Tuesday, April 11, 2017

"Just Take it Bird by Bird, Buddy"

The title is from my favorite Anne Lamott book, "Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life". I first read this book in the mid-nineties when it was first published. This book, along with "Writing Down the Bones" by Natalie Goldberg, served as my writing bible when I was in graduate school. This was the first time I remember thinking, "I love writing." And wondering, "Could I be a writer?" 

Her story, her words...changed my life. As she wrote, I read and read. I shared. I listened. It was a relationship between me and the story. Her storytelling is brilliant, funny, real, and powerful. I can't stay away, so when I heard that she was speaking thirty miles away from me, I HAD to go. 

Tickets purchased. Directions scouted. Plans made. I attended alone. It's how one should always meet a hero. The drive, though only thirty miles, took almost two hours...DC traffic! I could hardly wait!

The venue was beautiful. I grabbed a bottle of water and a chocolate chip cookie to nibble on as I waited. I sat next to a woman who was sitting on the floor, alone. We chatted for a couple of moments and agreed that these nights, listening to our favorite authors, were our rock concerts.

Finally, we were being seated. LOOK at my seat! I knew it was going to be a good seat when the usher said, "Wow!" 

Yes, I took a picture of my seat!

LOOK at all of the leg room. I had lots of space and I was very comfortable! About ten minutes after I took my seat, she quietly and with no introduction or fanfare walked onto the stage. I confess, I had tears in my eyes. I've been reading her stories for more than twenty years and now I'm in the same room as she was a moment for me.

Her talk was entertaining. I love how she kept waving to the people sitting all the way at the top! I love how she kept losing her place and moving on to something else! I love how she connected with the audience. 

My hand rarely stopped moving. I took pages and pages of notes. I didn't want to miss anything. Here are some of my favorite lines, 

"Where I first found salvation was in the written word," in talking about reading as a child.

"Seek truth. Go outside! Talk to others who need to talk. Listen." 

"Mercy is grace in action. It means having a heart for other people's trouble."

Over and over again she repeated, "Show yourself mercy. That means radical self-care."

"Buy yourself beautiful socks. These are desperate times."

After her talk, she was signing books. It was already close to ten o'clock and I had to teach the next day...but once in a lifetime. I was four from the end of the line. As I waited, I reminded myself to breathe. I reminded myself to say, "Thank you." As the line moved, I got so excited. 
She signed my book! She signed MY book. I said, "Thank you." And other silliness. 

The moment I'll take with me is this...I asked, "How are you?" She stopped. That startled me a bit. She looked at me. She looked me in the eyes and said, "I'm fine," she paused and then asked, "How are you?" Those words felt like they were spoken in slow motion. It felt like the world stopped and she really saw me and heard me. 
I met Anne Lamott.

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  1. Oh what an amazing opportunity to meet one of my favorite authors. I love how you suggest it was like a concert.....One where you take notes....Great might

  2. Chills reading this! I adore Anne! Love the part about buying yourself beautiful socks.

  3. I felt excited just reading your post. And I am inspired, too. I haven't read Anne Lamott in a long while and might need to revisit Bird by Bird, and get to know a few others.

  4. I am teary-eyed reading this, Michelle. These notes are everything! I'm so happy you had this Anne Lamott experience - she's one of my favorites, too. I met "my best friend Annie" (I will forever now refer to her this way) a few years ago at a reading/speaking event, and we shared Tootsie Pops while she signed my book. Truly one of the most special evenings of my life. And now yours, too!

  5. We are such kindred spirits. If you told me about this, I'd go but also want to go on my own. Your line:
    I attended alone. It's how one should always meet a hero.
    I always want to go to the National Book Festival alone so I can listen and enjoy and hear without distraction of others. You've reminded me to reread Anne Lamott. Thanks for sharing this special evening!

  6. Wow! Thank you so much for sharing this. Aren't we all Anne Lamott fans? if not we all should be. I particularly love her thoughts on mercy. Something simple to live by. For others and for ourselves.

  7. I've been reading Anne Lamott for at least 20 years. What I would give to see her in person! I love how you greeted her. She is a real person, after all. Thanks for sharing your experience.

  8. I could feel your excitement the entire way! I'm so glad you stayed to get your book signed. You certainly have no regrets and so many memories to cherish!

  9. I know how excited you were about going, and I am thrilled that it turned out just the way you wanted! Reading this makes me want to go out buy some new socks!

  10. I was so, so, so hoping you would write about your visit with "St. Anne." It sounds like you had an amazing time. You are right -- authors are our rock stars. You are lucky and have met quite a few in your lifetime. I'm glad you captured the magic in your notebook! It's the only thing that can hold such awesomeness!

  11. What an absolutely wonderful experience, and what an absolutely wonderful way to share it with the rest of us! Like Tori said above, your account is making my allergies act up (that's got to be it...). The photo of your notes is icing on the cake. Thank you!

  12. I have that book Bird by Bird! I love how you wrote about this opportunity. Your eagerness and excitement are quite evident in our words and pictures. My favorite part was the How are you? question... so many times we just answer without thinking or caring how that other person really is....

  13. I am so jealous! And so glad you took notes. I feel like maybe I was there too, through you.

  14. Oh Michelle, how incredible. I'm going to have to reread this post (and your notebook photos) a few more times. So much good stuff!

  15. Beautiful, loving words. Moved again as I reread.

  16. How wonderful to have met your idol, Michelle. Loved that you equated the presentation to a rock concert for writers. I enjoyed catching glimpses of your notebook, too.


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