David Sedaris' Let's Explore Diabetes With Owls, his first nonfiction work since 2009, was released Tuesday, much to the excitement of his fans all over the world. Though it's pretty typical to hear that someone likes David Sedaris, I'd like to think I stand out from the rest in some weird (and admittedly pathetic) way because his books ultimately inspired me to take my current career path. If it weren't for expert essayist David Sedaris, I'm certain I wouldn't be here right now, writing this from my PolicyMic desk in New York City.
It started nearly six years ago, when Sedaris came to my alma mater, the University of Arizona, for a reading and signing. At the time, I was a 19-year-old sophomore majoring in creative writing, so while I loved the idea of an author visiting my campus, I had yet to actually take a look at this particular scribe's work. My older sister Megan, who was studying abroad in Florence, was obsessed with Sedaris, so I decided on a whim to purchase tickets to his show and get a book signed for her.
When I arrived at the auditorium, I wasn't sure which Sedaris book to buy. I knew nothing about his work, but I picked Me Talk Pretty One Day, as I'd seen many people hauling it around airports and campus and was intrigued by the title.
Once I was face to face with Sedaris, who was sitting at a red signing table in front of the auditorium, I confessed to him that I'd never read his stuff but was merely attending his reading on behalf of my sibling.
"Don't waste your time with my books," he said, starting to sign the book. "You have better things to do."
Someone makes a comment like that and naturally, you develop an interest in said individual's work, so I continued chatting with Sedaris, surprised by his candor and dry sense of humor. After he handed me back the book, I noticed he'd written that I was an "enchanting sister," which gave me a good laugh. Nothing compared to the show and books ahead, however, and within a month, I'd read most of his nonfiction works and become a lifelong fan.
It wasn't until I read Sedaris' books that I realized the exact type of writing I wanted to do. I'd been writing since age seven and always known I would pursue a career in the field, but Sedaris did something unique and previously unknown with his nonfiction essays and books. He chronicled the weird things that happened to him and the unusual people he'd encountered throughout his life, and I knew as soon as I read some of these essays that I had to do the same with my own bizarre stories and life experiences.
Sedaris returned to Tucson three years later, when I was a senior just weeks away from graduating. He didn't visit the University of Arizona that time around, but the Tucson Music Hall. I dragged my buddy Kendra to the event and we ended up being the first people in line for book signings. In fact, we were so early that we were sitting in what we didn't know was Sedaris' seating area. We apologized for hogging his territory prior to his arrival, but he didn't care.
Once he was ready to sign my book, he said to me, "So, I draw animals in every book I sign. What kind of animal would you like?
I grew up drawing pigs in my junior high school homework assignments, so I told Sedaris to draw a pig for me. He said that he struggled the most with pigs and thanked me for giving him an opportunity to practice in my book.
As he sketched away, I delivered an embarrassing 30-second speech about how big an impact he'd had on my career, stating he was the whole reason I'd be going into nonfiction writing. Throughout my starstruck, flustered confession, he remained tight-lipped, appearing uncomfortable before warning me that it's not always that glamorous, especially when you write about real people and have to face them afterward.
“I wrote about this rude dermatologist and then my friend called him when the book came out. I was like, ‘FUCK! I don’t want him to see what I said about him!’ So you have to be prepared for that," he said.
But I'm not. And I never will be. But I still want to be David Sedaris. That's an exact quote from my Facebook About Me section.
The last time I saw him was May 2012, when he came to BAM in Brooklyn. It was raining that day but I was yet again the first person in line at his signing. As I usually do, I complained about the dreary East Coast weather, which Sedaris himself actually didn't mind.
"You know, I've never been friends with the sun. That's a good book title," he said. "Friends With the Sun."
He was impressed that I cared so much to always be first, and it was then that I decided I was letting my Sedaris fandom get out of hand.
I don't need to obsessively keep up with his work (and attend all his appearances) for encouragement in my field of choice, but I'll never forget that he influenced me to make the life-changing decisions I made during college.
So, when I see him with PolicyMic's Caira Conner at his NYC signing next month, I won't be first in line, and that's OK. I don't need to be anymore.