Notes from An Alien

~ Explorations In Writing { and reading and publishing } ~

Tag Archives: Elizabeth Gilbert

How Many #Women #NonFiction #Writers Have You Read?


There was a Twitter-Flap earlier this month about the rather well-known Male Non-Fiction Writer, Gay Talese.

When asked to name women non-fiction writers who influenced him, he said, “None”

And, Ann Friedman, A Female Non-Fiction Writer (who I’ve written about before), referred to Gay Talese’s situation in her New York Magazine article—The Queens of Nonfiction: 56 Women Journalists Everyone Should Read—by saying:

“Talese deserves the backlash. When it comes to naming influential women nonfiction writers of the past several decades, though, most of us fare only slightly better than he did.”

She also said:

“I’d always assumed this was partly because women, for decades, have missed out on the best writing assignments….But after Talese’s remarks, I started to wonder: Is it really true that almost no women were writing powerful narrative nonfiction before the 2000s?

“And so I went hunting for one good piece of nonfiction by a different woman writer published in every year since 1960, the year Esquire first published Talese. It was difficult. Most of this stuff just isn’t well archived digitally. And yes, far fewer women were working as magazine journalists in the ’60s, ’70s, and ’80s….But they were there.

“I found them — one for each of the past 56 years.”

You’ll have to take the link to Ann’s NYMag article to see all 56; but, I’ll give you the writers she listed that I’ve read (there are others in the list I’ve heard of but not read…):

Rachel Carson, “Silent Spring,” The New Yorker, 1962.

Gloria Steinem, “A Bunny’s Tale,” Show Magazine, 1963.

Gail Sheehy, “Inside Grey Gardens,” New York, 1972.

Susan Orlean, “Figures in a Mall,” The New Yorker, 1994.

Elizabeth Gilbert, “Lucky Jim,” GQ, 2002.

Samantha Power, “Dying in Darfur,” The New Yorker, 2004

Why did I read only a little over 10% of the authors mentioned in the list?

The reason (not excuse) was that I spent the 60s, 70s, 80s, 90s, and early 00s reading only fiction, science, psychology, history, metaphysics, and religion (although, there may have been a few magazines I read with women writers; but, I don’t remember either the magazines or the women—or, even the male writers in that format…).

Thing is, there were many women writers in what I was reading for all those years—they just weren’t journalists

And, why do I even feel it necessary to account for my relationship to the list?

Basically, because I’m a man who’s acutely aware of the repression and neglect of women

Ann made her point so well I had to account for my actions :-)

I hope you’ll read her full article
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What’s the #BigMagic about #ElizabethGilbert?


Back in 2012, I included a video of Elizabeth Gilbert in the post, Must Writers Suffer Melancholy, Anguish, and Depression?

I consider that video a Magic Performance

She captures Something Elusive about writing and infuses it into one’s soul

I’ve watched it more times than I can count; but, until very recently, I took no notice of her books

So, because of her most recent release and a friend giving me an Amazon gift card, I bought three of Ms. Gilbert’s books.

Eat Pray Love was Magic

The video I mentioned up there was done after Eat Pray Love had become a phenomenon—selling over 10 million copies.

I’d imagined it was some light, frilly thing about taking a year off from work and living it up

Turns out it was an extremely well-written, lyric book about taking a critically-needed year to heal and rebalance a life sorely-torn

So my first answer to the question (without the hashtags) What’s the Big Magic about Elizabeth Gilbert? would be:  she could suffer a devastating divorce, bring on more suffering with a rebounding affair, and somehow convince her publisher to pay for a year’s travel to Italy, India, and Indonesia so she could reconstitute her identity

Oh! And then write a book about it all.

I also bought her novel, The Signature of All Things, which I won’t read until I’ve finished a chunk more of my research for my next book

And, I bought her newest book, Big Magic, slotted further down the reading road

You can watch a slew of videos with Elizabeth talking about Big Magic and here’s a bit of a synopsis:

“…this beloved author digs deep into her own generative process to share her wisdom and unique perspective about creativity. With profound empathy and radiant generosity, she offers powerful insights into the mysterious nature of inspiration. She asks us to embrace our curiosity and to let go of needless suffering. She shows us how to tackle what we most love (and how to face down what we most fear).”

If my Muse were not the lovely martinet she is, I would be reading Big Magic right now—my next book needs a certain amount of preparatory care and feeding—and the Muse is confident I’ll begin reading Big Magic at just the right Magic Moment

I’m not allowed, yet, to know too much about that book but YouTube has a series of podcasts about Big Magic in Ms. Gilbert own voice (look in the right side-bar on YouTube for more of the series…)

And, speaking of her voice—it has Big Magic

It’s a combination of her tone and timbre (in a lower, provocative range) along with the pace of delivery (modulated by passion and concern) and her amazing ability to talk off-the-cuff yet make perfect and lyrically-delivered sense

Take A Listen………

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#CreativeCourage & #BigMagic for Readers, Writers, & Publishers


I used just a bit of Creative Courage in the title of this post—jamming the words together and sticking a pound-sign in front of them—going for the Twitter-Look… Big Magic

Naturally, writing a novel or raising a child or working to prevent radical climate change take TrueCreativeCourage and a heaping soul-full of BigMagic

Have you heard of the book Eat, Pray, Love? It was written by Elizabeth Gilbert.

I’ve written two important posts about Elizabeth (both having very cool videos):

* Must Writers Suffer Melancholy, Anguish, and Depression?

* Are Failure and Success Actually “The Same Thing”?

It turns out that Maria Popova has written an article about a new book by Ms. Gilbert—Big Magic: Elizabeth Gilbert on Creative Courage and the Art of Living in a State of Uninterrupted Marvel.

Here come the excerpts:

“…the pursuit of possibility is very much at the heart of Gilbert’s mission to empower us to enter into creative endeavor the way one enters into a monastic order: ‘as a devotional practice, as an act of love, and as a lifelong commitment to the search for grace and transcendence.’”

“Surely something wonderful is sheltered inside you. I say this with all confidence, because I happen to believe we are all walking repositories of buried treasure. I believe this is one of the oldest and most generous tricks the universe plays on us human beings, both for its own amusement and for ours: The universe buries strange jewels deep within us all, and then stands back to see if we can find them.”

“The hunt to uncover those jewels — that’s creative living.

“The courage to go on that hunt in the first place — that’s what separates a mundane existence from a more enchanted one.

“The often surprising results of that hunt — that’s what I call Big Magic.”

Later in the article:

“The only reason I can speak so authoritatively about fear is that I know it so intimately. I know every inch of fear, from head to toe. I’ve been a frightened person my entire life. I was born terrified. I’m not exaggerating; you can ask anyone in my family, and they’ll confirm that, yes, I was an exceptionally freaked-out child. My earliest memories are of fear, as are pretty much all the memories that come after my earliest memories….

“I also realized that my fear was boring because it was identical to everyone else’s fear. I figured out that everyone’s song of fear has exactly that same tedious lyric: “STOP, STOP, STOP, STOP!” True, the volume may vary from person to person, but the song itself never changes, because all of us humans were equipped with the same basic fear package when we were being knitted in our mothers’ wombs.”

“Creativity is a path for the brave, yes, but it is not a path for the fearless, and it’s important to recognize the distinction.

“If your goal in life is to become fearless, then I believe you’re already on the wrong path, because the only truly fearless people I’ve ever met were straight-up sociopaths and a few exceptionally reckless three-year-olds — and those aren’t good role models for anyone.”

If you want to be a more creative person or you’re already embroiled in a creative life, I suggest you go read the full article

Ms. Gilbert also has a nice discussion guide for Big Magic.

And, here’s a video with Elizabeth…

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Are Failure and Success Actually “The Same Thing”?


We live in a world where “false dichotomies” thrive.

Failure and Success

Image courtesy of Kostya Kisleyko ~ http://www.freeimages.com/profile/dlnny

What is often presented as black or white has infinite shades of gray.

What is perceived initially as male or female has its complement close at hand.

What can seem like sheer dominance has an interior of pure subjection

I happen to be a writer and I also happen to blog about Reading, Writing, and Publishing.

One post I wrote back in 2012 was called “Must Writers Suffer Melancholy, Anguish, and Depression?“.

It featured a video called Your Elusive Creative Genius with Elizabeth Gilbert, acclaimed author of Eat, Pray, Love.

That book was a huge “success”; and, she claims her next one was a “failure”

But, in the video below, she explains a third perspective—pursuing what you love more than you love yourself.


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Videos for Folks Who Write (or, Want To Write…)


Two years ago I shared a video of author Elizabeth Gilbert in a post called Must Writers Suffer Melancholy, Anguish, and Depression?

Amongst all the videos I’d seen with writers sharing what they know or what they do, Gilbert’s stood out like an angel in a hell-storm.

The other day, while scanning for possible blog post material, I found WiseInk blog by Dara Beevas and Amy Quale—specifically their post called, TED Talks That Will Inspire Your Writing.

They share six TED Talk videos about writers and writing, including that one with Elizabeth Gilbert.

I’m going to share two videos from that post here:

 One by an author of children’s books

One about using Twitter

Even if you hate Twitter and could care less about books for kids, if you write (or, want to write), these videos will give you something to think about

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