• Here’s the Story

    I wrote a book called The Forest for the Trees and it’s an advice book for writers. For four years, I blogged every day about the agony of writing and publishing, and the self loathing that afflicts most writers. A community of like-minded malcontents gathered and thus ensued a grand conversation. Now, the most popular posts are gathered in Greatest Hits ( a work in progress) Gluttons for punishment can scroll through the archives. If I've learned one thing about writers, it's this: we really are all alone. Love, Betsy
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But When You Talk About Destruction

Did you finish your memoir, your novel, one lousy stinking poem? Did you read War and Peace? Rescue a dog? Yourself? Did you jump on the Yonana craze? Lose a notebook with all of your best work? Did you pick peaches? Fuck your wife? Fuck up your life? Did you take up cycling? Wonder why you couldn’t write. Did you talk to a woman at the farm stand? Was your family trapped by a rabid raccoon who attacked your dog and bit off half your finger? Did you think about everyone who died? Did you imagine their airless life? Did you give money to the guy at the entrance to the highway because his sign said he was hungry and for once you felt more compassion than fear? What does it take to write the sentences of your life? To live inside the mole hole? And come out with that grin on your stupid dirty face.

What did you do on your summer vacation?

59 Responses

  1. “What did you do on your summer vacation?”

    Me and the wife, we moved to Chicago. I haven’t exactly been on vacation, but I’ve been here a month and haven’t found a job yet. Been looking. Even been interviewed. Have a couple nice new suits and got to wear them. Sweated.

    I have finished more than one lousy stinking poem. Had no intentions of writing any, but there they are. Chicago’s nearly a mile closer to sea level than was my former home in New Mexico, and I think the increased air pressure just squeezed them out of me.

    Never have read War and Peace. No excuse. Did read The Sheltering Sky. First book I read after I got here. Read E.E. Cummings’ Complete Poems before the move. Curious works.

    Found new homes for four of my cats. Brought only two along (yes, the wife and I had six; crazy cat people, we).

    May have rescued myself. Too soon to tell. No clue what a Yonana is. Glad of that.

    Didn’t lose any work. Didn’t pick any peaches, but got loads of them from the local growers’ market last month. Best peaches, juice all running down. Can’t hardly get a decent peach in New Mexico.

    Fucked the wife. Hope I haven’t fucked my life, up, down or sideways. Too soon to tell. Went to the blues festival yesterday. There I was, at a Chicago blues festival. How cool is that?

    Got a full read on one of my short novels from a small press in Brooklyn. How cool is that?

    No cycling. Lots of cyclists around here. Walked up the lakefront to Evanston a few times. Pretty city. The color of money.

    Thought about some of the people who’ve died. Didn’t think of their airless lives. I’ll go to sleep tonight and dream of them, thank you.

    Gave money to the guy at the exit to the highway because he was working in the toll booth and I had to pay him to escape.

    It takes your life to write the sentences of your life. Working on that.

  2. Thank you for asking. I wrote, relaxed and ate a few lobster rolls and too much guacamole. And finished two personal essays about doing the rock-and-roll fan thing. Normally I avoid the form and stick to fiction (whatever that is), but it turns out they will actually be my first publications. Who knew?

  3. I flogged books and got stung by a jelly fish in Corsica.

  4. Listened to the couple, one deck below at the lake resort, argue about sex, he liked threesomes, she said she was too fat to enjoy. (She was). Funny at first, how loud and honest they were, until it turned sad and threatening. I called the front desk…they apologized to me for having to endure the tirade…they did nothing. Fifteen minutes later I yelled “shut the fuck up” and slammed my slider. Quite.
    They killed each other or had mad sex with the bartender they met earlier.
    Made deadline.
    Weeded, watered and deadheaded.
    One full requested.
    Made deadline.
    Watched my husband power-wash the mildew off the back of the house.
    Made deadline.
    Hoed out the house. (We’re going to downsize).
    Made deadline.
    Learned I’m going to be a grandmother.
    Best summer ever.

  5. I spent a lot of time losing my children because the world likes their father quite a bit.

    And he wants them for himself.

    (No, I’m not doing any of the things to bring it on that you might be thinking next.)

    Otherwise, great summer. Planted a garden. Lots of popsicles.

  6. September 1. 60 days until my deadline.

    Every single day this summer has been measured, quantified by words written, sentences edited, pounds of guilt produced by not writing or editing measured in the hundredweight.

    Consequently, I’ve done more math than usual this summer. Favorite equation is word count divided by days remaining equals words I must get out each day in order to avert disaster.

    My children miss me, I think. I’ve been here, but not really.

    But above all, my summer has been one of wonder and gratitude.

  7. what’s a vacation?

  8. Wrote and deleted and then deleted some more, so almost finished with the memoir. What draft is this, 57? Spent a lovely, silent week on the Mendocino coast. Went to a reunion and spent 4 whole days and nights wrapped in joy. Nursed our elderly rescue Lab through cancer — hoped to be lying on the floor with her when she died, but was upstairs putting on mascara and missed her last breath. Read Caroline Knapp and Gail Caldwell and cried.

  9. I got new glasses and realized the world is so much sharper than it was. I squeezed pounds and pounds of lemons and limes, and sipped the juice with my best friend while pods from the acacia tree rained all around us. I learned that my dog needs me to help him find his confidence. I helped paint a picnic table the color of chewed peppermint Trident. I harvested tomatoes from the yard. I rode trains and buses and subways under the sea and over freeways and through green valleys and gray ghettos and looming palm tree promenades, and I thought: this is home. I stood watching a white plume of smoke across the water, wondering how I might have felt if I had been there just forty-five minutes earlier to see the plane crash. I cracked open a steaming, salty lobster tail. I sipped bourbon from a short glass, while the ice melted and the bright polka dots sweated and my hand wrote long letters on small colorful pieces of paper to the lengthening shadows outside my window. I turned 33. I ate chocolate cake. I cried for my friend, Dave, who gave up six months ago. I showed two young boys how to throw a towel over a crow with a broken wing, and gently ease him into a box, and when we had dropped him at the wildlife center and let a few days pass and called to find out that he had been euthanized after all, I explained that it had not been for naught; we had saved him from his pain. I swam in the icy blue water of a mountain lake. I rolled out the knots in my neck and back and buttocks for hours on end while reading existentialist theories, and I wondered why it had taken me so long to find this solace, and then when I’d turned the last page and heard the last crack of vertebrae, I thought: it all makes sense; it’s really that simple.

  10. I contemplated how to fix the world while floating around an above ground pool on a plastic raft with a cup holder. I wasn’t able to fix everything, but there’s always next summer.

  11. Funny you should ask:

    http://sherrystanfa-stanley.blogspot.com/2013/08/what-i-did-over-my-summer-vacation.html

    I’m nearly a third of the way through my year of new experiences.

    It’s been one hell of a summer.

  12. I got the gold ring: a week long seminar with Jane Hirshfield. High point of my writing life.

  13. What we do every summer, Pinky . . .

  14. (1)Remained unemployed.

    (2)Didn’t fix the refrigerator outlet, so the extension cord to the one on the counter continues to hang there accusingly.

    (3a)Drank wine.

    (3b)Drank beer.

    (3c)Drank pastis.

    (3d)Ran out of scotch and can’t replace: see (1).

    (4)Sat at keyboard every fucking morning for three hours.

    (4)Wrote longish short story. (6)Mostly.

    (7)Drank wine. Or did I say that already?

  15. I spent the summer bringing my draft up to fighting weight. It bums me out to think of all the things I didn’t do.

  16. I fired my agent this summer. They’re mired in a copyright scandal and have no time for the likes of me. It was a scary thing to do, but the right thing. Still… I’m a bit freaked, even with the weight of this mess off my back.

  17. A summer with old friends and new, some road trips. Rain, so much that the water is like tea, and you can smell the sweetwater in salty bays. Sailed in a ferocious storm and reveled in it, rain beaten, feeling the thunder and a singular joy. That sweet boat loved it, too, and we pressed on, staying pretty much on course, but never fighting the boat. Wow.

    I took my readers to Greater Yaris, where a rivalry between Croutons and Librarians is about to be settled. Stay tuned.

  18. I had a baby and finished editing my mms typing with one hand while breastfeeding

  19. What did you do on your summer vacation?

    I could answer this like a couple others above, i.e what’s vacation, but I’ll got a step further.

    Because I’ve got a couple years to see where this writing thing goes, I feel like I’m in a perpetual state of work. Every day. Seven days a week. Holiday or not. Back when I held a corp job, I did quite a bit of telecommuting and we used to gripe we could never leave work at work, b/c we had home offices. We would read emails and do tasks at unGodly hours of the night. We would check emails before breakfast, and after dinner, just in case.

    Now? Hell, it’s worse. Call it obsessive, but I’m on working on the latest WIP for more hours than I care to disclose. And not much else frankly.

  20. I finished my memoir proposal and sample chapters, stored all my earthly belongs in a 5×5 storage unit, sold my car, got a one-way ticket to South Africa, and noticed my back fat, which looks like the part of a chicken no one wants.

  21. Summer is a time of hard work for me, making hay when the sun shines in the tourist town.
    I’ve held my wife when she’s cried and sometimes I think there’s no greater love than that.
    My daughter ran in 1/4 mile races, played soccer and dove beneath the surface of mountain lakes and ponds.
    Bought a new guitar, parlor size, wonderful for picking out late in the evening blues,
    The mahogany back and sides and stained cedar top are the color of bourbon and her name is Irene.
    I do my walking in the morning and appreciate the way the day winds down during a sunset stroll.

  22. A summer without travel. Crafting short stories for fun. Reading J.Williams’s Stoner.

  23. Finished my novel.

    Didn’t have a vacation.

    I’ll vacate when I’m dead.

  24. I wore more t-shirts. And sandals.

  25. This summer…after years of writing bullshit for other people, I finally started my first novel. We’re at 11,927 words, not that I’m counting. Think Fifty Shades for the mature woman. I can’t read another trashy novel about perfect 20-somethings having perfect sex. So how about a trashy novel about someone who really knows what they’re doing? I registered for my first writer’s conference that includes a pitch, which scares the living shit out of me. Life begins just outside your comfort zone, yes?

  26. I plucked up the courage to query twenty literary agents. Have had two requests for full m/ss so far…both, ultimately, politely rejected.

    But now that I’ve smashed though that wall, I can say that over the summer I outgrew my fear of failure. Thanks for asking!

  27. Please give me more details as to how exactly this works and if there are any costs involved. Please don’t have anyone call me, just send me an email reply. Thank you. Sarah.

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