Literary Birthday: Nora Ephron

Like many writers, Nora Ephron (born today in 1941) started out as a journalist. She was a researcher at Newsweek and a cub reporter at a pre-Rupert Murdoch New York Post, where on her first day she was sent to the Coney Island Aquarium to write about a pair of seals who were supposed to mate but had so far refused to. Unlike many writers, she was married at one point to Carl Bernstein.

Her novel Heartburn (1983) was based in large part on Bernstein’s affair with another woman while Ephron was pregnant. In 2005, Ephron wrote that not only she had figured out on her own the identity of Bernstein and Woodward’s Watergate source “Deep Throat” (FBI associate director Mark Felt) years before he came clean about it, but that she had been telling people so for years: “Not for nothing is indiscretion my middle name.”

Writer’s Desk: Nora Ephron on Getting Paid

The salty yet ever-cherubic Nora Ephron was born this week in 1941 in New York, the city that she chronicled as well as just about any other writer of the century.

She started out as an ink-stained wretch at Newsweek and the New York Post before moving on to books (Heartburn) and writing and sometimes directing romantic comedies (When Harry Met Sally).

In 1974, before any of that came about, she was interviewed by Writer’s Digest—here’s some of what she had to say to young writers:

First of all, whatever you do, work in a field that has something to do with writing or publishing. So you will be exposed to what people are writing about and how they are writing, and as important, so you will be exposed to people in the business who will get to know you and will call on you if they are looking for someone for a job.

Secondly, you have to write. And if you don’t have a job doing it, then you have to sit at home doing it.

Note that second point in particular. Sure, you can get up at 4:00am and write a few pages of your book before leaving for the office. But, with all due deference to the Stones, isn’t it better to get your ya-ya’s out while getting a salary and benefits?

Get paid to write. It helps.