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  • CHRISTINE: Christine [INAUDIBLE].

  • I'm a member of our legal team.

  • And I somehow got tricked into doing this event because I was

  • so excited to meet Cheryl.

  • For those of you who don't know, Cheryl Strayed is a New

  • York Times best-selling author.

  • She had two books come out in the last year, "Wild," which

  • was her memoir of her three-month solo trip up the

  • Pacific Crest Trail of hiking more than 1,000 miles.

  • She also had a book come out called "Tiny Beautiful

  • Things," which is a compendium, I don't know, a

  • collection of her columns that she wrote as Dear Sugar.

  • And "Dear Sugar" was an advice column on the Rumpus.

  • Still is.

  • CHERYL STRAYED: Yes.

  • CHRISTINE: But, sort of advice column that transcended the

  • bounds of advice columns.

  • She's also the author of a critically acclaimed novel

  • called "Torch." And she has an MFA from Syracuse University

  • and a PA from the University of Minnesota.

  • And she lives in Portland with two kids.

  • CHERYL STRAYED: And my husband.

  • CHRISTINE: And her husband.

  • CHERYL STRAYED: And our three cats.

  • CHRISTINE: Three cats?

  • CHERYL STRAYED: Three, yeah.

  • CHRISTINE: That's a lot of cats.

  • CHERYL STRAYED: That's a lot of cats.

  • CHRISTINE: So welcome.

  • We're so excited to have you.

  • CHERYL STRAYED: Thank you.

  • It's great to be here.

  • And thank you all for coming.

  • Oh, thanks.

  • CHRISTINE: So, we had lunch today.

  • And Cheryl has seen all of the Google perks.

  • So I think the next step, Laslo, is maybe that we need

  • an artist in residence.

  • CHERYL STRAYED: Yeah.

  • We're thinking.

  • I could split my time, artist in residence

  • and hiker in residence.

  • CHRISTINE: We have plenty of trails around here.

  • CHERYL STRAYED: That's right.

  • That's right.

  • Somebody needs to take you guys on those trails.

  • CHRISTINE: So, the last year of your life, I think, must be

  • something that you couldn't have anticipated.

  • Did you anticipate that both "Tiny Beautiful Things" and

  • "Wild" would have exploded like this when you were

  • writing them and publishing them?

  • CHERYL STRAYED: No.

  • And yet, there's a longer answer to that question.

  • It has to do with essentially what I had to do along the way

  • as I became a writer.

  • When I was in my early 20s and I had all of these ambitions

  • to be a writer and was really studying the writer's craft

  • and writing my first stories, I had these grandiose ideas

  • about what it meant to be a writer that I think a lot of

  • times people early in their careers as writers they think,

  • OK, I'm gonna write this book.

  • I am gonna be on the best seller list, or I'll be a

  • famous author.

  • And then the more you work, the more you come to

  • understand that you really cannot measure

  • success in that way.

  • Your book being on the best seller list is not an accurate

  • gauge of success when you're a literary artist.

  • And I say that with great confidence because I know so

  • many fantastic writers who are writing beautiful work worthy

  • of our attention that they don't ever

  • really get our attention.

  • And so, I had to really come to grips with that pretty

  • early on and say the way I was going to measure success as a

  • writer was to always do the best work I could, to put my

  • full self into it, to do my work, to study the craft, and

  • to write fearlessly with great vulnerability, and

  • then come what may.

  • What's so fascinating to me is "Wild" would be the exact same

  • book whether two people had read it or two million people

  • had read it.

  • That book what exist.

  • I would not have done anything differently.

  • But of course what happens when two million people have

  • read your book is it becomes something else.

  • It goes from being my book to your book.

  • And one of the things that has happened over and over again,

  • I've talked to thousands of people around the world in

  • this last year.

  • And they all tell me their relationship to the book,

  • their stories about the book, the pieces of it that

  • intrigued them or infuriated them or whatever

  • the book did to them.

  • And so they've sort of made it theirs.

  • CHRISTINE: Your writing, I think, is so emotional.

  • And it's so honest, I think, so raw about experiences that

  • happened to you.

  • It's seems like you're very, very forthcoming about things.

  • And I think I'm curious as to what it's like as a writer to

  • have something that's so close to your heart that then goes

  • out into the world and sort of morphs into its own beast?

  • What is that like?

  • CHERYL STRAYED: The couple months right

  • before "Wild" came out--

  • I'm just gonna set this down.

  • The couple months before "Wild"

  • came out, I was terrified.

  • I had been writing the "Dear Sugar" column.

  • I'd written essays that had been read widely that were

  • very vulnerable and raw.

  • But I had never published a book that was essentially my

  • heart on the page.

  • I mean, my first book, "Torch," is my heart on the

  • page, but it's fiction.

  • And so even though there are all these pieces of "Torch"

  • that are, in fact, very true, there was this screen between

  • me and the reader where I could say,

  • well, this is a fiction.

  • "Wild," I was saying the opposite.

  • I was saying this is me.

  • This is my story.

  • If somebody doesn't like the book-- and I

  • mean, I've seen this.

  • I try not to read--

  • I try not to Google myself.

  • Because really for a writer, that's a dangerous prospect.

  • And I get these Google alerts every day.

  • And I try to sort of skim and not really actually read what

  • people have written about me.

  • And people have written all kinds of really nice

  • things about me.

  • And then some people have written really nasty

  • things about me.

  • And what's happening is that character in that book is me.

  • And so if they don't like the book, they think

  • they don't like me.

  • Or if they do like the book, they think they like me.

  • And, a couple of nights ago I was giving a reading.

  • And afterwards, this woman came up with her book and she

  • said, I'm so glad I came tonight.

  • And I said think you.

  • And she said I didn't think I was gonna like you at all.

  • And I was like, oh, thank you.

  • And I didn't even want to explore what she

  • meant by that because--

  • What she was saying is you in person, I like you in person.

  • But I think she had some misgivings

  • about me on the page.

  • And so this is an incredibly scary thing.

  • And yet it's the writer's work.

  • It's the whole deal.

  • Not just the writer, any artist.

  • I walked past some paintings when we were coming in here.

  • And that is this person taking a great amount of risk and

  • presenting it to you.

  • And you get to say whether you like it or you don't like it.

  • And so you're either accepting or rejecting really something

  • that is this person's like greatest passion.

  • And, it's a big deal.

  • And I had to really come to grips with the fact that like

  • there's never been a book written that everyone loves.

  • I'm OK with the fact that some people hate the book and some

  • people love the book.

  • But, I've had to step back from it.

  • CHRISTINE: One of the craziest things that I think must have

  • happened to you--

  • this is from my perspective, of course-- but I understand

  • that Reese Witherspoon requested your book before it

  • was even published and then optioned it essentially before

  • it was out on the presses.

  • And so, now there's going to be a big screen movie of your

  • life, of an incredibly raw part of your life that is also

  • going to be made in Hollywood.

  • And letting go of that control must be something difficult to

  • contemplate?

  • CHERYL STRAYED: Just last week, I read the script.

  • So, you're right.

  • About three months before "Wild" came out,

  • I got a film agent.

  • And in just all right in one day, the film agent said,

  • there are three women in Hollywood under the age of 40

  • who can get a movie made.

  • And they knew that the challenge of "Wild" is the

  • main character is a woman.

  • And there are a bunch of men in the book, but none of them

  • are really main characters.

  • And so that's already problematic.

  • Hollywood doesn't want to make a movie featuring a woman.

  • And so, right away my film agent said, so we need to find

  • an actress who feels passionately about the book

  • and will take it on as her project.

  • And she said, I just was chatting with Reese

  • Witherspoon, and she said she'd loved to read your book

  • over the weekend.

  • So this was a Friday.

  • Would you let Reese read it?

  • And I was like sure.

  • I mean, why not?

  • CHRISTINE: Yeah.

  • I guess.

  • CHERYL STRAYED: And so, and then I lit a candle--

  • which I don't necessarily believe that lighting a candle

  • has any actual impact on the world-- but I light a candle

  • and every time I passed it or looked at it I'd say, Reese.

  • And, I can't believe I'm telling you this actually.

  • I've only said this two times now.

  • This is the second time.

  • So, it's 'cause you guys gave me ice cream at lunch.

  • CHRISTINE: Really good ice cream.

  • CHERYL STRAYED: And so then Monday, my cell phone rang.

  • And it was my agent saying, Reese loves it and she wants

  • to option it and she wants to talk to you.

  • And so, Reese and I just had this hour long conversation

  • where she just told me everything she understood

  • about the book, everything she felt about the book.

  • And I could see right away that she got it, that she was

  • really deeply connected to the story I was telling.

  • And then she was sharing with me all parts of herself as an

  • artist, too, as an actress, what she could

  • bring to the story.

  • Because that's the deal is it is gonna be strange when I see

  • the movie and there's Reese and she's me.

  • But it's also I've had to let that go.

  • Because I wrote the book.

  • Nobody can change the book.

  • That was my creation.

  • The film isn't my creation.

  • And so Reese is gonna have to make it hers in order for it

  • to succeed.

  • I really think that anything that is made with artistic

  • intentions, it has to come from a core place.

  • It has to come from an authentic place.

  • And so she can't be trying to sort of mimic me in the course

  • of making the film.

  • So I have just great confidence in her.

  • I think she's really smart and really kind of--

  • and I've met her and had long conversations with her.

  • I couldn't be more thrilled.

  • And she hired--

  • I didn't want anything to do with the script, so she hired

  • Nick Hornby, the writer Nick Hornby--

  • CHRISTINE: [INAUDIBLE]

  • CHERYL STRAYED: --to write the script.

  • And so then I went to England in January for the "Wild"

  • launch there, and I hung out with Nick for several days.

  • And it was so strange 'cause I met him and he's been

  • obsessively thinking about me for like

  • the last three months.

  • He's like, Cheryl--

  • and it was just this--

  • CHRISTINE: So have I, just by the way.

  • CHERYL STRAYED: Have you?

  • And we just had this really intense experience together.

  • And last week I read the script.

  • I was afraid to ask him for it because I was like, oh, what