• 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

Shining Star for You To See

 GIVE IT UP FOR ONE OF OUR OWN!

Took this off the web, not entirely sure it’s SHana.

 

PEN Emerging Voices Fellow Shanna Mahin’s OH! YOU PRETTY THINGS, a roman a clef about a young woman in L.A. whose efforts to escape the manic orbit of her former child-star mother land her in the employ of one of the hottest starlets in Hollywood, to Dutton, in a significant deal.

You know, every once in a great while I actually feel completely happy for someone else. When I read in Publisher’s Marketplace that Shanna sold her novel I felt like this was the best motherfucking news I had heard in a long time. How many drafts, revisions, xanax? How many therapy sessions, break ups, tantrums, reams of paper, forests felled? How much blood? How many tears? And what about lift off? Days when you get out of your way, where there is a direct line from your brain to the words. When it all finally starts to happen on the page. ANd someone says, yes, we would like to publish your book.  Our little girls is growing up. ! Give it up for Shana! Congrats girl!  Don’t forget the little people!

Don’t Cry for Me Argentina

You’ve heard the expression, “no tears for the writer, no tears for the reader.” What do you make of it? I kind of hate it. But you know I’m a feelings fascist. On the other hand I know it to be true. I have cried while writing shit down. I guess the question is: does that make it good. Just because you can stir yourself, will the reader be stirred. Does “authentic emotion” produce great writing. Or “true” writing. All of these quotation marks are a little sickening. What am I trying to say? If I make myself laugh, will I make the reader laugh? If I fall asleep at my computer? If I eat green eggs and ham? How do you really create feeling in the reader, by having the feelings yourself or manipulating language to be evocative?

 

LAST CALL to WIN a FREE copy of SAVAGE GIRL. Who is your favorite monster in literature. Author Jean Zimmerman will select her top three picks at the end of the week. 

When You’re Alone and Life Is Making You Lonely

It’s been a while since I went to a book party, and I gotta tell you I was rusty. In the first place, I completely forgot to frisk the medicine cabinet. Then, I didn’t get my mitts around a glass of Cabernet for nearly a half hour. By then the party was in full swing and I was desperately searching the room for a friendly face. Another glass of wine and 36 baby carrots later (guess who’s back on Weight Watchers!?), I hit my stride, saw some old friends, chatted with some mucketies, thanked the host, hugged the guest of honor and headed home feeling only a vague sense of self loathing. All told: a good night.

I also ran into Walter Kirn and I’m saying this even though he’s NOT MY CLIENT: I love the guy’s writing. His new book is coming out next month and it sounds fantastic especially if you’re like me and imagine the person beside you is almost always a killer. And here is a home video which proves that highly intelligent people are not immune : http://walterkirn.blogspot.com/2014/02/video-killed-literary-star.html?spref=tw

Being writers and all, how do you do at parties? Honestly.

I Know This World Is Killing You

The results are in! Rosemary Mahoney has kindly judged our contest: what do you see in front of your screen or when you open a notebook?  First place goes to Donnaeve: “Initially I see a room full of strangers, by the end, old friends old enemies.” Rosemary writes: I understand this completely and have experienced it every time even after six books.  The silver goes to MSB: “I see the ledge.” Writes Rose:  The ledge is what I see most days when I think about what it takes to be a published writer. And the Bronze goes to Mari, “I see the scene I’m writing. What the room looks like, where everyone’s standing, the subtle expressions of their faces, the furniture in the room. I can’t even write the scene unless I know the colors of every single thing everyone’s wearing”

Prizewinners please send me (askbetsylerner@gmail.com)  your address for a copy of FOR THE BENEFIT OF THOSE WHO SEE. Thanks to everyone who left a comment. And here’s a link to Rosemary’s  website with rave reviews and beautiful slide show.. I kid you not: this dog can hunt. She makes you see and feel blindness. Imagine that. Love, B

People Who Need People Are the Luckiest People in the World

Hey Everyone! It’s that time of year! The 2013 HATE list compiled in no particular order.  You Could Have Been Anyone To Me

1. Constant use of the phrase, “I’m obsessed with.”  I’m obsessed with Pinterest.  I’m obsessed with Snapchat. I’m obsessed with pumpkin chai latte. You can not be obsessed with a pumpkin chai latte. If you want to understand obsession, read The End of the Affair. Then talk to me a about disgusting Starbucks beverages.

2. Transparency. Suddenly everything has to be transparent. Since when isn’t clear good enough. When did clear get demoted? Did clear get the memo?

3. Pumpkin chai latte.

4. I don’t hate Taylor Swift, but I’ve had it, too.

5. Hating on Obama. I loved him, I love him, and I will always love him.

6. What the fuck is the Duck Dynasty and why is it all over the bestseller list?

7. Adam Levine named People Magazine’s sexiest man of the year. Okay, he is the first Jew to be named which I suppose is something. Seriously, there are men in publishing who are sexier than Adam Levine.

8. People asking me if I read “The Goldfinch.”

9. People sending me an email that says, “Call me.” Okay, you’re emailing me to to call you. Why don’t you just fucking call me. Just pick up the fucking phone. In the words of Ernestine, “One ringy dingy.” Are we CLEAR?

10. The continued shortening of every work in the dic.

And just for the record, I love all of you who come here and leave your snail slime in the form comments that are harrowing and hilarious and truly supportive of all the people who check in at the Lerner Rehab Facility for Writers and Artists and stay for a day or a lifetime.

Now, please, let’s see if we can get to 100 items on the hate list. What do you find irritating, obnoxious (besides me), heinous, and hideous?

Humping on the Parking meter, Leaning on the Parking Meter

The bottom line is no one cares if you don’t write. No one asked you to. No one will die. There are chipmunks who work harder than you. You didn’t need to buy that Moleskin. You forgot you had one anyway. No one said: a poem please. No cried out when you sat down, mid-poem, because you couldn’t bleat another line, a lifetime ago on Minetta Lane. Do not ask what your writing can do for you. Do not got to therapy and crawl inside your inner ear. Did you ever think it was a gift from god? To stop? You won’t have to eat. You need not sing. You don’t have to be anything. When you remember those pages rocking out to sea, remember how good it felt to not reach for a simile. My face and your ass. Is like.

Do you ever think of quitting? Please be as negative as possible.

It’s Hard to Get By Just Upon a Smile

Let’s go back to basics. Query letters. Here are ten opening lines from letters I’ve received or concocted.

Dear Betsy: I am a huge fan of your blog and The Forest for the Trees, which I recommend to everyone I know.

Dear Ms. Lerner: Your agency website says that you like the hard to categorize.

Dear Betsy Lerner: I have written a fiction novel of 130,000 words called The Lost Letter.

Dear Betsy Lerner: Have you ever been afraid, really afraid?

Dear Betsy Lerner: I am a Harvard graduate and a Buddhist.

Dear Ms. Lerner: I am a survivor.

Dear Betsy (if I may):  I was about to give up writing until I read your book — I am the wicked child.

Dear Miss Lerner: Part memoir, part travelogue, this is the story of my return to Los Angeles.

Dear Betsy: My novel, The Launching of Fawn Roth, is about a young woman a lot like Lena Dunham.

Dear Betsy Lerner: I am writing to you because of  your personal interest in mental illness.

If you were an agent, which one would you respond to?

Anyone want to float their opener?

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