Author Cheryl Strayed in Bellingham for Whatcom Reads! events

THE BELLINGHAM HERALDFebruary 20, 2014 

My book group read Portland author Cheryl Strayed's "Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail" about a year ago and we were fascinated by several things. One was that she tried to hike about 1,100 miles on the Pacific Crest Trail without a smidgen of experience.

One of the most amusing scenes, to me, took place the night before she set off on the trail. In the motel room, she has packed so much gear into her pack that she literally fell backward onto the bed.

Her journey was emotional as well as physical, as she was dealing with addiction, family troubles and self-understanding.

"Wild" is the 2014 Whatcom Reads! book, and there have been numerous discussions and speakers on the theme of "journey" in Whatcom County libraries and schools the past few months.

Whatcom READS! is a reading and discussion program that encourages all Whatcom residents to read the same book and create a countywide book club experience.

Reese Witherspoon will star as Strayed in an upcoming film adaptation of the book, with a screenplay by Nick Hornby.

Strayed talks about her book at 7 p.m. Monday, Feb. 24, at Mount Baker Theatre, 104 N. Commercial St., and she will be interviewed by Bellingham author Susanne Paola Antonetta at 10 a.m. Tuesday, Feb. 25, at Bellingham Cruise Terminal.

On Monday, there's a quilt show that opens at 6:30 p.m. in the theater's Encore Room, with beautiful works by regional quilters inspired by the "journeys" theme.

Village Books will have Strayed's books available for purchase at the events, and Strayed will sign books after speaking. Both events are free and open to the public.

For more about her, go to cherylstrayed.com. For more about Whatcom Reads!, see whatcomreads.org.

Although she's frequently appearing at events and is bombarded with emails, Strayed took a few minutes to respond to my questions.

Question: One of the pieces of advice you give in your book "Tiny Beautiful Things" is to "Walk without a stick in the darkest woods." How does that apply to your life?

Answer: It has to do with being brave about venturing into places that scare us, both literally and metaphorically. This applies to all of us in everything we do in work and love and life.

Q: In your description of one of your writing workshops, you say "the desire to write arises from the urge to say something." What do you mean?

A: When I say the "urge to say something," I mean most of us have a story we want to tell, a theme that appears and reappears in our writing and in our lives that is worth exploring.

Q: Why is VIDA, an organization devoted to creating conversation among women writers (vidaweb.org) important to you?

A: Because I'm a feminist and a writer and VIDA seeks to address gender discrimination in the literary world. It's a cause that's close to home for me, connecting two of my strongest passions.

Q: Why did you legally adopt your last name in 1995?

A: The full answer is in my book "Wild." The short answer is, I was getting divorced and I had the opportunity to change my name and I took it because the name I grew up with didn't mean much to me.

Q: What's your connection to your own family now?

A: They remain as I portrayed them in "Wild." My siblings and I have loving relationships, but we don't see each other often. I love my stepfather, but we aren't in touch. I have no relationship with my father.

THE FAIRHAVEN SHOOTS FOR DIVERSE MUSICAL ENTERTAINMENT

I recently talked with Jeremy Hunter, who is booking bands at the recently reopened bar conveniently named The Fairhaven, at 1114 Harris Ave., and I met with co-owner Pete Logrande (who also owns Guido's Italian Steakhouse and Pizzeria in Ferndale).

When I met Pete, he was hosting a benefit at Guido's for the Bellingham musician affectionately known as Fat James, who has recently had medical issues. Pete told me that that kind of event was what he was all about - supporting local musicians.

When I asked Jeremy about the target audience for The Fairhaven, he said they're trying to be as diverse as they can. They plan to have all-ages karaoke on Sundays and hope to host all-ages events they can put on during the day.

After 10 p.m., the music is for adults, and there will be a wide range of music and entertainment to appeal to both college-age students and the older crowd.

On Saturday, Feb. 21, for example, Seattle band Witchburn plays Southern metal in the styles of Black Sabbath, Janis Joplin and Heart. Witchburn will be joined by Black Sabbath tribute band Bloody Sabbath. For more on the bands, see witchburnrocks.com and find Bloody Sabbath on Facebook.

For updates on The Fairhaven, go to Facebook.com/thefairhavenbar.

Reach Margaret Bikman at 360-715-2273 or margaret.bikman@bellinghamherald.com.

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