being fearless

In ALL, BOOK PUBLISHING by Stephanie Klein26 Comments

I spent my weekend watching and thinking.  I saw David Sedaris’s (completely sold-out) reading at Town Hall.  He took questions from the audience.  I was sitting in the fourth row.  I asked him the exact question I was asked at my own reading, the same question I always ask authors.  “Is there anything you regret writing that was published?”  He responded with a story about a French teacher of his.  He wrote about how awful she was in a magazine, and a while later, he received thirty or so head-shots of people with a note attached on the school letterhead reading, “these are all the people you hurt by writing that article.”  “But that’s not what I regret,” he added.  “What I regret is that I didn’t show her funny side too.  Making someone mean is easy.”  Making someone human is hard, I thought.  Then I worried I might have been too hard on the people in my book.  But I didn’t create them; they’re not characters but people in my life.  I guess it’s hard, really hard, to see the good in those we’ve abhorred for so long.  I’m still working on humility.

I realized while listening to his responses to the question & answer session that sometimes when people ask you a question, they don’t always just want an answer.  They want to hear you talk more.  Knowing this, I will respond differently next time, or try to, to really open up more.  The truth is, I took down one post a long time ago that I regret ever posting.  It was about a birthday party I attended, as a guest.  Well, wait, maybe I’ll wait to answer this in person at my next reading.  A story to look forward to.

Speaking of forward, I’d been looking forward to covering the Omega Being Fearless conference for about a month.  It was worth the wait and, in a word, remarkable.  I highly encourage people to attend it next year.  It’s worth the money, the time, and the investment in yourself.  The problem is, if I’m going to recount all that I learned there, I need more time to tell it.  It takes too long to get to it all.  So in the coming posts, I’ll try to explain all that I learned.


  1. I too have those moments of clarity when I know that I'm ok on my own. I wish I could be more like other people and know "that" most of the time, rather than feeling otherwise.

  2. I came across this quote and thought you might find it interesting since you've been thinking about literary criticism lately.

    Playwright Richard Greenberg in last Sunday's NY Times Magazine:
    "Well, when someone says they admire your work, who knows who's telling the truth?" he fretted. "But you know what, I appreciate people who are civil, whether they mean it or not. I think: Be civil. Do not cherish your opinion over my feelings. There's a vanity to candor that isn't really worth it. Be kind.

  3. Kat, I was just doing my taxes yesterday and found a receipt from Underbar. I have no memory of the place. Yet I was apparently there; my signature is on the slip; and apparently I'm a very good tipper. Huh! Who knew???

    Sedaris… AND his sister, rock!

  4. I went to a bachelorette party last night, too. We got kicked out of Underbar because we were wearing wigs.

    I wish I had known David Sedaris was reading. I love him and would have attended.

  5. Karaoke rules!! My rendition of AC/DC's "You Shook Me All Night Long" is always a crowd pleaser.

    Oh yeah, have fun baby making! Hope it works out.

  6. Looking forward to what you're going to share with us.

    In Singapore, bachelorette parties are called Hen Nights.

  7. I went to the Sedaris reading at Town Hall as well (so that was you who asked that question!) –but was not nearly as impressed by him as I have been in the past. Thoughts?

  8. Ever since "Me Talk Pretty One Day", I've been a big fan.

    Hooray for being fearless, and on only a few hours of sleep no less.

  9. I love Dave Sedaris! I love reading him, but also listening to him read his work. I felt really nervous when I saw Barbra Gowdy (obscure Canadian writer) who wrote a the short story that got turned into the movie “Kissed" with Molly Parker. I actually did not really rise to the occasion I was so nervous. But I did it, and proud that I didn't talk myself out of it this time.


  10. i loved 'me talk pretty on day' – such a great book. i'm jealous that you went! it's nice to have someone tell you that you are "ok" to be alone and if that's how you end up, so what. i needed that today, thanks!

  11. Sedaris is coming to Fargo soon. As I live in a smaller, not-quite-as-hip-as-Fargo, ND town, I am considering the midweek drive … These recommendations may have helped me make my decision.

  12. I went to a Sedaris reading in Gainesville, FL. I decided to go alone so I could truly enjoy and it was the one of the best nights of my life…

  13. I listened to David Sedaris' "Dress your children in Courdoroy and Denim on the way back from the Outer Banks with my niece and nephew (ages 12 and 10) last year. The traffic was horrible and it was a long boring drive. There were parts in the beginning of the book that were probably not kid material but they weren't too bad so we tried to ignore it. But then he gets to the story about being a housecleaner and the guy's house that he goes to clean whacking off in front of him. Sedaris keeps describing the whack job for like five minutes, "….whack, whack, whack,..blah, blah, blah..whack, whack, whack" my niece and nephew were laughing hysterically in the background. Had to turn it off and listen to bad radio for the next three hours.

  14. Can't wait to hear about "Being fearless". Looks like it was well put together.

  15. I personally believe that whatever you experienced in life or had an opinion about—you should tell it. When I first published my book, I thought to myself, “Hmm, I told a little too much regarding my parents and how I was brought up in the past…” But all that experience I went through is what brought me here today.

    Your writing has tactful ways of describing things when discussing something of a negative nature about someone or something else. We all do it. Totally bashing someone is another thing—but I’m sure whatever it is you said—was done with taste.

    Humor is a great way to make light of things that really irk you. I try using that approach when I’m talking about someone I know. Hell, they read the blog anyway. Even telling stories regarding living with my father when he owned a fish market at South Seaport—-I have to be “c.a.r.e.f.u.l.” with any detailed information with him or any of his ‘gumbas’ –not only for offensive material or feelings getting hurt—but because I don’t want a pair of cement shoes. I literally have to get permission to speak about certain things regarding real events that took place. Most of these ‘fellas’ are on vacation at some resort located in Allendale, PA…..but that’s a whole nutha’ story.

    If you feel your content may offend or personally attack—get permission. Even if names are changed……ask ask ask…. (In my own opinion.)

    And for the record Steph…if I’m going to ask you a question, I’d rather the answer other than the ‘talk’. Your mind is much more interesting than your voice…although…not to say you can’t make it on American Idol…oh hell…let me just stop here.

  16. I think David is right. I know that in my own writing it's very difficult to make certain people human. It's easy to make them the villain. The one who did all the damage and hurt poor old me. Readers only see what the writer lets them. Maybe it's easier to just show all the bad stuff, cause when you shade it with the good stuff, it hurts even more to write about it. I like this David guy, and I've never even read any of his work.

  17. I was able to hear David Sedaris speak at GetLit! (a local writing workshop/Lit. festival) last year. He was awesome.

  18. Regret is such a difficult thing to swallow. I think I'd prefer to just accept everything as a lesson to be learned from.

  19. You are so right about how difficult it is to see the good in people who have hurt you. Though, I guess those people shape our lives as much as the "good guys."

    The Being Fearless conference sounds really worthwhile. I had never heard of it. I learned about it here.

  20. Hi Stephanie, I'm going through a career transition, reading your blog really helps…you've taken a lot of risks. It has really given me a lot of strength lately to try something riskier.

    Alice…Best of Luck with all your transitions.

  21. Hi Stephanie,
    I also attended the Being Fearless seminar, though not the one you were at. I found out about it at a really critical time in my life and credit it with a lot of learning I needed to do.

    Perhaps the most important thing that I realized was that there is no such thing as "evil" behaviour. If we were able to trace everyone's life backwards, we would see that their behaviour or personalities are, more or less, not random but inevitabilities. The symptom of wounds yet unhealed (or unrealized).

    This helped me to stop vilanizing a certain fellow in my life and simply realize that he's only doing the best he can, given his past. To defend himself, to prevent rejection at the most primal level and to strive for acceptance. It was hard to beleive that a popular, successful, funny jock could be reduced to such basic needs. For me, the hard part has been cutting my empathy versus tolerance with a very, very sharp knife.

    Anyways, I thought this was similar to your "making people human" understanding.

    Glad you got to the seminars. I think everyone could use a little something from there.

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