On Monday evening, my dad and I had the honor of seeing my all-time favorite author Anne Lamott speak at First Baptist Church in Decatur. She is traveling across the country on a book tour for her new nonfiction book called “Stitches“. My dad bought me a pre-signed copy at the event, and I can’t wait to read it and let her words wash over me like a refreshing wave of brutal honesty. Her writing always serves my soul up with a good spiritual pep talk.
I first fell in love with Anne’s work and her raw voice when I read her nonfiction book “Bird by Bird” in my creative writing class during my senior year of high school. I am eternally grateful to my dear teacher and mentor, Mr. Bill Waters of the Bryn Mawr School, for introducing me to this amazing artist of an author who has become such a beacon of inspiration to me over the years. I was astounded by how this woman was able to pinpoint the precise words and craft the perfect metaphors to capture emotions and articulate faith. She has no shame in her expression, and she is boldly self-deprecating in her brilliance. She openly discusses her battles, both big and small, with everything from addiction to cellulite. Because of this honest and relatable style of hers, she has won over the hearts of her readers.
This fan following was out in full force on Monday evening. My dad and I arrived around 6:30 for the 7:00pm event, and the place was positively packed. Anne quietly emerged at the front of the church in jeans and a baggy sweatshirt, casual and real (I would have been both shocked and disappointed had she come out in a fine tailored suit). She spoke candidly about the difficult process of putting yourself back together after tremendous loss. Inspired by the tragic events of the Newtown shootings, Stitches, she told us, was written for the bad days. There is no roadmap or recipe for how to get better or “snap out of it”. You must grieve in your own way – whether that be surrounding yourself with people to distract you, or sitting alone under a blanket with Tootsie pops. The beauty of life is that there are wonderful, gracious people who are compassionate enough to put you back together.
I felt like a giddy little kid while waiting in line to meet my literary hero. I nervously plotted out what I would do and say. I had already purchased a pre-signed copy of her book… should I just ask her to sign again under the existing signature? I got up to the table, book in hand, and decided to have her sign one of the concluding pages of the hardback book – one of those buffer pages before the acknowledgement, printed with a beautiful texture that looks like a pattern of burnt squares. She remarked at how beautiful the page was. “I never get there in my books,” she said. She even finished off her signature with a little heart. I could feel the tears welling up as I took the book in my hands and said, “Thank you – you’ve really gotten me through some tough times.”
It’s difficult to put into words just how it felt to meet this person who has been such a mythical character – a best friend of a stranger with whom I have become so connected through the way that she feels and expresses herself in her words. I am consistently awed by her magical gift of writing. The experience was made even more special because my hero of a father was by my side.
I’ll close my gushing session with a string of her powerful words, taken from my first encounter with her mesmerizing art of writing (Bird by Bird):
“Don’t look at your feet to see if you are doing it right. Just dance.”