In my own life as a writer I've pit my shortcomings to things which felt seemingly out of my control. I'm guilty of it. I've blamed the easy targets: required page views, deadlines, and the daily vacuum of emptiness, disguised as content. But there are others whose contributions to the craft cause me to recognize those as indulgences, and not only desire more from myself, but also to change the nature of my focus.
Cheryl Strayed is that writer. And tonight, she'll speak in Dallas.
She's Dear Sugar, the voice of empathetic reason on the website Therumpus.net, and a collection of her columns was released over the summer in the book Tiny Beautiful Things. In spring of last year we found the entirety of her depth, outside of advice-giving, in her first memoir Wild.
Strayed wrote Wild because she had to. In one Dear Sugar column, a twenty six year-old aspiring author pleaded her case to Strayed. She asked how to unlock all that was bound up inside her. She wanted to know how to be great.
Strayed gave her amazing advice: "Write like a motherfucker."
The answer wrapped into a personal essay, mapping out the life of events leading to the moment where Strayed finally finished her book. Then wept on a tile floor. It required loss, humility, a life-altering journey through the Pacific Crest Trail and yeah, Real Work to shed what she called "the second heart beating in [her] chest." She punctuated it with this: "Do you think miners stand around all day talking about how hard it is to mine for coal? They do not. They simply dig."
You can spend this evening, Monday, October 24, watching as Strayed participates in a discussion with another Dallas favorite, Sarah Hepola.
I was first introduced to Sarah's writing last spring when she read an amazing piece about drinking at Oral Fixation. I've been electronically stalking the author, who is the personal essays editor at Salon, as well as a former Dallas Observer music editor, ever since. But when I saw that tickets for the event hovered in a multi-hundred dollar price point (it's a Friends of the Dallas Public Library fundraising affair), I uncomfortably slid the information into my mind's dustiest file folder.
Now, that financial barrier has been significantly lessened.
If all you want is to have a cup of coffee and see Cheryl and Sarah engage in some real talk, you now can do it for $50 and leave without all of the night's flourishes, like a fancy dinner and valet. They're calling the reduced priced alternative "Coffee and Program," and it begins at 8 p.m. at the downtown Hyatt Regency Dallas. Business attire is required.
Yeah, it's still $50, which isn't a small amount, but it's also a precious opportunity well worth a week of mac 'n' cheese. Or pushing back a beauty appointment to another pay period. Besides, you're a writer. You shouldn't have such nice things; they'll make you lazy.
The money is payable at the door. Cash, check and credit cards will be accepted. They're trying out a new credit card payment method, so bring a check book back-up, just in case.
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