Canto" and "The Magician’s
Assistant" stood Sister Nena, a determined lady in
a blue polyester dress armed with flash cards and plenty
of encouragement. Teacher and student lost touch for
years, but Sister Nena called one day to ask for help.
realized all of the other things she taught me about
modesty and humility and happiness not being how much
money you have."
writing, Patchett is busy promoting Parnassus Books, an
independent shop that she opened 2 1/2 years ago in
store runs a first editions club, and members receive a
book signed by its author each month. Patchett’s
success has helped her land signed editions that any
reader would covet. She interviewed J.K. Rowling at
Lincoln Center in New York City.
had the only signed first edition of J.K. Rowling’s
‘The Casual Vacancy,’?" the writer said, adding
that the bookstore sold 300 copies of that novel when it
came out in 2012.
are the only 300 in the country," she said, a deep
note of pride in her voice.
Books is doing well.
have no idea about the down side. I’m sure if I worked
there, I would feel differently. It’s just a blast. I
love the people who work there so much. … It’s like
being able to walk into a sitcom and laughing and having
smart, witty repartee and then, poof, you’re
gone," the author said.
Books is not your jumbled affair with dusty piles of old
volumes threatening to avalanche at any moment.
sort of like Danish modern — clean and open and crisp.
It’s like the ikebana bookstore," Patchett said.
store recently received a grant from author James
Patterson, who has been giving out grants to independent
bookstores all over the country.
said, ‘I don’t care if you fix the floors. I don’t
care if you have a party.’ His gift is the publicity.
What the money buys him is the bully pulpit to go on the
news and the ‘Today’ show and say, ‘We have to
start supporting independent bookstores.’?" she
said. "God bless Jim Patterson."
50, Patchett was 21 when she was accepted at the Iowa
Writers’ Workshop. During the past 30 years, the
number of schools that offer master’s degrees in
creative writing has grown exponentially.
needs an MFA in order to write. … What an MFA gives
you is time to write and a community of people to bounce
your work off of. The chance to see other people fail
speeds up the working process by about 200
advice to aspiring writers is to wait until they obtain
funding before enrolling.
should not go into debt for these things. If you don’t
get funding, apply next year. There is a free ride out
there. Wait and get it," she said.
still follows opera. She loved the elegant white outfit
and earrings her good friend, Renee Fleming, wore to
sing the national anthem at the Super Bowl.
know she can sing the national anthem. That’s like
shower singing for Renee. What do you wear that is
appropriate? Not a sweatshirt and jeans. I was so blown
away by her outfit. She looked stunning. She fulfilled
all the expectations. She just took it to such a higher
Patchett heard from Fleming, who was in Abu Dhabi,
catching up on her email during a stay in the capital of
the United Arab Emirates.
else would you be doing in Abu Dhabi? — shopping?