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Word by Word

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1997 Audie Award winner for country's Best Educational/How-to/Instructional Audiobook. Provocative and witty, Anne Lamott takes you beyond her book Bird by Bird . Good writing, she says, slows you down, opens your heart and arrives through your fingers, knowing what it's about. Learn how to keep things simple and how to write honestly about family and friends as you listen to this inspiring, live performance.

Audio CD

First published January 1, 1996

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About the author

Anne Lamott

78 books8,851 followers
Anne Lamott is an author of several novels and works of non-fiction. Based in the San Francisco Bay Area, her non-fiction works are largely autobiographical, with strong doses of self-deprecating humor and covering such subjects as alcoholism, single motherhood, and Christianity. She appeals to her fans because of her sense of humor, her deeply felt insights, and her outspoken views on topics such as her left-of-center politics and her unconventional Christian faith. She is a graduate of Drew College Preparatory School in San Francisco, California. Her father, Kenneth Lamott, was also a writer and was the basis of her first novel Hard Laughter.

Lamott's life is documented in Freida Lee Mock's 1999 documentary Bird by Bird: A Film Portrait of Writer Anne Lamott.

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5 stars
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342 (39%)
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154 (17%)
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24 (2%)
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Displaying 1 - 30 of 110 reviews
Profile Image for Bon Tom.
856 reviews58 followers
June 30, 2019
I rarely feel envy, but I do right now. Because verbal capabilities of this woman are beyond of whatever I'll be able to achieve during my lifetime. I'm not sure how good I can write, but I'm sure of how good - or bad, I can speak. I have one of those long tongues capable of licking the tip of my nose (which doesn't end too close to my face itself, by the way), but limited to confines of my mouth, it will more likely get bitten by my own teeth or get in the way of producing the coherent word than do its job. Even if I have clear template in my mind of what I actually want to say. Which, usually, I don't.

The result, when it happens, is also somewhat nasal, because of said boom box in the middle of my face.

This is a record of Anne Lamott speaking during a writing workshop. The way I see it, it's a literary masterpiece in speech. Great sense of humor, fluency, pacing, and depth of the content. Everything's there. How? I don't know. I guess she has one of those cute small tongues that prevented her from having normal childhood and sticking the tongue out to the grownups every five seconds.
Profile Image for Jeanette (Ms. Feisty).
2,179 reviews1,944 followers
May 12, 2012
I stumbled across this at the library. Well, not literally. It wasn't lying on the floor waiting to trip me. Anyway, it's an audio program of a workshop Lamott did as an outgrowth of her book, Bird by Bird.
This is not technically a book. It's not available in print. I'm adding it here anyway because I know a lot of you are interested in writing.

Anne Lamott is a very entertaining lady, and her humor comes across much more effectively in her speaking than in her writing. There's not a great deal of writing advice here that isn't in Bird by Bird, hence my middling rating. Still very enjoyable, and the encouragement is always welcome for hopeful writers.
Profile Image for Beth.
183 reviews7 followers
October 11, 2013
Really whet my appetite for "Bird by Bird." It's high time to FINALLY READ IT!
Profile Image for RuthAnn.
1,297 reviews178 followers
April 11, 2019
This recording of a lecture is a distillation of Lamott's wonderful Bird by Bird, which is one of my very favorite books about writing. And now I'm all messed up from the thought that writing is really about questioning how alive I am willing to be. THANKS A LOT, ANNE. (No, but really, thanks.)
Profile Image for Vannetta Chapman.
Author 134 books1,388 followers
July 17, 2020
I'm a fan of Lamott's influential book on writing, Bird by Bird - so when I saw this audio of her conference in Austin, I jumped right on it. And it doesn't disappoint. Lamott shines a candle in the darkness for every person that has a dream of writing.

Much of what she says focuses on using the experiences and joys and pains of our own personal life to fuel our writing. Personally--after nearly 40 books published, I'm not sure I do that much. I'm not sure I ever have. Occasionally, of course, I suppose every writer does to some extent. But I had the sense that she was speaking to people who write either memoirs or autobiographically inspired fiction. And much of what she says is encouragement to those who aren't published and may never be published.

Still, there is a lot of good stuff here--a lot of wisdom and honesty and direction. I'd say it's worth a listen for any writer, no matter where you are in that journey.
Profile Image for Marcia.
29 reviews9 followers
August 7, 2011
I am a huge fan of Lamott's Bird by Bird ever since I discovered it while sitting on the cool tile floor on a hot summer day, checking out my poet aunt's bookshelves. So I was just delighted to stumble across this while browsing the Overdrive for Ipod downloadable selections at the also very cool Louisville Public Library. Word by Word is an afternoon seminar, handy to listen to while procrastinating instead of writing, bicycling instead of writing, deadheading insteading of writing, in short, telling yourself you're being very productive -- even though, you're still not writing. It's short, left me wanting more, but just as with Bird by Bird, it was a few hours spending time with a friend, a teacher who will both kick my butt and make me laugh, and someone who made me think and start turning over possibilities. Annie, got any more like that?

And in case anyone wonders in these days of excessive choice, sitting on my aunt's floor seeking serendipity is more enjoyable than browsing yet another online platform, but I am very grateful for both in my life.
Profile Image for Robyn Jones.
Author 5 books105 followers
July 1, 2021
I read Bird By Bird in college in a writing class that rocked my planet. I loved the book, loved the class, loved everything about making up stories. It's one of those writing resources that has taken and will take years to get certain lessons. Word by Word is on the same level, except it's Anne Lamott talking to you and you feel like you finally dished out the money to go to a writer's conference. I've gone to a few author talks and writer's conferences and Word By Word and Stephen King's On Writing were just as powerful as live and in person workshops. This is one book I borrowed from the library and bought the same day I finished it.
Profile Image for Katie Fitzgerald.
Author 4 books206 followers
June 9, 2022
This workshop recording is a wonderful follow-up to Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life. Though this lecture is based on the material in the book, there is enough new content here to make it worth listening to. I especially appreciate Lamott's insistence that publication, while a perfectly fine path to pursue, is not the key to happiness as a writer. I also enjoyed the references to Flannery O'Connor and Middlemarch.
Profile Image for Pam.
458 reviews6 followers
September 25, 2017
This audio is a talk by Anne Lamott at at writer's workshop in Austin, Texas. She shares her thoughts and advice on writing with the same personal, humorous, intimate style that we love in her books. Worth listening to, even if you aren't a professional writer. We all want to write with greater clarity and depth,
Profile Image for M. .
159 reviews51 followers
August 5, 2018
This audio of Anne Lamott is of her presentation addressing people about her novel Bird by Bird.

This audio is a beautiful pairing after reading the novel and adds to the relevance of how vital her stories are for writers who are at any stage of their career and especially a must for aspiring writers.
Profile Image for Donald.
Author 4 books12 followers
November 16, 2008
This came across as more of a speaking engagement/ pep talk for a writing group. Anne Lamott is engaging and witty. She also comes across as down to earth and very real.

As one who writes, I may revisit this one if I need a cheerleader.
Profile Image for Melissa.
228 reviews61 followers
May 31, 2017
I found myself smiling and laughing out loud and feeling encouraged and so glad there is this extension of Bird by Bird. (And to be able to respond this way to anything right now feels like the best gift.)
Profile Image for Mary Desive.
20 reviews65 followers
July 23, 2016
I listened to this on cassette so much that the tape broke and I now need to replace it.
Profile Image for Alexandra.
741 reviews35 followers
May 3, 2020
This is a recording of a talk given. So there are a lot of 'um's in it. I'm excited to read bird by bird now

otherwise I enjoyed the idea that you have to get to know your characters in order to make them interact - not figure out a plot and then bend the characters to it.

"The reward is in the daily getting your work done. And if you get your work done on a daily basis you're going to feel like you're living up to something. And if you get your work done on a daily basis you're going to have guilt free afternoons and evenings and you're going to feel like you're onto something."

"As soon as you're holding space for your material and your characters, they're going to start talking. They just are."

"I just think that one of the huge gifts of writing is to teach you who you really are. And that a lot of us pretended for so long to be this way or that way or the other way so that we would look good. It's back to that idea of the frantic effort to appear recovered. And for some of us our entire lives were spent trying to look good, trying to achieve a great deal to make the family look good and there wasn't enough. That's the deepest spiritual truth I know is that there's not enough. There's not enough out there. It's not out there. You're going to make yourself crazy."

"That's kinda the American myth is that you should do things alone and you should have to really work hard and feel unhappy while you're doing it, if we can count it for much. And it's a lie...It can be about joy."

10 favorite words list
300 word description of someone you really hate
300 words on you 5 years from now, 10 years from now
300 words about if you couldn't be here where would you like to be
read wishes lies and dreams Kenneth Koch
write about why you are writing despite the fact that you may not be good or ever be published, why you refuse to stop
136 reviews1 follower
April 6, 2022
Hilarious. Provides good advice on writing while being amusing at the same time. Made me think of Stephen King's book on the same theme.
Profile Image for John.
404 reviews10 followers
August 16, 2023
Short 3-hour audio book of a lecture given by Anne Lamott. It is thoughtful, funny, and helpful for writers. It's a must to go alongside Bird by Bird
Profile Image for Lisa Lewton.
Author 1 book7 followers
July 17, 2023
Best to read “Bird by Bird” and this lecture is a bonus.
Profile Image for Lori.
268 reviews2 followers
December 24, 2019
I loved this audiobook! So many great tips for the writing life. Especially enjoyable since Anne, herself, narrates.
Profile Image for Jackie St Hilaire.
126 reviews12 followers
April 7, 2017
Good advice from a seasoned author

Anne Lamott is a good mentor to help us on our way to writing.

Her best advice is not to get caught up in the publishing of the book. This only leads to anxiety and writer's block.

Go with the characters and build on it, no need to have a "plot" before beginning.

If you are patient and work diligently it will all connect.
Profile Image for Wayne's.
1,110 reviews9 followers
July 18, 2019
A really great audio book if you are into writing.
Profile Image for Amy Formanski Duffy.
340 reviews20 followers
August 7, 2013
Sometimes you stumble upon a book right when you really need it. I was just browsing for a downloadable audiobook that was available from my library and I found this. I've been trying to motivate myself to write fiction again, and Lamott has some helpful nuggets of advice. She says that you have to give yourself permission to write shitty rough drafts, to steal great lines from your funniest friends (as long as they aren't writers who use them for their own material), to acknowledge that your observations about the world are valid, and to write about family and other people you know. She says you should just add some embarrassing details to their characters so that they'll never want to admit their identities in public. Great idea! She believes that if you start with a character the material will sort of emerge on its own. But you have to make yourself sit down and write every day. She emphasizes that getting published will not make you a happier person. In fact, it just complicates your life more complicated. Of course most writers will want to be published no matter what. But I think she's right. If you let go of that desperate need to have the fancy hardcover with your name on it, you might be able to get down to business and actually write something without censoring yourself. Her words of wisdom were just what I needed to hear this week. And then I found a copy of Bird by Bird in the discard bin yesterday right when I was thinking, "I should really read that now that I've listened to her audiobook." I'll take that as a sign from the universe that I need to get off my tail and write some stories.
Profile Image for Tim.
94 reviews13 followers
April 26, 2013
This is an audio-only book because it's the recording of a workshop she did after the publication of Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life.

She gives some excellent advice, most notably she stresses that B+ is a good grade (highlighting that things don't have to be perfect) and that one should work on short assignments to get practise in the art of writing. She recommends that one write 300 words a day (so basically a page) and over the course of a year, you'd have a draft of a novel. The short assignments fits in nicely with the Writing Excuses podcast where they discuss some writing topic and then give a suggested task at the end of it so you gain experience.

This isn't very long (less than 3 hours) so if you're interested in writing you might want to take a listen.
Profile Image for Cathy.
186 reviews27 followers
February 4, 2011
Good supplement to Anne Lamont's classic how-to-write novel, Bird by Bird. Clearly as talented a speaker as she is a writer, Anne Lamont proves to be a wealth of information as she lectures and conducts a Q&A in a University setting. She adds just the right amount of humor and biographical information to her lecture on motivating writers everywhere. Some of the lessons I took from this audio book, such as the index card technique, will be long remembered on my my journey as I continue to practice the art of writing. Short and sweet. I think the most beneficial "how-to" type of info could be summed up on the first cd but much background info and the wisdoom of shared experiences mostly spent on the last two cds cannot be discounted. This lecture definitely convinced me that Bird by Bird is a writing book I need to add to my forever collection.
Profile Image for Katrina Sark.
Author 9 books39 followers
August 10, 2015
"Writing is about learning to pay attention to the world and you probably have to slow down to do that."

"The reward is in the writing. In getting the work done on a daily basis."

"Without bad things happening, there is no story. We want to see our lives reflected in the stuff we're reading, we want to see people who have had the bad thing happen and who have lived to tell."

Start a Writer's Group with 4-5 people:
1.Make a list of your 10 favourite words
2. Write a description (300 words) of yourself in 5-10 years
3. Write about why you're writing and insist on writing despite all the obstacles

"With writer's block it might not be that you're blocked and stuck, but rather that you're empty. And what you can do is grant yourself a bit of time to go about filling up by paying attention to life and taking notes."

Profile Image for Tanya.
1,650 reviews
September 23, 2011
I came across this as an available library download and I'm glad I gave it a lesson. There were times I laughed out loud and I really hadn't expected that from a tape of an oral seminar she'd given. I wish I could impress upon my about getting started with her writing projects and feeling a certain amount of comfort with " short assignments and sh*tty first drafts." This is a book I'd recommend to her when she's in high school to help her get through some of the drudgery she seems to feel about writing. I haven't read anything else of Annie Lamott's and not sure I will, but I would recommend this to a friend.
Profile Image for Beth.
31 reviews9 followers
July 16, 2014
I listened to this via Audible over two commutes. It's short and packed with wisdom.

In my own writing, I strive to follow Anne Lamott's advice; and in my teaching, I recommend "Bird by Bird" to everyone who wants to write. This workshop presents so much valuable perspective, and it's fun to hear it straight from Anne's mouth.

But in listening to this work, I discovered that I would rather read Anne's voice than hear it. I love the way her words play on the page, and I like to savor her messages by studying the text with my eyes.

That said, given the opportunity to see and hear Anne Lamott in person, I wold leap! I'd love to spend an afternoon with this woman.
Profile Image for Maggie.
1,628 reviews38 followers
July 30, 2015
this "read" is an audio of a seminar ms. lamott gave in austen texas. it is filled with humor and fast talking and excellent suggestions on how to keep on writing despite any unkind messages the brain may send out to the soul. as margaret robison said in the long journey home "i am a writer because i write." publishing has nothing to do with observing and writing. and ms. lamott's thoughts -- word by word, albeit delivered in fast-speech -- are excellent and funny. she's a jewel, imo. her suggestions are jewels as well.

second listen/read: 29 july 2015 ... even better than the first time! she's funny and real and inspirational.
Profile Image for gwen g.
482 reviews18 followers
August 29, 2011
This is a recording of a talk Lamott gave almost a decade ago. She says a lot of things I don't necessarily want to hear -- that publishing a book doesn't automatically make you happier and more fulfilled, for example -- but she's Anne Lamott, so you know it's all OK in the end.

It was great to hear her speak extemporaneously, rather than just reading one of her audiobooks aloud. She's really talking off the cuff. A lot of it was familiar from Bird by Bird, but this had a bit more edge and bite to it, and she isn't just sweet and encouraging all the time.
Profile Image for Edwin B.
276 reviews12 followers
February 28, 2012
Writing comes from a place of inner stillness, where word by word flows effortlessly, says Anne Lamott in this recording of one of her seminars. It thrives on a sense of wonder about other lives, other places and other things. It follows characters and stories, unfolding of their own accord, without manipulation by the writer. It's good when it touches the heart. And it is its own pleasure.
Profile Image for Fred.
159 reviews4 followers
July 6, 2013
This lecture was a good reminder of some of the principles Anne Lamott sets forth in her wonderful book Bird by Bird. If you're looking for writing advice and inspiration and haven't read that, I suggest that's what you should seek out instead. This lecture contains much of the same advice, but leavened with more anecdotes and a bit more insight into Lamott herself.
Displaying 1 - 30 of 110 reviews

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