Nora Ephron (1941 - 2012)

Nora_ephronI loved Nora Ephron. I loved her long before she got sick, and long before I'd actually met her. Like many, many women my age, I wanted to be her, and everything from her essays (even the ones about having small breasts--not, I admit, my problem) to her seminal novel, Heartburn, did nothing to change that. I didn’t meet Nora until about 2006, when, at an event for her then-current book, I Feel Bad About My Neck, she threw her arms around me--me! Her eternal fan, whom I thought she had no reason to know--and said "You’re such a star. I'm so proud of you."

I had written to Nora Ephron, asking her to blurb my book, So Many Books, So Little Time. I had gotten her address from her longtime friend Joni Evans, who said, "What the hell? Let’s give it a try!" Ephron refused to blurb the book, but she did it in the nicest, most hilarious way. The letter she sent me--hand-written, to my home address, how she got that I don't know--was delightful, all about how she'd given up blurbing when her veterinarian threatened to kill her cat if she didn't blurb his book. (I assumed then, and now, that she--or he--was kidding.) I was ambitious enough to ask if I could use her funny letter as a quote. She said no.

More recently, I got to know Nora a very little bit through her sister Delia, whom I met at a book party under circumstances so weird I will save them for another time. Delia and Nora were close--they wrote You’ve Got Mail together, among other things, including the delightful, Love, Loss, and What I Wore--but Delia never traded on her relationships. But when Delia's book was published, it was Nora's house to which I went as a dinner companion and celebrant: say what you will about Nora's ambition, that night was all about her wonderful younger sister.

Over the last few years, I've been sent a number of writers from Nora. When Nora sent you somebody she thought was great, you listened. As I said to one of these women, who had been counseled by Nora to write the story of her unusual childhood: "I’ve learned a few things... One is that when Nora or Delia tells you to do something, you should do it." 

I always wanted to write a book like Heartburn. (Nora said to me, when I told her I wanted to write a book about MY divorce, but I didn’t think I had the distance to be mean enough, "It doesn’t have to be that mean, Sara. It just has to be funny!") Hell, I would have been happy writing one essay that had the verve and humor and style and honesty of anything in Scribble, Scribble or Crazy Salad.

Dear Nora. I hardly knew you. But you were everything to me, and to so many of us who dared to think that being a funny, observant woman could make us writers.

--Sara Nelson

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