• 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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One Tin Soldier Rides Away

August 10 1931 – December 17, 2013

Can’t sleep. It’s been like this for days. How are you guys doing? Does this season produce a special entropy? All the enforced good cheer. People whistling Christmas songs in the subway. Stuffing money into envelopes. While your writing is under ice, or perhaps stuck in the middle of the pond where mallards come to die. I can’t sleep. I want to hold a man I no longer remember except as a husk. I want to adopt a boy named Dante who plays the piano. I want to see Berlin though I don’t know why. Does all the writing add up to a great river, can it carry us to a cornfield in Connecticut where stalks look like a man’s beard against the snow? This is the glass pipe. The serrated knife. You are and are not Walter White. I always wanted to write column called a day late and a dollar short, reviewing books and movies long after they released, long after anyone cared.

Who are you?

38 Responses

  1. I’m nobody. I’ll be glad when Christmas is over. I don’t stuff envelopes. I love Berlin. The nights are toxic!

  2. I am not ashamed to say how much I love Billy Jack.

  3. This is Berlin for you: in front of the Brandenburg Gate, not far from the Holocaust monument or even the DDR museum with its dioramas of nudist beaches and life with the Stasi (better than my dioramas for book reports, I’ll tell you that much), you can pay for poses with embracing Russian and American soldiers who look more like porn flick extras than proper men in uniform (casting is everything). I once saw an addict shell out the euros, and right before they took the picture she grabbed the so-called Russian soldier’s hat and put it on, tipping it over her pasty face like at a bachelorette party. All the while, someone dressed as Darth Vader lurked in the crowd.

    So, by all means, go.

  4. I hate cookie exchanges.

  5. Ditto what joplingirl said.

    I think Christmas only makes “takers” happy, while “givers” are disillusioned – once again.

    Who are you?

    A recluse in the making. A ritualistic loner. I’m like a dog, in that I like knowing what to expect. Food in the bowl, twice a day. Bed at 9:00 p.m. sharp. Outside of that? I fake it until it’s all over and I can go back to my cave.

    • Have you read the book “Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking,” by Susan Cain?
      Reading it was illuminating; a game-changer of personal acceptance for me.
      Now, back to the cave…

  6. Billy Jack was so special to me at a time when I was struggling to recover from abuse. I fantasized about going to that school on the reservation. He will be missed. I hope you have a wonderful Christmas. Things change over time. I used to cringe about Christmas until I had my little ones, then I found joy through their joy. Now that they’re older, I still have joy, but it has changed to the real meaning of the season for me.

  7. Who are you?
    I am of withering years, sitting and taping my 88s (actually 99, I counted). Cold rolls off the glass beside me. Blanketed in pock-marked confectionery sugar the yard I study reaches to the stone wall built by a farmer hundreds of years ago. I often think about the man who moved the rocks, they are a permanent monument to his herculean deed. The overgrown field beyond speaks of his temporary need to harness nature.
    That’s who he was…who am I? I am the one admiring the temporary permanence of my own existence. My words are the wall, my thoughts are the field.

    So glad to hear from you Betsy. I wish for you and all the members of this word-choir the warmth of this special community. I know you hate the schmaltzy-shit so go fa-la yourself why don’t ‘cha :)

  8. Killed a reindeer with a lump of coal down his throat in the latest WIP. Who knew Christmastown was so like East Berlin under the Stasi?

    It’s the holidays. Have a man come down the chimney with a gun. Apologies to R.C.

  9. Whew. I’m okay, after wandering into the express check-out lane. Stunning pain, bright lights, soft voices, and the vacancy of morphine and Dilaudid. My choice would have been nitrous oxide’s blissful indifference, but I wasn’t saying much. Cool Hand Lola was there, and I was glad when she told me to think of being on the boat.

    I’m better now, and Christmas swirls, though I am more observer than participant. But this morning I saw the moon over a tidal flat, and took in the salty air with old Beau, and I’ll sail tomorrow. Today I’m doing some editing, and wishing for some morphine.

    Who am I? Your call.

  10. Madame Crankypants, at your service. The only thing worse than spending holidays with family is spending it alone. You can find me in the back of the room with a small plastic smile on my face.

  11. “Who are you?”

    Tetman Daniel Callis, aka Slappypaddy, fka Daniel Leon Callis, aka Dingus Dan, fka Punkin’ Head, presently unemployed litigation support paralegal, dreaming a dream from which I hope not to awake until I awaken into the dream that follows the dying moment. I play in the ice fields by day and walk the echoing halls of memory by night. I do not sleep. When one’s every moment is a dream, there is no need for sleep.

    I remember everything and everyone and to write it all down takes exactly twice as many moments as it takes to live it. You can do the math.

    I remember throwing punches around, and preaching from my chair.

  12. I’ve started a new job, which makes me the taker-of-all-blame until the next poor schmuck comes along. I’m hanging on until after Christmas, when an adorable young thing called Sunny will wander into the fray. She’s already had her orientation. It was like watching the wide shot of a lone gazelle on the Serengeti.

    • Are the lions eating you, Averil??? Noooooooooooooo… But hey, I’m off to Cosmo land for my copy of the ALICE blurb. I may just hang it up amidst the photocards of little tykes in Santa hats. I like a good juxtaposition.

  13. I’m giving myself permission this holiday season to…Go ahead and hate your neighbor, go ahead and cheat a friend. I’m doing it in the name of heaven(clearly), because…why not? I’ll justify it in the end. They killed the mountain people anyways. Bastards!

    The only thing good about this holiday is that I’m still writing like a maniac in my mountain cave. I wish you all many merrys.

  14. Down but not out, been this way for awhile, so I take the small accomplishments and minor victories when I can. The commercialization of Christmas has deftly obscured the spirit of the season — Amazon has done an amazing job supplying a manufactured need– to a degree well beyond “A Christmas Carol” but with similar sentiments. It’s something I cannot change, but my little girl believes and at the same time is asking about greed and giving. Little stories have been born with less.
    Outside, a blue jay perched on a snow coated birch branch, scoping out the scene at the feeder. It’s not much in the way of joy, but it’s all I got. Inside, the mail room is filled with packages and pretty cards

  15. fyi, folks: Huffington Post is sponsoring a memoir competition for those of us over 50

  16. Hey Betsy & friends – I’m happy to have this end-of-year soiree. I miss you guys.

    I just sent my mss. to a publisher in England for consideration so… Merry Christmas to me. Who am I? I’m a smart ass writer-cynic, but it was fun sending mail to London, even if only to just stay in the game.

  17. I’m the pen with the potty mouth.

    I’m working on a holiday story and the teenage girl in it has a sort of Tourette moment and unleashes a string of cunts (ala my pal, Irvine Welsh – the teen girl in question is part Scot after all). The hub said, too harsh, change it to shit. So I did. I guess that’s who I am.

  18. Who am I? This question invites introspection and a hefty dose of self-deprecation and a few oxymorons tossed in cause who isn’t a paragon of paradoxes? Me? I’m sleepless in Connecticut. I’m a bundle of bones and ligaments, a wife, mother, sister blah blah at a turning point in life because my husband wants to sell the house and move to Florida. Florida, where the sun is unrelentingly cheerful. Who wants cheerful? I revel in the cloak of these shorter, darker days and snowdrifts and ice crystals dripping over the eaves. Is it possible to write in Florida? Anyone?

  19. Just passed the 20th anniversary of my husband’s death from heroin and cocaine. In full self-publishing mode for memoir about that marriage. All of that feels centered and meaningful.

    Christmas with My brother and his ex-wife who is out of her mind and won’t get help and their lovely daughter and my 95-year-old Mother? Not so centered… definitely stabby, very, very stabby.

  20. I am someone who doesn’t belong. Thank god for that. If I didn’t stand apart, I wouldn’t be able to see so clearly.

  21. I’m not cool enough to be a writer.

  22. I watched a building implode today. No, not a metaphor. Two blocks away. Boom. Also had an ice storm last night so all tree branches, down to the twigs, covered in a layer of shiny ice. Baby boy in my lap as I type this on my phone. No enforced cheer today, all legit. Sorry to spoil the mood, all.

  23. Talk about a day late and a dollar short, but I just came off a week of being totally unplugged–no internet, email, telephone, TV, or radio. Who am I? I am glad to be back on the grid. Who was I last week? Alone and Amish.

    I heard about Tom Laughlin early in the week and, with little else to distract me, I spent my entire thirty-minute drive to the office the next day trying to recall all the words to “One Tin Soldier.” Yes, a productive commute indeed. *raises fist*

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