I recently interviewed bestselling author Elizabeth Gilbert

I interviewed Elizabeth Gilbert, the New York Times bestselling author of Eat Pray Love,  about her latest book Big Magic ahead of her talk in Atlanta later this month. Elizabeth was incredibly generous in her interview and is a quote a minute. Not everything could make it into my 875-word article in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, so I included some of my favorite moments from our conversation below.

“I see people behave toward their creativity in ways that I recognize as being self-destructive or counterproductive to them. I see a culture where certain things are ingrained in us, like the Romanov of the tormented artist, and I rejected it long before I had success. I was not going to be an art martyr. I had an ethic around creativity.”

“Ideas are a divine invitation and the work itself is a reward. It’s a reward because of the way it changes you, not necessarily because of the way it changes the world. At the end of a creative encounter you will be different than you were before, and that in itself makes it worth doing.”

She also shared a story about a 95-year-old former New York City show girl who she interviewed as a part of her research for an upcoming novel. Elizabeth says that she originally thought that getting older women to talk about sex would be difficult, and now she can’t get them to stop. The woman has never been married and does not have any children. She had many lovers in her lifetime, including the actor John Wayne. One night at a bar she picked up a man and spent the night with him. The next morning she saw that he left money for her and she was appalled. She left the money and went across the street to Bergdorf Goodman to purchase the man a nice tie. She left it on his dresser with a note saying that she had a nice time.

Finally saw #GetOut…a white woman was choked…

*CONTAINS SPOILERS*

I went to see the movie Get Out with my bestie last night and I think the internet hyped the revolutionary nature of this film more than it warranted. I have to admit that I am not a horror movie fan in general. Suspense I can do, but thrillers and purposefully scary movies just don’t do it for me. But, when I went to see Get Out I was expecting a movie that was a side step from the norm of the horror/thriller genre, but instead I got a film that fit in its box of predictable plots and contrived characters perfectly. It’s not that Get Out is not a good movie– it is and Jordan Peele has mastered the balance of creepy and comedic. However, this movie does not tackle any “-ism” in a unique way. Peele borrowed techniques and plot devices from a lot of movies before him to give us  Get Out, which he himself has said in a number of TV interviews. A lot of people compare the movie to Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner, but with twists added by the sadistic use of hypnosis by white women.

In the movie, photographer Chris (Daniel Akaluuya) goes to meet his girlfriend Rose’s (Allison Williams) parents for what seems to be a relaxing weekend upstate. Rose has not told her parents that Chris is black, but insists that everything will be fine, because her dad would have voted for Obama a third time. But, when they arrive, Rose is forced to confront the fact that her liberal parents are not as open-minded as she thought. Or, so we think…Turns out, this family has actually been kidnapping and hypnotizing black artists and transplanting their brains and brawn onto white people who wish they could be like them. Still with me?

That said, I will give the director/writer and cast accolades on the utter mind-boggle of one particular scene. Toward the end of the movie, when Chris is escaping from the Armitage compound in a vintage white Porsche, there is a scene where his girlfriend-turned-assailant is shooting at him with a rifle. The black groundskeeper, who is in the “sunken place” comes to her aid to capture Chris, until through the miracle of “snapping out of it” (invoked by the flash of a cell phone camera), the black groundskeeper manages to come to his senses. He wrestles the gun away from Rose and shoots her before taking his own life. However, the shot does not kill her, and soon Chris and Rose find themselves in a fight over who gets the gun.

Chris starts choking Rose to death and that’s where the mind-boggle happened to me. This black man who is bigger and stronger than this  “Becky with the Good Hair” has his hands around her neck and is cutting off her airways, and every stereotype I had ever been shown and told about black men as aggressors welled up inside of me. Somebody save Rose! He’s going to kill her! But wait, she lured him to a plantation, took his phone, had him drugged and hypnotized, and submitted his body to psycho medicine, right? So why then is it so uncomfortable to see him in an act of self defense against her? In it’s last 15 minutes the movie shoves in our faces how we see who and how detrimental that misinformed vision can be, especially when gender and race are involved. I still haven’t processed that feeling of “she’s in danger” even though I knew he was the victim– I’ll report back when I have had time with my therapist on this one.

This was the highlight of the movie for me and I can see professors pulling that last 10-15 minutes as a demonstration in future lectures. Academia seems to love to apply pop culture to idea whirling these days. I would be remiss to not mention that comedian Lil Rel, who plays Chris’ friend Rod, a TSA agent with all of the qualifications of a detective, really makes the movie. I have been a fan of his for years and if you haven’t seen him and comedienne Tiffany Haddish as husband and wife on NBC’s The Carmichael Show, you are missing out.

Overall though, the acting was fine and the chemistry among the cast was definitely there, but if the Academy is searching for their next black movie darling, I hope they wait until a little later in the year before they launch this one into the stratosphere.

My Top 5 Favorite Oscars 2017 Moments

Let’s just jump right in.

  1. Gary from Chicago. Chris Jones at the Chicago Tribune once said something to me I will never forget. He said when you invite the public you get the  public. Jimmy Kimmel hosted the 2017 Academy Awards and surprised a group of tourists with entry to the Academy Awards on their bus tour. One of those tourists was a man named Gary from Chicago who was on vacation with his fiancee. He proceeded to kiss Halle Berry and Nicole Kidman’s hands, wave to Meryl Streep, hold Mahershala Ali’s Oscar while taking a selfie with him, and get a picture and fake wedding ceremony with Denzel Washington, all while holding his fiancee’s overflowing purse. We are all Gary from Chicago.
  2. Moonlight wins…sort of! Unless you live under a rock, you have probably heard that the wrong movie was announced for Best Picture and mid thank you speech the cast of La La Land had to give back the Oscars and get off stage to make room for the cast of Moonlight to accept their award. Yes, it was as awkward and unbelievable as it sounds. I saw Moonlight and La La Land and liked both movies, but what I found most impressive about Moonlight is that with a small cast and very few visual effects it managed to keep me hooked and wanting more. La La Land has some beautiful cinematography and an even more beautiful message about art and the people who make it, but the last 15 minutes are the best 15 minutes of that movie. It’s not that La La Land wasn’t Oscar-worthy, because it definitely was, it’s just that Moonlight managed to move me just as much with less stage business. Tarell Alvin McCraney and Barry Jenkins deserve their rounds of applause and whoever gave Warren Beatty the wrong envelope is probably out of a job. I have never felt so overjoyed for one group of people and devastated for another group of people so much in my life. Kudos to the cast of La La Land for being gracious in spite of the flub– they would have had to pry that Oscar out of my cold dead hands.
  3. Whoever is responsible for the Twitter account @HallesWig. I’m not sure what was going on with Halle Berry’s hair at this year’s awards ceremony. Halle has been giving us a perfect short cut for decades, but this year she went Frankie & Alice on us. The curls were pretty but the wig was lopsided and it seemed like the hair got bigger over the course of the evening. However, Halle’s beautiful dress more than made up for the wig fiasco.
  4. The musical performances. Everyone knows that the Oscars are best when they go Tonys. Performances by Lin Manuel Miranda, John Legend, Sara Bareilles, and Auli’i Cravahlo,  the star of Moana, made this year’s show especially delightful.
  5. Parachutes of snacks. Chris Rock delivered Girl Scout cookies. Ellen delivered pizza. Jimmy Kimmel sent little parachutes of Junior Mints, doughnuts, cookies, popcorn to the hungry celebs. Cutting those Spanx off was probably pure hell for some folks this morning.

Sundance Film Festival recap and reflections

One of the most satisfying things in life is to dream of doing something and actually getting to do it. I am still on a high from such an experience, since I just came back from the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah. When I was 16 years old I decided that I wanted to go to the Sundance Film Festival, and a little over a decade later I made it as credentialed media. The experience was enchanted and the setting of picturesque, ice sickle covered buildings nestled in the snow-capped Rocky Mountains didn’t hurt. Here’s a day-by-day play-by-play.

Day 1: We landed in Salt Lake City am checked into the hotel. Then, we headed up to Park City for dinner in Deer Valley at the Royal Street Cafe. The grilled ciabatta bread was tasty. After dinner, I went to a screening of a new documentary called Whose Streets, which follows the conflict in St. Louis and Ferguson after the shooting of Mike Brown. The cinematographer was incredibly brave and never put the camera down, even as grenades flew and tear gas covered the crowds.

Day 2: The day started with a visit to the festival headquarters to pick up my media credentials and then a shuttle ride into Main Street. After exploring Main Street, we ate lunch at The Eating Establishment (the BLT with garlic aioli was delicious). Then, we stopped by the AT&T lounge and took photos of an Acura model made from ice before heading to a Diversity Reception at The Blackhouse Foundation. We ended the night at the Waldorf-Astoria at a party hosted by BET and sponsored by Patron. The hot chocolate and brownie pops were divine.

Day 3: On Saturday morning, we headed to Midway, Utah to the Homestead Resort to experience the ice castles. They are giant formations made from ice sickles, complete with a slide made from ice. An unexpected treat was the sight of white horses galloping in the snow. Then, we had lunch at Bandits Grill & Bar before checking out the ASCAP Cafe and attending a talk with the cast of Underground hosted by The Blackhouse Foundation. The day didn’t stop there. We continued on to a screening of a docuseries called Rise about modern day injustices against Native American communities in the United States, including the recent Dakota Access Pipeline. This was by far my favorite screening and the men and women who are fighting for Native American rights are truly admirable.

Day 4: For the final day of the festival, we did some souvenir shopping and explored Salt Lake City. What an awesome city! It is easily navigable, with sidewalks, bike lanes, and public transit. I also loved that there are so many locally-owned boutiques and restaurants, and not a ton of chains.

More than the parties, celebrity sightings, and movies, I walked away rejuvenated and with a renewed commitment to my creativity. I met so many kind and generous people and had enriching conversations with them. Seeing so many up-and-coming actors and budding filmmakers made me commit to stepping up my game and living bigger. Forget shoes and clothes– I’m investing all of my resources into becoming the woman and author that has always inside of me to be. I ordered new business cards, re-did my website, and locked in some new stories all within 24 hours of coming back to town. I once heard life coach Lisa Nichols say “Energy grows where energy goes,” and she was definitely right. At the top of the mountains I started to believe that I too could reach my peak.

Ten quotes to inspire your 2017

In no particular order of importance, I hope this list inspires someone to be the person that they were born to be.

  1. Do not confuse readiness with accomplishment. – A Course in Miracles
  2. You can’t Instagram comment on a soul. – Pastor Carl Lentz
  3. Challenges should activate latent potential. – Michael Bernard Beckwith
  4. Your conviction and your convenience don’t live on the same block. -Lisa Nichols
  5. It’s not about being brave all the time. It’s about finding quiet moments of courage and taking risks in service of your something bigger. You have to be willing to take a deep breath and do the brave thing. And then, after a while, you have to be willing to do it again. -Tiffany Han
  6. Charity is seeing someone on a higher level than what they have accomplished. – A Course in Miracles
  7. Do the right thing when you know it’s right and not when it’s convenient and you can wrap your head around it. – Tony Robbins
  8. Your gifts are resilient and patient. They don’t dim with time. – Lauretta Hanon
  9. As I laid at fear’s foot stool mercy lifted me up and placed me on grace’s shoulders. What had been would never be again and what will be is more than my imagination can grasp, so what is now is all that I need.
  10. The joy of my choices has made other people’s life better. – Beth Hermes
  11. BONUS: What’s gone may be gone, but I won’t go on playing dead. It’s time to start living the life I’ve never led! – Sister Act the Musical

For every holiday

When the clock strikes 12, my new year’s wish for you is peace and prosperity.

On Valentine’s Day I hope that the love you feel for that 24 hours lasts throughout the year.

May your soul experience an Easter, where everything physical has rolled away and all that is left is redemption and freedom.

I pray that the spirit of Thanksgiving fills your heart, and most importantly your mind, everyday and that you never see yourself as lacking anything.

And, just as Joseph and Mary walked boldly by faith to bring joy to the world, my prayer is that you give yourself the opportunity to experience new life.

For every holiday on the calendar I hope that there is a celebration in your heart.

10 blessings of 2016

As I look back on this year I have to be grateful for all of the wonderful experiences that have come along. I’ve seen great art, formed new friendships, grown closer to my family, and perhaps most importantly, learned the true meaning of the scripture “In all thy getting, get understanding.” As I get closer to 30 years old I have let go of resolutions and I simply just pray that the new year will be better than the last one, and so far life has not let me down. So, in no particular order, here are 10 moments that rocked my 2016:

  1. I got a new job making more money in a nurturing work environment.
  2. A steady stream of freelance opportunities have continued to come my way and I met some really wonderful artists when I wrote an article about southern women playwrights.
  3. I was accepted into the American Theatre Critics Association.
  4. I got to visit three new cities this year: Detroit, Asheville, and Houston.
  5. I took a creative writing class that has become a wonderfully supportive writing community for me and I am working on a book.
  6. I have not had to worry about food, shelter, clothing , and transportation– it may seem common, but it matters .
  7. My friends rocked this year! We celebrated, laughed, showed up, and encouraged each other .
  8. The universe showed me the ways my bad habits keep me from living my best life. What a blessing to be able to know and change in my 20’s!
  9. I volunteered for the National Poetry Slam and got to see this inspirational event live.
  10. I have had the opportunity to mentor and train college students which has been very rewarding. The future is scary, but we’ll be fine.
  11. BONUS 1: Blue Apron made me a better cook and now I know the proper amount of time it really takes to boil pasta and pan sear chicken.
  12. BONUS 2: I started meditating and I sleep better because of it.