Dec 6, 2009: Workshop/Conference, or in this case an author talk

Workshop or conference. Was there a conference or workshop you attended that was especially beneficial? Where was it? What did you learn?

Does an author talk count?  Well, it is going to have to for this one.  Consider it a workshop.

This is something I wrote the day after seeing and meeting Elizabeth Gilbert, (see post from dec 4 ), quite possibly the highlight of 2009.


I just returned from Seattle this morning, it was a quick 12 hour trip but well worth it. The purpose, as many of you may know, was to hear Elizabeth Gilbert author of “Eat Pray Love” speak at Meany Theatre at the University of Washington. With my iTrip stocked with TED talks I left work early on Thursday afternoon and began the 3 hour trip south to Seattle. Thankfully there was not much traffic and I was greeted by great friends Matt Whiting and Karalee. We met for a whirlwind dinner as I had to dash out to find the theatre, get my will call tickets, and settle in for a much anticipated evening. Both Matt and Karalee were relatively unfamiliar with the UW campus so we sprinted in the direction of the theatre, flew down steps, and made it to the venue with 5 minutes to spare. Phew. Matt and Karalee left me with directions back to their place and I immediately went to my seat and settled in (2nd row- centre!).

…enter Liz Gilbert. I had never been to an author’s talk before so I really didn’t know what to expect. When Jeff asked me “What will she be speaking about?” I said I no idea and in fact didn’t really care what the talk was about… it was all about being in her presence. Liz’s talk was great. She is hysterical, interesting, thoughtful, confident, and full of life. She told stories for about 45 minutes and here are some of the notes that I took:

– She began by articulating that although she wrote this international best seller, EPL, which is all about finding your self, discovering your inner being, wisdom, strength, etc… she is STILL working on it. She said “Never assume that people who write these books that we all read have it all figured out, because we don’t- we are working on this all of the time”.

– She continued this thought process by saying that our culture (Western culture) is consumed with life envy! ( so true, Dana has told me that I suffer from the grass is greener syndrome- very true!). She said we have almost developed into a new species called “homo-limitless”- we want everything, feel that we need everything, we set high expectations for ourselves, and high standards… sometimes unattainable. We are constantly being inundated with choice.. so much choice that we always think we need MORE and MORE as a result. She recommended a book called the “Happiness Hypothesis” in which the author speaks about the acquisition treadmill, this need to constantly want more and yearning for what we can’t afford.

– With this notion of life envy she was making the parallel between all of us who read these wonderful books/memoirs/etc and how often times we then believe that someone else has it better, that someone that person has it all figured out, and rather than reflect on our own lives, we seek to be like others.

– She then went on to speak about her next book, it will be coming out in January and is about the meditation on marriage. She told a really interesting story about how she started to write this book on marriage, completed it in 3 months, went to Kinkos, randomly opened the manuscript to a page and thought “no.. this isn’t right”. But then she started second guessing herself saying, “well my editor will know how to fix it, it should be alright”… she let this sit with her for 2 weeks and one evening she woke up crying- she had a nightmare that she was in the publisher’s office pleading “please don’t publish this”. So she got up the next morning and wrote the publisher a very heartfelt and authentic letter saying that the book just wasn’t right and she couldn’t send it to the publisher. He agreed and told her to take her time. So she just let things be for awhile, she worked in her garden, went for walks and just let things go for awhile. She went to speak to her literary agent and said “I really don’t know what to do” and her literary agent said “take time and just follow your curiosity”…. One day a few months later she had a thought “what if I change this one thing in the book, yes… this will work” – sure enough she went back to work and re-wrote the book and said she loves it and is very proud of it!
Lessons learned from this:

  • Listen to the whispers before they turn into screams. PAY attention to what your body, mind, and soul is telling you.
  • Authentic: be authentic in everything you do, approach everything with authenticity and honesty.
  • Follow your curiosity. ( I really liked this one)… she said “so many people say follow your passion, but when you are in the midst of complete uncertainty finding your passion just makes things seems worse, so follow your curiosity- what are you curious about? Take that and move with it.” Her curiosity was about marriage- why people get married, what are the “secrets” to good marriages, how do marriages work, etc…. so she followed her curiosity and re worked her book…

At the end of her talk she took questions, I really didn’t have anything to ask so I just listened… some questions were interesting, others were strange like “what is your favourite yoga pose” (L.A.M.E.)…. At the end of the question period I thought “ Shit, I won’t get to meet her”, but then they said “Liz will be doing a book signing out front”. Great, this was my chance. So I waited in line with everyone else (proud to say I was the only one with a hardcover copy- as I bought mine in 2006). When I got to the table she was about to start writing my name down and I said:

“I’m not sure if you remember me, but I wrote you back in 2006 during a difficult time when my husband and I had separated and I was terribly heartbroken and felt that I finally connected with someone like me. You wrote me back and in the length of the email said “find something you love and do it now”. So I did that, and then I wrote you a few months later to say that I trekked Peru and moved to Kenya.”

She stopped… and said “OH MY GOSH I REMEMBER YOU!… YOU ARE BACK”???

And I said “Yes, I live in Vancouver BC Canada and I drove down to hear you speak.”

She got up from her chair, walked around the table and gave me a big hug. She then grabbed my hands and looked right at me and said “How is your life?” (In the most authentically asked question I have received in awhile”)

I said “Great! I met my Felipe!”

She said “You did? Great!”

“Yup- he is great!”

Then she went back to the table and started signing the book “To Amanda, Congratulations… on your life. Love Liz”

I said “Your talk was wonderful.”

She looked up and said “Thank you so much for coming tonight Amanda.”

I walked out of the theatre with a HUGE smile and tears… it was marvellous!


4 thoughts on “Dec 6, 2009: Workshop/Conference, or in this case an author talk

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