On the ten year anniversary of 9/11, many of us took time out of our hectic
lives to reflect on what really matters to us as families and as a nation.
Nowadays, the world is a much different place ...one in which our children will
have to navigate using difficult life lessons as a guide from generations past.
Together, we can build a brighter tomorrow for the children of today.
This month's Jen's
Jewels Amy Ephron
has done her fair share of recollecting in her sensational new memoir LOOSE DIAMONDS ...AND OTHER
THINGS I'VE LOST (AND FOUND) ALONG THE WAY. In her typical deadpan fashion, Amy
reminiscences about her own life experiences in love, marriage, and special
With just the right amount of humor peppered with down-to-earth honesty, she
delivers yet another hilarious tale.
As part of this interview, William Morrow, an imprint of Harper
Collins, has generously donated five copies for you, my favorite readers, to
try to win. So, don't forget to look for the trivia question at the end of the
column. And to all those families touched by the tragic events of 9/11, my
thoughts and prayers are with you as always.
Jen: A bestselling and award-winning novelist, your writing career has
been quite extensive. So that my readers may catch a glimpse into the life of
the woman behind the words, please share with us your educational and
Amy: I had a lot of jobs when I was younger. I was a film executive
for awhile and I learned an enormous amount about film, production, and the
difficulties associated with all. I was a producer on Alfonso Cuaron's A
Little Princess, with Mark Johnson, who is an extraordinary producer. It
took us 7 years to get it made and was a labor of love. I am primarily a writer,
novelist, and essayist, although I also publish an online magazine, One for
the Table, which specializes in food, politics, and love. Last year I
directed a short film, "Chloe@3AM," a sort of deconstructed dance video about a
bad Saturday night in LA (or a normal Saturday night in LA). It was amazing as I
collaborated with my daughter, Maia Harari, and her dance company. The best part
was that we were featured at the American Cinematheque in the Women's Directors
Festival and they screened it at the Egyptian Theatre, which was magical as it
was built by my childhood friend "The Birdman" who is featured in the book,
Stiles O. Clements, the man who lived across from me who collected birds. And I
almost felt as if he was there. I hope I get to direct more (just putting that
Jen: Please describe for us your "Aha!" moment when you decided to
take the plunge and pursue a career as a writer.
Amy: I don't know that I had a proper "Aha!" moment. I always wrote,
even as a child. I remember being at summer camp and trying to find a meadow
where I could be alone. It's not that I wasn't athletic. I was about nine and
I was going through a phase where all I wanted to do was write sort of abstract
poetry. Kind of bad nine year-old poetry about soggy yellow crayons on the road
which I guess I thought were a metaphor for something. I had a lot of jobs when
I was younger, as writing can be a difficult way to earn your keep. I don't
really believe the Virginia Wolf statement: in order to write a woman must have
money and a room of one's own. It's very helpful but some writers, like me, are
just compelled to write.
Jen: In addition to writing for such well-known publications as
Harper's Bazaar and >Vogue, you also have your own online
magazine One for the Table . Please share with us its premise while
taking us on a brief tour of your website highlighting points of interest.
Amy: I started One for the Table during the Writers' Strike in
Los Angeles and feel very fortunate to have such amazing contributors: Laraine
Newman, Steve Zaillian, Alan Zweibel, the amazing food writer, Matt Armendariz,
and on and on. The focus is food, politics, and love, with a big emphasis on
holidays (mostly centered around food, and holiday recipe extravaganzas,
although we think watching "elections returns" is also an event that can be
centered on food). It's sort of emo with reflection and recipes, sometimes we
focus on fresh and seasonal, sometimes a hamburger, sometimes the Iowa caucus or
Super Tuesday, travel, a beloved pet, or a favorite tech gadget! We try to
reflect the mood of the day, whether upscale or frugal or somewhere in between.
Part of our philosophy is there aren't enough waffles in the world and,
sometimes, not all the time, you should order one for the table!
Jen: Your new release LOOSE DIAMONDS is a
collection of reflective essays touching on traditional women's issues like
romance, friendship, marriage, and divorce. What was your inspiration for this
compilation of ideas?
Amy: The book started with an essay I wrote for Vogue called "I
Love Saks" about how, in a way, I can tell my life through Saks, the flagship
store on 5th Avenue. The ups and downs, when I first went to New York and my
mother bought me a hat so I could march in the Easter parade, years later, when
I couldn't actually afford to shop there but bought a TSE sweater so that the
editor I was having lunch with wouldn't know I actually "needed" to sell a book,
key moments, like when I had my first child, and my oldest sister sent me a
layette (which I needed badly). My editor of many years, Henry Ferris, at
William Morrow read the piece in Vogue and suggested that I turn it into a
memoir, pieces of a woman's life, but it wasn't until I'd published the second
piece, "Loose Diamonds,"
also in Vogue (about being burglarized and realizing that the real value of the
pieces I lost was in the memories and the people who had given them to me) that
the book started to take shape. I'm also a period writer. My novel, A Cup of
Tea, is set in New York in 1917, so I love the idea of writing about the
different aspects of a woman's life (mine), in different decades, and from
different ages and points of view. The simplicity and magic of childhood in "The
Birdman"; the somewhat wild, edginess of the ‘70s in "Champagne by the Case";
the complications of being a single working mother with a somewhat complicated
ex in "Musical Chairs"; the later complications of a blended family in
Jen: The book is written somewhat chronologically depicting certain
milestones in your life. In terms of nuts and bolts, how did you go about
selecting the themes?
Amy: In a way it's about LA, in a way it's about New York, but the
later pieces are about anyone who ever tried to have a blended family, or what I
call a Post-Modern Life, after a first divorce and a second marriage when there
are children who are only related to each other through the accident of their
parents' second marriage, which is a theme I wanted to write about. Why women
stay, why men stay, why you finally make the choice to leave. I also wanted to
write about the many aspects of a woman's life how circumstance and experience
affect the way you view the world, and how it's sometimes difficult (but always
necessary) to pick yourself up after life takes an unexpected turn.
Jen: Growing up in Los Angeles, you have led such a colorful life. The
vignette which stood out the most to me is The Bird Man (which you have
mentioned briefly). How did your interaction with Mr. Clements affect your
appreciation for the elderly?
Amy: I didn't think of Stiles O. Clements ("The Birdman") as
"elderly." He was so amazing, and educated and extraordinary-looking that there
was a kind of ageless quality to him. And then there was that magical thing with
the birds. I'd also to some degree, as the fourth of four daughters with parents
who had a professional life and a fairly extensive social life, been raised in
the company of grown-ups so I didn't have that kind of segregated thing that
kids sometimes have that they're always in the company of children. As far as I
was concerned, he was just an amazing grown-up person. And I was really happy to
write this piece which in a way is an homage to him, to our friendship, to his
work as an architect, and to the extraordinary care and kindness that he showed me.
Jen: A rather brazen escapade in your early years was an interview
with the infamous Lynette "Squeaky" Fromme at an abandoned Southern California
ranch. In retrospect, how did this experience positively affect your future
career path in journalism? If you could turn back the clock, would you still
have chosen to do the interview? Why or why not?
Amy: I was covering the Manson trial for a magazine called Scanlans,
so the Squeaky Fromme interview was incidental to that. Would I go out to the
Spahn Ranch, now? Probably not. Well, maybe...but with more initial trepidation.
I was nineteen and fearless (or at least fear hadn't entered into my
consciousness yet). It was the old journalism (not the new instant online kind)
and I was going to write two very long pieces when the trial ended – but the
trial went on so long that the magazine had folded by the time the trial ended.
The afternoon with Squeaky Fromme though always stayed with me, as if it were by
accident she'd ended up there and I always wondered what if someone else had
found her on that corner. I've always been fascinated by moments like that. In a
way, A Cup of Tea, based on a Katherine Mansfield story, is all about that—an
accidental meeting on a street corner in New York in 1917 that changes
Jen: In chapter 10, you touch upon your psychic abilities. In your
opinion, what impact has the media had on the validity of such powers?
Amy: In LA, in the last few months, psychic storefronts have popped up
on ever other corner. I don't know if that's a sign of the times, but I think
either you believe in things like this or you don't. I think in general the
media doesn't (and then someone comes along who's six and had a near-death
experience and...). But for people who've had numerous experiences where the
coincidence seems too extraordinary to be explicable or a "feeling" that then
turns out to be true is a common occurrence, there's something to it.
Jen: Let's switch gears now and talk about your promotional plans.
Will you be making any scheduled book signing appearances?
Amy: Really excited that I've been invited to the opening of the West
Hollywood Library/West Hollywood Book Fair with the amazing Shepard Fairy Mural
that I think he just completed. A few JCC appearances in Atlanta, Houston,
Cherry Hill, New Jersey; a party in New York which should be really fun and a
signing at an actual bookstore, Diesel in Santa Monica.
Jen: Do you participate in Author Phone Chats? And if so, how would my
readers go about scheduling one?
Amy: There's one book club that's one of the original book clubs in
the country that I love to go to, as they've been doing it for so long and
they're extraordinary to watch since they've been friends forever and they
almost finish each other's sentences. But I don't generally do phone chats, as I
have so many other professional commitments and family obligations. And not to
continue with a theme, but a psychic once predicted (ten years before this
happened) and I had no idea what it meant and neither did she: "I see a
building, it's like a national monument or a train station and people in period
dress and they're all coming to see you. I have no idea what this is." Me: "An
Oscar?" Her: "No, it's not the Academy Awards; I don't know what it is." And ten
years later, someone fell in love with A Cup of Tea and threw a party at the
train station there, the Union Train Station, an art deco masterpiece now
maintained as a museum and invited a hundred people and they all came in period
dress and they insisted that I come to Omaha for the "book/tea party." It was
really fun! I wish I still had that psychic's phone number...
Jen: Do you participate in Social Media?
Amy: I am on Facebook with my Amy Ephron fan page, and I am on Twitter
as @Oneforthetable. I love Twitter; I often go to it as a breaking news spot.
I use it on my phone.... Sometimes I track my children on it (kidding),
although Facebook can sometimes be helpful if you don't know the exact city one
of your offspring is in (half-kidding). But I love the sense of community of
both. And some of the people I'm friends with and follow are really funny and
Jen: Are you currently at work on your next project? And if so, what
can you share with us?
Amy: Curiously, though I haven't done anything like this since the
Manson trial, I am covering the Dr. Conrad Murray trial (manslaughter for the
death of Michael Jackson) for The Daily Beast and Newsweek. Opening statements
are expected September 26th. I know, it's going to be a circus and it's really
sad, on a lot of levels, but it fascinates me about the culture and the times
and it's very much about LA. Stay tuned...
Jen: Thank you so much for stopping by to chat with my readers. I wish
you all the best.
Amy: Thank you so much for having me. It was really fun. And I love
I hope you have enjoyed my interview with Amy. Please stop by your favorite
bookstore or local library branch and pick up a copy of LOOSE DIAMONDS today.
Better yet, how would you like to win one instead?
Okay, be one of five readers to answer the following trivia question
correctly and you could win. Good luck!
What is the name of
Amy's online magazine?
In October, I will be bringing to you my interviews with Marisa de los Santos
and Rosalind Lauer.
You won't want to miss them!
Until next time...
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