CLOSE
getty images
getty images

15 Nora Ephron Quotes on Life

getty images
getty images

1. On aging

"If I'm following a young person down the street and the young person passes a mirror, I see the fabulous way he or she turns toward it and kind of smiles and checks himself/herself out and they know what they're going to see. We don't know. There's a certain moment where you're just terrified about what you're going to see. So if you are forced to look at a mirror, you squint and then gently open your eyes to see if it's safe. And if it's not, you close them and walk on."

In an interview with NPR

2. On change

“We have a game we play when we’re waiting for tables in restaurants, where you have to write the five things that describe yourself on a piece of paper. When I was [in my twenties], I would have put: ambitious, Wellesley graduate, daughter, Democrat, single. Ten years later not one of those five things turned up on my list. I was: journalist, feminist, New Yorker, divorced, funny. Today not one of those five things turns up in my list: writer, director, mother, sister, happy.”

From her Commencement Address to Wellesley Class of 1996, via The Most of Nora Ephron

3. On “getting over it”

“I was just with someone complaining about his mother. He's 70 and his mother is dead. I sat there thinking, 'This is unbelievable.' He was complaining about things she did to him when he was a kid. There are also a lot of divorced people who five years later are still walking around angry when they should be grateful. They love being victims. You get to a certain point in life where if you were younger you'd say, 'Think about getting a shrink.' Then you get older and want to say, 'Pull up your socks. Get over it.'”

From an interview with The Wall Street Journal

4. On dinner parties

“You should try to relax about having people over. I have friends who are nervous hostesses, and it just contaminates the entire mood of the evening. They are always rushing from the room to check things and have a wild look in their eyes when they return from the kitchen.”

From "About Having People to Dinner," The Most of Nora Ephron

5. On the worst thing in New York City

“Bicycle messengers. They scare me. Sometimes, when I am not worrying about other forms of death, I am certain that I am going to be run over by a bicycle messenger.”

From an interview with the New York Times

6. On divorce

“When [my sister and I] were growing up, we used to love to hear the story of how our parents met and fell in love and eloped one summer when they were both camp counselors. It was so much a part of our lives, a song sung again and again, and no matter what happened, no matter how awful things became between the two of them, we always knew that our parents had once been madly in love. But in a divorce, you never tell your children that you were once madly in love with their father because it would be too confusing. And then, after a while, you can’t even remember whether you were.”

From "The Story of My Life in 3,500 Words or Less," The Most of Nora Ephron

7. On carrying a purse

“Here’s what happens with a purse. You start small. You start pledging yourself to neatness. You start vowing that This Time It Will Be Different. You start with the things you absolutely need—your wallet and a few cosmetics that you have actually put into a brand-new shiny cosmetics bag, the kind used by your friends who are competent enough to manage more than one purse at a time. But within seconds, your purse has accumulated the debris of a lifetime.”

From "I Hate My Purse," The Most of Nora Ephron

8. On parenting

“When your children are teenagers, it’s important to have a dog so that someone in the house is happy to see you.”

From "What I Wish I'd Known," The Most of Nora Ephron

9. On journalism

“Now I know that there’s no such thing as the truth. That people are constantly misquoted. That news organizations are full of conspiracy (and that, in any case, ineptness is a kind of conspiracy). That emotional detachment and cynicism get you only so far. But for many years I was in love with journalism.”

From her article "Journalism: A Love Story," The Most of Nora Ephron

10. On screenwriting

“The moment you stop work on a script seems to be determined not by whether you think the draft is good but simply by whether shooting is about to begin: if it is, you get to call your script a final draft; and if it’s not, you can always write another revision. This might seem to be a hateful way to live, but the odd thing is that it’s somehow comforting; as long as you’re revising, the project isn’t dead.”

From "Revision and Life: Take It from the Top -- Again," The Most of Nora Ephron

11. On last meals

“I mean this is one of the worst things I remember clearly when my friend Judy—whom I keep writing about because it was so devastating—was dying. She had tongue cancer. And she said one day, I’m not even going to be able to have my last meal. So it seems to me, have your last meal all the time, because you have to know that the odds are very, very small that you’ll be in the mood for a Nate ‘n’ Al’s hot dog, which is my last meal.”

From an interview with Salon

12. On email

“E-mail isn’t letter-writing at all, it’s something else entirely. It was just invented, it was just born, and overnight it turns out to have a form and a set of rules and a language all its own. Not since the printing press. Not since television. It’s revolutionary. It’s life-altering. It’s shorthand. Cut to the chase. Get to the point. It saves so much time.”

From "The Six Stages of E-Mail," The Most of Nora Ephron

13. On feminism

“There’s still a glass ceiling. Don’t let the number of women in the workforce trick you—there are still lots of magazines devoted almost exclusively to making perfect casseroles and turning various things into tents. Don’t underestimate how much antagonism there is toward women and how many people wish we could turn the clock back.”

From her Commencement Address to Wellesley Class of 1996, via The Most of Nora Ephron

14. On Thanksgiving

“And so, Thanksgiving. Its the most amazing holiday. Just think about it — it's a miracle that once a year so many millions of Americans sit down to exactly the same meal as one another, exactly the same meal they grew up eating, and exactly the same meal they ate a year earlier. The turkey. The sweet potatoes. The stuffing. The pumpkin pie. Is there anything else we all can agree so vehemently about? I don't think so.”

From an article on The Huffington Post

15. On death

“Sometimes I think that not having to worry about your hair anymore is the secret upside of death.”

From her book, From I Feel Bad About My Neck

nextArticle.image_alt|e
Evan Agostini, Getty Images
arrow
literature
15 Wonderfully Wise Quotes From Judy Blume
Evan Agostini, Getty Images
Evan Agostini, Getty Images

Judy Blume was the queen of the YA novel before the concept even existed, inspiring generations of passionate fans—and a fair share of dissenters—in her nearly 50-year career. Here are just a few of our favorite thoughts about books, writing, and life from the iconic author, who turns 80 years old today.

1. ON BEING ONE OF THE MOST BANNED AUTHORS OF THE 20TH CENTURY

“I’ll tell you what I make of that—that censors, those who want to censor, they don’t come after books until they know that kids really like them, and once kids like a book, it’s like, ‘There must be something wrong with this book, because why do the kids like it.’ You look at the banned books and you’ll see that they’re popular books with kids.”

— From a 2012 interview with PBS

2. ON THE EFFECTS OF CENSORSHIP

“But it's not just the books under fire now that worry me. It is the books that will never be written. The books that will never be read. And all due to the fear of censorship. As always, young readers will be the real losers.”

— From Blume's official website

3. WHY SHE WORRIES ABOUT KIDS THESE DAYS

“Yes, I was a great daydreamer. You know what I worry about? I worry that kids today don't have enough time to just sit and daydream. I was a great pretender, always making up stories inside my head. Stories and stories and stories, but I never told anyone.”

— From an interview with Scholastic

4. ON BEING A WRITER

"Everybody who writes fiction draws from their own life, but if it ended there, it would be very boring. When I talk to kids and they say, 'How do you become a writer?', well, I don't know that you become a writer: you just are. I always had stories, they were always there inside my head."

— From a 2014 Interview with The Guardian

5. ON WRITING

"Writing saved my life. It saved me, it gave me everything, it took away all my illnesses.”

— From a 2014 Interview with The Guardian

6. ON THE CREATIVE PROCESS

“I don't understand the creative process. For years I would say one thing when kids would ask where I got my ideas. Because I was forced to think up something even though I don't really know. And now I'm just saying to people, 'I don't know. I don't understand how it works. How do I know?'”

— From an interview with January Magazine

7. ON DEALING WITH REJECTION

"It's all about your determination, I think, as much as anything. There are a lot of people with talent, but it's that determination. I mean, you know, I would cry when the rejections came in—the first couple of times, anyway—and I would go to sleep feeling down, but I would wake up in the morning optimistic and saying, 'Well, maybe they didn't like that one, but wait till they see what I'm going to do next.' And I think you just have to keep going."

— From a 2011 interview with NPR

8. ON YA AUTHORS AND BOOKS

“[My husband] George and I listened … to the first Hunger Games and we loved it. And we couldn’t wait to get my car and come home. And when we came home, I’m not sure if we’d quite finished, and we sat in the car until we finished. I did not read any of the others. I had no interest in Twilight. But I did see the first movie.”

— From a 2014 interview with Lena Dunham through KCRW

9. ON THE PROS AND CONS OF TWITTER

“I like it. It’s a tremendous—I don’t want to say waste of time, but it also … what can I say? I enjoy reading the people I follow and discovering new people. It’s a lot of fun. I get a lot of laughs from it. And it connects you; it’s nice.”

— From a 2013 interview with Vanity Fair

10. ON GETTING KIDS TO READ

“Whatever gets them excited about reading is good! If you want them to read my books don't tell them so. Maybe just leave around a paperback with a new cover and say, 'I'm not sure you're ready for that.'"

— From a 2013 Reddit AMA

11. ON HER LITERARY INSPIRATIONS

“I was so inspired by Beverly Cleary's funny and wonderful books. And also, Louise Fitzhugh's Harriet the Spy. And E. L. Konigsberg's first book, Jennifer Hecate. And my favorite books from when I was young, the Betsy-Tacy books.”

— From an interview with Scholastic

12. ON "MARGARET" AND TEENAGED JUDY

“Margaret is fiction, but based on the kind of twelve year old I was. Growing up, we did have a club like The PTKs. And Margaret's interests and concerns were similar to mine. I was small and thin when thin wasn't in. I was a late developer and was anxious to grow like my friends. Margaret was right from my own sixth grade experience. I wanted to tell the truth as I knew it.”

— From an interview with Scholastic

13. ON HOW BOOKS HELP US COMMUNICATE

“I’ve never really thought in terms of taboos. I think that books can really help parents and kids talk together about difficult subjects. I’ve always felt that way. The parent reads the book. The kid reads the book and then they can talk about the characters instead of talking about themselves. You know there’s a connection even if you don’t talk about it when you read the same books.”

— From a 2014 interview with Lena Dunham through KCR

14. ON THREE THINGS THAT WOULD SURPRISE US ABOUT HER

“I’m phobic about thunderstorms. Writing is incredibly hard for me. I’m not the world’s best mother, though kids always assume I must be. And I love a good cupcake. (I know, that makes four things, but I’m hungry and wishing I had that cupcake.)”

— From a 2012 interview with Smithsonian Magazine

15. ON REVISITING OLD CHARACTERS

"I don't want to rewrite anything. My characters are who they are. For years, people have written and asked me to let Margaret go through menopause. And it's like, 'Hey guys! Margaret is 12 and she is going to stay 12. That's who she is.' No, I don't want to rewrite any of them."

— From a 2018 interview with NPR

nextArticle.image_alt|e
Getty Images
arrow
literature
20 Memorable Virginia Woolf Quotes
Getty Images
Getty Images

Born 136 years ago today, Virginia Woolf was a true writer’s writer. With flowing prose and a courageous pen, she dissected every topic from the idiocy of warfare to the joys of sex. We've picked 20 lines that rank among her all-time best—no easy feat.  

1. ON RECORDED HISTORY

“Nothing has really happened until it has been described.”

— Said to a young acquaintance, Nigel Nicholson, who later became a successful publisher, memoirist, and politician    

2. ON WRITING ABOUT NATURE

“Green in nature is one thing, green in literature another. Nature and letters seem to have a natural antipathy; bring them together and they tear each other to pieces.”

— From her 1928 novel, Orlando: A Biography

3. ON TRANSLATING COMEDY

“Humor is the first of the gifts to perish in a foreign tongue.”

— From the essay collection The Common Reader, First Series (1925)

4. ON TIME

“Time, unfortunately, though it makes animals and vegetables bloom and fade with amazing punctuality, has no such simple effect upon the mind of man. The mind of man, moreover, works with equal strangeness upon the body of time. An hour, once it lodges in the queer element of the human spirit, may be stretched to fifty or a hundred times its clock length; on the other hand, an hour may be accurately represented on the timepiece of the mind by one second.”

— From Orlando: A Biography

5. ON BEING AN HONEST WRITER

“If you do not tell the truth about yourself you cannot tell it about other people.”

— From The Moment and Other Essays (1947)

6. ON SEXISM

“As long as she thinks of a man, nobody objects to a woman thinking.”

— From Orlando: A Biography

7. ON WRITING FICTION

“Fiction is like a spider’s web, attached ever so lightly perhaps, but still attached to life at all four corners.”

— From her seminal 1929 essay “A Room of One’s Own”

8. ON QUESTIONING THE STATUS QUO

“Let us never cease from thinking—what is this ‘civilisation’ in which we find ourselves? What are these ceremonies and why should we take part in them? What are these professions and why should we make money out of them?”

— From her anti-war essay “Three Guineas” (1938)

9. ON FASHION

“There is much to support the view that it is clothes that wear us and not we, them; we may make them take the mould of arm or breast, but they mould our hearts, our brains, our tongues to their liking.”

— From Orlando: A Biography

10. ON DIET

“One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well.”

— From “A Room of One’s Own”

11. ON GETTING OLDER

“I don’t believe in ageing. I believe in forever altering one’s aspect to the sun.”

— From her diary (entry dated October 2, 1932)

12. ON ARTISTIC INTEGRITY

“So long as you write what you wish to write, that is all that matters; and whether it matters for ages or only for hours, nobody can say. But to sacrifice a hair of the head of your vision, a shade of its colour, in deference to some Headmaster with a silver pot in his hand or to some professor with a measuring-rod up his sleeve, is the most abject treachery.”

— From “A Room of One’s Own”

13. ON THE UNIVERSE

“When you consider things like the stars, our affairs don’t seem to matter very much, do they?”

— From the novel Night and Day (1919)

14. ON PERSONAL GROWTH

“I am made and remade continually. Different people draw different words from me.”

— From her 1931 novel The Waves

15. ON SOCIETY

“At one and the same time, therefore, society is everything and society is nothing. Society is the most powerful concoction in the world and society has no existence whatsoever.”

— From Orlando: A Biography

16. ON EVALUATING LITERATURE

“The battle of Waterloo was certainly fought on a certain day; but is Hamlet a better play than Lear? Nobody can say. Each must decide that question for himself. To admit authorities… into our libraries and let them tell us how to read, what to read, what value to place upon what we read, is to destroy the spirit of freedom which is the breath of those sanctuaries. Everywhere else we may be bound by laws and conventions—there we have none.”

— From The Common Reader, Second Series (1935)

17. ON PASSION

“Blame it or praise it, there is no denying the wild horse in us. To gallop intemperately; fall on the sand tired out; to feel the earth spin; to have—positively—a rush of friendship for stones and grasses, as if humanity were over, and as for men and women, let them go hang—there is no getting over the fact that this desire seizes us pretty often.”

— From the novel Jacob’s Room (1922)

18. ON PERSONAL PAST

“Each had his past shut in him like the leaves of a book known to him by heart; and his friends could only read the title.”

— From Jacob’s Room

19. ON WORDS

“Of course, you can catch them and sort them and place them in alphabetical order in dictionaries. But words do not live in dictionaries, they live in the mind. If you want proof of this, consider how often in moments of emotion when we most need words we find none. Yet there is the dictionary; there at our disposal are some half-a-million words all in alphabetical order. But can we use them? No, because words do not live in dictionaries, they live in the mind.

Look once more at the dictionary. There beyond a doubt lie plays more splendid than Anthony and Cleopatra, poems lovelier than the 'Ode to a Nightingale,' novels beside which Pride and Prejudice or David Copperfield are the crude bunglings of amateurs. It is only a question of finding the right words and putting them in the right order. But we cannot do it because they do not live in dictionaries, they live in the mind.”

— From “Craftsmanship,” a BBC radio address Woolf delivered on April 20, 1937 (listen to a portion of it here)

20. ON LIFE AND ITS INTERRUPTIONS

“I meant to write about death, only life came breaking in as usual.”

— From her diary (entry dated February 17, 1922)

BONUS: A COMMON MISQUOTE

“You cannot find peace by avoiding life.”

These wise words are often mistakenly cited as Woolf’s. In reality, another writer came along and gave them to her—57 years after she died! Here’s what went down: In 1998, author Michael Cunningham released his Pulitzer Prize-winning novel The Hours. This story includes a fictionalized version of Virginia Woolf, who delivers the above line.

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER
More from mental floss studios