Thursday, March 22, 8:15 AM–9:15 AM
Pennsylvania Convention Center, Exhibit Hall C
Elizabeth Gilbert’s memoir Eat, Pray, Love has been called “a generation’s instruction manual” by the Toronto Sun. Exploding onto the scene in 2006, the bestseller famously chronicled the year Gilbert spent traveling the world after a shattering divorce. Translated into more than 30 languages, Eat, Pray, Love has sold over ten million copies worldwide. The book—which The New York Times Book Review says is “fueled by a mix of intelligence, wit, and colloquial exuberance that is close to irresistible”—catapulted its author from respected but little-recognized writer to a woman Oprah Winfrey has called a “rock star author.”
Educated at New York University, Elizabeth Gilbert hails from an ascetic childhood in rural Connecticut. Fearless reporting skills and an abiding appreciation for working-class values have colored her writing from the beginning. Meanwhile, a persistent longing to understand the world and her place in it have made her not merely a writer, but an explorer. Gilbert worked in a Philadelphia diner, on a western ranch, and in a New York City bar to scrape together the funds to travel: “to create experiences to write about, gather landscapes and voices.” Gilbert’s writing was published in Harper’s Bazaar, Spin, and The New York Times Magazine. Her work in Spin caught the attention of editors at GQ, and she became a stalwart at that publication, producing vivid, provocative pieces that soon grew into books and even a film: 2000’s Coyote Ugly. Gilbert was a finalist for the National Magazine Award, and her work was anthologized in Best American Writing 2001.
Gilbert’s first book, a wide-ranging collection of short fiction called Pilgrims, was a New York Times Most Notable Book and won the Ploughshares prize, among many other honors. Her first novel, Stern Men, won the Kate Chopin Award in 2001. Her third book, The Last American Man, which compellingly explores America’s long-standing intrigue with the pioneer lifestyle, was a finalist for the National Book Award.
“I think my gift, far beyond whatever gifts that I have as a writer, my gift as a human is that I can make friends with people very quickly. Everything I learned about being a journalist I learned by being a bartender. The most exquisite lesson of all is that people will tell you anything. Want to. There’s no question you can’t ask if your intention is not hostile. And it’s not like entrapment; it’s more like a gorgeous revelation. People want to tell the story that they have.”
With Eat, Pray, Love, Gilbert attracted an adoring international audience. Thanks to its courage and humor, Eat, Pray, Love became the kind of book that people keep on their nightstands for years, pages flagged and passages highlighted. In 2010, Eat, Pray, Love was made into a feature film starring Julia Roberts and Javier Bardem—an experience Gilbert has called “surreal,” “amazing,” and “touching.”
In 2010, Gilbert published Committed: A Love Story, the breathlessly anticipated followup to Eat, Pray, Love. Committed tells the story of Gilbert’s unexpected plunge into second marriage—this time to Felipe, the man with whom she falls in love at the end of Eat, Pray, Love. Part memoir, part meditation on marriage as a sociohistorical institution, Committed is rich with Gilbert’s trademark humor, sparkling prose, and intimate voice.
Named as one of the Best Books of the Year by The New York Times, O, The Oprah Magazine, NPR, and Time, Gilbert’s novel The Signature of All Things is a sweeping story of botany, exploration, and desire, spanning much of the nineteenth century. The author’s first novel in over a decade, it was described by O, The Oprah Magazine as “the novel of a lifetime.” The Washington Post called it “that rare literary achievement: a big, panoramic novel about life and love that captures the idiom and tenor of its age.” It is being produced as a miniseries by PBS’s Masterpiece.
In the decade since Eat, Pray, Love, people around the world have sought Gilbert’s advice on how to lead a bold and inspired life, and she has dedicated herself to exploring the mysteries of courage and creativity. Out of this period of introspection comes Gilbert’s brilliant nonfiction treatise, Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear. In this book, she digs deep into her own generative process to share her wisdom and unique perspective on creativity.
Gilbert lives in New Jersey, where she is a columnist for O, The Oprah Magazine. She is also at work on a new novel.