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Interview With Jeryl Brunner, Author of My City, My New York

My City, My New York by Jeryl Brunner should appeal to those looking to visit New York City, and that includes those looking to attend Book Expo America in 2012.  Not only will the city be humming with authors and new books, as well as parties and networking events, but there are landmarks, statues, museums, and more.  Brunner’s book offers a unique perspective on the city, highlighting some of the best places enjoyed by those who live there, and it reads like a regular who’s who list of celebrities, including Woody Allen and Will Shortz’s favorite spots in the city.

Brunner kindly agreed to an interview and the opportunity to tell you a little more about herself and her book.  Please give her a warm welcome.

1. What inspired you to create your book, My City, My New York, about favorite places of celebrities from New York City?

I love New York City! Ever since I was a little girl, living in Yonkers, New York about 45 minutes away, I dreamed of living in the Big Apple. (And from the time I was 15, I visited every weekend to take drama and dance classes here. New York City held so much promise and opportunities. It seemed to be a place where I could ignite a dream. So when it came time to go to college, I knew that I had to attend New York University and live in Manhattan. I’ve more or less lived here ever since.

So with this book, I wanted to share my passion for New York City – but as seen through the eyes of others. And also, whenever I’m in a new locale, I love to ask people who live there, what would be your idea of a perfect day – if you could do anything what would you do, eat, experience, etc. And the answers are not only informative; they also speak volumes about the person sharing the information. It’s really telling. So I love learning about someone based on what they tell me about how they spend their free time. You learn so much!

2. Did you know all the contributors through your job as a journalist or did you seek their contributions through other means?

I knew some of the people featured in the book because I had interviewed them so many times while working as a journalist. But others, I connected with through friends or friends of friends. It took a lot of time and commitment to reach all those people.

3. What are your personal connections to New York and how did you decide and become a celebrity journalist?

I had always wanted to become an actress. I was a drama major at New York University and many of my friends are actors. So I love talking to actors about their craft. I love that actors have the freedom to step out of themselves and become someone else. I got cold feet about acting, but I always loved the idea of talking to actors about what they do, how they approach a role, knowing what makes them human. So I became a celebrity journalist when I began working at In Style magazine. It was the mid-1990s and the magazine was brand new then and my boss was seeking a reporter. (I explained my deep personal connection to New York in question 1 but can elaborate here if you wish.)

4. Name 3-5 of your favorite places in New York City that you recommend to anyone.

I adore Central Park. I can visit nearly everyday and it’s not enough. I’m in love with water so the reservoir is particularly special. But I love so many features of it – the soft dirt so it’s not as jarring to walk on, the gorgeousness of the water with the buildings as a backdrop is so dramatic and interesting. Every time I visit, it’s different, the light is different and it’s so beautiful to me.

I just visited the Garden of St. Lukes in the Field for the first time and was blown away by the serenity and peacefulness of the place. Bill Pullman and John Cameron Mitchell love the tucked away lush little treasure. When he was rehearsing the show, Hedwig and the Angry Inch, John Cameron Mitchell used to study his lines there from a bench under a tree. Bill Pullman will picnic there. It’s such a special place! But who knew!

I love the bike and walking path along the Hudson River called Hudson River Park. Each little section feels like its own state or country. And the further North you go, the more bucolic the landscape on the other side, across the river when you’re looking out into New Jersey. I stop at the big Fairway market right on the river around 135th Street, stock up on picnic items and have a picnic along the water’s edge. It really feels other worldly and beautiful. It’s like you’re going on vacation without having to go very far.

While the Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center is beautiful and has its own allure, I adore the Christmas tree at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The ornaments are breathtakingly beautiful works of art. Some are very baroque. The tree is placed in a beautiful courtyard at the Met and always stops me in my tracks. I love it!

5. When writing poetry, prose, essays, and other works do you listen to music, do you have a particular playlist for each genre you work in or does the playlist stay the same? If you don’t listen to music while writing, do you have any other routines, obsessions, or habits?

I love listening to music, but for some reason, I usually need silence when I write. Every once in a while though, I listen to a beautiful song from Stephen Sondheim. He writes so beautifully, he always inspires me! I write from my laptop computer and my favorite place to work is outside. Weather permitting, I always try to work in Central Park. (Thank goodness for my wi-fi modem!)

6. If you read poetry, do you have any favorite poets or contemporary poetry collections others should read?  Favorite fiction/nonfiction books?

I like E. E. Cummings. And I’m not sure if you want to call him a poet, but one of my favorite poets/wordsmith is William Shakespeare. He strings words together like no other. And although he wrote hundreds of years ago, his themes are still so relevant. And he strings words together so beautifully.

Anything by David Sedaris, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Sarah Vowell, David Mamet, Tennessee Williams and Douglas Carter Beane. (I love to read plays!)

Thanks, Jeryl, for answering my questions. I can’t wait to see what you write next, and I just love David Mamet!

About the Author:

For author and journalist, Jeryl Brunner, a good interview is like a tango – complex, soulful, fiery, exciting and illuminating. And she’s been dancing for years, contributing to a variety of publications including O, the Oprah Magazine, National Geographic Traveler, Travel + Leisure, Delta Sky, Elle.com, ForbesTraveler.com, Four Seasons, People, Us Weekly, Brides, Parade, AOL and Huffington Post.

Author Jeryl Brunner

Jeryl joined In Style magazine in its infancy in 1994, and remained on staff for nine years. As a correspondent at the magazine, she wrote items for nearly every section. One of her regular columns was “On the Phone,” where she gave a celebrity a cell phone and called the star at random during the week. She also wrote “Lookback,” the magazine’s final page. Since beginning her freelance career, she has covered celebrities, travel, trends, food, fashion and entertainment.

“Freelancing offers such a delicious variety of experiences,” says Jeryl. Her work has taken her to the Lord of the Rings premiere in New Zealand; to a luxurious spa in Chiang Mai, Thailand; and to the hospital in St. Remy, France where Vincent Van Gogh painted The Starry Night. “I adore the reporting process,” she says. “It’s like peeling the layers of an onion until you get to the freshest and most pungent part. Always curious, I cannot think of a time when I was afraid to ask questions. As a child, I used to come up with subjects that interested me, but knew little about, and spent hours in the library investigating (that was long before computers and the internet! I miss the card catalog.) There was something so exciting about the quest. Now I get to and ask questions for a living. And with writing, there’s something liberating about having a blank screen and painting with words.”

Jeryl lives in New York City. She cherishes walking along the reservoir in Central Park, is absolutely mad for The Musée Rodin in Paris (especially the Camille Claudel room), will never walk out of a play (no matter how bad it is), wonders if you can say you’ve read a book if you only listen to it, gets a buzz from one sip of pink champagne, always leaves hotel rooms very neat, is gaga for her super cool nephews and has downloaded an embarrassing amount of show tunes on her iPod.

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  • Fun interview about what sounds like a fun book. I wish I had more time to explore the city when I was there last. Wasn’t too impressed with Times Square the second time around, but there are so many other places I would have liked to see.

    • If I were to go to NYC again, I would stay elsewhere. I wouldn’t be in Times Square. I want to see other things in the city.

  • Dawn – She Is Too Fond of Books

    Oh, I’ll look forward to reading this – a fun ‘insider’s’ guide.

    I enjoyed the interview, Serena.

    • I like that insiders aspect to the book. I would definitely consider taking it to NYC.

  • New York is one of my favorite cities! There is so much to see and to do. I bet this book is amazing!

    • I really love NYC myself. I think this would be a great travel companion.

  • I have always been fascinated with NYC and want to visit there one of these days. This sounds like a fun book! 😀

    • Staci, I love visiting New York. Its fun. I bet this book has a lot to offer.

  • Ann

    Thanks for posting this – New York is a fun city.
    Ann

    • Ann, Thanks for stopping by to check out the interview.

  • I bet that book is fabulous! I would LOVE to see the tree at the Met – I bet it is gorgeous!

    • I think this book is going to be fun. I love the idea of visiting places that other people recommend.