• 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

Stay With Me



I want to create a TV show called THE VOICE which will based on THE VOICE. The four judges will be George Saunders, Marianne Moore, Marilyn Robinson and Don Delillo. Writers will have 2-3 minutes to read from their work. IF the judges like the work they will hit the button and their chairs will turn. Then they will coach you and possibly give you a blurb.

Who would you choose for a coach? And why?

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.

I Had Some Friends But They’re Gone

I started an account on Facebook a few months ago. Friends, it’s a shit show. First of all, the graphics are hideous. Doesn’t Mark Z. have enough cash to give the site a clean design. I can’t tell a notification from a comment from the feed. My email is flooded with notices about stuff I can’t see because I can’t remember my password. I don’t care if it’s the Pope’s birthday. I prefer a birthday wish that comes in the form of a Hallmark card preferably with cash. I don’t get “liking” something. I’m a hater, as you know if you’ve been hanging out here. I really don’t get it. I will say that it looks as if Shana is having a high time and she looks better than Lena Dunham as a blonde. Maybe I joined a day late and dollar short, but I feel like the girl at party who hugs the wall and watches ice melt in the bottom of a plastic cup, and nobody puts baby in the corner. Okay, I’m on my fourth episode of Law and Order and that means it’s time for jammies. I think I need to stay here in Mr. ROgers neighborhood where I belong.

Are you on FB. Are you happy? Popular and by that I mean how many friends do you have and would your recognize any of them in a crowded elevator?


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