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Interview with Cheryl Strayed in Booth

cheryl-strayedBecause of her large success with her creative nonfiction title Wild, Cheryl Strayed is greatly known in the writing world, and in the latest print issue of Booth, Ashley Petry talks with her “about telling hard truths, making pacts with your readers, and of course writing like a motherfucker.”

In the interview, Strayed talks a lot about how it is to share truth in writing and the challenges that come along with it: “I always say, if you’re going to show anyone’s ass, it had better be your own. Memoir writing is about the journey of the self. It’s about saying, this is my subjective view of this experience, and that gives you an enormous amount of power. You get to say what’s true; you’re the god of that world. So I belive in searching my soul to tell the necessary truths, and sometimes that involves other people, but I always try to do it with a sense of compassion.”

In response to a question about what she gains from writing about difficult experiences, Strayed conveys that writing is her own kind of therapy: “I’ve been able to forgive and understand and accept many of the hardest things in my life via my writing. The fictional character in Torch who is the stepfather, Bruce, is based loosely on my own stepfather. There was no way I could get inside the consciousness of Bruce without loving Bruce, forgiving Bruce, and understanding why he did what he did. Once I did that, I understood why my stepfather did what he did, and it wasn’t about not loving me; it was about his own survival. Being able to step back from my own life by going deep into the life of literature has been healing over and over again. There’s this strange dichotomy where you have to go deeper into your life while also stepping back from it so that you can craft it into a book or an essay.”

The conversation wraps up with a thought from Strayed about the debate on if you need to live in NYC or have an MFA in order to be a writer: “I think that whole thing is so unbelievably ridiculous . . . What I say is, do the same thing as a writer that you do as a human, to seek out the people who inspire you, who comfort you, who challenge you, who enlighten you, who will offer you shelter when you need it and a push out the door when you need it. I root for real life.”

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