Wednesday, 18 April 2012


Ann Patchett Writer Ann Patchett recently opened an independent bookstore, Parnassus Books, in Nashville, Tennessee (go Ann!). Patchett is, apparently, a  great supporter of emerging writers (good for her) and she had this to say in an interview on the One Story blog:

"Show kindness whenever possible. Show it to the people in front of you, the people coming up behind you, and the people with whom you are running neck and neck. It will vastly improve the quality of your own life, the lives of others, and the state of the world.

And while you’re at it, buy your books at independent bookstores and tell your friends to do the same because if we don’t take the lead, no one else will."

I agree with her and have been living by this 'helping' motto for ages. However I do meet a lot of writers who want to take but don't want to give. They bug me. But deep down, I realise, they are insecure and not much I do or say is going to change that. I have had my helpers who have given me work and opportunities and to whom I am really grateful, among them Patrick Cotter of the Munster Literature Centre and Gearóid O'Brien of Athone Library. So two men have helped me a lot but I make a personal point of helping other women writers as much as possible.

Ann Patchett's own mentor was Allan Gurganus and she said of him: "Allan Gurganus taught me how to write, which was extremely helpful. I tried to follow his example of hard work, though never came close to matching his sense of elegance and style. He was and is a very generous soul. I didn’t match him there either but he taught me a great deal. My favorite piece of Gurganus advice was that I must always steer the ship of my own career and not assume anyone else was looking after things as I would. If my name was on the book then I must agree with every aspect of it. This has been hugely important to me."

Steer the ship of your own career. It's so true. With Mother America out in a few weeks I have been busily setting up PR stuff in tandem with New Island. It makes for busy times (and no writing) but it's already starting to pay off. The busier I get with it all, the more offers I get (including out-of-the-blue ones). There is some sort of magic in the universe that rewards us (eventually). If we help others, we get helped back. Something like that anyway!


Kar said...

Lovely blog post Nu and I really like Ann’s outlook, she seems like a great person.

It’s a pity there are not more like her in the writing world. In my own writing group we share a lot and encourage each other, but in other groups and walks of life I have come across so many writers who take all and give nothing. It’s bad karma. Look at your good karma, the busier your getting the more help is being offered...ah the old saying comes to mind....what goes around comes around!

I can’t wait for ‘Mother America’

Órfhlaith Foyle said...

'If my name was on the book then I must agree with every aspect of it.'
I like that statement.
Hi Nuala, I very much agree with your post and with what Ann Patchett says. The (writing)world is cut-throat enough without having to slash your way through it!

Vanessa Gebbie said...

Oh just brilliant! So so true. And can't wait for Mother America. x

Rachel Fenton said...

Yay for kindness!

What can I do for any of you?

You've been a MASSIVE help/guide/inspiration to me (and I'm sure zillions of others) Nu - THANK YOU XXX


Ah Rachel - you have been great: hosting, reviewing, general loveliness. I hope you get it all back in spades,you deserve to :)

davidmohan said...

That's a nice sentiment. I agree about the independent bookstores - they're wonderful to browse in but you need to buy too or they won't survive. Good look with your book.

Words A Day said...

I agree 100 % on the giving, and cant fathom people who dont...there's room enough in the world for everyones book...but I wont get started here...
Steer the ship of your own career - thats a great motto. And great post, delighted to find out about Ann. And good luck to Mother America!

Doireann said...

Another lovely blog post. As someone who is just starting out with this whole writing lark, I have a special appreciation for those who extend kindness. It is amazing how much a few words of encouragement can mean. I hope some day that I will be able to extend the same kindness to others that has been so generously offered to me.
Best of luck with the launch of Mother America, I am really looking forward to nabbing a copy!

shaunag said...

Great post, Nuala. Interesting lady, Ann. I was in Nashville a few years ago and hope to go back again - if I do I will certainly make a bee-line for her bookstore. Some lovely points about kindness, too.

eimearryan said...

Ann seems like a cool lady. I liked her article about the lack of Pulitzer Prize this year:

eimearryan said...

Your generosity towards young writers is immense, Nu! x

Ann seems like a cool lady. I liked her article about the lack of Pulitzer Prize this year: 'It’s fine to lose to someone, and galling to lose to no one.'