by Alicia W. Stewart, CNN.com Identity editor
(CNN) - The romantic comedy is not a movie category necessarily known for churning out Oscar nominees, but in the capable hands of Nora Ephron, the "rom-com," a genre that elicits as many rolled eyes as clutched hearts, was a smart and lovely thing.
In the oft quoted scene from "When Harry Met Sally," for which Ephron earned a screenwriting Oscar nomination, Sally, played by Meg Ryan, imitates a moment of pleasure with great exaggeration, before promptly stopping and having a bite to eat. A neighboring diner looks at Ryan, then at her waiter, and deadpans:
"I'll have what she's having."
Ephron was a writer's writer: journalist, book author, playwright, blogger, editor, director. In the process, she became a symbol to a generation, similar to what Dorothy Parker, the journalist known for her wit, was to her: an example of an intelligent, witty writer of a generation.
"I’m not going to lie: since I first learned of Nora, when I understood the body of her work, I wanted to be like her," Forbes contributor Liza Donnelly wrote.
Emily Yoffe, a Slate Magazine contributor, shared: "Of course the point of worshipping Nora Ephron was not to be her second-rate imitator, but to try to learn from her the art of writing sentences that could come from only one person."
"I'm so, so, so very sad that we've lost such a powerful and brilliant woman, but so, so, so very thankful that she gave me and so many other young men and women so many dreams," wrote comedian Meghan O'Keefe for The Huffington Post.
Nora Ephron made romantic comedies and films featuring nuanced women a familiar thing, and also mined her own life for art.
She famously turned a personal fixation into her classic Esquire essay, "A Few words about breasts":
"And even now, now that I have been countlessly reassured that my figure is a good one, now that I am grown-up enough to understand that most of my feelings have very little to do with the reality of my shape, I am nonetheless obsessed by breasts. I cannot help it. I grew up in the terrible '50s — with rigid stereotypical sex roles, the insistence that men be men and dress like men and women be women and dress like women, the intolerance of androgyny — and I cannot shake it, cannot shake my feelings of inadequacy."
The heartache and meltdown of her marriage to her second husband, Carl Bernstein, became fodder for a novel, then movie. "Heartburn," the fictional story based on the end of that marriage, was a best-seller, and further established her as a literary voice and screenwriter.
In a 1996 commencement speech at her alma mater, Wellesley, Ephron told graduates:
"This is the season when a clutch of successful women - who have it all - give speeches to women like you and say, to be perfectly honest, you can't have it all. Maybe young women don't wonder whether they can have it all any longer, but in case any of you are wondering, of course you can have it all. What are you going to do? Everything, is my guess. It will be a little messy, but embrace the mess. It will be complicated, but rejoice in the complications. It will not be anything like what you think it will be like, but surprises are good for you. And don't be frightened: You can always change your mind. I know: I've had four careers and three husbands."
She offered a template for a generation of women then, and now, to get a chance to have what she had.