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Q&A with Nora McInerny Purmort

If you haven’t heard of Nora McInerny Purmort, then congratulations, your media detox is working.
Because Nora’s been practically unavoidable since she launched her blog, My Husband’s Tumor, which documented her life with her dying husband Aaron and the birth of their son Ralphie, and which she described as “not a cancer story, but a love story with some cancer.”

And then there was the recent launch of her book, It’s Okay to Laugh: (Crying Is Cool Too).

And then there’s the Hot Young Widow’s ClubStill Kickin, articles in Elle, and her upcoming podcast, “Terrible, Thanks for Asking“.

So, you get the point. Nora is EVERYWHERE. So, it’s hard to imagine what new insights we could coerce from her, but we thought we’d give it a try. Enjoy!

What’s the earliest memory you have of writing something that you were proud of (and/or) that moved people?
When I was in middle school, I pitched a column to the Southwest Journal. There were tons of kids in SW Minneapolis, but nothing in the paper for them. When Nora’s Corner (yes, that was the title) came out, an adult man in church told me he liked reading it. I wanted to die and was also thrilled. He wasn’t supposed to read it, he was a grownup!

What was surprising about the process of publishing a book for the first time?
Literally everything. I was like Taylor Swift winning an award. Frankly, I was surprised how much people trusted me. I had very obviously never written a book before, and their faith in me was troubling because obviously my imposter syndrome is STRONG.

What have you learned about yourself and other people through all of this?
That really, we are all just trying to be seen and heard, to have some agency over a story that we really have no control over. We cannot control what happens to us, even if we are Taylor Swift (hi, what’s on my mind right now?), but being able to talk about it, to not be reduced to a sad story that people whisper about? That’s what we all need. Even buttface jerks.

Do you ever wish your life weren’t so public?
I would say my #1 sexual fantasy is me living alone in a cabin near Lutsen with no Internet access.

What do you imagine your “domain of expertise” being in 5 years? (e.g., “Nora’s the woman who writes about ______?”)
I feel like these beautiful and brutal things are always going to be a huge part of what I write about, because this is the world that I live in now. I’ve fallen through the looking glass, and by having a blog like I had and writing a book like I wrote and having a non-profit like Still Kickin, I attract the stories of people who have also suffered in many different ways. People who deserve what I got: to be seen and heard and supported, to be acknowledged, even when they are hard to look at.
I’ll always be a person whose life is a topic for her, not because hi, this is a story about me! But because I’m pretty good at taking my own stories and finding the connective thread that other people can relate to. I’d like to do that in more mediums, and in more books, and you know, all the things. I’ll do all the things.

What do you imagine your dad and Aaron saying to you as they watch over you? Are they cutting jokes? Are they arguing about whose advice is best?
Aaron would for sure be reminding me that I promised to stop picking my nose when he was on his deathbed. I’m sorry, my darling, but that was a really big promise to make and also I like picking my nose, and I will at least try to do it less publicly.

I think all the time about how Aaron and my dad would react to all of this. They were the two men in my life who were most supportive, most encouraging, and who could always, always make a really good joke at my expense.
I think they would both be proud that I am doing the things. They both died young — 65 and 35— and were hugely talented creatives who didn’t get to do everything they wanted and deserved to do. It is in no way lost on me that I get to do all of these things because I lost them. To hide away, to shrink around their losses, would dishonor who they were and what they meant to me. I’m supposed to live as big as I can, as fully as I can, for all of us. No pressure.


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