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An Empty Heart | With Zoe Lister-Jones | Encore

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(Brian Rea for The New York Times)
(Brian Rea for The New York Times)

Most of us have had our hearts broken at some point or another. Maybe you're in the thick of it right now. If so, take heart. Because this week's essay, written by renowned novelist Lily King, offers a silver lining to heartbreak.

Zoe Lister-Jones is known for her work in CBS's "Life in Pieces." She reads Lily King's essay, "An Empty Heart is One That Can Be Filled."

Where Are They Now?

Lily King is no stranger to having her work published. She's an accomplished novelist, whose most recent book "Euphoria" won the 2014 Kirkus Prize and the New England Book Award for Fiction. But having her Modern Love essay published was another story.

"It was very hard to think about publishing when it actually was accepted. I mean I think writers, at least I, do this thing where I write it and I send it out and I don't think about the consequences until somebody says, 'We'll take that.' And then I'm like, 'Oh no, what have I done?' It did feel exposing. Even people who knew me at the time and knew me when I was going through this, they were sort of surprised by some of the details."

But while having the essay published was tricky, Lily says writing it was not.

"This is a story that had been kind of rolling around in my head for, you know, probably 18 years or something. One day I just started it and it just came right out of me, kind of all in one big rush. And by that time I'd been married maybe 15 years and I had two kids, and I could kind of put all the pieces together in a way that I couldn't when it had first happened to me. And I might have had the impulse to write about it then, but I didn't have the perspective."

Lily didn't tell the poet about the Modern Love piece before it was published, but she knew he'd read it when he sent her an email a year or two later.

"He was very, very kind about it, and he sort of explained his side of things with a lot more detail than I had known during that time."

Lily's also thought more deeply about the root of a pattern she mentioned in the essay: her tendency to pursue men who were emotionally unavailable.

"My father was a pretty committed alcoholic all my life, and I think that that is a very common way for people to push other people away. You know, I know it's a terrible cliche but I think I for a while chose men who kept me at that kind of a distance because it was so familiar. It takes a long time to break that pattern."

But she broke it for good with her husband Tyler. They've been married almost 19 years now, and they live in Yarmouth, Maine, with their two teenage daughters. So what did Tyler think of Lily unearthing the details of a previous relationship?

"I asked him if he had any trouble with me publishing it, and he said he didn't care at all. And I believed him, and it proved to be true. I don't think he's ever given it another thought until today when he dropped me off to come talk about it. We both put our relationship and our family above everything else, and that has been a big surprise to me. I married the right guy, which is a small miracle, I think."

Voices in this episode

Zoe Lister-Jones (Courtesy Independent Public Relations)
Zoe Lister-Jones (Courtesy Independent Public Relations)

Zoe Lister-Jones grew up in Brooklyn, New York. As the only child of two artists, she was exposed to the New York art scene at an early age, eventually leading her to the NYU Tisch School of the Arts and the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts in London.

Lister-Jones is an actor, writer and producer who is currently starring opposite Colin Hanks on CBS’ "Life in Pieces." She just wrapped her directorial debut, which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival, with the indie comedy "Band Aid." Starring along her is Brooklyn Decker, Adam Pally, Fred Armisen, Hannah Simone, Ravi Patel and Susie Essman.

Most recently, she appeared in Rick Famuyiwa’s "Confirmation" for HBO, about the controversial confirmation hearing of Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas. She portrayed Carolyn Hart, an aide to then Senator Biden (played by Greg Kinnear). Additionally, she wrote and produced "Consumed," in which she also stars opposite Danny Glover and Victor Garber — a dramatic thriller set in the complex world of GMOs. Lister-Jones also wrote, executive produced and starred in the Fox Searchlight feature, "Lola Versus," and co-wrote, produced and starred in the indie comedy, "Breaking Upwards."

Additional feature film credits include "The Other Guys," "Salt," "State of Play," "Shadows and Lies," "Stuck Between Stations," "Armless" and "Arranged." Lister-Jones’ past television credits include co-starring roles in "Friends with Better Lives," "Whitney," "Delocated," and guest appearances in "The Good Wife," "The Class," "Bored to Death" and "Kidnapped." She most recently had a recurring role on "New Girl" as Councilwoman Fawn Moscato.

In addition to her screen credits, Lister-Jones starred on Broadway opposite Jeff Goldblum in "Seminar," and opposite Johnny Galecki in "The Little Dog Laughed," a role which she originated at New York's Second Stage Theater. Her off-Broadway credits include "The Marriage of Bette and Boo," "The Accomplices," and her one-woman show, "Codependence is a Four Letter Word," which she produced, wrote and starred in, and was a New York Times Critics Pick.

Lister-Jones now resides in Los Angeles.

(Courtesy Lily King)
(Courtesy Lily King)

Lily King grew up in Massachusetts and received her B.A. in English Literature from University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and her M.A. in Creative Writing from Syracuse University. She has taught English and Creative Writing at several universities and high schools in this country and abroad.

Lily’s first novel, "The Pleasing Hour" (1999), won the Barnes and Noble Discover Award and was a New York Times Notable Book and an alternate for the PEN/Hemingway Award. Her second, "The English Teacher" (2005), was a Publishers Weekly Top Ten Book of the Year, a Chicago Tribune Best Book of the Year, and the winner of the Maine Fiction Award. Her third novel, "Father of the Rain" (2010), was a New York Times Editors Choice, a Publishers Weekly Best Novel of the Year and winner of both the New England Book Award for Fiction and the Maine Fiction Award. It was translated into various languages.

Lily's latest novel, "Euphoria," was released in June 2014. It won the Kirkus Award for Fiction 2014, the New England Book Award for Fiction 2014 and was a finalist in the National Book Critics Circle Awards. "Euphoria" was named one of the 10 Best Books of 2014 by The New York Times Book Review. It was included in TIME's Top 10 Fiction Books of 2014 and the Amazon Best Books of 2014. Reviewed on the cover of The New York Times Book Review, Emily Eakin called "Euphoria" a "taut, witty, fiercely intelligent tale of competing egos and desires in a landscape of exotic menace.” The novel is being translated into numerous languages and a feature film is underway.

Lily is the recipient of a MacDowell Fellowship and a Whiting Writer's Award. Her short fiction, essays and reviews have appeared in many publications, including The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Los Angeles Review of Books, Ploughshares, Glimmer Train and several anthologies.

Amory Sivertson Senior Producer, Podcasts
Amory Sivertson is a senior producer for podcasts and the co-host of Endless Thread.



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