Author Peter Guzzardi Shares Lessons from ‘The Wizard of Oz’ in New Book

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By Andrea Cash | Photo by Amy Stern Photography

These are the dishes – past and present – that have allowed us to retain the title of ‘America’s foodiest small town.’ Just ask these locals:

From his home off Mount Carmel Church Road, Peter Guzzardi has spent decades as an editor working with some of the brightest minds of our time – Stephen Hawking, Deepak Chopra and Susan Cain among them.

Now, the longtime editor is becoming a first-time author. HarperCollins will publish Peter’s “Emeralds of Oz: Life Lessons from Over the Rainbow” on May 14. On May 15 at 7 p.m., Peter will appear at Flyleaf Books, and on June 1 at 11 a.m., he will be at McIntyre’s Books.

Emeralds of Oz is Peter’s deep dive into the most watched film of all time, searching for wisdom to enrich our daily lives.

Like so many families, yours transplanted here from New York City, in your case about 20 years ago. It’s probably safe to assume you were looking for some quiet. A slowed-down way of life. Have you found it in Chapel Hill? Do you ever miss the spectacular chaos of NYC?

My wife, a lifelong New Yorker, took to this area immediately. My children missed the Manhattan street noise, but quickly came to appreciate playing outdoors. To my surprise, the adjustment took much longer for me. As I looked around, I kept thinking, There’s no there there. Years passed before I made the shift from the “there” outside of me to the “there” within, and I’m very glad I did. Now I find pleasure in the absence of chaos, stopping to buy a poem during the Carrboro Farmers Market, browsing the shelves at Flyleaf Books or McIntyre’s, or having a lovely dinner with friends at Glasshalfull. And Manhattan is just an hour away by air when I want to visit.

You’ve edited quite a range of authors – Paula Poundstone, Carol Burnett, Stephen Hawking, Deepak Chopra, Queen Noor, Douglas Adams. How does the book editor to book author relationship differ from project to project? 

It’s a bit like being an emergency room physician, I imagine. For this brief period of time – from a few months to a few years – you become intimately involved with this person. After all, you’re helping them express ideas and feelings that are central to their personal and professional lives. Each author relationship is similar in that way, and paradoxically it’s unique for that very same reason.

What was the hardest part of making the transition from editor to author? Was your writing process similar to your editing process?

I was stunned by how different the two experiences turned out to be. The hundreds of times I had guided writers through the wilderness fled from my consciousness when I faced that vast expanse myself. I went down every rabbit hole, including being crushed when my editor didn’t read my first draft and respond with the news that Shakespeare had now been displaced from his perch at the pinnacle of English literature.

Your book offers life lessons that are presented within ‘The Wizard of Oz.’ This movie is now 80 years old. What is it about this film that gives it a timeless appeal?

There are many contributing factors, including superb acting, unforgettable music and lyrics, remarkable costumes and great screenwriting. But underlying all these are the insights that any great film or book conveys to the reader, often in ways that are not even perceptible at the moment of transmission. In this case, I’ve discovered a magical self-help tool, the nine Emeralds of Wisdom, which are activated when you consider them in the same order that they appear in the film (see sidebar).

It’s graduation season, highly visible in a college town like this one. The release of your book coincides with cap and gown time for a reason: It makes a great gift for grads embarking on a whole new world. What’s your advice for them?

Use the nine Emeralds of Wisdom every time you face an obstacle on your Yellow Brick Road. You’ll be amazed at how your dilemmas shrink and you expand when you use the Emeralds in the same order Dorothy did. I’d say that new graduates should pay particular attention to the first and last Emeralds: listen to your longing (not just what you want or need but what you long for) and remember that there’s no place like home – not just the place you hang your hat, but the space inside you that opens up into an awareness of the spiritual home that connects us all, intimately and endlessly.

The Nine Emeralds

At the heart of Peter’s new book, “Emeralds of Oz: Life Lessons From Over the Rainbow,” are nine Emeralds of Wisdom that you can use to work through any obstacle, large or small. When you apply them in order, feelings of helplessness give way to an awareness of personal power, and fear is replaced by equanimity. For more on how you can use the Emeralds as a tool of enrichment in your own life, go to emeraldsofoz.com.

  1. Listen to your longing. (Think Dorothy singing “Over the Rainbow.”)
  2.  See the situation as if for the first time. (Think Dorothy stepping out of the farmhouse into the Technicolor miracle of Oz.)
  3. Celebrate yourself – and others – just for showing up. (Think Dorothy surrounded by ecstatic Munchkins after her farmhouse lands on the Witch of the East.)
  4. Choose compassion. (Think Dorothy as she meets the Scarecrow, Tin Man, and Cowardly Lion.)
  5. Realize that you already possess what you desire most. (Think about the Scarecrow’s brains, the Tin Man’s emotions, and the Cowardly Lion’s courage.)
  6. Face what you fear. (Think Dorothy throwing a bucket of water on the Witch of the West.)
  7. Pull back the curtain and see things as they really are. (Think Toto in the Wizard’s palace, revealing the man behind the curtain.)
  8. You’ve got the power, and you’ve had it all along. (Think Glinda’s final intervention on Dorothy’s behalf, just when she’s giving up hope of ever returning to Kansas.)
  9. There’s no place like home. (Think Dorothy clicking the heels of the Ruby Slippers three times.) 

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