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I love romance. I love laughter. So it only makes sense that I love romantic comedies. This week, my rom-com-loving heart broke a little to hear the news that Nora Ephron passed away. As a writer, she revolutionized the world of chick flicks, paving the way for the blockbuster hits we enjoy over-and-over at theaters today… and then rent on Netflix… and then record on our DVRs. With her unique perspective, incredible wit, and natural ability to pull at the dangling heartstrings of viewers everywhere, Nora broke down industry walls and forever changed the way writers interact with Hollywood. She made it possible for others to create in a new way, and without her there might never have been a Sweet Home Alabama, a How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days, or a 27 Dresses. So to Nora — a woman I never had the pleasure to meet and a writer I’ve always looked up to — I am forever grateful.

“I’ll Have What She’s Having”

Many would list Nora’s greatest work as When Harry Met Sally. You can picture it now — the quick, witty banter between Billy Crystal’s character and Meg Ryan’s character, perfectly written and impeccably timed. Nora won the Academy Award for Best Writing (Original Screenplay) for this film, and it’s not hard to see why.

Harry: You realize of course that we could never be friends.
Sally: Why not?
Harry: What I’m saying is – and this is not a come-on in any way, shape or form – is that men and women can’t be friends because the sex part always gets in the way.
Sally: That’s not true. I have a number of men friends and there is no sex involved.
Harry: No you don’t.
Sally: Yes I do.
Harry: No you don’t.
Sally: Yes I do.
Harry: You only think you do.
Sally: You say I’m having sex with these men without my knowledge?
Harry: No, what I’m saying is they all WANT to have sex with you.
Sally: They do not.
Harry: Do too.
Sally: They do not.
Harry: Do too.
Sally: How do you know?
Harry: Because no man can be friends with a woman that he finds attractive. He always wants to have sex with her.
Sally: So, you’re saying that a man can be friends with a woman he finds unattractive?
Harry: No. You pretty much want to nail ’em too.
Sally: What if THEY don’t want to have sex with YOU?
Harry: Doesn’t matter because the sex thing is already out there so the friendship is ultimately doomed and that is the end of the story.
Sally: Well, I guess we’re not going to be friends then.
Harry: I guess not.
Sally: That’s too bad. You were the only person I knew in New York.

What Women Want

Another reason I love Nora Ephron is because she understands what women want to read, hear and see. You might think, So what? She IS a woman. Of course she should understand that. But the remarkable thing is that she took that innate understanding one step further, breaking into the male-dominated Hollywood and convincing head industry honchos that she knew what she was talking about. And she did.

So when I think of Annie waiting — disappointed and alone — on the observation deck of the Empire State Building, I’m sad. Even though I know Jonah forgot his backpack there, and in just a few moments he’ll return with Sam to get it.

And when I think of Kathleen waiting in Central Park to meet the mysterious “NY152,” I am nervous for her. My heart races, even though I know any minute Joe will come around the corner, wipe away her tears and say, “Don’t cry, shopgirl. Don’t cry.”

It doesn’t matter how many times I see these films (84 times at last count), my emotions get all wrapped up in the story and I lose myself. It’s a beautiful thing.

A Writer’s Writer

Nora Ephron was a filmmaker, director, producer, screenwriter, novelist, playwright, journalist, author and blogger. She sure placed the bar high for the rest of us writers. But she didn’t just “arrive” at the Oscars or “land” on the New York Times bestsellers list. She worked hard to get there.

She wrote for the weekly newspaper at Wellesley. After her graduation in 1962, she worked as a White House intern under JFK, and then became a “mail girl” at Newsweek in New York. She wrote for the Post, published award-winning essays, was a regular columnist for Esquire, and became one of America’s best-known humorists.

It took time. It took work. Sure, she was cut some breaks, like being the daughter of two screenwriters. But don’t we all catch breaks at some point in life? It’s what she did with those breaks that made her outstanding. She conquered fear, rose above industry obstacles, shot down disbelievers, and delivered top-notch writing every step of the way.

Thank you, Nora, for inspiring me to write, to be myself and to go after my dreams — no matter what others tell me. Thank you for gifting me with endless hours of viewing pleasure in constant repeat. And thank you for giving me childlike hope that one day the future love of my life will be at a local coffee shop, smiling sheepishly because he mistook my vanilla latte for his at the pick-up counter.

~Ruth