Anne Lamott

in Conversation with Sam Lamott

Recorded April 4th, 2020

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Anne Lamott in conversation with Sam Lamott
Saturday, April 4, 2020

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Anne Lamott is an author of several novels and works of non-fiction. Based in the San Francisco Bay Area, her non-fiction works are largely autobiographical, with strong doses of self-deprecating humor and covering such subjects as alcoholism, single motherhood, and Christianity.
She appeals to her fans because of her sense of humor, her deeply felt insights, and her outspoken views on topics such as her left-of-center politics and her unconventional Christian faith. She is a graduate of Drew College Preparatory School in San Francisco, California. Her father, Kenneth Lamott, was also a writer and was the basis of her first novel Hard Laughter.

Lighthouses don’t go running all over an island looking for boats to save; they just stand there shining.

Anne Lamott

Anne writes and speaks about subjects that begin with capital letters: Alcoholism, Motherhood, Jesus. But armed with self-effacing humor – she is laugh-out-loud funny – and ruthless honesty, Lamott converts her subjects into enchantment. Actually, she writes about what most of us don’t like to think about. She wrote her first novel for her father, the writer Kenneth Lamott, when he was diagnosed with brain cancer. She has said that the book was “a present to someone I loved who was going to die.” In all her novels, she writes about loss – loss of loved ones and loss of personal control. She doesn’t try to sugar-coat the sadness, frustration and disappointment, but tells her stories with honesty, compassion and a pureness of voice. As she says, “I have a lot of hope and a lot of faith and I struggle to communicate that.” Anne Lamott does communicate her faith; in her books and in person, she lifts, comforts, and inspires, all the while keeping us laughing.
Anne Lamott is the author of seven novels, Hard Laughter, Rosie, Joe Jones, Blue Shoe, All New People, Crooked Little Heart, and Imperfect Birds. She has also written several bestselling books of nonfiction, including, Operating Instructions, an account of life as a single mother during her son’s first year; Some Assembly Required: A Journal of My Son’s First Son; and the classic book on writing; Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life. She has also authored several collections of autobiographical essays on faith; Traveling Mercies: Some Thoughts on Faith,  Plan B: Further Thoughts on Faith, and Grace (Eventually): Thoughts on Faith. In addition, she has written, Help, Thanks, Wow: The Three Essential PrayersStitches; A Handbook on Meaning, Hope and Repair,  Small Victories: Spotting Improbable Moments of Grace, and Hallelujah Anyway; Rediscovering Mercy. Her most recent book is Almost Everything: Notes on Hope (October 16, 2018, Riverhead Books).
Lamott has been honored with a Guggenheim Fellowship, and has taught at UC Davis, as well as at writing conferences across the country. Academy Award-winning filmmaker Freida Mock has made a documentary on Lamott, entitled “Bird by Bird with Annie” (1999).  Anne Lamott has also been inducted into the California Hall of Fame.

Visit the Book Passage website to have any of Anne’s books delivered right to your door.

You’re sure to enjoy these Book Passage favorites:

Almost Everything: Notes on Hope

Lamott, Almost Everything

Hallelujah Anyway: Rediscovering Mercy

Lamott, Hallelujah Anyway

Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life

Bird By Bird

Operating Instructions: A Journal of My Son's First Year

Lamott, Operating Instructions

Get ready to join Anne in conversation, Saturday, April 4.

In the meantime, we invite you to take a moment now to help shape this upcoming conversation:

Check out the list of questions submitted by other registered attendees, and then vote to support any of the ones that match your own interests.
Feel free to add your own question. Then spread the word to make sure others have the chance to help move your question to the top of the shared list.

  • 15

    votes

    What are your top 3 favorite writing tips?

  • 15

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    What is your favourite book published in the past twelve months?

  • 13

    votes

    What subject have you found it most challenging to write about?

  • 13

    votes

    Do you have a pre-writing routine, a sort of ritual you do every time before you write?

  • 13

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    What advice do you have for writers and other artists struggling to keep creating during times of crisis?

  • 12

    votes

    What advice would you give to young writers today? (I teach high schoolers…)

  • 12

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    What is the best writing advice you’ve ever received?

  • 11

    votes

    What is your greatest purpose?

  • 11

    votes

    It takes tremendous courage to be brave. What book took the most courage for you to write? What were the challenges you faced and how did you help yourself be brave enough to write and publish it?

  • 11

    votes

    Did you write negatively about some people and as you aged, did you change your mind, on reflection, about what you wrote about that person or those people.

  • 10

    votes

    Would you like to share any of the stories of the photographs behind you? What matters to you most and why?

  • 10

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    What is your practice when you don’t any good ideas or know what your want to write about next?

  • 9

    votes

    When you write fiction, how do you describe powerful emotion in a character if you have never felt that emotion yourself?

  • 8

    votes

    How has COVID affected your life in the areas of faith, family and free time?

  • 8

    votes

    What have you learned about yourself during this pandemic?

  • 8

    votes

    Are you finding it hard (or impossible) to focus on writing during this upheaval?

  • 8

    votes

    Mom of a beloved 25 year old daughter here. I have followed your and Sam’s journey for a long time and have gotten so much from your grace and humor. We’ve been through some rough times, and things are getting so much better for us both. Don’t want to be the momma running behind with bottled water and chapstick. Sam, what did you need from your Mom in your twenties? Anne, how did you cope with fear and uncertainty for your beloved child?

  • 8

    votes

    In what ways has writing brought magic into your life?

  • 7

    votes

    Do you journal? What are your journal habits?

  • 7

    votes

    If you had not become a mother, how do you imagine your nurturing soul would have manifested in you & your life?

  • 7

    votes

    When you started your very first book, did it write you or you write it? Did you find that your first time book was difficult to find a publisher? What advice could you give to a first time book writer that doesn’t know how to get published?
    Thank you

  • 6

    votes

    Have you increased your pace in writing? Do you ever sense urgency in it?

  • 6

    votes

    I’ve loved reading your experiences as a mother. What is being a mother to you these days?

  • 6

    votes

    When you imagine the future “after COVID” what do you imagine, in the short term? and long term?

  • 6

    votes

    Can you talk about your writing process and how it’s evolved from your very first novel to your latest works of nonfiction? Would love to hear what advice you would give to your younger self if you could travel back in time and have a heart-to-heart with her.

  • 6

    votes

    How do we keep fear from our door during these hard and distanced times?

  • 6

    votes

    What situation in your life did faith pull you through the most & what did you learn from that gift?

  • 6

    votes

    What inner challenges did you face at the beginning of your relationship with Neal Allen? What baggage did you have to let go of, if any, to choose to get married?

  • 5

    votes

    how do you keep your balance and sense of humor in difficult times?

  • 5

    votes

    How is your creativity impacted by the current environment?

  • 5

    votes

    Which author (living or dead) do you think is most underrated?

  • 5

    votes

    Which author (living or dead) do you think is most overrated?

  • 4

    votes

    Please publish this so I can watch the whole interview. I love Anne and I missed most of this!

  • 4

    votes

    How do you write at a time like this? I’m so overwhelmed and distracted, have kids at home and working at home too. Wish I could write.

  • 4

    votes

    @Sam – Did you read Operating Instructions? What was that like to read your mom’s early experiences? How did that impact your own relationship with your son? Also, what is your creative outlet you enjoy the most?

  • 4

    votes

    I see the opposite: GOOD (kindness, help, support, immense generosity, patience, grace, miracles, gifts) far outweighing wounded acting out EVERYWHERE!!!! Ann, how do you see and underline this?

  • 4

    votes

    Okay, you share your struggle with sugar on FB. What is a person to do when there is so much uncertainty and stress and sugar feels like the best way to soothe the self? Also, partner also a sugar junkie. We do get exercise because we have a dog who needs to be walked….Just Say No is not enough given a the ‘comfort’/indulgence. If the world is going to end, why not eat too many cookies today and indulge in chocolate/caramel candy bars tomorrow?

  • 4

    votes

    In different forms, I feel like you have been writing “Operating Instructions” for new normals like motherhood and dealing with Sandy Hook. If you were to write “Operating Instructions” for these times, what would be 1 or 2 of the most important ones?

  • 3

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    Anne: Thomas Edison is reported to have coined the phrase “Genius is one per cent inspiration, ninety-nine per cent perspiration.” What does this mean to you in practical steps as it relates to your motivation to sit and write every day?

  • 3

    votes

    I still have letters & pictures associated with traumatic events in my life that I plan on writing about. How wise a practice is this? Is it best to write from feelings & memories without these solid reminders or can they be tools to help share the experience?

  • 3

    votes

    What role has tennis played in your life? When you were a child? Later decades? Currently?

  • 3

    votes

    Has Sam ever had a relationship with his birth father?

  • 3

    votes

    Are you considering a list of the potentially positive aspects of our current shared situation?

  • 3

    votes

    How do you hold on to HOPE in these strange times? Is
    How do you hold on to HOPE during these strange times?

  • 3

    votes

    We’ve seen some of the very worst come out in people during this crisis and it seems like evil outnumbers good. When all this is over, how do I forgive them? How do we unify a broken country that might not really want to be unified? What if I want to hate my neighbor?

  • 2

    votes

    What are some of the elements of life before COVID that you miss most?

  • 2

    votes

    In the book 1984 people attend hate meetings in which they scream out their hatred about
    what big brother telecasts. Do you think it would be healthy for all of us if we had such
    meetings around the country in which we screamed our hatred of trump?

  • 1

    votes

    Sam: How does it feel to be written about by someone so close to you? Do you ever feel like a specimen under a microscope?

  • 1

    votes

    Is your powerful and loving spirituality influenced, partly, by your father’s initial upbringing in your grandfather’s Yokohama Presbyterian church?

  • 1

    votes

    Anne, you are one of the sources of hope for my Mom who has been battling lung cancer and COPD the past year or so. Thank you! Also, to help listeners with the podcast you all refer to: http://hellohumans.co/blog/2-creation-starting-anne-lamott

  • 1

    votes

    How can we inject our communities with as much LOVE as the media continues to drown us in FEAR? I am in the recovery community in Portland, Oregon ~ and there is a soul-sickness that feels as contagious as the virus. I want to take more action to spread love…ideas? xoM

  • 1

    votes

    I don’t think Anne told us what “c” was in ABCDE.

  • 0

    votes

    ❤️Happy anniversary, Neal and Anne!❤️

  • 0

    votes

    Who would you invite to your Fantasy Thanksgiving Table (anyone goes–past, present, fictive or real), and where you place them around the table? Who would you seat next to you?

  • 0

    votes

    What is your favorite book read during the past 12 months?

  • 0

    votes

    I am a woman living alone during the pandemic, surviving my brother’s death at 42 due to chronic health problems; these were exacerbated by poor choices including drug abuse. I have virtual contact with supportive folks… but this isolation and mental health challenges are not helping. Holding onto hope. Wondering, what words would you share? What are articles/books that you/others have written/ resources that would help? Blessings!

  • 0

    votes

    You are loved.

  • 0

    votes

    What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?

  • 0

    votes

    How do you keep your glasses from fogging-up when wearing your N95 PPE mask?

  • 0

    votes

    I’m not very creative tonight so these above three I checked would be interesting for discussion.

  • 0

    votes

    To the person celebrating your 34th clean and sober bday, try again closer to 4pm pacific time when it starts :). CONGRATULATIONS!!!

  • 0

    votes

    Do you have any thoughts to share on the impeachment or Trump’s current Press Conferences or the upcoming election?

  • 0

    votes

    I have spent 20 minutes trying to get IN to Ann’s talk…can someone HELP ME GET IN, please? I registered last week… thank you! (TODAY is my 34 year clean & sober b-day…this was my birthday present for this glorious day!!! 🙂

  • 0

    votes

    OH SNAP!!!!! lol It is TOMORROW, April 4th!!!! No stress impacts here, lol. OK. But could you please please RE-SEND me my entry email??? I cannot find it anywhere in my long email in-box, despite numerous skilled searches. I am a lightwater3@aol.com OK…well…I guess my Ms. Lamott talk sobriety b-day present will be one day AFTER my anniversary. Yes, I got clean and sober on April 3, 1986. I was 22. Thank you, Book Passage Humans! I am sending you thoughts of thriving health, and the bookstore too. 🙂

  • 0

    votes

    ELISSA ALTMAN’S MEMOIR WAS CALLED MOTHERLAND NOT MOTHERHOOD