Devan Sipher made his living for more than five years writing about some of New York’s most lavish weddings for the New York Times’ Vows column, even though he’s a forty-something single Jewish guy who spends Saturday nights alone in his Chelsea studio. Sipher’s debut novel The Wedding Beat fictionalizes his life into the story of Gavin Greene, a wedding writer who’s still looking to find Ms. Right. Over coffee, NYU grad Sipher, who will be teaching writing at The Open Center this summer, chatted about how true to life his book really is.
Was it initially difficult making your living in New York as a writer?
I received my Master of Fine Arts from NYU, and at the time I graduated, an MFA and a buck 50 would buy you a subway token—my typing skills were my most employable asset. While writing, I did day gigs like working for a television and news show. I also started doing IT work that paid well, but the danger is that you become too comfortable—it becomes difficult to really focus on what you want most. I finally decided that I needed to either earn all of my money writing or find something else to do with my life. I made that decision in April 2004 and got hired by The New York Times in August 2004.
What was your favorite wedding story that you covered as a Vows columnist?
I loved all of them and I hated all of them. I loved all of the people. But the day before my deadline, I hated all of them. My process is that when I sit down to write, I spend at least 24, if not 48 hours, going, I can’t write this story. There’s no story to write. The best parts of the story are the parts I shouldn’t say or I’ll embarrass them. But that’s my process. I am actually moved by every story; if I wasn’t choked up at every single wedding, I couldn’t have done my job.
Is The Wedding Beat autobiographical?
It’s all emotionally true, but the story is completely fictional. I was very careful to make sure that none of the weddings Gavin wrote about are weddings that I actually covered. But are
there real-life elements in things that I saw and people that I met? Absolutely.
How heavily is Gavin based on you?
He has a healthier approach to dating than I do; he actually has lower expectations. Writing the character helped me become more aware of my own issues.
Gavin gets the girl, so he gets his act together. I’m still getting my act together. But while writing the book, I dated much healthier—I don’t think there’s anyone I dated while writing it that I’m not still in touch with and that I don’t think highly of. And I dated for longer periods of time. Although what I consider a long period of time may not be what the average person considers a long period of time.
Do you fantasize about your future wedding and family as much as Gavin does?
Truth be told, unless I marry someone who really wants a wedding, I’d be very happy not to have one. But I’d like to be married, I’d like to have children. I hope I’ll be fortunate enough to have them.
Devan Sipher will read from The Wedding Beat at the Upper West Side Barnes and Noble, 2289 Broadway (at 82nd St.), April 19 at 7 p.m. He is also doing a panel at the NYU Bookstore, 726 Broadway (betw. Waverly & Washington Pls.), June 20 at 7 p.m.
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