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Bird by Bird

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Bird by Bird with Annie, a profile of writer Anne Lamott, airs tonight on Independent Lens on many PBS stations (check local listings).

Lamott is very funny and it comes across in the film. Her writing wisdom (collected in the book Bird by Bird) which is woven throughout the film is almost like a stand-up act (my favorite is to go ahead and write shitty first drafts). She talks about being the funny looking kid who was teased, so she learned to be funny to try and fit in. She later turned to alcohol and drugs and there is a focus on her sobriety and sprituality.

Lamott spoke in a writing class I took back in 1992. I don’t remember the details of what she said, but I do remember playing with her son Sam. This was before she wrote Operating Instructions about his first year, but I had heard many stories about him when she appeared on Sedge Thompson’s radio program West Coast Live. Some people in the class complained that she hadn’t gotten a babysitter, but I had fun keeping him entertained.

In one of the most interesting segments of the film, Thompson interviews Lamott and the late cartoonist Charles Schulz who had met her at a writer’s conference. Thompson says they were far apart politically, but hit it off because they both write about children so well. Another political opposite she connected with is Peggy Noonan (the former speechwriter for Reagan and the elder Bush who coined “A thousan points of life”) who interviewed Lamott for a PBS series and is listed among the people who funded the documentary.

Hopefully, the film will motivate more people to read Lamott’s novels and non-fiction books and read her column for Salon (many of her older columns were collected in Traveling Mercies).

The film is directed by Freida Lee Mock who headed the Oscar documentary committee during perhaps the most controversial period (and her documentary on Maya Lin won the year Hoop Dreams wasn’t even nominated. Roger Ebert looked at it and the other nominees.). Lamott wrote a column about another documentary by Mok, Return With Honor.

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About Steve Rhodes

  • http://www.foliage.com/~marks Mark Saleski

    anne lamott is one of my favorite writers. her novels (if you can take the sadness of some of the events) are great.

    my favorite though, would have to be “Bird by Bird”…just because i’m a freak for books about writing.

    worth checking out also is Natalie Goldberg. especially Long Quiet Highway.