Earlier this month I moderated a panel at Chicago Theological Seminary called "The Book That Changed My Life/My Church," so when I saw that Modern Mrs Darcy is hosting a blog carnival with the same theme, I knew I would have to participate. I've already done the homework!
Sometimes you just read the right book at the right time. I read Traveling Mercies in hardback the summer of 2000, just a few months after it came out. I was already an Anne Lamott fan, having picked up Bird by Bird in the clearance stacks. I was very uncertain about, well... everything. I was nineteen going on twenty. I didn't know who I wanted to be. I was interested in God, but not necessarily on speaking terms with him. I loved writing, but spent more time daydreaming about being a writer than actually putting words on the page.
And then I read Traveling Mercies. And I suddenly knew exactly who I wanted to be. Anne Lamott! Her life was altogether different than mine, and while I didn't envy the particular circumstances, I idolized her pluck and wisdom and way with words. I had it so bad I briefly convinced myself my stick-straight hair could host dreadlocks. Instead, I copped her writing style and her church-going habits.
I wrote my seminary application essay in the voice of Anne Lamott. I told my own stories, but I was channeling Annie as hard as I could. (Have you noticed that all the cool kids are channeling another Annie these days?) To this day, both my faith and my writing are indebted to Traveling Mercies. Though I'm fairly sure I write like myself now, I don't doubt that you could easily figure out my writing roots, and I'm totally okay with that.
I've wondered if Traveling Mercies would have the same effect on me if I read it for the first time yesterday, but I can't even fathom the scenario; I simply wouldn't be the same person without that book.
So thanks, Anne Lamott. (You should totally read Any Day a Beautiful Change, by the way; it's right up your alley! I should know.)