Author Sightings: Rayya Elias at UWRF

October 4 2014 at The Salon in Ubud, Bali

The first time I met Rayya Elias was the time she came to Sydney with her best friend: Elizabeth Gilbert. She was part of Gilbert’s The Signature of All Things talk.

As I talked about it in one of my previous posts; I didn’t know that she was going to be there. To be honest, I didn’t know anything about her, let alone her memoir: Harley Loco. I made this little gift for Elizabeth Gilbert, at the time. It was a little hand-made pouch with beads from Turkey, hiding a personal note in it. If I had known that Rayya Elias was going to be there, I would have made one for her, too! Because I hate favouritism, I felt awful for having made something for one and not for the other.

Well, I recovered the situation in style when I went to see Rayya Elias seven months after the first encounter. It was a literary event organised by Ubud Writers’ and Readers Festival. Here’s how the event was advertised:

 

Enter the festival’s den of iniquity where stories of rock stars, drug addicts and inept gangsters will be served along with a healthy dose of Mozaic’s addictive martinis and canapes. Liam Pieper, Kate Holden, Rayya Elias, Carlos Andres Gomez and Skid More will spill the adults-only, behind-closed-doors stories that we all want to hear.

 

Rayya Elias

Ubud Writers and Readers Festival catalogue

So, I made up my mind: this time, I was going to attend the event for Rayya Elias and be fully prepared, too. First of all, I bought my ticket to Ubud Writers and Readers Festival. Second, I made the exact same gift for her–with her own personal note in it. Third, I bought the Kindle version of Harley Loco and read it. And lastly, just before I travelled to Bali, I purchased an American First edition of Harley Loco for Rayya Elias to sign.

I guess, it is safe to say that I really was prepared, isn’t it?

The program started with Skid More’s introduction but it was a very short one because she was to attend another event. So, she didn’t have much time. After this quick introduction, each one of the authors took the stage and told us adult-only stories while Mozaic’s sporadic yet delicious cocktails and canapes were being served.

Here, Rayya Elias is playing one of her songs for us.

After the talks, stories, poetry and in Rayya’s case; playing the guitar and singing, I approached her and introduced myself. To my surprise, she remembered me from Sydney! I presented the little gift which I made for her. We chatted for a while and I asked her she would be kind enough to sign my book. She took one look at it and exclaimed: “American first edition!” I told her that I was a collector. After signing my book, she gave me one big, warm hug.

Rayya Elias

Here’s my personal copy of Harley Loco signed by Rayya Elias. I had to reorganise the whole shelf after I came home. This one is placed right next to Elizabeth Gilbert’s signed books I own. I just didn’t want to separate best friends.

Who was who at The Salon
Rayya Elias – USA
Rayya Elias’ debut is Harley Loco: A Memoir of Hard Living, Hair, and Post Punk from the Middle East to Lower East Side. It charts growing up in Syria, trying to find herself in Detroit, and getting lost in New York’s underground music and drug scene of the 1980s.

Liam Pieper – Australia
According to Liam’s grandmother, he is “My grandson who writes for the internet.” His 2014 memoir, The Feelgood Hit of the Year, follows his journey from starry-eyed flower child to inept gangster. He is co-recipient of the 2014 M Literary Residency.

Kate Holden – Australia
Kate Holden is the author of the memoirs In My Skin and The Romantic. She publishes short stories, teaches writing and contributes literary criticism and features for the major papers and journals.

Carlos Andres Gomez – USA
Carlos Andres Gomez is an award-winning writer and performer from New York who starred in HBO’s Def Poetry and Spike Lee’s Inside Man. He is the author of the critically acclaimed memoir: Man Up: Reimagining Modern Manhood.

Skid More – Canada
Skid More worked as an art critic, columnist and alternative press editor before devoting herself to writing and performance. She has performed widely in Canada and beyond and recent works include the newly founded Bali Gong Show.

Author Sightings: Elizabeth Gilbert and Rayya Elias

author sightings elizabeth gilbert rayya elias

Author Sightings: Elizabeth Gilbert and Rayya Elias

March 7, 2014

As part of the Sydney Writers’ Festival, Elizabeth Gilbert gave a 90-minute talk at City Recital Hall Angel Place about the journey she took to create her book: The Signature of All Things and creativity in general. She was introduced by her best friend: Rayya Elias and we all found out that they “everly” love each other.

I spent whole morning listening Eat, Pray, Love on Audible while making a little pouch with a personal note in it (see photo above) as a gift for Elizabeth Gilbert. I was still in the process of reading The Signature of All at the time but an American first edition of Eat, Pray, Love was organised months before for her to sign after the event.

Before the event, I looked around to observe what kind of people would want to come and hear Elizabeth Gilbert talk. I should say what kind of women because the audience was mainly woman, except for my husband and a few other men –we’re proud of you guys. Although my husband is not familiar with Gilbert’s work, he thoroughly enjoyed the whole event. She was incredibly engaging, approachable, charming, articulate and very funny.

I find Elizabeth Gilbert quite inspiring. Not because she is a brilliant author or memoirist but also an icon of humility. You can be famous, successful and that approachable at the same time? I love people who show me what’s possible.

During the talk, she touched on the subject of perfectionism. This is especially important for women because, us women, let perfectionism hold us back –before we even embark on any creative project. I personally spent quite a bit of time there, waiting for the perfect moment or learning the perfect skill to start writing. Clearly, not knowing something well or having done something before never hold men back in stepping forward.

“Work doesn’t have to be easy, it just has to be interesting.” –Elizabeth Gilbert

Towards the end of the talk, Gilbert’s best friend, Rayya Elias, played some of her songs for us which was unexpected because I was not familiar with her work at all. So, I didn’t know anything about her music, her friendship to Elizabeth Gilbert or her memoir Harley Loco: A Memoir of Hard Living, hair and Post-Punk, from the Middle East to the Lower East Side. Don’t worry; I’ll fix all of that and more when the right times. All I want to say for now is “awesome talk and thank you!”