An evening with John Irving & Elizabeth Gilbert

Randomly enough, both John Irving and Elizabeth Gilbert ended up having a book signing event at Empik while I’m here in Warsaw. 

When I heard that John Irving was coming, I knew I had to go and meet him. Ever since I read A Prayer for Owen Meany in high school, I’ve been a fan – that book made such an impression on me, I still remember how I felt when I finished it (regardless of the book’s political & religious implications, what struck me was its plot and the purpose behind the character’s every action that led to the book’s inevitable end). 

And considering my own current Europe travels, I really wanted to meet Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat, Pray, Love

Me & John Irving

John Irving
When I heard Irving was coming to Warsaw, I had to read his most recent book, Last Night in Twisted River. Even though I only had five days to get through the 658-page novel, I did it. It wasn’t hard to read a book with such memorable characters (I can’t wait to use the expression “mountains of mooseshit” in a conversation) and heartbreaking plot (there were a lot of tears towards the end). But I also loved that Irving gave a glimpse into his method of writing through one of the main characters in the novel, also a writer. 

It makes complete sense that Irving always writes the last sentence of a novel first, since what strikes me about all his novels is the plots drive towards an end where all the pieces fall together perfectly, and every seemingly coincidental moment ends up being very meaningful and purposeful. I don’t think you could do that unless you started from the end! Reading this novel, and meeting Irving really re-ignites that flame under my “becoming a novelist” aspiration (perhaps it’s one of those “coincidences” that will prove to be meaningful one day). 

In the Q&A session, Irving was asked what it takes to be a writer, and he answered that you have to like being alone. Check – I’m ready to be a writer! He also stressed the importance of re-writing everything and paying close attention to the small details. I love editing (I’ve already gone through and edited this post three times), so I’m determined to dedicate myself to some serious writing!

 Although our one-on-one conversation was brief, I’m sure he’ll never forget meeting a charismatic young woman such as myself. And I’ll always have the picture (and his autograph) to remember this moment! 


Me & Elizabeth Gilbert

Elizabeth Gilbert
Ok, I have to admit that I haven’t read Eat, Pray, Love yet. In my defense, I tried to get my hands on an English copy of the book before today’s event, and literally visited almost every bookstore in the city. Unfortunately, everyone was sold out. But I did enjoy listening to Gilbert talk about her journey and writing the book. 

I don’t know if I could ever write something so autobiographical! Knowing my (often misunderstood) sense of humor, I think my real-life characters might get offended by whatever I write. 

It was interesting to learn that Gilbert actually used to be a journalist (which I hadn’t known), writing for men’s magazines like GQ before going on her travels and becoming a novelist. I wish I could have a similar career!

I had a chance to take a photo with Gilbert and introduce myself as being from Chicago, on my own little journey. She said she could tell by my accent that I was from Chicago, but that it was nice to hear someone from back home. Likewise! 

Dramatic reading of excerpts from Eat, Pray, Love (in Polish, of course)


  1. Hi Agatha,
    though I never write in blogs yours was very interesting for me and I was attracted by the way you’re writing and especially about the evening with John Irving. I’m really envious! I’m a fan of his too since many years and read nearly all his books. The last one I heard in the original as audiobook (first one I’ve heard in English – my first language is German) and it was really a pleasure because Arthur Morey did a fantastic work.
    Another reason I’m attracted to your blog is that I too waiting for a chance to use “mountains of mooseshit”! But for I’m living in Germany and there are no mosse around I fear that this change will never come! I love the expression “constipated christ” too and wonderes how they would translate this into German: in the web I found that it was translated iinto “Heiliger Dünnschiss!” what means “Holy Diarrhea!” – the contrary of constipation!
    I would appreciate if you’d answer me. Besides: I’m female, what many people outside the German language area offen don’t kthhinking I’m a man.
    Kind regards,
    Dagmar from Germany (hope my English is not too bad!)

  2. Hi Agatha,
    after I’ve posted the above I re-read it and ít was a fault not to do this before posting: know I’ve seen that I made many typing errors – please excuse me!

  3. Hi Dagmar,
    Thanks so much for reading and for your comment! And don’t worry about your English, there’s no way I could ever write anything in German =)

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