Ann Patchett Biography


(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Ann Patchett’s novels have achieved both critical and commercial success. Patchett was born in Los Angeles and is the daughter of Frank Patchett, a police captain, and Jeanne Wilkinson Ray, a nurse. Her parents divorced when she was three. Her mother moved with her and her sister to Nashville, Tennessee, when Patchett was six. There, Patchett attended Catholic schools.

She entered Sarah Lawrence College in New York intending to be a poet, but while taking a fiction writing course with novelist Allan Gurganus, she realized that her true interest was in fiction. Her first short story, “All Little Colored Children Should Learn to Play the Harmonica,” was published in The Paris Review when she was twenty-one. She graduated from Sarah Lawrence with a B.A. in 1984. The following year she went to the University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop. In 1987, she completed her M.F.A. there.

While doing some teaching, Patchett managed for the most part to focus on her writing. She was a writer-in-residence at Allegheny College in Pennsylvania for 1988-1989 but left there when she and her husband separated after one year of marriage. They subsequently divorced. In 1989 she was a residential fellow at the Yaddo and Millay writers’ colonies. She returned to Nashville and worked as a waitress for a time. Winning the James A. Michener/Copernicus Award for a work in progress and a fellowship at the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, Massachusetts, enabled her to complete The Patron Saint of Liars. In 1992, she was a visiting assistant professor at Murray State University in Kentucky. She earned a fellowship from the Mary Ingraham Bunting Institute at Radcliffe College in 1993 and a Guggenheim Fellowship the following year. In 1997, she was a Tennessee Williams fellow in Creative Writing at the University of the South in Sewanee, Tennessee.

In addition to her novels, Patchett published short stories in Columbia, Seventeen,...

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(Survey of Novels and Novellas)

The daughter of Frank Patchett and Jeanne Wilkinson Ray, Ann Patchett was born in Los Angeles in 1963; since the age of five she has lived primarily in Nashville, Tennessee. As she documents in What Next?, after her graduation from Harpeth Hall Academy (high school), Patchett was delighted when she was accepted by Sarah Lawrence College. Almost from the beginning there, she found mentors such as Allan Gurganus and Alice Stone Ilchman. After receiving her undergraduate degree, she entered graduate school, earning her master of fine arts degree from the University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop. Lucy Grealy, her roommate there, became her lifelong friend, and their relationship is the subject of Patchett’s memoir Truth and Beauty.

Although Patchett briefly taught creative writing at a small college in Pennsylvania, she soon decided to return to Nashville and become a freelance writer; she worked as a waitress until she began winning fellowships to support her writing.

Family ties have always been very important to Patchett, who maintains close contact with all her extended family. She has encouraged the writing career of her mother, Jeanne Ray, who is also a successful novelist. After eleven years of dating, Patchett married Nashville internist Karl VanDevender.