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Author Archive: "Cheryl Strayed"

Other People’s Eyes

I've arrived at the final post in my stint as guest blogger for Powell's. It's been a hectic, joyous, exhausting and exhilarating week. Often, as I dashed from one thing to the next, I wrote these posts in my head and then found once I actually got to write I wrote something else entirely, mostly because I didn't have enough time to compose what I hoped to. Today my idea was to write about the complex feelings I've had when I talk to old friends who've read Wild. They aren't hearing the story for the first time — they knew me during the time I wrote about in the book — and yet in some ways the story is new to them because Wild is a book and life is life. I'm so busy I don't have time to do the subject justice, but I can at least offer a few notes.

Last night I went out with my dear friend Anne after my reading at Elliott Bay Books. We talked about old times and caught up on what's happening right now, and we also spoke of the ...


Showtime

Last night I had my launch reading for Wild at the Powell's downtown store. I felt overwhelmed with emotion when I saw the room was packed full. Writing is solitary work, it's true, but it's also work that has brought so many people into my life. I felt extraordinarily lucky for that last night.

Kevin Sampsell gave me a beautiful introduction. As he spoke, I felt filled with gratitude for the kind things he said — words that meant all the more to me because I have so much respect for him as both a writer and a human. When I went up to the podium and looked out at the sea of faces I saw dear old friends, new Facebook acquaintances, former and current students, my husband and children, people from so many different eras and aspects of my life, and I also saw a whole bunch of faces I didn't recognize, strangers who'd come to hear me read.

The little hidden person inside of me fell on her knees and wept, but I kept it together because it meant a lot to me to do so. ...


Your Book Has a Birthday

Yesterday was Wild's publication day — the day my book was released into the world and available in bookstores and online across the land. In my Sugar column, Tiny Beautiful Things I wrote: "Your book has a birthday. You don't know what it is yet." That's true enough, but I've known for months that March 20, 2012 would be the day Wild was born. I circled it on my calendar last summer and then waited, patiently and impatiently, fearfully and gleefully, for the day to arrive.

It was pretty fun when it finally did.

I spent the day with my darling husband Brian Lindstrom driving around Portland, Beaverton, and Tigard signing Wild at local bookstores. I also made a stop at the Powell's warehouse in Northwest Portland, where Brian and I chatted with Powell's employees Chris Farley and Jill Owens while I signed a bazillion copies of Wild. Here's a shot of me after signing one of the bazillion:

The excellent part about getting to meet booksellers is that just about every single one of them is the sort of person you'd want to be trapped ...


A Long Level Gaze

When I was 21 I saw the movie Henry and June in Minneapolis and was so affected by it I walked straight from the theater to a bookstore, where I purchased every book written by Anaïs Nin they had in stock. And so began my years-long obsession with Nin's diaries. She published volumes and volumes of them, each written in her dreamy yet precise style. I lost myself in her world, and found myself too. She was born 65 years before me, but that didn't matter. I knew what she was saying about art and love and sex, about jealousy and shame, about longing and doubt.

Like Nin, I was a prodigious journal-keeper during those years. My days poured onto the page, vividly described scenes of my life unspooling like fiction for three, five, ten pages at a time, my emotions exhaustively expressed and explored. I lamented and raged. I reasoned and begged. I reported and reached to find an explanation for the parts of me that I couldn't explain. Wherever I was, my journal was nearby. I carried a succession of them around ...


The Thinnest Possible Screen

Recently, I ran into a writer acquaintance a week before her first book — a memoir — was to be published. When she saw me, she screamed. "I'm terrified," she said a moment later, clutching onto me. "Are you terrified? Please tell me you're terrified."

"Yes," I replied with more equanimity than I felt. "How can anyone publish a memoir and not be?"

But as we spoke, I came to understand that her fears went beyond the general anxieties of having a book in the world in which she is the main character. She'd gotten specific with her terror. She was afraid she would come off as a self-absorbed creep in her book. She was afraid people would be hurt by what she wrote, or worse, claim it happened a different way and accuse her of lying. "I wake up in a cold sweat in the middle of the night," she told me. "Even though I told the truth and tried to be fair and implicated myself at every turn."

I can't say I didn't relate. The beautiful thing about memoir is also the thing that makes it the most ...


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