“Thirty years ago my older brother, who was ten years old at the time, was trying to get a report on birds written that he’d had three months to write. It was due the next day.
We were out at our family cabin in Bolinas, and he was at the kitchen table close to tears, surrounded by binder paper and pencils and unopened books on birds, immobilized by the hugeness of the task ahead. Then my father sat down beside him, put his arm around my brother’s shoulder, and said, ‘Bird by bird, buddy. Just take it bird by bird.”
— Early in my writing career, before I decided to actually make it a career, I took a writing course taught by a local poet. The goal of the course – inspiration. She challenged us to write without hesitation or consideration for other people’s opinions. She also recommended a writing book – Bird by Bird by Ann Lamott. It’s important to note the complete title of the book: Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life. This isn’t a craft book. Bird by Bird looks more at the writer than at the writing. You aren’t going to learn the difference between show and tell or how to fully develop a character arc. Lamott’s not going to teach you how to conduct an interview. Her book primarily looks at the life of a writer – what that entails and how to fit the actual writing into it. I hesitate to call this a writing book as it’s much more an inspirational book. I wouldn’t recommend it for the budding novelist wants to write the next best seller. I would give it to the new novelist who’s struggling to stay motivated, frustrated by rejection, and looking for a reason to keep going. —In Stitches by Anthony Youn: Dr. Tony Youn’s autobiography explaining how he chose a career in plastic surgery. I couldn’t put the book down. His stories, his style, and his path to discovery make for an enjoyable, easy read. *** The English Major by Jim Harrison: I picked up the book because I liked the first line – “It was always Cliff and Vivian, and then it wasn’t.” The book reminded me of a secular, brasher version of Jan Karon’s Mitford series. I wasn’t expecting such frank discussions about sex, and his lack of punctuation was a bit distracting, but I enjoyed the book. It’s nice to read something from the male POV, and his rambling, comma-less style makes it easy to imagine a man rambling about his life. **1/2