Anne Lamott did a book-signing and -reading on the campus where I work last night. Here's how much of a fan I am: I went. By myself. I don't do those sorts of things, ever. Especially midweek, when it means more time away from my kids.
But it was Anne, so it was different.
(And yes, I know she's one of those writers who many people love to hate. But the criticisms--of self-absorption and indulgence--well...let's just say that I can't imagine too many bloggers who have the right to level that particular accusation at any one else with a straight face.)
She was reading from her new novel, Imperfect Birds. But I was there for the non-fiction. I was there for Anne. And she did not disappoint. She made me laugh out loud several times, made me nod my head in agreement several more. And then, in one simple sentence--a response to a question from the audience--she made me pull out my notepad and write down her words, right then and there.
The question was about how you might use writing--the teaching of writing--as a way to reach the sorts of at-risk kids that her new book is about. She stopped for a moment, told the man who'd spoken that it was the first time she'd been asked that question, then spent more time answering it than she had reading from the book.
She rambled a bit; she probably does that anyway, but she was clearly tired, at the end of a very long book tour, almost home. At one point, though, she talked about where kids--where we all--find our material. She talked about giving kids permission to write about whatever is inside them, and whatever is outside them as well. And then she said, "You own what happens to you. And if people don't want you to write about it? Well," and here she smiled slightly and shrugged, "they should have behaved better."
If people don't want you to write about it, they should have behaved better. If that isn't the blogger's motto*, I don't know what is.
*Here's the ironic part: Earlier in the day, I'd read an interview with Anne in Salon that came out on Monday. In it, she speaks somewhat deprecatingly of blogging, saying she doesn't think she would have been a blogger, that she's too much of a perfectionist. [It's near the end of the piece, if you're interested.] While she was signing the copy of Grace (Eventually) I'd just bought, I thought of that--and of how she'd basically just summarized and justified blogging for me during her speech. Suddenly, I heard myself talking. "I know you said in Salon that you wouldn't be a blogger," I said. "But I just wanted to let you know that you...your books...they're a big part of why I blog." She looked up at me then, curiously, and said, "And do people read your blog?" And I grinned. "Some," I said. "Enough."