I know that I haven’t posted a blog for a week… but I have been writing! My next book, based on Questions & Answers, perhaps with a different title, is deep in production now and I spend all hours of the day taking more Upper Dictation; asking more questions; and digging deeper into the answers given for the original book, back in 1998. So, please forgive my silence.
But I did take last Thursday off to drive over to Tampa and hear Elizabeth Gilbert, the author of the wildly popular book: Eat, Pray, Love, which has now been translated into thirty languages and has sold seven million copies and counting. Can you blame me for wanting to hear her? Oprah called her a rock star author and she certainly is. But, she still acts like her natural self and is funny and very, very candid, telling stories on herself all over the place.
This was a luncheon put on by the Tampa Chamber of Commerce, called Women of Distinction, and there we all were, hundreds…maybe a thousand…of us, looking nicely polished up, standing in the book-buying line and chatting with each other in the lobby; waiting to rush in and claim a seat at one of the many round tables laden with lovely lunch. Liz Gilbert has a natural grace and beauty and she was less doozied up than many of us, but looking great on the two big screens blowing up her image, so that we in the back could see, as well.
Just as has been happening while I read along, on my second time through Eat, Pray, Love, here will come a refreshing zinger of philosophy, right out of the blue, in the middle of the funny stories. One which came out during this speech was her comment about the historical, new place that women find themselves in now. Only in the past seventy-five years, she reckons, have we been faced with real choices about what to do with our lives. Her grandmother never got conflicted about the career choice she made, while she was tending eight children on a dirt farm in the midwest and just, basically, struggling to make it through the day. Choice was never hers to begin with.
Gilbert can write authentically about being conflicted in life, because that’s what set her off on the year-long journey around the world to “find herself” at age thirty-four. That’s what makes the book so popular, and I’m sure that a great majority of her readers are women. She’s also kind of an unredeemed klutz and doesn’t mind saying so. She opened her talk with a confession about having loused up grandly on a simple flight to Santa Barbara to give a speech at the university there.
Being the good daughter of a Swedish mother, she got to the San Francisco airport four-and-a-half hours early to be sure to catch the flight, and to write her thank you letters during the wait. She sat in the proper boarding area, right near the door leading to the plane. But, got to woolgathering about a “deep” moral dilemma caused by the request of her nieces and nephews to buy them nerf guns and plenty of ammo. They had just been to a neighborhood so-much-fun party across four adjoining back yards and it was all-out war. Now, they wanted to throw a war for their friends.
Problem was, Liz’s sister is Quaker and Liz was feeling very conflicted about being the favorite aunt gun supplier here. She even mulled over the finer points of the machine gun nerf weapon, versus the hidden pocket pistol, and how much ammo was too much ammo. Meanwhile, her plane was boarding and leaving, and when she finally came to, she was alone in the silent airport seating area. Panic time! She ran around, agitating everybody, as well as the woman who was supposed to meet her at the Santa Barbara airport. No more planes flew there and the talk was set for five o’clock that very afternoon.
All she could do was run across the whole terminal and jump on a flight to L.A., requiring the poor woman to drive all the way there and get her, then drive back to Santa Barbara at some unlawful speed on those horrendous freeways. It was mighty frosty on that drive and she was half-an-hour late to her talk. She had lost her notes and her hairbrush in all the hubbub. Just another day in the life of a rock star, apparently.
Someone in our audience asked how that nerf business turned out in her family and she reported the happy ending. Her mother gave counsel and the green light to arm the kiddies, and they all had a lovely massive family War not long ago, during which her 57-year-old husband, (the famous “Felipe” of the book) thought he was James Bond and did a stunt roll from behind a tree, planning to come up shooting. He hurt his hip and still limps a little. So, she allowed as how War might be a wee bit dangerous, at that.
Here’s a woman, on her way to becoming another J.K. Rowling, and she talks about the heavy difficulty of writing her next follow-up book and being expected to repeat the phenomenon. Everyone wants more of the same, only better, and even more confirming and exciting. She spent two-and-a-half years writing a 500-page manuscript, only to realize that it wasn’t any good. It didn’t reflect her “voice,” which is one of the reasons that Eat, Pray, Love is so universally-loved.
That failed manuscript had been so very influenced by the specter of her millions of fans’ expectations and she had stiffened up in the writing of it. Her publisher had already paid for this second book and had announced its publication. Can you imagine the big pressures at such a high level of that business?
The thing was finished and it was due NOW, but she scrapped it and went out and planted vegetables for six months. Just dug in the dirt and got entirely away from writing. At last, one day, the first sentence of her new book came floating into her head and she ran inside, wrote it down, and retired to her room for three months to write the one which does contain her voice again. It will be about marriage, ironically, since that’s what had sent her over the edge at the beginning of her first book.
She and Felipe had vowed never to marry, but she said Homeland Security made them do it. So, she calls it a shotgun wedding. He is Brazilian and it probably has a lot to do with visas. She is now very happily married and has a lot to say in the appreciation of the institution. Knowing this woman’s fearlessness about saying it just like it is, I think we’ll all learn more than People Magazine could ever tell us about what goes on inside of this well-known, and highly-admired couple’s, personal life. Plus, we’ll learn a whole lot more about spirituality and confliction-resolution. Can’t wait to read Committed. That’s the first word of the new title, which used to be Weddings & Evictions, but has changed to Committed…..something or other.
She is a rock star author, with lots of blogs about her. Google her name and you will see. She’s also now “fabulously wealthy,” by her own amazed description. Another Rowling look-alike point. We all love a rags to riches story and she has invited us to come along on hers.