When she was a student at the Iowa Writers Workshop, Ann Patchett said, "I wrote like I fell in love." She was passionate about writing and about those short stories she turned out. But just as a passionate romance can, ideally, turn into a durable marriage, so writing should, with time, become less emotional and yet more rewarding. "Now writing is really my job," she said at a Writers in Paradise event in St. Petersburg. "Both of these things (writing and love) get much better over time."
Patchett no longer writes short stories, but novels, including the best-selling State of Wonder. She gave up short stories, she said, because "I wasn't in a short-story amount of trouble." She was then working at a TGI Fridays and realized short stories were not going to be her ticket to the writing life she desired. "If I had an idea that good," she said, "I wouldn't blow it on a short story."
And although she is now the author of several well-received novels, Patchett said she realizes they all really tell the same story. "My story is a group of strangers who are thrown together to make a family," she said. She expects she will keep on telling that same story over and over again because it is her story, perhaps the only one she has to tell.
If that is the story she writes, perhaps it's because that's the story she most wants to read. Asked by novelist Dennis Lehane if she pictures a particular reader in her mind while she writes, she said no. "I guess my ideal reader is myself. I write the book I think is missing."