Though I hope I would have eventually found my way to her, I can’t deny that the reason I read Ann Pancake’s collection Given Ground and bought her novel Strange as This Weather Has Been (but haven’t read it yet…o, to have time!) is that I had to read it for class. And she was coming to campus to read. And she was visiting our class so we could pick her brain.
Even though I have frequently slid by on the bare minimum, especially when it comes to keeping up with weekly reading assignments, I didn’t want to be the asshole with nothing to say to an established author. I read the whole collection, even the stories we weren’t assigned. So take that!
She’s a gifted, incredible writer. And, like me, she writes place-based fiction, hers centering on West Virginia, where she grew up. The collection, Given Ground, is exceptional. Gorgeous and lyrical, heart-breaking and laborious. A lot of the stories I read more than once, just to spend more time with them.
She had great things to say to our class – even though she’s one of those frustrating writers that’s just born good and doesn’t really think about craft – and she was just really friendly, really personable. No ego, no talking down to us. Happy to be there. Happy to tell us what she went through. Happy to offer advice and wisdom.
Her reading was from the novel I haven’t read, but it was just as lovely as Given Ground. A different kind of lovely, but lovely. And she has this great accent, sort of talks fast and slow at the same time, with a little bit of a twang. It’s the perfect reading voice for the things she writes about.
I even got her to sign my book and she wrote a nice little note. Maybe it’s the note she writes everyone, but I’m still over the moon about it. I’m an Ann Pancake fangirl, for sure. (Anyone with “Pancake” for a name must be awesome, amiright?)