TRANSCRIPT: Ep. 215: What is Art?


Speaker 1:
It’s the Inspiration Place podcast with artist Miriam Schulman. Welcome to the Inspiration Place podcast, an art world inside a podcast for artists, by an artist where each week we go behind the scenes to uncover the perspiration and inspiration behind the art. And now your host, Miriam Schulman.

Miriam Schulman:
Oh, hey there, my friend. It’s Miriam Schulman here, your curator of inspiration. And I’m bringing you a roundup from the Artpreneur flash briefings for the week. We’re in September and although the days are still hot, the kids have gone back to school and dreams of fall are in the air. I love that line in You Got Mail when Tom Hank’s character writes to his anonymous chat room gal pal, Meg Ryan, and he says, “If I knew who you were, I’d give you a bouquet of sharpened pencils.” Ooh. Okay. We’re going to talk this week about what we can learn about writing from Nora Ephron, the writer of that movie, as well as other romantic comedies, and we’ll be discussing Judy Blume, who gets to call oneself an artist, the effect your friends have on you and your belief systems, New York in the 1960s and also we’re talking about the Supreme Court. No, not that argument. We’re talking about who gets to decide what is art?

You can listen to these roundups every Friday on the Inspiration Place podcast, like you are right now, but if you want a daily dose of inspiration, make sure you’re following my Alexa Flash briefings. If you’re new to flash briefings, here’s how you listen, because I was brand new to it as well before I started making them. But they’re super fun. Go to Amazon and type in Artpreneur. When you do that, by default it’s going to bring up my book, but what you want to do actually is change the search filter to Alexa skills, and then you’re going to see Artpreneur, right on top. When you click on that, you’re going to see on the right “enable skill” and I’m actually discussing how it appears on the desktop. If you are looking for this on your app, I just tested it, just type in Artpreneur skill, that will definitely bring it up. So you will see Artpreneur, it is not… it doesn’t look like a book, it’s now in a circle with the same word Artpreneur, click on that, whether you’re on your desktop or your phone, and you’re going to want to enable skill.

If you don’t have the app on your phone, then what you’re going to need to do is download the Alexa app and you’ll see that right in the same thing. So it’s for Alexa enabled devices, it must be enabled through the free Alexa app. So you can just download it for free and of course, this also works if you have the Alexa device. Now in the past, we thought we wouldn’t be able to call it Artpreneur, that turned out to be wrong. It actually is there, is Artpreneur and the app is free, then you just tell Alexa, play my flash briefings in the morning and you’ll get a new one Monday through Friday. If you miss it Friday, it plays again on Saturday and Sunday.

I also highly recommend an Alexa flash briefing from my good friend, Jen Lehner, hers is about marketing news. She brings you great tidbits about the latest trends in features in social media and other marketing apps. So I’m really enjoying her flash briefings. Her briefing is called Front Row Entrepreneur. So you find it the same way, just type in Front Row into Alexa skills and enable that skill as well. Okay, my friend, now on with today’s show.

Nora Ephron was one of the most popular, accomplished and beloved writers in American journalism and film. Her career spanned 50 years of smart, successful writing in nearly every medium, magazines, essays, movies, plays, books, and even blogs. Now there’s a new biography about her out. I actually haven’t read yet so I can’t say whether or not I recommend it, but because of this release, there was a review in the New Yorker and I learned a lot about Nora Ephron and more importantly about her writing process, which is what I’m going to share with you today. Specifically, we’re going to talk about three strategies that you can use to improve your own writing, whether you write fiction like she did or just copy for your website.

Now in case you’re not quite sure who Nora Ephron was, she was the creative genius behind some of the most popular romantic comedies, such as Sleepless in Seattle, You Got Mail, what was the other one? When Harry Met Sally. Both of her parents were screenwriters and all three of her sisters became writers. So four sisters all became writers since words and stories were the love language of the Ephron family. She learned storytelling at the dinner table and some of the most valuable lessons that we’re going to hear today come from her mother. One of Nora’s favorite truisms, which she attributed to her mother is, “Everything is copy.” Most of her fiercest fans have interpreted this to mean that life never hands you material that you can’t use. And although I agree that that is true, here is how Nora herself interpreted the quote, “I now believe that what my mother meant was this, when you slip on a banana peel, people laugh at you. But when you tell people you slipped on a banana peel, it’s your laugh. So you become a hero rather than the victim of the joke.”

And of course it’s only true if you can tell it in a funny way. Now, by the way, I was very glad to hear it because you hear me telling embarrassing stories about myself all the time. You hear some of them here, some of them only go into my emails, a few I post on social media and it’s really no accident since I do ascribe to this Ephron method of writing. So the other tip she shared is from her mother, her mother taught her daughter to write as if she was mailing a letter and back then they didn’t have emails. I think her mother died in like 1971. So she said, write it as if you’re writing a letter and then tear off the salutation. Now you can do this too. Every time you sit down to write an email to your list or copy for your website or a caption on social media, you can open up a Google Doc or Gmail for that matter and pretend that you’re writing to a friend. Those are the best kinds of writing.

Now the third lesson that you can apply to your own writing that you will find throughout Nora Ephron’s own writing as well as her screenplay, is specificity. You see this example in spades with When Harry Met Sally. One of the most iconic scenes is when the character Sally has an orgasm over a sandwich. But what I really want you to take note is how she orders it. Every last detail is accounted for. She also does this when she’s ordering pie. She wants ice cream, but she doesn’t want it on top of it, she wants it on the side. She wants it strawberry, but if they don’t have strawberry, she doesn’t want ice cream, she wants whipped cream, but she only wants whipped cream if it’s real whipped cream, but not if it comes from a can. If it comes from a can, she doesn’t want it at all. So that type of specificity she uses throughout her writing and that is what makes it so relatable and so interesting. These details really do matter and inform the reader, or in this case, the movie goer of exactly who these characters are.

In this case, When Harry Met Sally, you know right away that Sally is a control freak. Okay, and then I think we have more than one lesson here. Wait a minute. We have tell embarrassing stories about yourself, pretend you’re writing an email. Oh, number three is specificity. Okay. I guess there’s four lessons, so this is a bonus lesson. The last lesson I gleaned from reading about Nora Ephron is trying to be your own best self, not someone else’s best self. So when she moved to New York in 1962, she hoped to be the next Dorothy Parker, the only woman at the table. But when she got to New York, she discovered she was a cliche. Everyone else wanted to be Dorothy Parker. Now, 60 years later, all these writers want to be Nora Ephron. That’s not the point. The lesson is to be your own true self, and it’s not too late to go after your dreams. Ephron herself didn’t really hit her stride until she was in her fifties.

Now, if you’re looking to improve your writing skills, I did a really amazing roundup episode on the Inspiration Place podcast. I have advice dished out by copywriters, so you’ll want to tune into episode number 171, Words That Sell, Five Top Copywriters Share Their Best Advice with Laura Belgray, Lacy Boggs, Tarzan Kay, Kimberly Houston and Danielle Weil. To go listen, you can go to, or just search for Words That Sell on the Inspiration Place podcast, wherever you listen.

Currently on view at the Jewish museum on 92nd Street and Fifth Avenue in New York city is a show titled New York, 1962 through 1964. During the timeframe explored during this exhibition, you have a lot of earth shattering events. We have the assassination of president Kennedy, we have the suicide of Marilyn Monroe, the Cuban Missile Crisis, all these things happening very, very quickly, not too different than what happened between 2020 and 2022, a lot of political unrest and all these things fundamentally altered the social and political landscape of New York city. And of course, of course the nation more broadly, but of course, this affected artists.

So looking at art through this lens, looking how this generation of New York based painters, sculptors, dancers, filmmakers, poets, rose to prominence incorporating material directly from their surroundings and producing art that was rich and as complex as the city itself. Some of the highlights that I enjoyed from the exhibit were the fashions of Jeffrey Bean, the very Kitch looking cookbooks that my mother had, I also really enjoyed the film clips they had of modern dance. They had film clips of George Balanchine and Merce Cunningham. So looking at all the art through this lens of what was happening politically was really interesting. And you know what, 50 years from now people are going to go back and look at 2020 through 2023 or whatever it is they’re going to pick as those three years and going to say, “Hey, look how much the time right now has affected art.” So if you want to see this exhibition, it’s on view through January 8th, 2023, it’s a fun little exhibit right on the museum mile on Fifth Avenue.

All right, this briefing is going to draw heavily upon an article by Adam Liptak that appeared in the New York Times on August 15th, 2022 and also his related reporting that I believe was reported in March of 2022. Adam Liptak is a Supreme Court expert and he writes for the New York Times. I just want to make sure I give him credit so I’m not doing any copyright infringement of my own because what we’re going to be talking about is this fall, the Supreme Court is going to hear a copyright fight over whether Andy Warhol’s images of Prince violated copyright. More specifically, the case is not really against Andy Warhol, I want you to be very clear about that as I’m presenting the facts in this case, really what they are objecting to is Andy Warhol’s foundation. That is who is being sued right now, not Andy Warhol the artist. So just keep that in mind.

So now the Supreme Court will hear a case in the fall whether he violated copyright law with a portrait of the musician, Prince. And what is critical in this case is they’re deciding… they’re deciding what is art. So, facts in the case, Andy Warhol, or his foundation, violated the copyright law by drawing a photograph or a series of images of the musician, Prince, or did it? Why are we talking about this now? So the black and white image that Warhol used was taken actually in 1981 by Lynn Goldsmith. She was a prominent… or and she’s still alive, actually, a prominent photographer whose work has appeared on more than a hundred album covers. So she took the photograph in 1981, 3 years later, 1984 around the time Prince released Purple Rain, Vanity Fair hired Warhol to create an image to accompany an article entitled Purple Fame. The magazine paid Ms. Goldsmith $400 to license one of her 1981 portraits as an artist reference, agreeing to credit her and to use it only in connection with a single issue.

I want you to pay very close attention to that. The magazine paid Ms. Goldsmith formed dollars to license it as a photo reference only in connection with that issue. So in other words, Warhol was given permission to make an image of Prince from her photograph, but it was a single use, meaning just on the cover of Vanity Fair and that cover. However, Warhol made 16 different versions of that artwork and these artworks all past hands to the Warhol foundation after his death in 1987. Now works in the series have sold for six figures, however, the sales of these works is not covered by the licensing agreement made with Ms. Goldsmith for the Vanity Fair issue. So, why now?

Okay, so after Prince died in 2016, Vanity Fair’s parent company, Condé Nast, published a special issue celebrating Prince’s life and it paid the foundation $10,250 to use a different issue from the Prince series for the cover. And again, this is for a different cover and this time Ms. Goldsmith received no money or credit. So now the question remains, in order for this artwork to be considered part of fair use, it must be transformative. The Supreme Court has said that a work is transformative if it adds something new with a further purpose or different character altering the first with new expression, meaning or message. Remember, there’s a couple of things I want you to point out. We already have precedent where Vanity Fair did pay the photographer a single use license for that first cover. So why didn’t she get paid again for a different cover?

There’s something else I want you to notice. Now, the Supreme Court, none of them who are trained as artists, art historians or art critics, will be deciding. They will get to decide if this artwork has been meaningfully transformed. There is a lot of legal precedent. One quote that I wanted to share comes from Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. he said that judges should be cautious where art was at issue. So his quote, “It would be dangerous. It would be a dangerous undertaking for persons trained only to the law to constitute themselves final judges of the worth of pictorial illustrations.” Now, if you’re interested in learning more about art licensing and doing it legally, you would really enjoy the episode I did with lawyer and legal expert Katie Lane. So that is episode number 44, Protect Your Art From Copycats and Free Loaders. If you want to listen to it, you can go to

But more importantly, I want to ask you should the Supreme Court get to decide what is art? Should the government get to decide what is art? Is Ms. Goldsmith entitled to additional compensation for that second issue? Was she grossly underpaid in the first place? I want to hear from you. So share your comments over my Instagram feed, I’m @schulmanart and look for the graphic with the question what is art? Let me know in the comments. This inspiration comes from Judy Plume, author of 29 books and the film adaption of her classic novel Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret will be released in April 2023, over 50 years after she first wrote it. If for some reason you don’t know Judy Blume or the story, I will tell you. It’s a story about a girl in the sixth grade who desperately wants her period.

I read this in the fourth grade before I really knew what periods were and this ed lesson came just in time. The following year, just after I turned 10, I did get my period and the Blume book was really the only thing that had prepared me for it. These books were a godsend to girls like me, whose mothers were raised in the 1950s during a definitely more buttoned-up and puritanical culture. When Blume started writing this book, which was her first, she was a suburban mom. She says now that everyone, including her then husband, she’s since remarried, everyone said, “Oh, isn’t that cute? She thinks she’s a writer.” But she didn’t see it as cute and she got mad at anyone who did. Blume, who is now 84, shared in a recent interview with Judith Newman, “I was a very anxious child who grew up to be not brave, but willing to take risks.”

Here’s what I want you to know, my friend, I believe in you and it’s time that you start taking yourself seriously. Choose to believe you are an artist, you are a writer, you are a dancer, you are a musician or whatever it is that your art is, tell everyone you know that you’re an artist and reclaim that identity. The very first chapter in my book, Artpreneur, is choose to believe. For this reason, I want you to choose to believe you are an artist. Look in the mirror and say, “This is what an artist looks like. This is what a writer looks like. This is what a dancer,” or whatever moniker you call yourself, “looks like,” and start rewriting your own story today. Start taking yourself seriously.

By the way, if you’re enjoying this content and you have a friend who you think needs to hear it, take a screenshot of it and share it in your stories. If you tag me @schulmanart, which is S-C-H-U-L-M-A-N-A-R-T, I’d really appreciate it. But more importantly, you’ll be helping your friends. And I bet you know at least one woman who was a Judy Blume fan who needs to hear what I said today.
A new study that came out from Harvard Academia found that poor children who enjoyed friendships that cut across class lines had better outcomes than those who didn’t. One of the creators of this study, Raj Shetty, shared with a New York Times reporter that they speculated that perhaps it was conversations about SATs that impacted the results, however, they knew there was more to it than that since the kids who enjoyed these friendships starting at age two, had better outcomes than those who moved into the same neighborhoods in their teens. And no one is discussing SATs at age two.

I remember when I was in the sixth grade and became friends with a core group of truly brilliant girls. We used to egg each other on, “What do you want to be?” And the answers had to be worthy of what we considered our genius. So we wanted to be poets and playwrights and artists, and although I’ve lost touch with them over the years, I learned recently that one of them earned a Guggenheim, which is a genius grant, for her poetry. And another one of my besties became head of a gifted and talented private school. The seeds of who we’re becoming were planted during those sixth grade friendships. The transformative power of all friendships is that your friends get inside of you and influence your soul’s evolution.

Now, I have talked about this phenomenon before on the podcast in the past, so if you want to listen to Master the Art of Goal Setting, that was episode 175, of course you can find that at I pointed to how surrounding yourself with people who have similar goals will increase the chances of you reaching them. And I believed I published that this year in 2022. So a pair of social scientists named Nicholas Christakis and James Fowler collected data demonstrating that good behaviors like quitting smoking, staying thin, or being happy pass from friend to friend, almost as if they were a contagious virus. Now you’ll notice that friend groups tend to be similar sizes for better or worse and some of that could be that people are attracted to people who are like them, but there’s a lot of evidence showing that the behaviors are what’s contagious. Our friendships shape what we see as normal.

My middle school friends thought we were all gifted and that affected how we saw ourselves. It helped us all buy into that belief. Your friendships also help you how you see the world. As a friend group, you’re defining your self-concept of your friends, but also the possibilities in the world. And finally, your friends alter your desires, your dreams, you encourage and egg each other on to dream bigger. Now, if you’re looking to surround yourself with artists with big goals who are lifting each other up and doing big things, I encourage you to check out the Artist Incubator, whether you want to apply for the more prestigious self-study track or join the self-study program for greater flexibility, this community of artists is waiting for you. Go to As in B-I-Z, B as in boy, I as in ice cream, Z as in zebra, to apply or learn more.

All right, let’s wrap up everything we talked about this week. If you’re subscribed to the Inspiration Place podcast, you’ll get the Friday roundups every week. If you want the daily dose, make sure you’ve enabled the Artpreneur skill on Alexa and ask Alexa to play your daily flash briefings. This week, we talked about what we can learn about writing from Nora Ephron, the influence of New York in 1962, whether the Supreme Court gets to decide what is art, what we can learn from Judy Blume and finally, we talked about why friendships are so powerful to get access to every freebie mentioned all week long and all the resources shared during the week, be sure you head on over to All right, my friend, well, that’s it. Until next time. I’ll see you then and stay inspired.

Speaker 1:
Thank you for listening to the Inspiration Place podcast. Connect with us on Facebook at, on Instagram @schulmanart and of course on


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