“People universally tend to think that happiness is a stroke of luck, something that will maybe descend upon your life, like fine weather, if you’re fortunate enough. But that’s not how happiness works. Happiness is the consequence of personal effort. You fight for it, strive for it, insist upon it, and sometimes even travel around the world looking for it. You have to participate relentlessly in to manifestations of your own blessings. And once you have achieved a state of happiness, you must never become lax about maintaining it, you must make a mighty effort to keep swimming upward into that happiness forever, to stay afloat on top of it.” – Elizabeth Gilbert, Eat, Pray, Love

I was downright giddy when I found out Elizabeth Gilbert was going to be speaking in my area last week. She’s one of my favorite authors, and her book Eat, Pray, Love has become a sort of cult phenomenon among my group of friends (and indeed, across the country: her book has sold 7 million copies!) I equally loved her latest book, Committed: A Skeptic Makes Peace With Marriage, and was thrilled to find out that she’s working on a new novel set to come out in a year or so.

Elizabeth’s “speech” turned out to be more of a sit-down interview with Paul Holdengräber, who is the Director of Public Programs for the New York Public Library. The match worked out wonderfully. Elizabeth and Paul played off each other well, and Elizabeth was very open, witty and self-possessed. She explained her relief on finding out that her ex-husband is writing a memoir of his own (she had been waiting for the shoe to drop ever since her book came out), and shared her schoolgirl-like excitement at having Javier Bardem play her Brazilian lover in the Eat, Pray, Love movie coming out this summer. “The movie me gets to sleep with Javier Bardem…it’s pretty fantastic,” she said.

Elizabeth took a host of questions from the audience, kindly entertaining requests about what audience members should do with their lives (which I thought were rather funny) and responding to criticisms of self-indulgence by saying, “As someone who just wrote two memoirs I don’t really think I can argue with that.”

In short, she was absolutely lovely—so lovely, in fact, that I completely froze when it came time for her to sign my book. I didn’t say one word, and barely captured the photo above with very shaky hands. My apologies for the blurriness! xo