Anne Lamott was born in San Francisco, California, in 1954, the daughter of the writer Kenneth Lamott. She grew up in Marin County, north of San Francisco. At seventeen, she attended Goucher College in Maryland on a tennis scholarship, where she wrote for the school paper. However, she dropped out after two years and returned to the Bay Area, where she briefly worked for a magazine called WomenSports.
Lamott always knew that she wanted to write, and after moving to Bolinas, in Marin, she began to work on vignettes and stories. The discovery that her father was dying of brain cancer inspired her to organize these short pieces into her first novel, Hard Laughter, published in 1980 when Lamott was only twenty-six years old. Her next book, Rosie, came out three years later.
Lamott had been experiencing alcohol and drug problems, and in the mid-1980s, she quit using these substances, went into rehabilitation, and did not write for six months. When she returned to her craft, she produced the novel, All New People, whose publication she refers to in Operating Instructions.
With the birth of her son, Sam, in 1989, Lamott became a single mother. Although she had less time to write, Lamott’s friends urged her to jot down notes about her daily life and her agent asked to see them. These notes eventually became Operating Instructions, published in 1993, which covered the first year of her life with Sam. The book’s publication brought Lamott to national prominence.
Since then, Lamott has published both fiction and nonfiction writing. Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life came out in 1994. This popular book provides a step-by-step guide on how to write and manage the writer’s life. In 1999, Lamott published Traveling Mercies: Some Thoughts on Faith, which is a collection of her thoughts about her religious faith.
In addition to her novels and nonfiction books, Lamott was a restaurant critic for California magazine from 1988 through 1991 and wrote a book review column for Mademoiselle from 1990 through 1992. Until 1999, she regularly published her diary in the online magazine Salon. A former teacher at the University of California, she is also the past recipient of a Guggenheim fellowship.