• 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

And (and) (and) you put the load right on me

Yesterday, on the way back to my office after a lovely lunch with one of my favorite editors, I saw a young woman waving a clipboard. We made eye contact and she had a big smile. “Shit,” I thought. I don’t want to stop. I don’t want to hear about saving whales, the environment, supporting NPR, Planned Parenthood, etc. I want to get back to my office and do more email. As I got closer, she took a few steps closer to me and started her pitch. And I went down. I don’t know if I tripped, or caught my sandal on something, or blacked out, or was abducted, but I went right down the sidewalk on my hands and knees.

I’m writing from my tv room watching the season 2 finale. My foot elevated, my big toe iced. Do you believe in karma?

The Movie’s Over, it’s Four O’clock and We’re in Trouble Deep

First of all, to all you daisies still out there: thanks for the warm welcome back. I luff you. I lerve you. I love you. I wanted to post last night but I went for the third episode of THE WIRE. Although one of the benefits of the THE WIRE is that you can do some emailing while watching when the verisimilitude goes deep and it’s boring for 5-7 minutes. Another thing: i have three seasons to go and I’m already feeling sad about it ending. Lerner, living in the future living in the past. Also, let’s talk about insomnia. Me=Benadryl.

How do you get to sleep?

Either We Lovin’ or I’ll See You Tomorrow

index card

Two-episode night. McNulty fucks two prostitutes while on the job. There’s a flow chart of criminals that resembles my bulletin board except I’m looking for narrative, structure, plot points. Let’s talk about index cards: salvation or desperation. When I put my poetry MFA manuscript together, I put all my poems on the floor and circled them a hundred times, ordering and reordering. I had a green kimono and a pack of Marlboro Lights. I was twenty four. Smart and stupid. In love with line breaks. Great to see all of you.

When I meet writers now some ask me if I’m still writing poetry. Stopped trying. Gave it up. Lost it. What about you?

Fuck being on some chill shit

Season 2, episode 8, I am neck deep into the Wire. I’m in love with the characters. I’m in love with the writing. David Simon, will you marry me? My heart wants to beat like the wings of the birds That rise from the lake to the trees. I wrote four screenplays. I have to write forty. Four hundred. I have to ride shotgun. I have to keep my head down. McNulty is on a bender, fucking a waitress believably, crashing his car. The best lines are the throwaway lines. The string on the detective’s readers. THe Honeywell. The ceiling fan. The mole on the chin of a working stiff.

Anybody home?

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

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