Author Mitch Albom in Conversation with Actor Bradley Whitford

“The last thing Morrie said was I want to ask you a favor. After I’m dead, will you come to my grave? Not the way everyone else comes where you leave your car running, you put flowers on the grave, and you run back in your car. Come when you have some time. Bring a blanket. Bring some music. Talk to me just like we are now. After you are dead, I will talk, and you will listen.” – Mitch Albom about his last conversation with Morrie from Tuesdays with Morrie, the best selling memoir of all time.

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He felt guilty and after not having spoken to his old professor Morrie for 16 years, he called him out of guilt, then went to see him out of guilt, which lead to his recording conversations and taking notes of their time together before Morrie’s death. He had not even written the book Tuesdays with Morrie when Morrie died. After many rejections Mitch Albom, the sports writer, was told by numerous publishers NO and that he didn’t EVEN write a memoir. After almost hearing one too many NO’s, he was given a book publishing deal by Doubleday.

Best selling author Mitch Albom tells us the secrets behind his books and life. Truly an inspiring and heartfelt afternoon with Mitch Albom at the Wilshire Boulevard Temple in Los Angeles. I had a hard time holding back my tears. Mitch Albom, the author of Tuesdays with Morrie, The Five People You Meet in Heaven, Have a Little Faith, For One More Day, and The Time Keeper, came from Detroit to share his new book called The First Phone Call From Heaven.

Author Mitch Albom with actor Bradley Whitford at Live Talks LA. (Photo credit: Melissa Curtin)

Actor Bradley Whitford joined the small in stature Mitch Album. The two became good friends when Whitford starred and acted in the film Have a Little Faith based on Mich Albom’s best selling book of the same name. Albom describes Whitford as a friend behind your back. “Those are real friends,” and he goes on to share how Whitford is on a new TV show called Trophy Wives which airs on Tuesday nights, the only show him and his wife watch.

Mitch Albom is a musician and trained sports writer, but we know him for his highly successful books about hope, the afterlife, miracles, and perception. He reminds us that his books are about using death as a mirror to reflect back on life, to realize it, and accept we aren’t going to go on forever. When asked about his feelings about heaven, Mitch says, “I do believe I will see the people I lost. I believe in a higher power.”

The difference between perception and reality is a common theme in my books. – Mitch Albom

Earlier he discusses how miracles happen all around us every day, it is whether or not we choose to see them. He brings to light a story about a woman he met who tells him she was weeping in her daughter’s room since she had passed, and a photo of the two had flown down and landed at her feet. The woman saw this as a sign that she was there with her, but Mitch reminds us that at the same time five scientists will  share proof on why that photo fell at that point in time.

Today at Live Talks LA Mitch Albom started the conversation out by telling us he just left his mom. She had a stroke quite awhile ago and she hasn’t been able to speak.  We later learn his mom talked a lot and how he really misses her voice, which is what his new book is about.  The First Phone Call From Heaven is about a small town that has several people contacted from the heavens. It is about possibly the notion of false hope and hope in general. When is hope bad? Mitch Albom says he is in love with hope.

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Those voices you hear inside of you, long after the person is gone. It is why people just want to hear another’s voice after they pass away, even if it is a message on an answering machine. We miss the voice. Some day we all know that we may not be able to pick up the phone and call our mom or dad. What’s that day going to be like when you can’t pick up that phone?

Mitch Albom shares how his mother years ago refused to learn how to use email because she said she didn’t want to get words from him. She wanted to hear his voice.  She said I can’t tell if there is something wrong if I can’t hear your voice.  “When I finished one of my books, my mom read it and said, “My favorite part are the pictures of me at the back of the book. The words were very nice.” Mitch Albom reminds us it is about cherishing the weird transactions you have in life. That is what matters.

We learned that Albom thinks a lot before writing a book, and doesn’t even map it out. He knows the ending in his mind and just thinks, and thinks.  When he is ready, he writes. He doesn’t outline the story, but has the conceptual idea first. He describes how he writes as if he moves in rhythm to music.  He reveals his daily routine of a man who likes ritual. He gets up the same time every morning, has coffee, says his prayers, and doesn’t do any reading, phone calls, radio, or TV. He writes for at least three hours and he tries to not stop, even when it is going bad.  Mitch Albom describes drinking a lot of coffee and the key to success is not drinking, doing drugs, or smoking. We learn he has never missed a deadline, which is rare in the publishing world. He recounts how shocked the publishers were when he completed his first book on time for Tuesdays with Morrie.

Author Mitch Albom signing my book. (Photo credit: Melissa Curtin)

Have you ever wondered why the size of his books are so small? Albom shared that when he turned in his first manuscript for Tuesdays with Morrie, there weren’t enough words, so instead of his novel looking like a comic book, they made the size of the book smaller.

Other tales Mitch Albom revealed included the fact that after Tuesdays with Morrie, everyone wanted him to write nonfiction. Five People You Meet in Heaven is actually about his blue collar 82 year old uncle from Detroit. Also, while the movie Tuesdays with Morrie was being filmed, Albom was getting calls from the lead actor playing Morrie asking him numerous questions, and he realized he was dying. The actor hadn’t told anyone. Albom learned through their telephone conversations that he had cancer and that ended up sadly being the last movie for that actor.

“The voices of our lives are what keep us going on.” – Mitch Albom.

“How would you behave differently if you knew there was a heaven? Or life was about to end soon?” As a sports writer Mitch shares how he worked in crowds (Michigan stadium) and detested it, but after writing Tuesdays with Morrie, people would talk to him differently. “My mother just died of cancer…” People would share their stories of grief and death. He would stop and listen  and talk to everyone. He realized everyone has a story and that everyone is walking around with some pain in their heart. Even with grief and heaviness, people still go through their day. He reveals how he had a different perception of all the faces around him.

When a couple in the Live Talks audience asks about their son’s prospects for majoring in journalism, and if there is a future in that career, Mitch Albom states, “There is beauty in telling the truth, particularly now where all we deal with is a world full of eyeballs. Finding the beauty in life and of what really goes on. There is value in what is really news.” I hope I have done that here.

Live Talks LA provides a series of fascinating talks all over LA from authors, artists, leaders, musicians, scientists, business thought leaders and presents them in some of the city’s wonderful venues.  They video all of their events and make them available to a wider global audience after the events. Since 2010, their videos have been seen in 156 countries. Through some of their events, they support worthwhile literacy and educational causes that are making a difference in the lives of Angelenos.

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