Monday, June 18, 2007

"Eat, Books, Ikea and Bonding" or my 18 hour trip to San Francisco with Ashley to Meet Elizabeth Gilbert

This week my wanderings lead me to San Jose and San Francisco to meet my new favorite author, Elizabeth Gilbert who wrote the the deeply personal memoir of her travels and inner transformation across Italy, India and Indonesia, Eat, Pray, Love. I picked up this book at Borders because of the cover, so simple and beautiful. As a former marketing student, I like to reward the geniuses behind good packaging and cover art by doing exactly what all moms tell their kids not to- judging books by their covers. To be fair though, even books with lovely covers have to pass the 2 page test with me. I was a little hesitant to read it because it was the story of a woman on the heels of her divorce. As a newlywed, this wouldn't normally be my subject of choice, but something drew me to the book. Maybe because I'd love to take off for a year and travel the world. Maybe I just love stories about personal transformation. Whatever it was, I'm glad I picked it up beause I fell in love with Elizabeth Gilbert's writing. She has a way of letting the reader behind the curtain, revealing the truth about her lonliness, joy and triumphs in a way that shows that she is just so...human. It was one of those books that feels like visiting an old friend their and remembering all over again why you loved them so much in the first place. I didn't want it to end, so when it finally did in my book withdrawls I went searching on Liz's website and happened to see that she was going to be at a Book Group Expo in San Jose, CA...only an hour and a cheap plane ticket away from me.

The wheels started turning and before you know it I had found the cheapest flight and a $75 off flight coupon on eBay. It was only a week away, but I called my friend Ashley to see if she wanted to make a girls outing of it. She was game, so at 4:30(am!) last Saturday we headed out to the airport for a quick trip full of books, authors, wine, chocolate, seafood and shopping.

The Book Group Expo was a pretty neat set-up. Each hour they hosted themed Literary Salons with a group of 3-4 authors on a mini-stage full of the kind of worn comfy couches and chairs you might settle into with your favorite book. Here are some highlights from the trip:

1. What a Long Strange Trip Its Been..
This was the title of the first literary salon with Elizbeth Gilbert(that's her in the center of the photo above with Ashley and I), Sara Davidson (author of "Loose Change" and "Leap!") and Po Bronson (journalist and writer of "Why Do I Love These People?" and "What Should I Do With the Rest of My Life?"). Like the proud book loving geek that I am, I had thought about some questions I wanted to ask Liz. I got a little nervous, but I ended up on the mike anyway asking the whole panel about the mentors they had had in their lives and whether or not they spent time mentoring aspiring writers. All of the authors gave answers that were positive and encouraging to me about liking to spend time reading manuscripts and helping other authors connect with agents. Liz said she didn't really have a writing mentor, but her mom had been her biggest source of encouragement, even encouraging her to send her work to Newsweek and the New York Post when she was 18. She also talked about having worked with Julie Powell, author or Julie and Julia.
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2. Did I Mention Elizabeth Gilbert??
Well, we got to meet her at the book signing and she was just as friendly and gracious and easy-going as you might expect after reading Eat, Pray, Love. She told me that I have a beautiful smile! I told her that I really enjoyed her book and determined to get through at least one more of my questions for her, I asked if she had written most of the book while she was away in Italy, India and Indonesia or when she came back home. She said she wrote the bulk of it while she was there, journaling and such.

I wonder if it is weird for her after writing such a personal memoir that so many people who she has never met think that they are her kindred spirits.

3. Ikea
It was my first time. I was amazed at the size of the place. Ginormous. And everything was so cheap! I resisted most of the temptations because we were limited to the small bags we were carrying as carry ons, but I did get a cute $.99 spoon rest.

2. Checking Out San Francisco and the Environs
When the clock struck 2, we had had our fill of book nerd heaven and our eyes were drooping from only 4 hours of sleep, so we decided to hop in our rental car and head back to explore San Francisco. Neither of us had any specific plan in mind, so we headed for the Embarcadero and stopped when a little arts and crafts street Image and video hosting by TinyPicmarket caught our eye.Image and video hosting by TinyPic

We don't have a lot of stuff like that in Vegas. There was a guy with the most beautiful photographs of brilliant blue and red doors. And then there were the ugly jewelery vendors and the pretty jewelery vendors. We both picked up a little something from the pretty jewelery vendors tables. Then we explored the market across the street on the pier and reveled in the less than 100 degree weather and the fresh sea ocean air. We went to Pier 39 and stopped at Swiss Louis's overlooking the sea lions for dinner and some wine.
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3. Good Old Fashioned Girls Bonding Time
Sometimes this is just what the doctor ordered. For me, having real conversations and spending time with girlfriends is nourshing to the soul. Definitely one of the biggest highlights of the trip was getting to spend it with one of my best friends.
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