A GLORIOUS FREEDOM | INTERVIEW WITH CHERYL STRAYED

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The glory of growing older is the freedom to be more truly ourselves—with age we gain the liberty to pursue bold new endeavors and worry less about what other people think. In this richly illustrated volume, bestselling author and artist Lisa Congdon explores the power of women over the age of forty who are thriving and living life on their own terms. Profiles, interviews, and essays from women—including Vera Wang, Laura Ingalls Wilder, Julia Child, Cheryl Strayed, and many more—who’ve found creative fulfillment and accomplished great things in the second half of their lives are lavishly illustrated and hand-lettered in Congdon’s signature style. The perfect gift for women of all ages, A Glorious Freedom celebrates extraordinary lives and redefines what it means to gain wisdom and maturity.

The following is an extract from A Glorious Freedom by Lisa Congdon.


Cheryl’s famous memoir Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail was published when she was 43 years old. It took her two and a half years to trace the steps, challenges, and revelations she faced during her three-month, 1,100-mile hike from the Mojave Desert to the Pacific Northwest onto paper—and about two minutes for the finished book to land on the New York Times bestseller list. In the months following, Cheryl experienced instant fame—from Oprah’s Book Club 2.0 to the film adaptation championed by Reese Witherspoon and Nick Hornby, Wild went, well, wild. It is an international bestseller and a recipient of the Barnes & Noble Discover Award and the Oregon Book Award. Cheryl is also the author of the New York Times bestsellers Tiny Beautiful Things and Brave Enough. Her first novel, Torch, was published in 2007. Her essays have been published in the New York Times Magazine, the Washington Post, Vogue, and Tin House, among others, and her work has been selected three times for inclusion in the The Best American Essays. She anonymously authored The Rumpus’s popular Dear Sugar advice column from 2010 to 2012, for which she now cohosts a podcast. She currently lives and writes in Portland, Oregon.

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Lisa: You worked for many years at writing, and it wasn’t until just a few short years ago, in your early 40s, you published the book that made you a household name. I encounter a lot of young artists who imagine that if they just concoct some magical formula they can have “instant success.” How would you describe the role of purpose, work, and patience in your own journey?

Cheryl: I was a successful writer long before Wild was published. What happened with Wild wasn’t “success.” It was crazy lightning striking. I’m always taken aback when people imply that I achieved success in my 40s. In fact, I had a pretty steady upward career trajectory as a writer, and all of that came about because, as you say, I showed up each day to do the work. I began publishing in my 20s. By the time I was in my early 30s I had won many awards and grants, and was publishing in respected magazines, and I’d earned my MFA in creative writing. In my mid-30s I sold my first novel to a major publisher and it was broadly reviewed and sold well. Meanwhile, I was continuing to publish essays in prominent places and I was also teaching writing.

I was known in the literary community. Then Wild happened and with that came fame and a much broader international audience. It was astounding and glorious, but it didn’t, for me, mark the beginning of the sense that I’d arrived as a writer. I was already there and I’m still here—working my tail off. That’s the magic formula: work.

Lisa: One of the most life-changing lessons I’ve learned over the past ten years is the power of embracing all of my life experience, and this is something you write about as well. Why is this idea of owning and learning to love all of your experience (even the stuff that makes us cringe or that would normally make us feel shame), why is it so important?

Cheryl: I’ve long believed our mistakes and failures teach us as much as our victories and successes. When you acknowledge the full spectrum of your possibility—as both someone who can be great and as someone who is sometimes not so great—you can bring the full force of your humanity to everything you do.

Lisa: What for you is the best part of getting older?

Cheryl: Feeling more secure about who I am. Feeling stronger about being okay with disappointing people. Putting up less of a facade. Being gentler with myself and others, too.

Lisa: What do you think is the relationship between forgiveness and the ability to age joyfully?

Cheryl: I’ve written about forgiveness a lot and it all pretty much boils down to the fact that when you can’t forgive people who have harmed you (or forgive yourself for the harm you’ve done to others) you stay locked in that struggle. Forgiveness is, to me, really acceptance. Accepting that what’s true is true. It’s saying, this is the way it was and onward we go.

Lisa: What are the three greatest lessons you’ve learned in the last ten years?

Cheryl: 1. Saying no is one form of saying yes. 2. Our ideas about famous people are projections of who we are, not a reflection of who they are. 3. Everyone struggles. Everyone hurts. Everyone wants to be told it’s all going to be okay.

Lisa: What advice do you have for women who fear getting older?

Cheryl: The fear of getting older is about the false notion that one’s power was rooted in the things that youth offers us—namely, beauty. My advice would be to see that for the lie that it always was. Our power is never about how pretty we are. Our power is about how we live our lives. Start living it.


A Glorious Freedom by Lisa Congdon publishes on 03 October 2017. Find out more here. 

See the stunning book trailer here

Georgia’s Corner: Tinie Tempah, B*Witched & RuPaul’s Drag Race, so long March.

With our glasses, style icon status and possession of so many clothes we keep some in our aunt’s house, Tinie Tempah and I are practically as one. This month we consolidated our similarities by both openly declaring our admiration for the Alexander McQueen exhibition which has opened this month at the V&A. It’s a jaw-dropping collection and you could happily spend hours losing yourself in the cabinet of curiosities and gazing at the hologram of Kate Moss which appears like a milky puff and swirls into a life-size Moss swathed in rippling white organza. It’s 100% worth getting V&A membership just to attend this exhibition – and, at any rate, sitting under the embellished dome of the V&A café and getting your kicks in the silver galleries is literally the only sane way to spend a Sunday.

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If you can’t get to the exhibition, get the book. It details every collection McQueen ever masterminded, from his graduate Masters show to his final show, it’s heavy on the armadillo shoes and the cover is pleasingly tactile in snakeskin scales.

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Lots more lovely publishing in March. Huck Magazine had a party for the launch of Paddle Against the Flow, which is full of cool people like Nas saying things like ‘Music changed my life. It gave me a new vocabulary to negotiate my feelings’. It’s unclear specifically which music Nas is referring to, but the sentiment strongly resonates with our Friday-afternoon enjoyment of B*Witched ‘C’est La Vie’. The beauty of these nuggets of wisdom is their openness to interpretation.

Unfortunately I wasn’t able to attend the party as by then I had hung up my Jon Hamm-o-phone and jetted off to Italy, armed with a copy of The Cognoscenti’s Guide to Florence. Louise Fili’s sage counsel led me to gelaterie overlooking the Ponte Vecchio, one of the oldest pharmacies in the world, and most importantly, to Dolceforte, where they actually wrapped (with a ribbon) my indulgent self-gift of a 5 euro chocolate bar. It’s service like this that you just don’t get at Tesco on Clerkenwell Road. I was also inspired by another one of Louise’s gems, Grafica della Strada, to significantly delay our sightseeing by photographing examples of Italian street signage at every corner.

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On my return, it was business as usual: I alienated my coworkers with my nascent obsession with Game of Thrones (‘guys, her name is Daenerys, Khaleesi is just her Dothraki title’); I received a Neville Longbottom-related email from Emma entitled ‘We Long For His Bottom’; we ramped up plans for our Sales Conference and the London Book Fair; and our entire team congregated in the conference room for a lunchtime session of RuPaul’s Drag Race and pizza.

Last but not least, our lovely Olivia is on the move so we are looking out for a new Sales Assistant, preferably one who, like Liv, is able to eat a four-course Christmas dinner while dressed as a Christmas tree. If you want to work in an office whose toilets are officially titled the ‘Amazon Suite’, please email dpocock@abramsandchronicle.co.uk.

Sashay away.

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Paddle Against the Flow – A little Inspiration goes a long way.

Huck Magazine’s bible of creative advice from 60 inspirational ‘doers’ is available worldwide. In this excerpt from the introduction Huck’s editor Andrea Kurland explains how it started.

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“You know that job you can’t get?
You didn’t want it anyway.”

A light went on when I first heard this comment. Followed by the comforting thud of things falling into place.

We’d spent the best part of a decade acting on instinct, finding stories we wanted to hear about, talking to people we admired, making a magazine we could believe in and would want to read. At some point over the years we sat up to find ourselves surrounded by like-minds – people who made the the effort to seek out new sources of inspiration, curious enough to question the familiarity that surrounded them, bold enough to build something that challenged what they knew.

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But it wasn’t until I heard this comment, from a friend of the magazine who came to us with the clarity of fresh eyes, that I realised why the 18-year-old skate rat who just started his own record label out of his bedroom will forever be bound to the 30-year-old artisan who taught herself how to use power tools so that she could make something beautiful without relying on anyone else; why the surfer photojournalist out on the frontlines, is tied to the bike-obsessed activist typing away at home. Frustration. If there’s one thing that connects us, it’s the frustrated urgency of youth. Pushing beyond the finality of that deadening disbelief that the things we were promised will ever materialise, then waking up to the revelation that we never wanted them all along.

It’s these people that inspire us to keep making Huck. It’s their boundless curiosity that keeps us digging around the underground for untold stories capable of blowing minds. It’s their lifelong desire to keep pushing and learning that forces us to question the perceived way of things. It’s their ability to discern between words of wisdom and bouncy soundbytes that leads us away from the bright lights of transient stars and towards people who work tirelessly at their craft, from filmmakers like Spike Jonze to writers like Douglas Coupland, from artists like Swoon to skateboarders like Mark Gonzales.

This book is dedicated to our readers. And all those angry little sparks who keep us paddling against the flow.

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Originally posted on huckmagazine.com