A few weeks ago, I had the most wonderful experience. Elizabeth Gilbert who I have loved since she published Eat, Pray, Love came to speak at our local library. My mother was in town for a visit, so I bought tickets, which also provided us with autographed copies of Gilbert’s novel The Signature of All Things, and we were off for a night at the library.
While Gilbert did begin our time together with a brief description and reading from her novel, the majority of our time together was spent with the author taking questions from the audience. If you have ever seen one of Gilbert’s TED talks, you won’t be surprised to hear that she was a funny, relaxed and casual speaker. I came away feeling like I had gone out for a glass of wine with her instead of sitting in an audience with one hundred other fans.
Here are some tidbits from our time together…
Gilbert holds a special place in her heart for libraries- especially seeing as her first kiss was in a library in her home town.
I loved the way Gilbert described the success of Eat, Pray, Love. She described the experience as a time when “a book accidentally intersected with the emotional lives of people.”
She said that her memoirs were written during times when she needed to answer a question about her own life while her novel was written in a place of joy. She was thrilled that because of the financial success of Eat, Pray, Love, she was given the freedom to research and travel in a way that most writers are not able to when she was writing The Signature of All Things. In speaking to the length of her novel she said, “with all the abundance, I didn’t want to go small.” Therefore she spent 4 to 6 hours a day for three years writing the book.
When an audience member asked for writing advice, Gilbert responded “there is nothing sexy about setting a kitchen timer and nothing that works better.” She said, as all authors do, you just have to ‘sit through the boring things’ to get to the good stuff.
Gilbert said that with each of her books, she imagined that she was writing the book to a certain person so she always had her audience in mind. The Signature of All Things was written to her 4th grade teacher, Sandy Carpenter, who she called her ‘most influential teacher.’
I’m sure there are many, many more words of wisdom that I heard that night. I wrote as quickly as I could to help me keep some of the wisdom in my memory so those are the pieces that I have shared with you here. I am so thrilled that I had the chance to hear Elizabeth Gilbert speak. It truly was a joy.