I learned this morning that Nora Ephron died yesterday. She became well known over the last couple of decades for her screenplays, but her big impact on me was with her early essays.
I discovered Ephron while I was in college, working at the Bread Loaf Writers' Conference in the summers. The Conference administrators littered the Barn's lounge with magazines. This was probably to impress upon the writers attending the conference that they should be reading the things in order to research markets for their own work. That was lost on me at the time. (Perhaps because I was working in the kitchen and not actually attending the Conference?) I was just happy to suck up free magazines, the stand-out in my memory being Esquire. Nora Ephron wrote a column for Esquire in those days, and I was so taken with it that I somehow swung a subscription for the magazine so I could continue reading her work after I got back to school. In my twenties I bought her books Crazy Salad and Wallflower at the Orgy. I lost touch with her writing after that, only reading writing about her. But early Ephron is why I started reading essays. She's why I've tried to write them over the years. She's why the only graduate course I took was on writing essays.
This Ephron appreciation concluded with the thought that if you're a woman, Ephron "should remind you of what you can hope to be." She certainly has always reminded me of what I hoped to be professionally when I was young. I'm not even going to touch the fact that everyone says she was incredibly nice personally, too.