Person of the Week: 'Eat, Pray, Love' Author Elizabeth Gilbert

Elizabeth Gilbert came back from crisis. Eight years ago, she was getting divorced and had no money. She felt like she had no door and no way out.

"I was hiding in the bathroom for something like the 47th consecutive night and, just as all those nights before, I was sobbing," Gilbert said.

So she embarked on a spiritual journey, traveling to Italy, India and Indonesia to find herself. She documented that experience in the book, "Eat, Pray, Love," a New York Times bestseller which has sold more than 9 million copies worldwide. Next week, "Eat, Pray, Love" is being released as a movie starring Julia Roberts.

"People say, 'When you watch the movie, isn't it amazing to see yourself up on screen?' and I'm like, 'It's not difficult for me to tell the difference between me and Julia Roberts,'" Gilbert joked. "There's no part of me that get's dizzy thinking, 'My God, there I am! There I am with my perfect skin and my 40-inch smile,' she said, laughing. "One of my favorite headlines through this whole thing that I saw was Julia Roberts had to gain 10 pounds to play Elizabeth Gilbert. I'm like, 'Thanks!'"

What many people don't know is that this is not the first movie based on an episode in Gilbert's life. She began her career as a freelance writer for GQ magazine. An article she wrote for the magazine titled "The Muse of the Coyote Ugly Saloon" was the inspiration for the 2000 film "Coyote Ugly" starring Piper Perabo and Maria Bello about a New York City bar.

"The article was the first memoir piece I ever wrote, actually," Gilbert said. "It was sort of a confessional piece to a men's magazine about how female bartenders keep men from leaving the bar."

The secret? Listening attentively.

"Just about everybody has a story that would stop your heart and that everybody wants to tell and nobody has anyone listening," she said.

Her own story began on a Christmas tree farm in Connecticut where she grew up--a childhood she described as a "prairie upbringing."

"We had running water, sometimes, when it worked," Gilbert said. "Mostly we had electricity, [but] not always. We didn't have a furnace, [so] we heated the house with wood we cut all summer."

"I Have A Pretty Simple Life"

Now, after all the success from "Eat, Pray, Love," Gilbert is back to the simple life, living in a small rural town in New Jersey with her husband. She now uses some of the money she earned from the book to support other artists.

"The big project of my life right now is this town, is this place where we live," Gilbert said. "And I'm sort of drawing people that I know who are creative, who are artists, who are writers, to come and live here. I've got a lot of resources now because of 'Eat, Pray, Love' so I can support people's projects and other people's visions."

And yet it was her own project that offered an unexpected hand to those lost in the space of their lives, those going through what Gilbert went through years ago. Today, the woman who found three words for living, is still trying to live by them.

"The thing that would surprise people about me is that I'm private and that I have a pretty simple life," Gilbert said. "This is so out of the scale of anything that I ever expected my life to be; that the best way I've learned how to cope with it in a weird way is to just say 'thank you' to people who have kind things to say to me and then sort of go back to my life, back to my garden."

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