Anna Quindlen is a Barnard Alumna and the author of six previous bestselling novels and eight nonfiction books. Her New York Times column “Public and Private” won the Pulitzer Prize in 1992. From 2000-2009, She wrote the “Last Word” column for Newsweek.
What are the three most important characteristics of a woman leader?
Intelligence, fearlessness, empathy.
When do you feel at your best?
I’m at my best when I’m fully, almost unconsciously engaged with what I’m doing, whether it is writing a scene or giving a speech, when the work comes so naturally that I am almost on automatic pilot.
What did you do in your first year after College?
I was a reporter at the New York Post, where I’d worked between my junior and senior years. I started the Monday after my graduation. I lived in a little apartment in what is now called Soho, and did general assignment work. I was more than a little lonely and quite unsure of myself. It was divine.
What does it mean to be a “successful” woman?
I’ve often said that if success looks good to the world but isn’t felt deep in your heart, it’s not success at all. A successful woman is engaged with her work in a way that enlarges both herself and her world. For example, a first-grade teacher who works with her kids so successfully that they begin to read on her watch is, to my mind, a stupendous success. It’s all about finding your vocation and then giving it all you’ve got.
What challenges do you think women in publishing face today?
If we mean book publishing, that has always been a field that’s been hospitable towards women. However, it’s always paid low wages because of it. Living in New York on an editorial assistant’s salary is no mean feat. If we mean journalism, ditto. And it, of course, is less hospitable to women. Much better than Wall Street, though.
What was your biggest mistake?
I constantly compared myself to an ideal rather than the real. I remember insisting that I couldn’t take an offer to be deputy metro editor because I wasn’t qualified. One of my friends finally said, “You’re comparing yourself to the ideal editor. Compare yourself to the guy who will get the job if you don’t take it.” That settled it–I took the job. It helps to remember these words of Bella Abzug: “Our struggle today is not to have a female Einstein get appointed as an assistant professor. It is for a woman schlemiel to get as quickly promoted as a male schlemiel.”
What do you do when you need a moment?
I watch television and needlepoint while doing it. I love to watch television.
Give yourself a compliment.
I am a really good mother. And I have the kids to prove it.
If you could give “the college you” one piece of advice what would it be?
Chill out, Anna. Take a deep breath. It doesn’t all have to get done right….this…minute. And it’s all going to turn out so much better than you could ever imagine. You have no idea.