So this was awesome. I went to see Cheryl Strayed on Saturday at the Capitol. She was fucking great. I had stalked her so thoroughly online that not many of the stories she told about Dear Sugar or Wild or Vogue were new to me but it was still just so great to see her during the Q & A. She’s very engaging. She also performed at the Story Department, which I try to catch every month. It was at Cheer Up Charlies this time as part of the Lit Crawl, which I’d never been to before. It was friendly hipster all over. But those are the kind of hipsters there are in Austin.
I felt really nervous about getting my book signed by Cheryl Strayed. She is a writer’s writer and she is such a giant in the literary world right now. There was a ridiculous line to see her before her Q & A. It literally wrapped around two floors of the rotunda. The line for getting a book signed was not as bad though, because I bee-lined it after her talk. While I was in line I met Jessi Cape, who had interviewed her for the Austin Chronicle by phone, and we were both a little nervous. We didn’t want to seem like dorks or stalkers.
I had just read “Munro Country” the day before too, so I felt like Cheryl must have felt about Alice Munro, except Cheryl has never written me a letter saying she liked my short story. In that essay she talks about receiving such a letter from Alice Munro, and then she describes going to a reading to see Alice Munro. She talks about wanting to tell Alice Munro how much her work has meant to her, how much they have in common, but in the end she just smiles and moves on. She also describes Alice Munro as having a look that is a combination between guarded and friendly. She had the same quality, to me, but she took time to chat with everyone in line, and let them take a picture with her. Jessi and I quickly agreed to take pictures of each other with our respective cell phones when our turn came up.
I did not avoid seeming like a dork or stalker. In fact I think I probably looked like both.
But I totally didn’t care — it was effing Cheryl Strayed! I had her sign Tiny Beautiful Things, which I had not intended on buying at all, mainly because Dear Sugar is readily available online, but then I thought it would be nice to have all of them in one place, if I felt like laughing and sobbing alternately while reading it and using the elliptical at the Y or something. She asked me if I read the Dear Sugar column and I said yes, and that her column and some of her work I have read over and over and over again. I was referring to Love of My Life and Heroin/e, which I re-read many times in my Best of American Essays books. Is that lame? I never ordered the magazines themselves. Outside of the New Yorker I didn’t subscribe to any literary magazines, and still don’t. I’d like to, but it’s expensive. Then I asked if I could take her picture and I put my arm around her. Stalkerish?
When I leaned down to take a picture with her, my knees were shaking. I told Jessi this later and she said she was starstruck as well. I wasn’t really expecting that, as I haven’t really experienced it before. And I had a long conversation with Laurence Fishbourne at a piano bar once. And this was right after The Matrix!
So then I name-dropped Chloe Caldwell which made me feel kind of bad, but I really wanted Cheryl to know how thankful I was that she introduced me (not personally or anything) to her work. And maybe I wanted to stand out a little to her, too. “She’s going to babysit my kids,” said Cheryl. “She’s great.” She asked if I had talked to her and I said, “Yes, she’s been editing my essays.” I found out about Chloe through some article where Cheryl listed ten of her favorite books that came out last year, or some kind of theme like that. A few months after I read Legs Get Led Astray, I emailed Chloe and asked if she would consider reading some of my essays. Essays which I had not even written before I read LGLA. She was so sweet and friendly and cool and she said yes! So she’s been helping me and I am here to tell you that this girl’s star is rising so you better take advantage quick before she’s too busy with her own bestseller and writer’s workshops in beautiful locations that cost three grand for three days.
Chloe is my favorite.
Cheryl was so cool to come to the Lit Crawl. Jessi was like, “Do you think it would be weird if I went to the Lit Crawl too? Since I already saw her here?” I was like, hell no – come! I’m going! Jessi was cool and I was envious of her interview with Cheryl, who told Jessi that her article “stood out” to her. It is really good too, you should read it. Also Jessi has spoken to Steve Martin on the phone. Jealousyyyyyy.
At the Lit Crawl Cheryl talked about her accidental homebirth. She was great. After the Story Department we watched Five Things and I ended up talking to Lesley and Brittany, who are in charge of it. They said I could do it if I sent a sample and didn’t suck. Okay they didn’t say that but I think that might be the subtext to sending a sample, right?
After the Lit Crawl, Kami and Yvonne and I were walking to Yvonne’s car and we saw a bunch of people standing around drinking in the window of Write By Night. “Oh my god,” I said, “it’s the fucking after party. Let’s go over there right now.”
Talk about stalkerish. Cheryl Strayed had already gone home. But we had some delicious beers and stood next to Emma Straub and Jami Attenberg. We had a completely separate conversation about sex and marriage.
Next year, we’re gonna be invited. Mark my words!