A. Manette Ansay 

A. Manettee Ansay's first novel, Vinegar Hill, was published in 1994, followed by a story collection, Read This and Tell Me What it Says in 1995. She has since published four more novels: Sister (1996); River Angel (1998); Midnight Champagne (1999), a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award; and her latest novel, Blue Water (2006).  Ansay is also the author of a memoir, Limbo.  She's been awarded a Pushcart Prize, a Friends of American Writers Prize, and two Great Lakes Book Awards, among others. Vinegar Hill was chosen by Oprah Winfrey as her November 1999 Book Club Selection. Ansay’s latest novel, Good Things I Wish You, is just out in paperback from HarperPerennial. It was performed at the Wisconsin Conservatory of Music in July of 2010.

Website: www.amanetteansay.com

Life Philosophy:  The harder I work, the luckier I get.

Teaching statement:

When I first began writing, I dreamed of finding a mentor, a writer whose work I admired, someone who’d pluck me from the masses to advise me, challenge me, inspire me in a way that was individualized, unique, particular to me.  I had many fine teachers, first as an undergraduate and, later on, in the graduate program where I completed my first novel.  But I kept believing that, eventually, I’d find The One whose opinion I’d trust without reservation; someone with whom, at the same time, I could argue, wrestle, contradict; someone from whom I’d continue to learn as I grew from the student of writing I was into the working writer I wanted to be.


Photo by Preston Merchant

Eventually, I realized that such mentors had been guiding me all along, and that these mentors were not individual writers at all, but their books.  From the time I first started writing fiction—a New Year’s resolution I made at the age of 23—I’d been mentored by the works of Flannery O’Connor and  Toni Morrison.  Later would come Jane Austen, Edith Wharton, Virginia Woolf.  There was a year when I read and re-read Marilynne Robinson; there was another year in which I immersed myself in Raymond Carver, Mary Robison, Denis Johnson, Alice Munroe.  I remember a summer spent with War and Peace that resulted in a novel I had not planned to write.  I remember hand-copying passages of Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude simply to hold the beauty of his language in my hand.

What I received from my flesh-and-blood teachers over the years was not the mentorship I expected.  It was something far more valuable:  the ability read and think as a writer; to identify the unifying sleight-of-hand that others so lightly call craft; to take a book apart down to its structural bones, see how it’s made, then make it my own. The best advice I ever got as a writer was to “write the sort of story you yourself most want to read.”  At the University of Miami, I encourage my students to do just that.