One of the first things Augusten Burroughs talked about Wednesday night as he stood before about 175 people at Gjerde Center at Columbia Basin College was his attempt at suicide as a teenager.
The New York Times best-selling writer talked about numbing his wrists under scalding water and contemplating whether he should slit them while sitting in a bath.
And then he began to think about what it would look like to see his blood curling and looping in the bath water and that's when he stopped himself. Suicide would not provide peace, only horror, Burroughs said, and he realized he didn't want to kill himself, but to have a new life.
"You can walk out the door in your bathrobe and end up on the other side of the world," he said. "That's going to hurt people near you but you're alive."
Startling answers to life's most difficult moments, delivered with his recognized wit and humor, was the focus of Burroughs' visit as part of this year's Mid-Columbia Literary Festival. It's the approach his fans have come to appreciate and drew people from within and outside the Mid-Columbia to see him.
"When you're having a bad day and you read his work, you realized you could have a worse day," said Mandy Nowland of Spokane.
Burroughs has written several best-selling books but is best known for his first book and novel, Sellevision, his first memoir, Running with Scissors, and Dry, his memoir on alcohol addiction.
His newest book, This Is How: Proven Aid in Overcoming Shyness, Molestation, Fatness, Spinsterhood, Grief, Disease, Lushery, Decrepitude & More. For Young and Old Alike, is described by critics, and Burroughs, as a self-help book of sorts.
"I've gone through these things so you don't have to, hopefully," he said to laughter.
He talked about what it feels like to lose a loved one and the grieving process and dealing with alcoholism but some of his advice could be rather shocking. He said he was horrified when award-winning musicians or actors tell people to not give up their dreams because they didn't give up.
"Do you not see the covers people do of your song on YouTube?" he asked. "Don't tell them to not give up their dreams, sometimes you have to. It allows you to lead a good life."
Likewise, while noting that having one good parent is equivalent to winning the lottery and having two good parents is winning it twice, it isn't necessary for people to win the lottery.
"Parents are a luxury," he said.
Burroughs talked of other things outside of his books, such as the unfortunately named high school football team of Celebration, Fla., and his friendship with actress Jill Clayburgh who portrayed his mother in a movie adaptation of Running With Scissors.
He also took questions from attendees, about his psychiatrist's family he grew up with and who eventually sued him over one of his books, about his mother and his brother, who has Asperger's syndrome, and how he started writing.
"I wrote one sentence and it made me laugh, so I wrote another," he said.
Rolando Garcia, who is taking ESL courses at CBC, said he attended Burroughs' talk because he'd recently read his first memoir and appreciated his approach to his life.
"He laughed about his life but I think he's more thoughtful," he said.
Amber Tiffin of Pasco said she's a huge fan of Burroughs' work and had an upbringing similar to his. His comments and his recent work she said were inspiring.
"It all just spoke to me," she said.
Festival organizers said they were pleased with the event's turnout and hope to see as many people next Thursday when author Garth Stein visits.