• 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

Check the bassline out, uh-huh

One good paragraph today. Where is my Nobel? My Oscar? My Captain, O Captain. Is that the soundtrack to Chariots of Fire I hear in the background? Oh, the sweet feet of young, gorgeous Englishmen. I need a shower. I need a brace for my back. I need a teeth cleaning, someone to pull the burrs from my back. This writing is whack. The world is burning and tap tap tap. More valleys than peaks, more praying mantises and saddle shoes. When the balls goes crack. Keep your head down. Don’t try to kill it. Don’t get cocky. Follow through. 

More bad sports metaphors welcome! 

 

 

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. 

The sound of a midnight train, wearing someone’s ring, someone calling your name (for H.G.)

A writer and a douche bag walk into a bar. Hi guys. Is anybody still out there? I miss you. I know a few writers whose mouths are filled with sand. This is the winter when five writers packed a lunch and hiked the foothills of Long Island. This is when a poem got unwritten. You are always in a mitten. This day started. A girl fell to her death from a building she didn’t know was there. I saw a play that seemed true. First you hear the sentence in your head. Then a girl steps up to the bar. You are easily awakened and fitful. A bowl of applesauce sounds awfully nice right now. Will the fiction writers please stand up. Will the choir do the preaching? One chapter a month. One page a day. One sentence in front of another. And then the sky goes dark and the lights come up and two girls in Speedos stand before lockers, talking trash.

How do you get to Carnegie Hall?

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

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.

You Better Let Somebody Love You Before It’s Too Late

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I’ve never read a Tom Clancy novel and I probably never will. Still: respect. His obit said he bypassed children’s books as a child and read military history. Lord have mercy. I’ve always believed that obsessions from childhood dictate what we write, but that is really something. Also from the obit, “Mr. Clancy said none of his success came easily, and he would remind aspiring writers of that when he spoke to them. ‘I tell them you learn to write the same way you learn to play golf,’ he once said. ‘You do it and you keep doing it until you get it right. A lot of people think something mystical happens to you, that maybe the muse kissed you on the ear. But writing isn’t divinely inspired — it’s hard work.'”

I played golf for two reasons: to drive the cart and to have a makeshift egg cream which my dad made at the halfway house by mixing cream soda and Yoohoo. THe three rules he would repeat over and over: keep your head down, eye on the ball and follow through.

Though I also have to admit, and possibly from working with Patti Smith, that I have seen mystical things happen, but pretty much only when you are in the deep center of your work, completely obsessed and working like a mad man. (Do mad men work hard? Hmmm?)  But it can happen: a simile arrives unbidden and so perfect that you have ask yourself: did I pull that out of my ass or what?)

Any other decent sports metaphors out there for the writing racket?

I Love All the Things You Say and Do

Just want to mention that I spent four hours in Temple and forgot to atone. Spent the entire time thinking about writing, my writing, the writing of others, the cover of the NYT book review, a new client I shook hands with, the way my eyes feel most of the time which is dry and achy and sometimes slightly pulsing. The lady in front of me had a lace doily folded in the shape of a piece of pie and pinned to her head with a bobby pin. But it came loose and the pleats on the doily were hanging precariously off her head, the bobby pin also hanging on for dear life. Really, pray for my sins and pray for the dead with all that going on? Please, ladies, attend to your doilies! I beg of you.

What distracts you from yourself?

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