Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Anne Lamott talks about Small Victories: Spotting Improbable Moments of Grace, failing, dating, and what the heck is she going to write next?

What can I possibly say about Anne Lamott? I carried Bird by Bird around when I was writing, I clutched Operating Instructions to me when I was pregnant, and I've read every word she's written. But it's not just her writing that's so wonderful. She's a treasured friend and you've never met anyone as warm and hilariously funny as Annie--or as generous. She interviewed me in California and though I knew the huge crowd was really there for her, she made me feel the people were there to hear me. And when I interviewed her at a bookstore, she made sure to mention my book and me, though the evening was all about her.  She's the author of the novels Hard Laughter, All New People, Blue Shoe , Rosie, Joe Jones, Crooked Little Heart and Imperfect Birds, as well as the nonfiction books, Operating Instructions, Bird by Bird, Help Thanks Wow, Traveling Mercies, Stitches, Grace Eventually, and Some Assembly Required.

As always, I'm delighted to host her here. Thank you, Annie!

Your writing is always so grounded in faith, and even when you write about the moments that derail you, you always find your center.  Do you have hints for the rest of us how to do that?

Well, it's like the title Grace, Eventually. I know a sense of center will come, but it often takes awhile. I flail around, usually trying to self-will resolution, b/c its so uncomfortable to be lost or in limbo. My center always turns out to be in my quiet heartcave, not in my crazy roiled-up mind.

And was there ever a moment when you could not find your center? A moment that was a harder than all the others?

Lots of times when I couldn't find my center. About a third of the stories in SV are about that--about how it takes the passage of time, whether an hour, a few, a week...some rest, lots of breath. There's no magic wand (which I hate.). Our breath can take us to our center, so we have to get quiet and settled and friendly w/ourselves to hook into that.

So much of this amazing book is about the value of community, how friends, and family, and even strangers can show us grace. How can we make ourselves more open to being vulnerable enough to accept their help?

I always say that the willingness comes from the pain. I become available to grace when I have finally driven myself totally crazy with forcing things, posturing, trying to "fix" people and messy situations. Surrender leads us to clearer vision.

For me, what you do with spirituality is to bring it back home, i.e. you make it relevant to everyday without being preachy or sounding like a sermon. Who lead you to this path?

I'm afraid I DO sound preachy, so thank you. One thing that helped was the dozens of books I've read over the years where the writer told me an amazing story, without driving home a message or point. I tell other writers to write what they'd love to come upon, and I hate beijg preached at. Whatever works in my stories is because of multiple drafts, and the willingness to do what Jessica Mitford said, to kill your little darlings--ie your favorite little moments that you just think make you seem so erudite or enlightened. I do a draft where I take out the boring parts, and then the lies. One of my best friends is a fierce but loving editor. And my Riverhead editor, Jake Morrissey, is perfect for me.

"Getting found always means being lost for a while." I love this sensibility, but while we are lost, are there signposts you should or could be looking for, or do you just stay in the moment and wait to see what happens?

This was the line that PW mentioned as being a cliche, in an otherwise great review! So thank you again. When we are lost, we can ask for help--from God, a friend, a partner, a child, Life. We can remember to breathe. We can practice radical self-care, and get ourselves a glass of water. We can look UP! We can pay attention. We can try things, and fail--fall on our butts, get up, try something else. Like Beckett said, "Fail again. Fail better."

I think your piece about your year of dating was one of the funniest pieces on the planet. As a yenta-ish sort of person who likes to see everyone coupled, I have to ask, would you do it again?

The problem with being semi-well-known is that a lot of men were hoping I would be a good muse or editor. That we would talk about writing a lot of the time, and I would read and edit their work. They'd send me links to thinks they had written. Very discouraging! I still log on now and then but have not made contact for months. And don't think I will again for awhile.

What's obsessing you now and why?

Caroline, you know that around one's pub date, we ALL get cuckoo in the cabesa (well, not you, of course....) I'm obsessing about whether the NYT will review me, and how I would ever survive if Michiko K or Janet Maslin trashed me, and what foreign city I would have to move to (Monaco? Ulan Bator?), and if I'll get one of those tiny tiny spaces in People, and if I'll get the flu or Ebola on one of the airplanes....

What question didn't I ask that I should have?

"Annie, what are you working on now?"

"I don't have a clue! Honest to God. It's the strangest feeling....and I love it. I don't have ANYTHING due. For the first time in years, I have no idea what I'll do next. I accidentally published 4 books in 4 years, with five book tours (hard cover and paperback for Some Assembly) so maybe it is time for a brief sabbatical.

I totally love Facebook and Twitter, so I'll writing my little pieces and posts, but as for a next book? All I know is that, More will be revealed; and to always always carry a pen.
Love you and thanks so much


flaimster said...

Love that last line "more shall be revealed and always carry a pen"!

Six Decades said...

Lovely. 2 of my favorites sharing a space. I'm hoping SV might be something that will help my niece who cannot find happy moments. said...

Wow I personally love being reminded if I'm lost, I can be found!

Cheryl Lewis said...

I hope the title of your next book will simply be "More." I'm quite certain many of us feel there will never be enough of you.

pjhobie said...

I will date you, Anne, and I promise we don't have to talk about writing. I certainly won't send you a link to anything I've written ;)

The Torg said...

Great to read this. Anne's words have been a great help to me and my students for a long time. Thanks for sharing!

joansilva52 said...

Ann's humor is so on point. No matter where or what she is talking about, hard to believe she is not on stage.