A New York Times best-selling author Jenna Blum interviewed Ann Patchett for A Mighty Blaze.
Ann Patchett’s new novel, Tom Lake is a New York Times bestseller and picked for Reese’s Book Club. I had heard of the book. Really anyone who follows contemporary fiction has heard of the novel. Thanks to Reese and the New York Times it is at Target near the gum as you check out and in airport snack shops in case your flight is delayed.
Blum and Patchett
I have followed Jenna Blum’s fruitful writing career ever since I read her amazing book, Those Who Saved Us. I admire her for so many reasons.
Ten years ago, when I self-published, Out of the Shadows and she was writing a blog regularly, she let me write about my experience with self-publishing and published my writing on her blog, sending it out to her entire list.
She and I have never met; shit we haven’t even zoomed. But she was generous that way.
Five years ago, while I was working on my query for SELF-PORTRAIT (which is still in the works of being published and I promise will be out soon), I emailed her and asked if I happened to secure a noteworthy publisher would she write an endorsement. She instantly responded with “You bet.”
Since then, I mostly follow her on social media. I respect her writing. I respect how she treats other writers; the whole reason she co-created A Mighty Blaze was to let other writers shine. I respect how she lives life according to her terms. I respect how much hiking she does and her love for her dog.
I see how hard she works at being a writer. I know she has taught classes on social media and teaches at conferences. I know she takes on editing jobs. She is always promoting her work, and her books along with other writers.
I don’t always get a chance to listen to her interviews live on A Mighty Blaze. I was at the school where I work, and I turned on her interview with Patchett while I prepared for next week’s lessons.
I have read many of Patchett’s books, well all, except one.
As a writer, she is someone I am in awe of. I respect her work. Love that she owns and is active at Parnassus Books, an Indie bookstore in Nashville, the town where I went to college.
When you see a help wanted sign while dining.
In the interview, the topic of waiting tables came up.
Anne Patchett said, “Do you have this thing when you go to a restaurant and there is a help wanted sign? There is part of my brain that is always thinking maybe I should pick up a couple of shifts, not full-time or anything.”
Jenna Blum said, “And it seems much easier than what I am actually doing, which is writing.”
Patchet disagreed. She said, “Waiting tables is so much harder than writing.
And I may be wrong here, but I felt there was a brief change in Blum’s energy as she changed the subject. What Blum said is certainly something I’d say. And it is because of this.
Ann Patchett is at the pinnacle of her career. She has achieved what all of us fiction writers want: to simply write and go on book tours. She has won the PEN/Faulkner award and has been a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize.
I have no idea, no clue as to what Patchett makes, or what Blum brings in for her novels.
When I divorced five years ago, I decided to go full force with my dream of being a full-time novelist. I am talented. I was manifesting my destiny and I was going to land a New York agent and my books were going to be published by Penguin Random House or Simon and Schuster. I would make money from selling books and teaching at conferences.
This has yet to happen. And like Blum I work my ass off posting on Instagram, writing newsletters, writing on Medium, teaching adults to get a GED, and teaching ESL. And I write. I pay for expensive editors and people to help me write the perfect query.
I question myself: am I good? Should I be teaching full-time? I have even thought I could go back to waiting tables for extra money to help my son buy his first car or pay for my daughter’s soccer cleats and uniform. I mean I have really considered this. I know the bistro where I’d apply.
Waiting tables sounds a lot easier than writing.
I think what Jenna Blum was saying wasn’t the writing, the glorious magic that comes while we work, but all the other shit most writers, and most artists have to do to write or make music, or art.
Not many writers can just write and not wait tables.
I have always thought about what other books I might have written if I could do just that, just write.
I guess it goes back to Virginia Woolf and having a room and income to write.
I am not sure if I projected onto Jenna Blum. Maybe she didn’t feel any of the things I felt at that point in the interview.
Because after all Ann Patchett too is lovely. Her work is thoughtful and full of beauty. What I was amazed at most during that interview was how she invited a new writer, Lyndsey Lynch author of Do Tell who works at Parnassus to be on A Mighty Blaze with her. Patchett almost always gave the floor to her. She certainly gave her equal billing.
For me, this was glorious. She offered this new writer a chance to be seen and read.
At the end of the interview when goodbyes and thank yous were being said, Anne Patchett told Jenna Blum, “You are good at what you do.”
Again, I wondered her meaning. Did she mean Jenna Blum was an amazing writer? Did she mean she was great at interviewing writers?
But the fact remains, Jenna Blum is great at what she does, and she does a lot from writing, to marketing, to teaching and editing, to supporting other writers.