I just got home from a Cheryl Strayed reading and thought I’d share a few tidbits before I head off to bed.
She opened by telling the SRO crowd how she came to hike the trail, what had triggered the decision to do it. Then she read a very short and funny passage — the part where she meets the journalist who writes about hobos, if you’ve read the book — which was snappy and funny and just right. Then she took questions. All in, less than an hour = the perfect author reading! (note to self )
Now, here are your promised bits:
1. She’s grateful and overwhelmed by WILD’s reception. It will be #7 next week when the NYT Book Review comes out. But she was very clear that, to her, this book would be the same book if only 5 people read it. Once you write the book and put it out there, you really have no idea what will become of it. She’s been a starving artist for 20 years. What fun this is.
2. She’s always considered herself an aspiring writer, but a fiction writer. She never planned to write this.
3. How long did it take to write it? 2 Years.
4. She doesn’t outline. She finds the narrative by writing the story. In a lot of ways, WILD was already organized. There is the trail, going South to North, and every chapter naturally begins on the trail, a little further up the way. This part of the story is naturally chronological, even though the back story she weaves in is not.
5. Note to memoir writers: If you’re not going to reveal your true self, stay home. Even if we share all of ourselves in close relationships, there are always our deeper selves, the selves we don’t readily share, so when you write your memoir you have to let it out, you have to reveal your humanity.
6. The most appalling question she’s answered on this book tour? “Did you have sex with anyone on the trail in exchange for food?” To which she answered, “Why? Do you want to have dinner?”
If you have a chance to see her, go! Here’s where you can find her upcoming events.
I’ll have you know I was a 1/2 hour early and sat in the front row and was the first in the looooooong line to have my book signed.
Okay, I was an hour early — the first one in the store. The chairs weren’t even set up yet.
I did sit in the front row, but I soon regretted this when a woman plopped down next to me and started trying to sell me her book. Without so much as an introduction she cuddled right up and started selling. And selling. And selling.
I was first in line, until some older finely dressed and coiffed lady, who obviously knew Cheryl, scooched right in front of me and started having a conversation with the author. It was an awkward few minutes. What to do?! Where to look?! How to not interrupt!! Shit. By the time the lady left, I’d lost my words. I handed her my book to sign and I could barely speak. I tried to say how much I’d loved the book, but did I actually say that? Shit. And then I wanted to say I knew someone from her writing group and it felt like it took an hour to get Suzy’s first and last name out of my mouth, which didn’t even seem to go together by the time I got them out. I’m nothing if not smooth.