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.