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Just One Thing To Do This Week: Seek Inspiration

on December 7, 2017 - 3:17pm

By MARY BETH MAASSEN
Los Alamos

I enjoy writing, but I love reading even more. I was in Nashville on Small Business Saturday and made a point to stop by the independent bookstore co-owned by one of my favorite authors, Ann Patchett.

I opened the door to the busy shop, and Ann was standing right there, helping a patron find a book. I knew she co-owned the shop, but I never thought for minute she would be there working.

“Oh my god,” I whisper to my husband, “there is Ann Patchett!”

“Is that someone from Los Alamos?” He asked.

“Not hardly,” I say, as I take off to follow her around the bookstore. She is helping one customer after another and none of them seem to realize she is an award-winning, best-selling author. They also don’t seem to realize I am stalking her, which is a good thing.

Ann Patchett is a classically-trained and remarkably successful writer. Her book Bel Canto, is one of my favorites. She is a graduate of Sarah Lawrence and the Iowa Writers Workshop. Her education and talent are evident in her prose and content.

I heard her say to a customer, “Here is the title you are looking for, but this my favorite work by that author.”

And I am wondering, who are her favorite authors? Why does she like that book better? And I continue to eavesdrop until she looks up at me and smiles.

“Hi!” she said sweetly. “Can I help you?”

My mouth opens and I gushed like a schoolgirl and then I just feel silly. I hand her a stack of books to sign and shetook them all. She pulled out her special pen and turned to the title page and started inscribing. She asked me for names and spellings, and chatted about reading and writing and I grabbed more books off the shelves, just so she would continue signing and continue chatting. When I realized what I am doing I feel even sillier.

She opened her book “This is a Story of a Happy Marriage”, inscribed it to me and then underlined the title of her essay on writing.

“This is everything I know about writing,” she said as she handed the book back to me.

I know she has this same conversation with aspiring writers several times every day, but shewas patient and encouraging and I appreciated it. I was a happy girl.

At the check-out, in a rush of endorphins I grabbed several “impulse” items planted near the register (well-played Ann!). In addition to the stack of books I walked out with a book bag, a few Christmas ornaments, and some greeting cards. Most importantly I walked out motivated and with a renewed commitment to the craft.

What a wonderful gift!


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