Tag Archives: Anne Lamott

Book Review: Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott (3/5)

24 Jan

I’ve had this book for way too long. It was recommended to me by a good friend who also writes and she often quoted Lamott about writing techniques and how to get started. I asked for a copy for Christmas many years ago and promptly put it on my shelf to forget about it. Well, I’m finally reading my own darn books and found time for it. I’ll get through the rest eventually.

Cover image via Goodreads

Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life by Anne Lamott

Summary from Goodreads:

“Thirty years ago my older brother, who was ten years old at the time, was trying to get a report on birds written that he’d had three months to write. [It] was due the next day. We were out at our family cabin in Bolinas, and he was at the kitchen table close to tears, surrounded by binder paper and pencils and unopened books on birds, immobilized by the hugeness of the task ahead. Then my father sat down beside him, put his arm around my brother’s shoulder, and said. ‘Bird by bird, buddy. Just take it bird by bird.'”

With this basic instruction always in mind, Anne Lamott returns to offer us a new gift: a step-by-step guide on how to write and on how to manage the writer’s life. From “Getting Started,’ with “Short Assignments,” through “Shitty First Drafts,” “Character,” “Plot,” “Dialogue.” all the way from “False Starts” to “How Do You Know When You’re Done?” Lamott encourages, instructs, and inspires. She discusses “Writers Block,” “Writing Groups,” and “Publication.” Bracingly honest, she is also one of the funniest people alive.

If you have ever wondered what it takes to be a writer, what it means to be a writer, what the contents of your school lunches said about what your parents were really like, this book is for you. From faith, love, and grace to pain, jealousy, and fear, Lamott insists that you keep your eyes open, and then shows you how to survive. And always, from the life of the artist she turns to the art of life.

I was reassured and terrified by Lamott’s advise. She breaks it down and makes it seem so simple. She writes like there is nothing more natural than writing if you put your mind to it and make it your work. But it’s not always that easy. Writing can be a struggle and Lamott recognizes that. She talks about bad first drafts, but what about bad fourth drafts? What if you just don’t get it and never will? What then? Is there only so much writing advise a person can get? I think she conveyed some practical things in this book, but I’m still terrified of not being adequate to implement them.

Lamott talks about herself and the struggles she went through to be a writer. I think it was actually a lot harder than she let on. She mentions briefly having another job while she was writing and being a single mother. Neither of those things is easy. Lamott focused on the lessons she learned that she can teach. I think there was a lot more to her story but it wouldn’t be as translatable to other writers. She played to her audience, budding writers, and not her cohort, working single mothers. It was a smart move but it left the book feeling a little incomplete to me.

Lamott would talk about her students and their struggles and it was those nameless characters that I related to most. I struggle with writing and finding a way to tell my story that someone else wants to read.  It’s a mix of being true to your vision and appealing to others that makes writing so hard. I’m glad she talked about those struggles because she’s at a point in her life where she’s found that voice so it probably never seems as far away as it does for a new writer.

Anne Lamott
Image via Penguin Random House

I liked the first section, about getting started and reigning in an idea. I thought that advice was very easy to apply and realize in my writing goals. It helped me feel okay about having a bad piece of writing but still believing in it. It helped me see how much I may have to tear characters down, but that they don’t have to be out for the count. It spoke most to where I am in my writing process.

As I said earlier, it felt like something wasn’t there. It was as if Lamott had almost taken herself out of the book and what you got was what you’d expect from a removed teacher. I missed some personal details that I felt were left out. She shared stories about her son, but not herself. I wanted just a bit more and found myself searching for it between lines but never finding it.

Lamott has a lot of time and experience in the industry and is uniquely qualified to write this book. I’m so glad she did because, as her title says, there’s no way to go about writing but to do it, one word at a time. I write these reviews one word at a time, my story needs to be the same way.

Writer’s Takeaway: Lamott had a uniquely conversational tone that I can’t compare to anything I’ve read before. She was very formal at the same time and it was lovely to read. A tone is something that’s hard to grasp and harder to perfect and it shows that Lamott follows her own advice and writes every day. That’s something I urge to emulate.

A good book on writing, though not much about the author. Three out of Five Stars.

This book fulfills the 1980-1999 time period of the When Are You Reading? 2019 Challenge.

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on GoodreadsFacebookTwitterPinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

Related Posts:
Recommended Reading: Bird by Bird | The Daily Post
Bird by Bird wiki 
bird by bird | Ripple Effects
Reflections: Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott | Reflections in a Puddle

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WWW Wednesday, 9-January-2019

9 Jan

Welcome to WWW Wednesday! This meme was formerly hosted by MizB at A Daily Rhythm and revived here on Taking on a World of Words. Just answer the three questions below and leave a link to your post in the comments for others to look at. No blog? No problem! Just leave a comment with your responses. Please, take some time to visit the other participants and see what others are reading. So, let’s get to it!IMG_1384-0

The Three Ws are:

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?

Note: For users of Blogspot blogs, I’m unable to comment on your posts as a WordPress blogger unless you’ve enabled Name/URL comments. This is a known WordPress/Blogspot issue. Please consider enabling this to participate more fully in the community. 


Currently reading: I’m moving steadily through The Valley of Amazement by Amy Tan and I’m on the third disc now. That doesn’t feel that great when I look at how long this book is, though! I hope I can renew this one a few times.
My husband and I have split our listening to Before the Fall by Noah Hawley. He’s on his own now and I’m heading through by myself as well. I’m still enjoying it and I’m curious what kind of conclusions will come from this book.
I started a new ebook, Origin by Dan Brown. I’ve read and moderately enjoyed the other Langdon books in this series so I’m excited to see what else he can discover and defeat. I expect I’m in this for the long haul.
I’ve only just started Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan, my Spanish read for the year. No word yet on how I feel about it, I’m less than a chapter in!

Recently finished: I’m sad to have finished Furiously Happy by Jenny Lawson because I enjoyed it so much. This book made household chores and working out so much better. Lawson talks about mental illness in a very real way but also with humor and love. I love her books and I hope there are more to come.
I finished Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott Sunday night. I would have finished it sooner if I hadn’t been sick and too tired to read. I wish I could have squeezed it into last year, but it’s still a solid book finished.

I wrote reviews, too! Well, one, which I’m considering a major win since I’m rather far behind. I posted a review of Sara Donati’s The Gilded Hour. I didn’t like it in the ending as much as I did at the beginning. I’m having mixed feelings about it now because I’ve heard this is the first in a series, not a stand-alone book. That changes how I felt about a lot of things being left unfinished. I’m going to stick with my original rating, though, of Three out of Five stars.

Reading Next: I know I’m a bit late on this one, but I’m going to listen to Where’d You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple next. This one had such hype a few years ago and I’d like to read it before it becomes the movie it’s likely to be. Unless that’s already announced. Then it’s very likely to happen.


Leave a comment with your link and comment (if you’re so inclined). Take a look at the other participant links in the comments and look at what others are reading.

Have any opinions on these choices?

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on GoodreadsFacebookTwitterPinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

WWW Wednesday, 2-January-2019

2 Jan

Welcome to WWW Wednesday! This meme was formerly hosted by MizB at A Daily Rhythm and revived here on Taking on a World of Words. Just answer the three questions below and leave a link to your post in the comments for others to look at. No blog? No problem! Just leave a comment with your responses. Please, take some time to visit the other participants and see what others are reading. So, let’s get to it!IMG_1384-0

The Three Ws are:

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?

Note: For users of Blogspot blogs, I’m unable to comment on your posts as a WordPress blogger unless you’ve enabled Name/URL comments. This is a known WordPress/Blogspot issue. Please consider enabling this to participate more fully in the community. 


Currently reading: I’ve been moving slowly through Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott because of the holidays. With no work, my days are much less structured and I’m not getting anything done. Oh well. This has wonderfully short chapters that make it far too easy to put down and take a nap.
Without work, I’m not driving much so The Valley of Amazement by Amy Tan has been slow to start. I’m still on the first disk and I know I’ll get into it soon but I’m enjoying the exposition and not rushing it for now.
Bad weather means more indoor workouts and that’s helping me move through Furiously Happy by Jenny Lawson quickly. I’m also getting an added ab workout by listening to this while doing other things. It’s kind of wonderful.
My husband and I started Before the Fall by Noah Hawley on the 26th and we made some pretty good progress driving to and from Christmas. I don’t know how much more of it we’ll listen to together before we go our separate ways, but we’re enjoying it for now.

Recently finished: I pushed through and finished Henry VIII by William Shakespeare so I could wrap up my 2018 When Are You Reading? Challenge. I’m so glad I’m done! I’m also glad I rearranged the time periods so I don’t have to squeeze in a late Shakespeare in December to finish it again. It was interesting to get yet another take on the Henry VIII/Katherine of Aragon/Anne Boleyn time. I read a lot about that period already.

No reviews this week though I owe you a few. I’ll work on them and get them out to you next week, promise!

Reading Next: I’ll start my annual Spanish read as soon as I finish Lamott. It’s going to be Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan. I bought a Spanish copy last summer when I visited Powell’s and I’m so excited to finally read it!


Leave a comment with your link and a comment (if you’re so inclined). Take a look at the other participant links in the comments and look at what others are reading.

Have any opinions on these choices?

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on GoodreadsFacebookTwitterPinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

WWW Wednesday, 26-December-2018

26 Dec

Welcome to WWW Wednesday! This meme was formerly hosted by MizB at A Daily Rhythm and revived here on Taking on a World of Words. Just answer the three questions below and leave a link to your post in the comments for others to look at. No blog? No problem! Just leave a comment with your responses. Please, take some time to visit the other participants and see what others are reading. So, let’s get to it!IMG_1384-0

The Three Ws are:

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?

Note: For users of Blogspot blogs, I’m unable to comment on your posts as a WordPress blogger unless you’ve enabled Name/URL comments. This is a known WordPress/Blogspot issue. Please consider enabling this to participate more fully in the community. 


Currently reading: I’m out of lunch breaks for the year and I really have to finish Henry VIII by William Shakespeare! This is my last book for the When Are You Reading? Challenge 2018. If this isn’t finished before the end of the year, I’m going to be very mad at myself.
I’m enjoying Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott but the holidays have kept me busy and away from it more than I’d like. I’m sure I’ll get it wrapped up, it may just be in January.
I started two new audiobooks! I finished my physical audiobook in my car and decided to start on another whopper, The Valley of Amazement by Amy Tan. It’s a whopping 21 disks long (though I swear the book doesn’t look that long!) so I’ll be on this one for quite a while.
I started a new eaudiobook as well, Furiously Happy by Jenny Lawson. I read Lawson’s first book for a book club a few years ago and loved it. My brother gave me a signed copy of this book for Christmas a few years ago and I’m finally listening to it because I’m paranoid about a signed book being damaged.

Recently finished: I was able to finish up The Gilded Hour by Sara Donati while baking Christmas cookies, which was a wonderful way to finish a book. I was really disappointed in the ending despite great writing and good characters. I debated my rating for a while but ultimately ended on Three out of Five Stars. I’ll be reviewing more books in the new year.
I wrapped up People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks over the weekend as well. I liked the ending of this one more, but there was one flaw in the main character that really peeved me right at the end. Another Three out of Five Stars rating.

Reading Next: I’ll start Before the Fall by Noah Hawley later today as my husband and I head to Ohio for family Christmas. I’m getting excited!


Leave a comment with your link and a comment (if you’re so inclined). Take a look at the other participant links in the comments and look at what others are reading.

Have any opinions on these choices?

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on GoodreadsFacebookTwitterPinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

WWW Wednesday, 19-December-2018

19 Dec

Welcome to WWW Wednesday! This meme was formerly hosted by MizB at A Daily Rhythm and revived here on Taking on a World of Words. Just answer the three questions below and leave a link to your post in the comments for others to look at. No blog? No problem! Just leave a comment with your responses. Please, take some time to visit the other participants and see what others are reading. So, let’s get to it!IMG_1384-0

The Three Ws are:

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?

Note: For users of Blogspot blogs, I’m unable to comment on your posts as a WordPress blogger unless you’ve enabled Name/URL comments. This is a known WordPress/Blogspot issue. Please consider enabling this to participate more fully in the community. 


Currently reading: I have been utilizing my baking time to listen to The Gilded Hour by Sara Donati. I felt like I was absorbing the story well, but there’s a new character and I can’t remember where she came from. Maybe I’m not as great at audiobooks as I thought.
I’m still making progress with People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks though it has slowed down. I think I’ll finish by the end of the year. I think.
There have been a lot of lunches where I don’t read Henry VIII by William Shakespeare which has slowed me down a bit. I’m determined to finish this one so I can wrap up my reading challenge, so I’m still confident I’ll finish it!
Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott has been enjoyable so far. She’s very funny and I like her simple writing advice. It makes me feel like I can still be a writer!

Recently finished: Nothing this week. I’m feeling good about next week, though! I think I’ll have a fair number to put here, at least one with a goal of up to three!

I was able to post my review of Brainiac by Ken Jennings on Thursday. It was a really fun read, great for vacation. I gave it Four out of Five stars.

Reading Next: I found a copy of Before the Fall by Noah Hawley and convinced him it will be an awesome one to listen to in the car. Honestly, it didn’t take a lot of convincing, he’s pretty relaxed and trusts my book recommendations. Smart man.


Leave a comment with your link and a comment (if you’re so inclined). Take a look at the other participant links in the comments and look at what others are reading.

Have any opinions on these choices?

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on GoodreadsFacebookTwitterPinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

WWW Wednesday, 12-December-2018

12 Dec

Welcome to WWW Wednesday! This meme was formerly hosted by MizB at A Daily Rhythm and revived here on Taking on a World of Words. Just answer the three questions below and leave a link to your post in the comments for others to look at. No blog? No problem! Just leave a comment with your responses. Please, take some time to visit the other participants and see what others are reading. So, let’s get to it!IMG_1384-0

The Three Ws are:

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?

Note: For users of Blogspot blogs, I’m unable to comment on your posts as a WordPress blogger unless you’ve enabled Name/URL comments. This is a known WordPress/Blogspot issue. Please consider enabling this to participate more fully in the community. 


Currently reading: I’m a bit slower with The Gilded Hour by Sara Donati now that I can’t run outside. I’m avoiding the ‘dreadmill’ as much as possible. I got a few hours in while running on vacation, though!
Being out-of-town didn’t help me make progress with People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks. I’m optimistic about finishing it now that I’m over halfway through. I’ll have to run some errands, I guess!
I made it to Act 2 of Henry VIII by William Shakespeare. I think I’m finally catching on to the plot. It helps a lot to know the time period well! I’ve read too many books, seen too many movies, and watched too many shoes about Henry VIII to be completely clueless!
I just started reading Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott. This was one a writer-group friend brought up constantly and I figured I had it read it. It may have taken me five years, but I’m getting to it!

Recently finished: I utilized my vacation time well and got through a whole book! It was perfect because I finished Brainiac by Ken Jennings while waiting for our ride to pick us up at the airport once we landed in Detroit. I celebrated by starting the Netflix episodes of Jeopardy! that are available. I think Ken will be in the Decade Tournament that’s available. My review will be up tomorrow.

I got a few reviews posted as well. Monday I was able to post about Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson. I gave it Four out of Five Stars because I liked the adventure and I appreciate all the pirate references that were taken from this classic tale.
I also reviewed The Poe Shadow by Matthew Pearl on Tuesday. Honestly, this isn’t one I enjoyed so much. I gave it only Two out of Five Stars and even then I was thinking I might lower the rating.

Reading Next: I’m taking my husband into listening to Before the Fall by Noah Hawley with me when we make our annual Christmas drive to Southern Ohio. To those who have read it, is this one we could both enjoy on a long car ride?


Leave a comment with your link and a comment (if you’re so inclined). Take a look at the other participant links in the comments and look at what others are reading.

Have any opinions on these choices?

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on GoodreadsFacebookTwitterPinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

Library Writers Group: Good Critique and Ice Cream

16 Jun

The writers’ group at my library met a few weeks back and I wanted to put together a short summary of what we talked about. We didn’t have anything to discuss this week so we talked about good critique. First, how to give critique.

Even if a piece is not for you and you would not read another world if your life depended on it, there’s a way to say that without being a jerk. “Your main character sucks” sounds better as “I didn’t believe your main character.” “Your writing is so choppy I couldn’t read it” could be “I found your sentence structures distracting.” Boom; done. It’s that easy. This kind of comes from some feelings I expressed in my Negativity #2 post a few weeks back. I don’t want to repeat that again. When something in the book really upsets you, recognize that it’s the circumstances and characters that have upset you, not the writer. Maybe the writer wanted to upset you and make you think and they’ve accomplished their goal. Direct critique at the story and characters, not the writer. As writers, we’re voluntarily putting ourselves into an industry that will perpetually tell us we’re not good enough and we’ll never make a living off of it. Why would we do that to each other when there are agents to do it? We should be a support system for each other and build each other up.

Taking critique is much harder. There’s no doubt you’ll get critique you don’t like or don’t agree with. Think about it for a few days before you disregard it. Maybe some thought will tell you it’s not such a bad idea to kill off the protagonist’s dad. However, not everything you get is useful and you can choose not to make some changes if it’s best for your story.

We read the article Shitty First Drafts by Anne Lamott taken from her book Bird by Bird. This book is sitting on my shelf and I will read it soon…. I hope. The article talks about how Anne goes about getting her first draft on paper because you can’t edit what’s not there. We all found this really relieving to hear. If you haven’t read the essay yet, please try to find a copy.

To end, we did a prompt. Mine was, “Takes place in an ice cream shop, one character is a doctor, involves new shoes.” Enjoy.

 

An ice cream to celebrate another test done. Sprinkles to celebrate the end of the semester. Hot fudge to prepare myself for a residency I’m not sure I’m ready for.

I’m sitting at the high bar stool because it makes me feel ready to run out of the door. I allow myself to half-slip off the seat as a test and only succeed in dropping my napkin. I need a new one to fight the fudge monster who’s trying in vain to drown the sprinkle villagers as they escape down Vanilla Mountain. I rescue a few perishing souls with my spook and look down again at my proximity to the floor. My toes almost graze the mound of books and notebooks in my backpack and I notice an almost hole on the left toe of my blue Keds. My mouth crews up in the same way I imagine the sprinkle-men did while evaluating their escape from hot fudge. Med school budgets don’t account for new shoes before a residency. They don’t consider Vanilla Mountain either. I sigh, knowing I’m facing another month of American cheese sandwiches for lunch and bananas for breakfast. Doctors really are the least healthy people.

 

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on Goodreads, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!