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. I had things I wanted to say. I don't remember what any of them were. And yet it's a night I'll never forget.
Yesterday began at KATU, where I was a guest on their morning show "AM Northwest." Here's a shot of me in the green room:
A few people who had me sign their books at Powell's told me they came because they saw me on the show. One of those people was the father of someone I wrote about in Wild — my friend Rick. Those of you who've read the book will know him to be one of the Three Young Bucks. Rick's father hasn't yet read Wild, but he bought three copies, two of which were gifts for two of the young bucks. I delighted in meeting him and not only because his son is dear to me.Some tiny pocket in my heart always fills when I meet people's parents. Maybe it's because no one ever gets to meet mine.
Several people cried last night when they chatted with me as I signed their books. Most were women who'd lost their mothers young. One was a woman in her early 20s, who said the things I've written about my grief have made her feel less alone. She told me that she feels like the only one in her age group who has a dead mom. I remember feeling that way in the years after my mom died, before I found The Tribe of Women With Dead Mothers. I thought immediately of Karen Karbo and Hope Edelman and Emily Chenoweth and Rachel Resnick and so many others who've made me feel less alone.
"Hold on," I told the young woman, "there are lots of us."
After the signing and after the post-signing party and after I returned home and packed like a maniac for my book tour until 2am, I lay awake not being able to sleep because I was thinking about everything that happened the day before. Someone gave me a jar of homemade pickles at the reading. Who was it? I could not remember for the life of me. Sarah Gilbert gave me a jar of homemade something else, but what was it? The only thing I knew for certain is that it wasn't mustard. I almost turned on the lights at 3:14 just to see, but then finally I fell asleep.
I woke at 6:30 to catch a flight to Seattle. As the plane ascended and I looked down at Portland getting smaller and smaller I thought, it's showtime. The real beginning of my book tour. Wish me luck.
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Cheryl Strayed is the author of the memoir Wild and the novel Torch. Her third book, Tiny Beautiful Things, a collection of the "Dear Sugar" columns she writes for TheRumpus.net, will be released in July. She lives in Portland, Oregon, with her family.
Books mentioned in this post
Cheryl Strayed is the author of Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail