"I can trace my relationship with the short story back to my earliest days as a reader, but my true connection came when I was twelve years old, the year I read Eudora Welty's A Visit of Charity. There had been other stories before that ... but A Visit of Charity ... seemed infinitely more grown-up to me. It didn't reward the reader with a plot twist at the end or present a clear moral imperative. Even more startling was the fact that this author, whose photograph and biographical paragraph preceded the text, had only one date listed after her name: 1909, and then a dash, and then nothing. Again and again I returned to that paragraph to look at the long, gentle face of the author. She was both alive and in a textbook, a coupling I had never seen before. As sure as I was by the age of twelve that I wanted to be a writer, I was not at all certain that it was the sort of thing the living did. The short-fiction market was cornered by dead people, and this Eudora Welty was, as far as I could tell, the first one to have bucked the trend. I decided at the start of seventh grade to cast my lot with the living, and chose Eudora Welty as my favourite writer. Four years later, when I was sixteen, Miss Welty came to Vanderbilt to give a reading. I got there early and sat in the front row, holding my big, hardback Collected Short Stories of Eudora Welty, which my mother had bought me for my birthday that year. It was the first reading I had ever been to, and when it was over I had her sign my book. I held it open to the wrong page, and she looked at me, and said, 'No, no, dear. You always want to sign on the title page.' And she took the book from me and did it right. For the sheer force of its heart-stopping, life-changing wonder, I will put this experience up against anyone who ever saw the Beatles."
Ann Patchett, from her new non-fiction collection This Is the Story of a Happy Marriage.