You’ve read Anna Quindlen’s novels and newspaper pieces. You’ve seen Meryl Streep, Renée Zellweger and William Hurt bring her work to life on the big screen in “One True Thing.”
Now comes the opportunity for you to meet Anna Quindlen as the featured author for the Peters Township Library Foundation’s third annual Novel November program.
The event is scheduled for 7 p.m. Nov. 7 in the Peters Township High School auditorium. Doors open for general admission at 6:15, and a book signing follows the program.
A bestselling author and Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, Quindlen has explored aspects of American culture from work/life balance and education to health care, philanthropy and social justice.
Her latest New York Times bestseller, “Nanaville: Adventures in Grandparenting,” celebrates the love and joy and many lessons learned from being a grandmother. Her newest bestselling novel, “Alternate Side,” is a provocative look at what it means to be a mother, wife and woman at a moment of reckoning.
Let’s learn more about her.
Q: Why did you become a journalist, and how did you land a job as a reporter for the New York Times in your early 20s?
A: It’s simple. I wanted to be a novelist, but I like to eat and buy shoes. So I went into reporting to pay the rent until I could get a book deal, and then I loved being a reporter so much that I just stayed and stayed.
I got to the Times for another simple reason: Six brave women brought a class action suit against the paper. I was a 24-year-old tabloid reporter, and there’s no way they would have looked twice at me if not for the women’s suit. Those women changed my life and changed the paper, both for the better.
I’ve never been prouder to be a reporter than I am today, when I think my former colleagues are doing the best work journos have done in decades. They often feel to me like all that stands between America and the abyss.
Q: Two decades later, what prompted you to leave journalism and become a full-time novelist?
A: Actually, I always wanted to be a novelist. I’ve always been a constant reader, mesmerized by books, and I remember as a kid just looking around the library at Dickens and the Brontes and Agatha Christie and Harper Lee and thinking, yes, just like them, please.
When I was 11, I tried to figure out where my books would be shelved. Between Proust and Ayn Rand. But it’s hard to know how to make that happen. There are no novelist firms, where you can rise from a young associate to a full partner. I was lucky. I made a reputation at the newspaper of record, and that led Random House to take me on.
Q: What does the author of “How Reading Changed My Life” say to continue to promote the value of reading, from Homer to “Heidi,” in this era of grammatically challenged texts and Tweets?
A: False equivalency, as those of us who follow political arguments now like to say. The people who today write grammatically challenged texts and tweets are the same folks who, a hundred years ago, stood around the drugstore dispensing crackerbarrel wisdom that wasn’t wise. They were never readers.
I keep hearing that no one reads anymore, which makes me wonder about the literally thousands of members of book clubs I’ve met in my travels. And for those of us who actually like real books, there’s good news: Data shows that millennial readers are actually more likely to read in physical form than the boomers are.
Maybe it’s because they haven’t yet started to travel on business as we do. Maybe it’s nostalgia for the past. Maybe they are sick of their entire existence on screen. Whatever: I think we will continue to have books.
But stories are more important than books, and it doesn’t matter what form stories take. “Bleak House” is just as “Bleak House” on my iPad.
Q: Given the subject matter, of a mother’s illness and death, was writing “One True Thing” difficult, and how did it play out for you on the big screen?
A: Every novel I’ve written has been difficult, because writing is difficult. Emotionally, “Every Last One” was probably more difficult than “One True Thing,” and the latter was not as challenging as people think because, given the differences between Ellen Gulden and her parents and my own family, it was not terribly autobiographical. I do know the terrain of cancer care, but that was backdrop, not theme.
And to explode all commonly held beliefs about novelists and film, I loved the movie. Writers are big babies about film adaptations. No one forces your hand; they just give you a check. You needn’t take the check, but if you do, filmmakers will do what they will. I was lucky: Everyone involved said they loved the book, and they paid homage to that in the film without adhering to the source material slavishly, which is a blueprint for a bad movie most of the time.
Q: What prompted you to write your latest, “Nanaville”?
A: I have many serious and erudite answers to this question. I did some reporting and discovered that, because of longer life expectancy, there are more grandparents today than at any time in history. I looked at data that showed they were providing more child care than previous generations had done, and approaching the grandparent role differently.
But those are just the things I say to sound like a serious person. I had a grandson, and it was the greatest thing ever, and I wanted to write about it. That’s the truth.
For ticket information, visit https://www.showclix.com/event/anna-quindlen/.