Comedian and star of The Office and Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt Ellie Kemper delivers a hilarious, refreshing, and inspiring collection of essays “teeming with energy and full of laugh-out-loud moments” (Associated Press).
“A pleasure. Ellie Kemper is the kind of stable, intelligent, funny, healthy woman that usually only exists in yogurt commercials. But she’s real and she’s all ours!” —Tina Fey
“Ellie is a hilarious and talented writer, although we’ll never know how much of this book the squirrel wrote.”—Mindy Kaling
Meet Ellie, the best-intentioned redhead next door. You’ll laugh right alongside her as she shares tales of her childhood in St. Louis, whether directing and also starring in her family holiday pageant, washing her dad’s car with a Brillo pad, failing to become friends with a plump squirrel in her backyard, eating her feelings while watching PG-13 movies, or becoming a “sports monster” who ends up warming the bench of her Division 1 field hockey team in college.
You’ll learn how she found her comedic calling in the world of improv, became a wife, mother and New Yorker, and landed the role of a bridesmaid (while simultaneously being a bridesmaid) in Bridesmaids. You’ll get to know and love the comic, upbeat, perpetually polite actress playing Erin Hannon on The Office, and the exuberant, pink-pants-wearing star of Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt.
If you’ve ever been curious about what happens behind the scenes of your favorite shows, what it really takes to be a soul cycle “warrior,” how to recover if you accidentally fall on Doris Kearns Goodwin or tell Tina Fey on meeting her for the first time that she has “great hair—really strong and thick,” this is your chance to find out. But it’s also a laugh-out-loud primer on how to keep a positive outlook in a world gone mad and how not to give up on your dreams. Ellie “dives fully into each role—as actor, comedian, writer, and also wife and new mom—with an electric dedication, by which one learns to reframe the picture, and if not exactly become a glass-half-full sort of person, at least become able to appreciate them” (Vogue.com).
My Squirrel Days Author There comes a time in every sitcom actress’s life when she is faced with the prospect of writing a book. When my number was up, I told myself that I would not blink. I would fulfill my duty as an upbeat actress under contract on a television series and serve my country in the only way I knew how. I would cull from my life the very greatest and most memorable of anecdotes, I would draw on formative lessons learned both early on and also not too long ago, I would paint for the reader a portrait of the girl, the teenager, the woman I am today, and I would not falter. I would write a book.
And so, Reader, I got to work.
First, I started dressing like an Author: black turtlenecks and dark denim jeans. Then, I started sipping like an Author: double shots of espresso with no Hershey’s syrup to cushion the blow. Finally, I started talking like an Author: “That reminds me of my book,” I would begin most sentences. I noticed people stopped talking to me as much.
But onward I marched.
I reread all the classics: Pride and Prejudice, The Catcher in the Rye, What to Expect When You’re Expecting. I scribbled in journals and I sighed with meaning. All shaving came to an immediate and powerful halt. Did I stumble in my journey? Of course I did. Nothing ventured, nothing gained, I would remind myself as I boldly considered mixing two flavors of Ben and Jerry’s that I had never tasted together before. Also, you should try writing the first paragraph of your book, I would add, after I had declared my new frozen dairy creation a success.
Heroes are not born; they are made. Nonetheless, being an Author is exhausting. I would struggle to fall asleep at night, tossing and turning in the way that only a tortured artist can. “Is this how Chaucer felt?!” I cried out to the big black darkness. “You are being so loud!” hushed my now-awake husband. I envied his innocence. You see, Reader, I knew that I had some great wisdom to offer you, but I worried that I did not have enough great wisdom to give to you. And this worry very nearly destroyed me.
I began losing interest in food.1 I found little joy in the things I used to love.2 I had to wonder: is all of this Life really worth it?3
And then, one Sunday afternoon, alone in my closet, sifting through a bunch of broken memories and Spanx so stretched out they were no longer useful, I came across my very first headshot:
I stared at the woman in this photo. “I know you,” I whispered. “Oh, wait. You’re me.” For a second, I had thought it was an old picture of Prince Harry. Anyway, there I was. At the time of that headshot, I was twenty-three years old, but I look both fourteen and eighty-seven. The photo was taken by Kris Carr, a beautiful vegan who wore tank tops in winter and cooked us black beans and sautéed kale for lunch. Besides my pale, remarkably round face, every inch of my skin is covered in this portrait. I am wearing a brown corduroy jacket from the Gap and a beige turtleneck that threatens to swallow me whole. My left forearm is placed casually on my right knee, suggesting that I am a strong woman with definite opinions but also that I am able to kick back and relax like an easygoing cowboy. Very little attention was paid to hair or makeup that day, but my mischievous smile assures you that I am crushing life and also that I might just have a secret or two tucked up that corduroy sleeve.
I looked at that girl and I missed her. She was full of light, of hope, and her cheeks looked like they were storing nuts. Had this girl moved on to learn anything of substance over the next fifteen years? Nah. But she did remind me of the power in pretending. She also reminded me that the Gap seems to have great sales just about every other day (at least online).
The Ellie in that headshot was not only a dead ringer for British royalty, but she was also pretending to be confident at a time in her life when, frankly, she felt a little bit lost. Wait a minute, I realized a few hours later over an exciting new mix of The Tonight Dough with Peanut Buttah Cookie Core: I do have enough wisdom to share! Corduroy Ellie may have been smiling bravely, but there was a considerable amount of doubt and fear hiding behind that smile. And yet Corduroy Ellie did not let the doubt and fear win.
As a reasonably talented person who is also part fraud, I cannot praise highly enough the virtues of enthusiasm and tenacity as substitutes for finely honed skills or intensive training. And in this book, Reader, I will tell you about the numerous times that I have made up in pluck what I have lacked in natural ability. I will reveal tidbits from my past, and I will feed you morsels from the present. Some stories might seem implausible, some anecdotes farfetched. And I am here to tell you that this is because I have made them up. What do you want from me? I have an energetic toddler and my memory is fuzzy.
Here are some of the tales I have to share:
• My exhilarating rise—though some have described it as more of a “flatline”—through NCAA Division I College Field Hockey. A very thin woman with a bionic knee plays a prominent role.
• A ruthless exposé of my personal encounters with some of the splashiest personalities in Hollywood. Cameos include Pulitzer Prize–winning historian Doris Kearns Goodwin and the late Pope John Paul II.
• Filming the movie Bridesmaids while simultaneously serving as a bridesmaid in real life. Art and life grew inextricable, and I slowly began to lose my mind.
• My platonic yet breathless pursuit of a turquoise-pants-loving second-grade student teacher named Ms. Romanoff—and how her Russian heritage would ultimately teach me that even though Russia might have interfered with our 2016 election, it doesn’t mean that the entire country is bad.
• Why being a mom is hard, but trying to remain rational while hungry is even harder.
In closing, I would like to share some writing advice I once received from an old graduate school professor:4 Write like your parents are dead. Free yourself from any harnesses or constraints that are keeping you from telling your truth. And do not worry about whether you are doing the right thing or the wrong thing. Just be honest.
Well, I don’t write like my parents are dead. I write like they are alive, thriving, and peering over my shoulder. I’m not sure that’s a bad thing. Aren’t parents supposed to be your moral guides? Not only do I not want to embarrass my mom or my dad, but I happen to think they have pretty good judgment. Also, I need them on my good side if I want them to keep giving fun grandparent gifts to my son. As far as being honest, I already told you that a lot of the details and dialogue here are made up.
I have learned that an Author must write what She knows. And I, for one, happen to know a lot about snacks. In fact, this book is not so much a tribute to brave women everywhere as it is a record of my favorite ice cream brands. So you see, I wrote what I knew, and I know what I wrote. I hope that you enjoy.
2 The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, but that is only because I watched the pilot in October, and then had to wait a full two months for the second episode! By then I was so frustrated that I didn’t even care anymore!
3 Referring to the cereal. Went waaay overboard at a “buy one get one half off?” sale at Fairway that week.
4 Found by googling “best way to write a book is what?”
Ellie Kemper is the Emmy-nominated star of the Netflix original series, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. She portrayed Erin Hannon on NBC’s The Office; costarred in Bridesmaids; and has also appeared in 21 Jump Street, Identity Thief, and Somewhere. Ellie voiced Katie in The Secret Life of Pets and is the voice of Crackle on Disney’s Sofia the First. Her writing has appeared in GQ, Esquire, The New York Times, McSweeney’s, and The Onion. Ellie currently lives in Manhattan with her husband and son, but is constantly trying to find a way to get back to St. Louis. My Squirrel Days is her first book.
"A pleasure. Ellie Kemper is the kind of stable, intelligent, funny, healthy woman that usually only exists in yogurt commercials. But she's real and she's all ours!" —Tina Fey
"Ellie is a hilarious and talented writer, although we'll never know how much of this book the squirrel wrote." —Mindy Kaling
"This is a thoroughly charming book." —Dave Eggers
"If you're at all a Kemper fan already (I am, a lot), you will freaking love this audiobook ... Listeners will be smitten with her grace and work ethic, and even her tendency to lose herself in the mean reds when hungry. Though I've never met her, after listening to My Squirrel Days, I feel confident in saying that Ellie Kemper is my best friend! O.K., maybe that's a bit extreme, and creepy, but she's definitely someone I would love to sit next to on a transcontinental flight." —New York Times Book Review
"Applying her low-key genius...[Ellie Kemper] cements her status as an Elaine May for the digital age." —Vogue
Kemper reveals herself as a sharply intelligent social observer...[who’s] happy to burst the self-important bubble of celebrity, including her own.” —People
"Just when we thought we couldn’t love her more, Kemper released her first memoir, My Squirrel Days, a hilarious chronicle of the redhead’s journey from childhood to Hollywood. Kemper brings readers into her early days as a wannabe squirrel whisperer, her career as a field-hockey-dropout-turned-improviser at Princeton, her uncanny experience serving as an actual bridesmaid while filming Bridesmaids and much more." —Parade.com
"Recalling stories from different points in her life, from her childhood to moving to Los Angeles, her charm and warmth are on full display. Be prepared to fall even more in love with Kemper." —PopSugar
"[Kemper] shares a series of charming personal essays that chronicle both her professional and personal life, from being a child to having one. Rather than write a tell-all, Kemper gently lifts the veil on specific elements of her life, revealing “tidbits from [her] past” and “morsels of the present.”" —Boston Globe
"Ellie Kemper's debut [memoir], My Squirrel Days, is exactly what you would expect from the comedian. It's rich in personality, teeming with energy and full of laugh-out-loud moments. Kemper is a natural storyteller." —Associated Press
"Kemper reveals herself to be ... the veritable kindred spirit of her alter egos ... charming. —Washington Post
"[Kemper] is famously nice, polite and upbeat ... The book is a collection of more than two dozen short essays, assembled more or less chronologically, about certain incidents in her life. Taken collectively, they reveal her personality, history and character without becoming bogged down in specifics." —St. Louis Dispatch
"In her book, Kemper dives fully into each role—as actor, comedian, writer, and also wife and new mom—with an electric dedication by which one learns to reframe the picture, and if not exactly become a glass-half-full sort of person, at least become able to appreciate them." —Vogue.com
"Kemper, 38, is hilariously self-deprecating while maintaining a refreshingly entertaining and positive outlook throughout the book. It's a breezy read that has actual laugh-out-loud moments thanks in part to her nonchalantly sarcastic commentary." —USA Today
"One book we’re not passing on: Kemper’s new collection of essays, My Squirrel Days. In it, the St. Louis native recounts her life growing up here—i.e., communing with an overweight squirrel outside her tree house, hence the title—as well as how she came to play Erin Hannon on NBC’s hit The Office and then Kimmy." —St. Louis Magazine
"Kemper is a joy to follow ... She’s always poking fun at herself, but bravely open enough to let us all in on the joke." —TheAVClub.com
"The Office and Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt star delivers a series of essays on topics ranging from growing up in St. Louis obsessed with squirrels to becoming a mother and learning how to discreetly change diapers." —TIME.com
"In My Squirrel Days, Kemperher journey from her Midwestern childhood in suburban St. Louis to her breakout years in the comedy scene in Hollywood. Like so many other celebrity memoirists, Kemper weaves pop-culture references with her own personal stories and behind-the-scenes tales from life on the small screen. But Kemper's book is different from other celeb memoirs in one critical respect: She dedicated an entire essay to examining her complicated childhood friendship with a wild squirrel she named Natalie. Yeah, this is definitely different from anything you've read before." —Bustle
"If you’ve ever wanted to sit down and have a conversation with Ellie Kemper, reading her hilarious collection of essays about her life and career is basically the same thing ... Ellie’s stories will make you pee your pants with laughter, which may or may not be something she has some experience with herself." —Hello Giggles
"Actress Kemper's memoir in essays gives fans a taste of what it was like growing up Ellie ... Kemper solidifies her upbeat and humble persona with her first book." —Booklist
"Uproarious ... Kemper proves that good comedy starts with good writing ... an entertaining celebrity memoir." —Kirkus
"Engaging and refreshing ... She is an entertaining writer, and her tales ... will give readers an enticing glimpse of her happy-go-lucky attitude. This is a fun, breezy, and enjoyable volume." —Publishers Weekly