A miracle occurred today. I attended an Anne Lamott lecture, the lecture that has been sold out for months. Only, a friend of ours found out that a teacher had gone home sick today and that teacher donated her ticket to my cause. And I didn’t even have to pay.
I had seriously considered lurking outside of the building, sneaking inside, nonchalantly pretending I had a ticket. Or something. But God smiled down on me and preventing me from breaking the law and got me a free ticket.
The college student who introduced her read an introduction that was lifted directly from a book jacket or something. I recognized it. When she walked in carrying a big leather bag and her sweater, I wanted to cry. I felt like some fourteen year old girl swooning at a Clay Aiken concert. The entire room–150 of us–applauded as if she’d already done something amazing.
And she had, really. She wrote books. She writes books. That’s amazing, no matter how you look at it.
She wore black. A black t-shirt. Faded black jeans. Sensible black shoes. But a foresty-green headband on her dreadlocked hair and a matching greenish scrunchy holding the back into a crazy ponytail. She put on her sweater and said “I get hot, I get cold.” And then she took it off.
She read ten pages of her new book. Ten pages about Sam, her now-14 year old boy, a boy who sounded so much like my own boys, like my Shane specifically, with his propensity to whack bushes with a big stick. I laughed in recognition and comfort. (She also mentioned at one point how being at home with a baby is so boring that you want to hang yourself. That is so true some days.)
After she read, she talked about writing, about the process. I’ve read her books and I know. I know what to do, I know how to do it. I just don’t do it. I don’t write because I can’t see the whole road–and she pointed out that all you really need to see is what is in the headlights. You can make an entire journey in the dark, following the illumination of just the headlights.
Then she took questions, but only a few. They were excellent questions, but I wanted to know the following things:
1) Favorite authors, favorite books.
2) What first? An agent? A publisher? How do you actually get someone to say “yes” to your novel?
3) Will you write for Salon again?
I also wanted to tell her that my dad died, too, when I was in my early twenties. “Hard Laughter” spoke to my heart. I wanted to tell her that I have boys who smell and brandish sticks like swords and that some days I am so bored I want to climb out of the bedroom window on a rope of tied-together-bedsheets. I wanted to tell her about the miraculous way I got a ticket, thanks to Beth Stevens’ illness. But all I did tell her at the book-signing afterwards was, “You are the only author I ever wrote a fan letter to.” And she smiled and said, “Well, I’m sure that I would have lifted it up for a blessing, but I never answer letters anymore.” And I smiled and took my book and went home.
I had a fantasy on my way to the lecture that she and I would go out for coffee and chat and she’d definitely want to be my New Best Friend. But she mentioned during her talk that she hates to travel. She hates to mingle. She likes to be alone. She has a boyfriend, a son and about four good friends, but other than that, she doesn’t like to leave her house. She certainly does not like to eat with anyone.
And, of course, neither do I. So, she doesn’t want to be my New Best Friend, but that’s not why she makes me want to cry. She makes me want to cry because she makes me feel normal, validated, uncrazy. She’s a little farther along the path than I, and I can see her bobbing lantern up ahead in the dark and it gives me assurance that there is a path and not just a drop off in the dark.
As an aside, I noticed shoes tonight. Several women were wearing these shoes that reminded me of bowling shoes crossed with “earth shoes”, like the blue suede ones I wore in fifth grade that had the toe higher than the heel, so you were kind of tipped backwards on your feet at all times. And I thought, I need to get out more because apparently fashions have changed while I’ve been wearing my red Keds.