Girl Power 

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She Loves Me Not

Anne Lamott's writing is intimate enough to create the illusion that you've known her all your life. Staying up until 3 a.m. to finish one of her memoirs is like having a marathon heart-to-heart with your best friend. From doubting God and recovering from alcoholism to burying her parents, raising her son and becoming a rock-star writer, in many ways Lamott does feel like someone you know. The only problem is, she doesn't know you.

This is what I discovered after she dumped me. Not once, but twice. I can't figure out why Anne Lamott hates me.

I was thrilled to hear she was headlining at the St. James's Episcopal Church WomanKind Conference in February 2006 and crushed to discover that the single interview she grants per appearance had been promised months before to a writer at the Richmond Times-Dispatch. I went to see her anyway. St. James's huge sanctuary was packed to capacity with women of every kind -- all of whom had one thing in common: They worshipped Lamott. Had all her books. Had traveled from Mars to see her. This 50-something single mom had groupies. There was an enormous collective sigh each time she said something profound, a deafening silence as she paused before the next word.

This was the crowd behind which I stood, waiting with my earmarked copy of "Traveling Mercies," certain that the moment we were face to face she'd recognize me as a kindred spirit and transfer to me some brilliant insight that would set my world on fire. Instead, by the time I got to her, she looked tired and uncomfortable. She wrote "Anne Lamott" on the inside cover of my book as I stuttered, literally speechless that my vision had not unfolded as planned. "Uh, yeah, like, I really like your stuff a lot," I said. "Thanks," she said. Or something like that. I moved away and let the lady behind me have her turn.

You can imagine how excited I was to learn that she's coming to Richmond again — two years later. I called early this time. I e-mailed. I stopped short of sending brownies. And still, I didn't get the interview. I have no idea why. But yes, I'll go to see her again. I'll bring another book to be signed. And I'll try not to act like a bride once jilted at the altar. — Valley Haggard

Anne Lamott speaks on "Faith, Writing and Life Connections" at University of Richmond's Cannon Memorial Chapel Wednesday, March 5 at 7 p.m. Tickets are free but must be reserved. Call 289-8980 or visit

Girls, Girls, Girls

It's hard to be a parent these days. There doesn't seem to be a road map to the dimly lighted back streets of your child's mind, particularly when they approach adolescence. JoAnn Deak, Ph.D., author of "Girls Will Be Girls: Raising Confident and Courageous Daughters," has worked for more than 25 years with schools and parents to find a way to make the path from childhood to adulthood a little less perplexing. Deak will speak about girls and their development during the Global Girl Leadership Symposium held at the River Road Baptist Church Tuesday, March 4.

In the last five years, brain studies have indicated that there might be fundamental differences between girls and boys. But, Deak says, "it's a more complex question than it sounds. Male and female brains tend to reach a state of readiness at slightly different ages, and that has great ramifications for parenting and teaching — and just about everything."

Girls appear to be ready to learn to read anywhere from a year to two years earlier than boys, and this leads to a much higher percentage of boys in remedial reading groups. Meanwhile, girls seem to develop the ability to process abstract thought later than boys.

"So girls," Deak says, "when they deal with algebra, they think it just isn't clear to them and they aren't good at it. Whereas if they just waited a year or two until the parts of the brain that deal with that kind of thinking mature, they'd be just fine."

Gender differences are both biologically based and socially influenced, Deak says. Predispositions uncovered by neurobiologists shouldn't need to lead to knee-jerk stereotyping, however. Both boys and girls tend to do better if separated into single-sex education at some point in their academic careers to address different learning styles, she says: "It really has to do with when the brain is ready, and if we understood that, we wouldn't cause girls to feel stupid in math or cause boys not to feel excited about reading. You start with neurobiology and then you adjust it."

— Brandon Fox

The Global Girl Leadership Symposium is at River Road Baptist Church, 8000 River Road, Tuesday, March 4, starting at 7:30 a.m. Admission is $85 (including a box lunch). Call 200-3057 or e-mail

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