Anne Lamott fans who can’t get enough of her trademark humorous-neurotic-spiritual voice will thank their Higher Power for a second book this year from the essayist and novelist. (Earlier in 2012 Lamott published Some Assembly Required, about unexpectedly becoming a grandmother.) Help Thanks Wow: The Three Essential Prayers is what you would get if you crossed Brother Lawrence’s religious classic The Practice of the Presence of God with a Tina Fey routine.
Will some of your fans think you’ve gone off the religious deep end with a prayer book?
I think this is just so up my alley. It’s about prayer, but it’s really so much about life, how we get through the impossible or confusing times. It’s me in concentrate, like orange juice. I gave one talk in Tennessee on writing and one the next day on faith. The talk I give on faith and the talk I give on writing are really not all that different.
Do you think prayer really is this simple?
It’s about being in a gentle but structured relationship with a Higher Power and one’s own self and the truth, and getting the work done. You close your eyes, breathe, and say, “hi.” The reason “help” is such a great prayer is that God is the gift of desperation. When you’re in despair, you’re teachable.
How do you write? Do you have a routine?
With writing—and prayer—it’s about the development of habits. I try to be at work at nine (a.m.). If I set aside nine to one (p.m.), that’s good. Especially during an election year. I’ll be leaping up to check CNN.
You’re voting this year, right?
I’m doing everything I can. I always do. I come by this honestly—my parents were always very politically involved. In 1959 we had bumper stickers and pens for Kennedy.
Do you prefer writing fiction or nonfiction?
Writing nonfiction comes much more easily for me. A novel takes three years, and the first year you don’t know what you’re doing.
What are you reading to your three-year-old grandson, Jax?
Cat in the Hat. I begged for us to read something else. I can see Jax is on the bridge to his first chapter book—he wants there to be collagen to the pages. He would love to know what happens when the mother comes through the door.
It’s a collection of new and old pieces about coming through the hardest patches of time and loss, As in Life. There will be pieces from Traveling Mercies, and some (previously) unpublished pieces. A third are brand new.