Monday, November 16, 2009

Anne Lamott and the Writing Mamas

The Writing Mamas of Marin hosted a wonderful literary evening with author Anne Lamott on Saturday, Nov. 14, 2009 in Sausalito at the gorgeous Christ Church. It was another quarterly installation of the Mama Monologues, a charity event run by Dawn Yun in which a few of the "writing mamas" plus a special guest "writing mama" -- in this case, Anne Lamott -- face the audience to read (or perform) their tall tales on motherhood... like it really is.

These tales from the trenches of mommydom, as told by eight of the writing mamas, made up the opening act in the first hour. Each reader told a quick three to four-minute story that ripped giggles through the audience, yet delivered a satisfying depth or intelligence beyond the humor. Subjects included PMS, birthing, marriage, meditation, pubic hair, jealousy-riddled Google searching and the misinterpretation of a child's drawing (are those boobs or buttons?). Sorry, guys. This was definitely ladies night -- although the men that did show up, I'm sure, learned a useful thing or two.

Although the readers delivered natural, easy performances that entertained, it was all just the warm up. The cream of the evening was the second hour, driven entirely by the raw honesty, remarkable talent and delightful wit of author Anne Lamott. She is such a charismatic and natural story-teller. Standing before us and sharing her life story in this intimate setting gave the feeling that we were sitting around a campfire, warming our insides with wine, while listening, enthralled, to Lamott unfold the stories of her life growing up and as a writer. She does speak like her books read! Showing us pain we could laugh to.

At one point Lamott asked us if we wanted to hear her read a chapter (and she was poised with book open, ready to do that) or hear her life story. We voted for the latter. So she gave it to us. I can't remember all she said, of course, as she spoke about her now 20-year-old son Sam becoming a father a few months ago, and growing up in Marin, and drugs, and getting drunk, and becoming sober, and becoming a writer, and sending dreadful stories to her father's agent, and so on. But I did manage to jot down a few quotes that made me laugh or think:

"You don't really know how damaged you are until you're a parent."

"I'm counting every day to get less done... because you don't want to wake up realizing that you spent 40 years multi-tasking."

"I'm a black-belt co-dependent."

"You have the ability to write, so you sit down and do it."  (Lamott said she NEVER feels like writing but she has trained herself to sit down at the same time every day and do it.)

About writing "Bird by Bird," Lamott said that she was so easily overwhelmed. So much so she didn't think she could write a novel, but realized "you could write a novel if you write a small piece at a time. ...and then weave [the pieces] together."

Sorry I didn't capture more for you, or something perhaps more salient. Frankly, I was enjoying the wine and the stories too much to pause and actually write something down. So take note: If you have the opportunity to see Anne Lamott speak, especially so candidly and authentically as she did on this evening with us, I recommend you jump at it. You will feel either at the campfire or alone on your couch propped up by an elbow, reading one of her marvelous books.

Also look out for future Mama Monologues (info at, because they're almost always an intimate, behind the scenes affair with the guest author.

Photo credit: AP Photo/ Nati Harnik