Friday night, author Ann Lamott was in town talking about her newest collection of essays, Grace Eventually (Thoughts on Faith). Her presentation was a part of the Seattle Spiritual Synthesis Series, put on by Elliott Bay Books and host Seattle First Baptist Church.
My lovely, wise sister Cheri and irrepressible blog queen Holy met me there, and we perched on the edge of our seats, eager to suck in all Ann might have to say. The venue – a beautiful, ancient, huge downtown church – was full to overflowing, including a good number of men. (Ann writes, among other things, about motherhood, menopause and body image, so the significant male fan base surprised me.)
Ann did not disappoint! Although she was speaking to perhaps 800 people, her demeanor was that of a wise, funny friend across the kitchen table, over coffee and illicit cookies. Her verbal voice was just like her written one – which speaks to her integrity – warm, humorous, rambling, insightful and loving.
Do I agree with everything Ann writes? No. She’s a very unconventional Christian and her views lean so far left she could fall over in a windstorm. It doesn’t stop me from enjoying her writing and learning from her faith.
She’s not shy about tackling highly controversial topics in surprising ways. One of the pieces she read during her talk was her short, loving, but surprisingly un-melodramatic account of a friend’s assisted suicide. She wove the fear, love, faith and pain she and the family of the dying man felt into the story, but completely sidestepped theology, politics and ethics. It made me cry when I read it because it was such a simple and honest story.
She dispensed advice on writing. “Whether or not the inspiration strikes, just do it. Be disciplined about it. Just like a diet, don’t start a first draft on a Thursday afternoon.” She told stories from her life, home and travels, and read pieces from her book. She closed with questions and answers, and was very willing to respond patiently to anything.
She signed books afterward, but none of us stuck around in that long queue. Having a book signed doesn’t mean much to me… making the 9pm ferry meant more.
I’m glad we went. Ann talked about the mid-70s ethic of working for the common good – it’s not much mentioned any more, and it’s one of the reasons she writes. I’m inspired to keep stringing words together as well for many of the same reasons.