Friday, April 8, 2011

My First Email Newsletter That is Also a Blog Post--Getting Ready for Anne Lamott at Alverno Next Tuesday, April 12, 7 pm. It's at Wehr Hall This Time.

I have friends at another bookstore that send out a separate email for each event.  I can see this if you do one event a month, but I get more than one a week.  I find it fascinating, but I'd fear that I'd get a lot of cancellations.

That said, I just send this dedicated email for our event for Anne Lamott at Alverno next Tuesday, April 12, 7 pm, at Wehr Hall.  Though I know Lamott has lots of big fans in Milwaukee, the event just needs a little extra help.  (On the other hand, our Patricia Wells event for Salad as a Meal on April 18 at Bacchus is sold out.)

And since it's a little more narrative-y than most emails, I decided to convert this into a blog post.  My apologies if you subscribe to both. I get the feeling that many people only read one or the other.  So here I go!

You can order Anne Lamott tickets on the Alverno website or by calling (414) 382-6044 between Noon and 6 pm, Monday through Friday. I'll give you more details about the tickets, plus the best place to park for Wehr Hall, and just about everything you need to know, but first I want to talk a little more about Anne Lamott and her new novel, Imperfect Birds.

Anne Lamott is one of our most beloved writers. Her writing guide Bird by Bird continues to be the bestselling book in its category, and perhaps the only writing book I've ever read. Her chronicle of her son's first year, Operating Instructions, is probably the only book I've ever read that I'd consider a parenting novel (and I just heard that the sequel has been signed up for publication!). Her faith trilogy (Plan B, Grace (Eventually), and Travelling Mercies*) is similarly beloved, and seem to transcend belief systems. Yes, I read Plan B too.

The truth is that Lamott takes anything she writes and brings it to another level of universal understanding. That's no small order. And through it all, she's been writing her novels, seven of them altogether. I have this distinct memory of chasing down an Anne Lamott book for my brother-in-law (dare I say it?) when I first started bookselling some 25 years ago. But that's not even my strongest Lamott memory. Who can't forget the day that Schwartz hosted Lamott and despite a terrible snowstorm, she triumphantly entered the bookstore an hour past the start of the reading? Her fans were so solid that pretty much none of them gave up and left. It was a pretty great night.

Imperfect Birds is the third novel Lamott has written about Rosie Ferguson and her mother Elizabeth, following Rosie and Crooked Little Heart. It's the story of a family in crisis, with a teenager who seemingly has it together, but is flirting dangerously with substance abuse. Her mom, Elizabeth, whose powerful trust in her child cause her to overlook dangerous signs, even though she's a recovering alcoholic herself. I'm going to admit here that I haven't finished the novel yet, but it's a fascinating read, filled with Lamott's wonderful writing and always entertaining insights into human nature.

So you are wondering, do you have to have read Lamott's previous "Rosie" novels to enjoy Imperfect Birds? Absolutely not! I did read Rosie but it was so long ago that I don't remember it anyway. I assure you that it's a self-contained story, not at all like starting Lord of the Rings with The Return of the King.

There's no question that this is a novel that contemplates substance abuse and addiction, a subject that Lamott has tackled several times before, as it comes from her own life. Lamott's journey from alcoholism to sobriety has been touched on in several of her memoirs, and was mother Elizabeth's battle in earlier "Rosie" novels. If this subject is of interest to you, I would like to recommend, as an aside, two absolutely wonderful novels that tackle the subject--Michelle Huneven's Blame and Heidi W. Durrow's The Girl who Fell from the Sky.

So yes, Anne Lamott is a wonderful writer and the new novel is a good read that will make an excellent book club suggestion. But the real reason to come to Anne Lamott is...Lamott is a spectacular speaker! You will be kicking yourself after this one if you are on the fence and don't come. You'll be chatting with one of your friends and they will tell you what an amazing time they had...and you probably won't get a chance to see Lamott for another five years. Even when the publisher and author are fond of Milwaukee as a tour city, it usually rotates onto the schedule about every two to three tours.

*I checked with Stacie, another big fan, and Travelling Mercies is her favorite.

Part 2: Daniel's Guide to a Great Anne Lamott Experience at Alverno College

1. Our event is at Wehr Hall (to be precise, Todd Wehr Auditorium in Christopher Hall, according to the sign outside). Though 39th street will pop up on search engines, this building is closest to 43rd and Morgan, the southwest corner of the campus. The address is 3400 South 43rd. Our website had the wrong number for a short time. Our apologies.

2. You can approach Alverno from the east, taking the Holt exit from 43 and traveling west.

3. I think it is faster and easier for most people (unless you live in Bay View, like I do) to take the Miller Park Way exit from 94. This street turns into 43rd Street. You will pass the redeveloped strip centers of West Allis, then beautiful Jackson Park on your left. The campus starts just after Oklahoma Avenue.

4. See that lot on 43rd and Morgan? Park there. Permits are not needed in the closer lot after 4 pm. Oh, and don't forget to allow for some extra time on the freeways. There are a lot of lane closures out there, particularly on I94.

5. If you do take Miller Park Way to 43rd, I do recommend eating at Pho 43, in the strip center in front of the Target. It's cheap, good, and I wish it were busier. The owners are very nice. I like the pho, the fried rice, and several of the noodle dishes.

6. Here's why you should buy your ticket now, instead of waiting until the last minute. Even if you buy your tickets that day, we'll have will-call at Wehr. But walk-up purchasers will have to go to the Pitman Box Office to buy tickets first, and then head over to Wehr. Ick!

7. There is a service charge of $5 per order. If you're going in a group, please buy your tickets together and save some dough!

8. You have two options--a paperback copy of Imperfect Birds (you get the picture--I'm going to stop obsessively linking), $10 off a different book on display, or a $10 gift card to use at Boswell on anything else you would like.

9. Caveat! Based on advance ticket purchase, we have brought in 200 copies of Imperfect Birds. If by some amazing marketing surge, we go well beyond an attendance that would cover book sales, the books are first come, first serve.

10. Want to read more about Anne Lamoot's Imperfect Birds? Here are reviews in The New York Times, the Seattle Times, and Time Magazine.

11. And here's an interview with Caroline Leavitt, a blogger, whose most recent novel, Pictures of You, was just released in paperback.

12. Hope to see you there! And if you have any questions, email me or call the store during our regular hours (see above) at (414) 332-1181.

So there you have it.  Now what else can I do?  And that's just one of six events we have coming up next week.  Seven, if you include the Jewish Day School reading on Tuesday at the store.

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