Study Guide

Bird by Bird

By Anne Lamott

Bird by Bird Introduction

Maybe all you've ever wanted is to be like Richard Castle, who happily whips out mystery novels while advising the NYPD, squeezing in the occasional book signing between falling in love with Beckett and spending his millions. Or maybe you hate writing, and you wouldn't do it for a living even if it did come with fame, fortune, and a Manhattan apartment to die for.

Either way, Anne Lamott's Bird by Bird has something for you.

Subtitled "Some Instructions on Writing and Life," Lamott's book is part writing instruction manual, part how-to guide to life, and part hilarious memoir. Lamott herself is like a cross between a cool, crazy aunt and a writing Patronus. Which means she is awesome.

Love it or hate it, writing can feel like a big task, especially if you're facing down your end-of-semester research paper or, you know, your first novel. Good news—when the dementors of writer's block are closing in, Anne Lamott will spring into action and defend you. This book basically gives you a road map for making it through any kind of writing assignment, plus it offers instructions for surviving when you need to do some literary off-roading.

Not into writing? Lamott has still got your back. She's known for combining the inspiring and the snarky, so she's just plain fun to read—and she's got plenty to say about life, too. She often says it by telling stories, like about how her house was really quiet when she was growing up except for when her dad's writer friends passed out at the table.

We're not the only ones who like Anne Lamott. She's a New York Times bestselling author, a recipient of a prestigious Guggenheim Fellowship, and one of the people featured in the California Hall of Fame.

If someone like that hands you a how-to book on getting through your research paper, your first novel, or your memoir of seventh-grade life, you want to take a look.

What is Bird by Bird About and Why Should I Care?

Maybe you hope to be a famous writer one day. Or maybe you hate writing enough that you'd rather dig post holes in January. Either way, you probably do a lot of writing. Yep, in a weird way, the average high school student's day job includes a huge pile of writing. English class? Writing. History class? Writing. Exams in tons of different subjects? Writing. The SAT? Writing.

Basically, anyone who wants to finish high school is stuck doing a whole lot of writing. Well, okay, what if you could get the advice of a New York Times bestselling writer on how to write better? What if that person was honest enough to admit that sometimes she hates sitting down to write, too? What if she was experienced enough to help you get unstuck? What if she could maybe even tell some stories about what her friends got out of writing? What if, on top of all that, she wasn't afraid of jokes about enemas?

Meet Anne Lamott. She'll help you survive high school, and maybe even life.

Okay, well, actually, none of us survives life, as Anne Lamott likes to point out. (Did we mention she's snarky?) But she might help you get the most out of it—and maybe even tell a few great stories along the way.

Bird by Bird Resources

WEBSITES

Anne Lamott on Facebook
Unlike Charles Dickens, Lamott's on social media.

Not So Secret Agent
Lamott talks a lot about how much her students want to find an agent. Want to see her agent's page?

All Grown Up
Lamott's son, Sam, is now an artist. And in his 20s. Check out his work.

MOVIE OR TV PRODUCTIONS

Bird by Bird, the Movie
Yep, there's a movie version. Don't ask us how they did it.

ARTICLES AND INTERVIEWS

Laughter, Death, Lollipops
That's the actual name of this funky, fun, and sometimes hair-raising interview with Anne Lamott.

"Because I'm Good at It"
That's what Flannery O'Connor used to say when asked why she wrote, and Anne Lamott says it's one of her reasons, too. Find more outrageous quotes about writing by O'Connor here.

VIDEO

Anne Lamott on Co-Writing With a Teenager
After finding out that her 19-year-old son was about to become a parent, Anne Lamott wrote a book with him on the subject. Here's a short clip where they talk about it.

Charities Have Trailers, Too
Anne Lamott is so cool that this trailer advertises the fact that she's performed at the event. Watch for the banner shout-out to her and Cake, right near the beginning.

Tough Writers
Lamott explains how to be the sort of writer who toughs it out.

AUDIO

Happy Birthday, Anne Lamott
Garrison Keillor quotes Lamott in honor of her birthday, around the 2:10 mark.

IMAGES

Anne Lamott Washes the Dog for a Royal Visit
Tragically, William and Kate didn't turn up. Lamott may be joking, just the tiniest bit.

It's an Art
Lamott's son is 3 years old in Bird by Bird. Funny, he's grown up since 1994. Here's the family with an artist who recently painted a portrait of Sam and his son, Jax.