I’ve been trying to become friends with David Sedaris for a few years now.
It started at a dinner party when a drunk acquaintance told me that he offered to be her mentor. I started hyperventilating and asked how she responded to his offer. “I never wrote him back” she said.
To me, this is the worst kind of person, to be offered a gift of such magnitude and then to reject it. I told her that if she didn’t contact him within 3 months and take him up on his offer, I was going to contact him and offer to be his “sloppy mentor seconds.” She told me if I did this she’d attack me with a chainsaw (she said something way less dramatic but the energy was the same) and then she unfriended me and we never spoke again. Three years later I wrote David Sedaris.
I told him the story. I offered to be his “sloppy mentor seconds.” I told him I was writing a book and I’d love him to read it. I wrote six letters and twelve emails to all his different agents and publicists and managers and sent them from various parts of the world, hoping one would get into the right hands and be passed along to him.
A few months later he wrote me back. A handwritten letter. With his home address.
He said that although he appreciated my efforts to contact him, he’s never offered a mentorship to anyone, it wasn’t his style. He told me that my friend was probably exaggerating as people do when they’ve had too much to drink. He sent his love and best wishes. He was kind, yet firm, and the answer was no- no strange lady, I won’t read your book.
Instead of taking the hint, this gave me hope. He was a real person. He wrote me back. I had a chance.
So a few months later when I found out that he was doing a reading 2 hours away from my house I left my husband with our sick kids and drove through a snow storm to meet him.
David has this thing, he signs every single book he’s asked to sign before and after every show. So with an audience of 2000, that’s a long line up. I got there 3 hours before the show began and I waited. The show started at 8pm. It was 745. He was still signing books. His handlers told me to sit down. I ignored them. They told me to come back to the line after the show I said “I have 2 sick kids at home and I’m from another country driving through a snow storm It’s now or never, and it’s not going to be never, I’m not getting out of this line up”.
They told me that the show was starting. I said “I’m only 4 people away. If he gets up, I’ll leave.” He didn’t get up. He kept signing so I stayed put.
It was now 8:05. I was the only person left in the lobby. Well, me and David. He looked at me. He smiled but I could tell he was annoyed.
“Hi, thanks for coming to my show. What can I write in your book?” he asked.
I thought cheeky was the way to go so I said “You can say Dear Emelia, I got your letter about me being your mentor. You are hilarious and I look forward to reading your book”.
He smiled and wrote:
Are you fucking kidding me!? Can you believe what a gentleman this guy is? I’m pushy. I’m annoying. I’m ignoring his staff and he fucking signs my book anyway. The class! The good heart! The professionalism! (He’ll get the spelling right next time).
He goes on to give a hilarious reading and tells the story about the time he had a benign tumor in his belly and how he had it removed in New Mexico illegally (so he could keep it) and then how he fed the benign tumor to a snapping turtle.
It was then I realized not only is he my mentor, he’s my sick comedy soul mate.
So I sent him a Christmas card.
I painted my nails gold and then I trimmed them and then I put the trimmings in a small clear bag and I told him to place the nails on his windowsill to catch the holiday light.
If he likes feeding his body parts to turtles, he’ll understand the subtle comedy genius of my fingernail offering I thought to myself.
So 3 months went by and I decided he’d written me off as nuts until…
I got another letter in the mail from David Sedaris. Handwritten. With his home address.
He wrote “I can’t believe you sent me fingernail clippings. I can’t believe you told me to put them on my windowsill to catch the light. I’m coming to Vancouver in May and I’ll leave two tickets for you at the door. This doesn’t mean I’m reading your book.”
So now David Sedaris and I are officially pen pals.
And then it hit me. Even if it’s unintentional, he’s being my mentor.
- Even if you’re famous, write people back. It’s your job. Your fans are who made you famous in the first place.
- You’re tired. Boo fucking hoo. If someone is going to wait in line for your signature for 3 hours, look them in the eye and to give it to them.
- You can be firm with your boundaries and still be kind.
- Be your godawful disgusting self and your people will find you.
So, my goal to get David to read my book is still on track. He can take his time. I understand he has a lot on his plate. We’ll be organic about it. What I love is that in this huge world, David Sedaris knows that Emelia Symington Fedy exists and that’s so radical to me.
I’m his sloppy seconds mentee with the golden nails. I’m his crass pen pal. I’m his subtle friend.