Meeting with Anna Quindlen while in New York City

by Mallary Tenore Tarpley

I went to New York City last week to attend the Mirror Awards ceremony, where winners were announced. I was a finalist in two categories, but I didn’t win.

The optimist in me kept saying, “It’s OK; you should be happy you made it this far! You can just try again year.” Of course, though, I was bummed and wished I had come away with an award.

I met with Anna just before visiting The New York Times newsroom. I also visited The Wall Street Journal and BuzzFeed newsrooms.

I came away with something perhaps more valuable, though — writing advice from my favorite author, Anna Quindlen. About a week before my trip, I finished Anna’s new memoir, “Lots of Candles, Plenty of Cake.” So much of it resonated with me — particularly the passages about losing her mom, about her thoughts on Catholicism and about her belief that “a single moment can mark the dividing line between who you are and who you never wanted to be.”

As I read her book, I couldn’t help but think about how great it would be to talk with her in person. I contacted her one night to see if she would be willing to meet with me while I was in New York City.

I thought it was a long-shot, but she replied. A week later, we met for a late lunch and talked about writing.

I was struck by how humble and gracious Anna was; you could tell she was genuinely interested in my memoir and my life experiences. She asked me a lot of questions and gave me such sound advice. She also shared this Ernest Hemmingway quote with me: “The world breaks every one and afterward many are strong in the broken places.” How true.

I’m grateful I got a chance to meet with Anna, and that I got so much out of our visit; now I have a much better sense of how I want to structure my memoir, and writing it has been easier. It makes all the difference when a writer whose work you admire believes in you.