Professor Panning’s Brockport Inspiration
By Matthew Clark
Canalside Chronicles staff
For writer and professor Anne Panning, Brockport is not only a source of inspiration, but also a home.
Panning is originally from Arlington, Minnesota, but has been a resident of Brockport for 20 years. She considers Brockport her home after residing here the longest. Panning has also lived in Idaho, Washington, Ohio, Hawaii, Vietnam and the Philippines.
Panning set several of her stories in the places she has lived. Her stories take place in Hawaii, Minnesota and even Brockport.
“Usually I say that Minnesota is my fictional home, but I think that really shifted to feeling familiar here,” said Panning. Her story “Freeze” takes place in Brockport and even mentions the Erie Canal. According to her website, she can see the Erie canal from her front porch.
“My kids have grown up watching the lift bridge go up and down all these years, it’s really nice. I bike along the canal, I run along the canal, I love the image of boats coming through every summer from all over the place. I love living by water like that,” Panning said.
Most notably, Panning is the author of three books. She wrote a novel titled “Butter” and has published two collections of short fiction called “The Price of Eggs” and the award winning “Super America,” which was a New York Times Editor’s Pick.
Panning is also a non-fiction writer, as she has written several essays and memoirs. The “Best American Essays” series has cited four of her essays as notable.
“At the fabric market, a two-tone silk in mauve and gray shimmers, then billows when I free it from the bolt. Delicate cranes fly along its fold. An old woman studies me studying the silk; I can’t let go,” Panning wrote in her essay titled “Vietnam: Four Ways.” This work was published on creativenonfiction.org.
Although Panning is a prolific writer, she does not write every single day.
“You know, I wish I could say I was an everyday writer, that I get up at five, but that is not happening for me. I really go in spurts when I’m working on a book, which I’m doing right now. I’ve trained myself, like today I have a really busy teaching day, to just sit down for half an hour before I have to go to school, and I took some notes about the next scene I’m going to write in this memoir I’m working on,” said Panning.
Panning’s advice to aspiring writers is to “read like a fiend.” She believes that people reading just for pleasure is something that does not happen much nowadays.
She also advised that people who enjoy writing should attend the Brockport Writers Forum and participate in the visiting writer’s question and answer session. Panning is the co-director of the Brockport Writers Forum, which is a program that invites authors to come the Brockport campus and share their wisdom with students.
“Do things out of your box. This week I’m saying do one thing different everyday. I rode my bike to school today in a dress, sweating. Just make sure you’re seeing the world fresh. Don’t get too routinized. Just make sure you’re saying yes to new experiences. You regret things you don’t do more than you regret things you do, and it’ll give you a great batch of things to work with,” said Panning.
Anne Panning and her stories are proof that inspiration can come from anywhere, even your front yard.