Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott Causes Riff in Writers’ Ranks

Reviewed by Carolyn Howard-Johnson, author of “This is the Place” and “Harkening: A Collection of Stories Remembered”

My goodness! At reviewers have been having a hayday wtih Anne Lamott’s “Bird by Bird.” Who would have guessed that one slim little volume about writing could cause so much controversy?

This National Bestseller does not promise a complete course in advanced writing. The subtitle says “SOME Instructions on Writing and LIFE.” What you see is what you get.

“Bird by Bird” is a perfect introduction to writing for beginning writers just as, I suspect, LaMott’s courses in writing are. More advanced writers could get out their Hi-liters and pay attention not so much to WHAT she says but HOW she says it. It also wouldn’t hurt to look at her self deprecating humor (I don’t see where these readers are seeing all that self-absorption stuff–I truly don’t!) and her honesty.

Could some of this be professional jealousy?

This is a book that gives what it promises and more! And yes, some of the advice is similar to guidelines that have been given by others. Writers’ books are sort of a genre of their own–in the vein of King’s and others. You know, A little memoir, a little humor, a little advice. How much new can be said about how to write anyway?

Writers or wanna be writers should find this a nice, savory little book to be read a little at a time, “bird by bird.” I find it extremely hard to criticize an author of this caliber, but if you want to, join the frenzy at

Carolyn Howard-Johnson is a columnist for The Pasadena Star News and Home Decor Buyer. You can find more about her first novel, This is the Place, and Harkening: A Collection of Stories Remembered The novel has been called “…fabulous…” by Valerie Susan Hayward, Consultant and former Senior Editor at Halequin/Silhouette. .

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