I've been driving around town these golden October days listening to the audio recording of Ann Patchett's delightful collection of essays, "This Is the Story of a Happy Marriage," just out in paperback.
In the first chapter, "The Getaway Car: A Practical Memoir about Writing and Life," she talks about switching from poetry writing to fiction writing as an undergraduate at Sarah Lawrence College. Her first fiction writing teacher was none other than North Carolina's own Allan Gurganus. Here's what she says:
Most of what I know about writing I learned from Allan, and it is a testament to my great good luck (heart-stopping, in retrospect, such dumb luck)that it was his classroom I turned up in when I first started to write stories. Bad habits are easy to acquire and excruciating to break. I came to him a blank slate, drained of all confidence I had brought with me to that first poetry class. I knew I still wanted to be a writer, but now I wasn't sure what that even meant. I needed someone to tell me how to go forward. The course that Allan set me on was one that has guided my life ever since. It was the course of hard work. But he also managed, and may God bless him forever for this, to make the work appear to be a thing of beauty.
Believe it or not, that very same Allan Gurganus, who wrote the classic, "The Oldest Living Confederate Widow Tells All," will be giving the keynote address when the North Carolina Writers Network Fall Conference convenes at the Charlotte Sheraton Nov. 21-23. You can register for the conference here: Pre-registration for NCWN’s 2014 Fall Conference closes Friday, November 14. Register now!
The nonprofit North Carolina Writers’ Network is the state’s oldest and largest literary arts services organization devoted to writers at all stages of development. For additional information, visit www.ncwriters.org.