wth Katie Elzer-Peters
Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life by Anne Lamott
Bird by Bird is mostly a book about writing fiction - stories. If you’ve ever had the occasion to attend one of Mary-Kate Mackey’s excellent writing workshops, you know how important it is to work narrative techniques into your nonfiction writing. There’s much to be learned from character development and dialogue tips which might not be immediately obvious because many of us spend much of our time working on the grind. Reading a book like Bird by Bird reminds me that I am, first, before business, a writer. I make a living writing, but in order to do that and to keep doing that I have to keep my skills sharp. We aren’t writers because we have hands and pens and computers and printers. We’re writers because, as Anne Lamott writes we can “. . .take major events or small episodes from daily life and shade or exaggerate things in such a way as to capture their shape and substance, capture what life felt like. . .” Lamott writes “The other kids always wanted me to tell them stories of what had happened, even—or especially—when they had been there.” I’ve had that experience as the chronicler of Friday night volleyball games for “The Wicked Stitchers,” the company team of the shirt factory where I worked for a while. Everyone knew the scores, but they liked to relive, through my stories, the evenings drinking beer and shaking sand out of our ears after diving for the ball.
A Few Gems from Bird by Bird “Find out what each character cares about most in the world because then you will have discovered what’s at stake.” With what we write, mostly, what’s at stake is the success of the reader. Will what we’ve written, every last word, help them be better gardeners? continued on next page
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