Who’s talking? POV, Voice, and Narrator as explained in Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird

book cover

Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott

There are few books that come up with my writer friends more often than Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird. In the same way that I feel like I’m not quite smart enough because I’ve never taken Calculus, I’ve felt like a slacker because I┬ánever got around to reading it.

And I should have felt guilty–because it’s great.

Okay, so it has a lot of rather vulgar language, but Lamott’s writing is so funny, and yet so useful, that I’m pretty much in love with the book.

One of the interesting bits of advice that Lamott gives writers is a gem she attributes to the author Ethan Canin. The most important way to improve your writing, he says, is to employ a likeable narrator.

Here’s the thing that struck me about this advice: for many, many years, I always wrote in third person. Continue reading

This is officially a rant.

Please forgive me for the following. I cannot help myself.

In the middle of this lovely Jewish holiday of Sukkot, I find myself very cranky instead of all smiley-faces. I just received a rejection letter (the second for this particular writing project), but that’s not the thing that upsets me the most. What upsets me the most is that there are so few options left for me on this project.
I am an author. I am a first-rate doodler, but I am not an illustrator. And because of that, many publishers and agents don’t even want to hear from me. Many, if not most, have closed their doors to unsolicited picture book manuscripts that are submitted without illustrations attached.
There are some wonderful author-illustrators out there. But even many famous ones write books not illustrated by themselves (Mo Willems, Rosemary Wells, and Kevin Henkes, for example), and there are also examples of books that would have been better if the publisher had given the writing and illustrating jobs to separate people (I refuse to name names, as this would be hurtful). Outstanding words rarely come from outstanding graphic artists. Many wonderful authors would never be heard from if they had to prove their drawing chops just to get a book deal.
Maybe an editor or agent can explain this trend to me, but right now I’m busy having a pity party. Try me some other time.