STEPHANIE LEHMANN was born in foggy San Francisco and didn't take her sweater off until she moved away to college. She spent most of her childhood watching television. One of her favorite shows was THAT GIRL with Marlo Thomas, who portrayed the first true "ambitious single woman living in New York City" sitcom heroine. But even as a child, Stephanie knew that New York was more like the mean, ugly place where Jodi Foster was a hooker in TAXI DRIVER.
Stephanie can remember deciding to become a writer in a fit of existential angst when she was twelve. She talked her parents into buying her a typewriter and wrote some very bad short stories. She began to receive the first of many rejection letters.
In high school, after a few unpleasant (no boyfriend, mediocre grades) years that were redeemed only by hanging out in the theater department and working backstage (too afraid to act), she went to U. C. Berkeley and missed the best years of Saturday Night Live. She had, for once, a social life, but no television.
She upgraded to an IBM Selectric but was unable to believe she could actually have a "career" as a writer. So she didn't even buy the kind of IBM Selectric that had self-correcting tape. Instead she had to use the backspace key, then insert one of those little white plastic sheets and retype the incorrect letter to cover it over. (I bet some people have no idea what I'm talking about.)
She got a B.A. in Psychology thinking she might become a therapist because she liked to listen, and she loved the idea of hearing peoples' secrets. But after taking a writing class with Leonard Michaels, Brooklyn-born author of THE MEN'S CLUB, and taking his praise way too seriously, she kissed a regular income good-bye and dreamed once again of being a writer.
After graduating from Berkeley and spending a year hanging out, working in a cafe, getting depressed and writing a novel that no one will ever see if she has anything to say about it, Stephanie Lehmann decided to move to New York so she could do the same thing in a more crowded location. New York was after all the place where writers went. Maybe it was more like the New York in ANNIE HALL?
Since she was basically chicken about making the move, she arrived as a student in the NYU Graduate Program in Creative Writing. She was lucky enough to get the lease to a small, dark, roach-infested apartment of her very own in the East Village. She started dating a guy from Long Island who was in her writing workshop at NYU. He had a nice apartment on a high floor in a modern building in midtown and cable TV. The fact that he used to be a television repairman clinched the deal. She said good-bye to the roaches and moved in with him.
A few years later she bought one of the first computers sold for home use. (Gee, this is making me sound really old). Her Kaypro had a seven-inch black screen with green letters and she still has it in the back of her closet. (She did throw out the IBM Selectric.) She also got married to the ex-television repairman. They moved to a larger apartment and had a couple babies. (Not in that order.)
Though she was often stuck watching shows that her kids liked (FAMILY MATTERS and THE FRESH PRINCE OF BEL-AIR come to mind) and she was too tired by the time SNL came on, she did see pretty much every SEINFELD. She wrote two more novels that weren't published and will never be seen by anyone if she has anything to say about it.
Eventually, she had five novels published: THOUGHTS WHILE HAVING SEX, ARE YOU IN THE MOOD?, YOU COULD DO BETTER, THE ART OF UNDRESSING and ASTOR PLACE VINTAGE.
Stephanie also had a chance to learn all about the mysteries of the publishing world while working at the Elaine Koster Literary Agency, a boutique literary agency representing such authors as Khaled Hosseini, David Ebershoff, Kimberly Lawson Roby, Monique Truong, Lisa Black, Victoria Christopher Murray and I could go on. She gave editorial assistance to many authors preparing to submit new work to publishers. She also represented a select group of her own fine authors.
Eventually, both of her children grew up. The same can't be said of her husband, but what can you do?
Stephanie Lehmann has lived in New York City for so long, she possesses a land line with a 212 prefix that she won't give up even though it only gets spam. She likes the hot summers and owns a down coat, many sweaters, scarves, hats and gloves but not one single poncho. These days, she wastes too much time watching the Evening News. She watches SNL pretty often but is usually disappointed.
She's been writing on a succession of laptops that have more memory than she'll ever need. I wonder what she'll be writing on ten years from now.