Yesterday I woke up in Ojai where I taught two lovely six year old girls how to weave and spent the day eating peach pie by the herb garden pool celebrating the florally-inclined Rebecca’s birthday. Around three in the afternoon, Alex and I got in the car and drove for two hours to Taylor De Cordoba, where we were hosting Cheryl Strayed (aka Dear Sugar) for the latest Eating Our Words event. We had a million RSVPs. Actually we had 250 but the gallery can comfortably hold around 60 so we had to turn a lot of folks away. Cheryl is a rockstar.
For those of you aren’t familiar with her work, Cheryl Strayed has the #1 and #5 books on the New York Times Bestseller List. In her memoir Wild, she recounts her mid-twenties adventure of hiking the Pacific Crest Trail by herself. The book is so good. So good that it’s #1. So good that Oprah decided to resurrect her book club for it. And so good that she decided to participate in Eating Our Words (that last bit is kind of a joke – I’m still pinching myself).
Cheryl was famous before she became famous for Wild, although anonymously so. Have any of you read “Dear Sugar,” the honest, hilarious, life affirming, devastating and wildly popular advice column in The Rumpus? Turns out “Sugar” is Cheryl and her columns have just been released as a book, in a compilation called Tiny Beautiful Things (#5 on the NY Times list). She read two letters last night, along with her thoughtful responses and admitted that sometimes she cries when writing them at her kitchen table late at night. I loved this: Cheryl described how the job of writing “Dear Sugar,” was pitched to her: lots of work, no pay. In spite of that, she said, “something stirred within her” and she knew she had to say yes.
To celebrate our Sugar Social, we called Carmela Ice Cream and I Heart Pies to serve up some sweets. It was toasty in our packed gallery. A night to remember with all the sugar and the sweating and the girls crying in the audience. When Cheryl took the stage she explained that she’s been reading to huge crowds of hundreds for months and noted how “cozy” this event felt to her. All my friends in the crowd looked over to catch my eye, knowing how happy this would make me.
Cheryl signed a copy of her new book for me and I can’t wait to read the whole thing. Have you picked up Tiny Beautiful Things yet? I really really suggest you do.
Photography by Alex de Cordoba