• 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
  • Archives

You Get What You Need

It has been a glorious couple of weeks for my writers. Kate Marvin received a Guggenheim for her poetry, Bettyville on the bestseller list for three weeks, a full page rave in the NYT for Alice Dreger’s Galileo’s Middle Finger, Cynthia Ozick blurbs Eli Gottlieb’s novel Best Boy, David Orr’s history of the Road Less Traveled gets a rave in Kirkus. As my mother sometimes says, I need a new cup because my cup runneth over.

I’m so busy complaining about work most of the time that I forget how beautiful is this hive. Two long talks with writers about how to work out problems in their manuscripts also yielded good results, and nothing is better than when minds meet. Does it sound like I’m going soft, like I have some terrible illness and suddenly appreciate life? I still hate myself if that’s any consolation. And I hate the Spring.

Tell me one good story about your work. Let’s have a love fest.

Stand By Your Man

Q&A with George Hodgman, author of Bettyville, BFF, funniest, warmest, kindest most outrageous friend this poor little publishing girl has ever had. George, here is to nearly 30 years of friendship in the great game of life, love and publishing. Your memoir is everything and more. Dear all: treat yourself to this brilliant book and buy one for a friend. And if you can stop by for a reading if there’s one in your town (tour dates below) you will definitely have a great night.  Love, Sue Mengers (aka me)

Bettyville cover

Q: When you were an editor, what was the worst trait you see in an author.

Bullheaded contentment with utter mediocrity coupled with Hush Puppies worn during office visits.

Q What is your worst trait as an author?

Intense preoccupation with quality until the ms. goes into production. Exhaustion in the last laps. I fade too fast. Prematurely so to speak. Now I wish I had another chance for just one more go-round. I needed editorial Viagra.

Q All the years you spent editing, did you ever think you would write your own book? Let’s just say, I think my authors wished I would…

I always, always wanted to, but I had given up. I really had. However, I have learned that giving up, letting the pressure off can sometimes lead to good things. From now on, I intend to give up more often.

I am thinking of taking up tennis just so I can give it up. Perhaps this will take me to Forest Hills.

QUESTION TO READERS: What do you want in a memoir?


“BETTYVILLE is a gorgeous memoir. I was completely engaged, not just because of George Hodgman’s great ear and his sense of timing and, but because he delivers Betty to us in such a manner that she steps off the page. I felt transported to a better place, to a time period and a web of relationships with which we can all identify, no matter where we grew up. Beyond the humor and the pathos, the quotidian and the bizarre, there remain profound lessons about life and love that I will carry away.”

Abraham Verghese, author of Cutting for Stone

“BETTYVILLE  is an exquisitely written memoir about the complicated but deeply genuine love a son feels for his courageous, headstrong, vulnerable mother in the twilight of her life. George Hodgman is stunningly clear-eyed and yet so darn big-hearted. Bettyville is just wonderful.”

–Jeanette Walls, author of The Glass Castle

“The idea of a cultured gay man leaving New York City to care for his aging mother in Paris, Missouri, is already funny, and George Hodgman reaps that humor with great charm. But then he plunges deep, examining the warm yet fraught relationship between mother and son with profound insight and understanding. This book looks outside, too, offering a moving lament for small-town America. Hodgman tenderly evokes the time before family farms and small businesses were replaced by meth labs and Walmarts. BETTYVILLE is a beautiful book about the strange plenitude that comes from finally letting go of everything.” —Alison Bechdel, author of Fun Home

Author Events:


10/1                       Heartland Fall Forum

New  York

3/10                       Barnes & Noble Upper West Side


3/11                       Bookcourt

Washington, D.C.

3/12                       Politics & Prose


3/13                       Books & Books

Vero Beach

3/14                       Vero Beach Book Center

San Francisco

3/16                       Book Passage

3/17                       Books Inc.

Los Angeles

3/18                       Book Soup

You Get What YOu need

I’ve been putting in eight hour writing days having taken a “sabbatical” from work for two months. I’ve done two years of reporting and interviewing so I have the material. It’s not like you poor fiction writers who have to pull it out of your ass every day. I’m just going to say it: I love the sound of my own keyboard. The mad outbursts and lulls. The regular clack clack. I do think we are poorer as writers not to have the typewriter return to slap across the face of the page. That was like regular affirmation. My back is killing me. My fingers feel arthritic. My skin is a joke. But I’m really happy.

Progress reports, people?

I Think I’m Gonna be Sad

I saw a dead possum in the road today, curled around a telephone pole. Did it get hit first and then flung into the pole? Or did it get hit first and then crawl to the pole to die? That’s about where I am with my writing. Wishing whoever is still out there reading the last posts of a dying nation much love and happiness in the new year. I escaped without doing a bucket challenge.

How did you do?

Love, Betsy 

It’s All About the Base

Family. Good for writing? Material? Rage? Pain? Calories? I know it’s a cliche to hate the holiday, but I’m stuck in my ways. Every year, I have a little talk with myself to behave, be kind, if I don’t have anything nice to say write it down. But people provoke me and eventually I snap and then I feel like a piece of shit so I have to make other people feel bad, too. Then we go bowling.
Happy thanksgiving to everyone I love, hate and feel indifferent about. I hope everyone has a meal most of all. Peace & love. And misery and despair.

A Lot of Nice Things Turn Bad Out There

When I was an editor at Doubleday, there was this really cool assistant down the hall who I heard was leaving publishing to get her MFA at Cornell. Hmmm. Most people who bailed were headed to law school. Some years later she got in touch. She had just finished a novel. Would I take a look? I was touched she remembered me, but I was also wary. MFA novel: this could get ugly. INSTEAD, please check out THE BARTER by Siobhan Adcock. Is it a ghost story? Sort of. Will you stay up all night reading? Definitely. Plus, Siobhan is still really cool, and by that a mean her discipline is as finely honed as her talent. A writer to watch for. Congrats, Siobhan!
Oh, one more thing. I’m giving away three copies for 1st, 2nd, and 3rd prize. What is the scariest book you’ve ever read and why? Contest ends on Halloween. I hope Siobhan will judge.
“Adcock makes excellent sport of the culture of modern middle-class parenting. We see her [Bridget] measuring her old, trivial anxieties against this huge new thing, this fear, as she begins to realize that what you’re afraid of is part of who you are. The Barter is a thoughtful and surprisingly witty novel. It weights its horrors precisely.” — Terrence Rafferty, New York Times
 “A good, old-fashioned ghost story that will make you jump when your walls creak…her thoughtful story will keep readers reflecting on its themes once the shivers have passed.”  –BookPage

“A suspenseful and thrilling ghost story about two women, separated by 100 years, who are bound by a haunting secret coined from the obscurities of motherhood and marriage. You won’t be able to put this haunting love story down and you might even be afraid of the dark after this chilling read.” –Buzzfeed“With lush language that provides contrast to the gripping plot, Adcock’s debut novel weaves two tragic love stories into one tense and provocative tale of love, fear and personal ordeal.” –Working Mother

“Haunting . . . You’ll slow down through the gorgeous language, but speed up to find out what happens in the explosive, fast-paced plot.” –Shape.com

“A thriller about two mothers . . . as the women learn, happiness can also be mysterious, and even love can sometimes be disguised as a threat.” –Shelf Awareness

“Eerie and atmospheric, this psychological thriller will twist its way into readers’ psyches.”Booklist

Somewhere Only We Know

Dear Beloved Readers of this blog:
I have to thank all of you from the bottom of my thick heart. I’ve been working on a new book and it never would have been possible if not for the four years of daily blogging and your wonderful comments and support. The feedback and encouragement fueled me. The freak flag flew and I felt you with me. This post will be my 1000th. I know. Right? Fuck me dead. I love you. Thank you. Betsy


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