• 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

I Used to Be Disgusted

Author Photos 005OhPrettyCover

Remember when I was blogging every day and this beautiful creature left the most amazing comments on the suck of life, the agony of writing, the sporn of love and then just us chickens traded missives about calories and other counts. Well GIVE IT UP FOR Shanna Mahin who has crossed over into the even purer agony of being a published author with her first novel, Oh You Pretty Things.  Only look at our girl all Elvis Costello meets Michelle Williams with that super sexy smart look.  I couldn’t be happier for you Shanna. Congrats. Yes, I’d love a comp. Hello??

And now, a little Q&A with the AUTHOR:

How old were you when you started writing.

I can’t remember when I started writing. I really can’t. I also can’t remember a single birthday party from my childhood (surely I had at least one?), half the men I slept with in my twenties, or the last thing I said to my father before he died. I can, however, remember when I started reading fluently–I was four–and my mother unceremoniously informed me that I could take it from here and that was the end of my bedtime stories.

Describe your first rejection.

In the fourth grade, Richard Lang passed me a note in class asking me to be his girlfriend. I demurely accepted and–poof!–we were a couple, which consisted of me wearing his royal blue cardigan for two days on the playground at lunch and one stilted conversation arranging a visit to my house that Saturday. I bought Boston Baked Beans candy (trust me, it was a thing) for us to share and waited in our living room, wearing his sweater and opening the door every 5 minutes to scan the street for his arrival.Three hours later, my mother told me that he was an asshole and we went to Bob Burns’ for drinks (Manhattan for her; Shirley Temple for me). On Monday, I searched for him on the playground before class and he finally rode in on the back of another boy’s bike, facing backward so he could only see where he’d been, not where he was going. As he passed, he flipped me off with a smirk, then his chauffeur looped in a wide circle around me so he could bellow at the top of his lungs that he wanted his sweater back. Fucker.

 What drugs are you on?

Levothyroxine, Klonopin, Cheetos, Viibryd, red wine, resentments.

Who did you blow to get published?

I used up all my extraneous blow jobs trying to make boys love me in high school. (Absentee dad issues.) Post-therapy, I only blow for love and/or enjoyment, which, for the past 15 years has been directed at my husband. My agent, editor, and publicists are all women, so we just blow each other’s minds, have naked pillow fights, and drink champagne from our shoes.

 What did you buy with your advance?

I haven’t spent it on anything except taxes, publicity, and other book-related expenses. I keep telling myself I deserve a reward, but I’m not sure I need one for finally doing what I’ve been trying to do for a decade, plus I’m afflicted with a certain miserliness for myself I do not have with others. Well, and there has been some great champagne for the milestones.(Amirite, ladies?)

 Have you slept with any famous writers? If not who would be on your list.

Assuming there aren’t any I don’t remember from my aforementioned twenties, no. Ugh, writers. If I fuck one, will it leave when we’re done, or will we have to have writing pillow talk after? Because if it’s the latter, I’m out.

What do you most want readers to say about your book?

I love this book so much I’m going to buy a dozen and give them to all my friends.

  1. I laughed; I cried; it was better than Cats.
  2. Shit, I missed my stop.
  3. I hear you. I see you.
  4. ALL OF THE ABOVE.

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?

PRAISE for BETTYVILLE

“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:

Minneapolis

10/1                       Heartland Fall Forum

New  York

3/10                       Barnes & Noble Upper West Side

Brooklyn

3/11                       Bookcourt

Washington, D.C.

3/12                       Politics & Prose

Miami

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

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 5,549 other followers