I wrote a book called THE FOREST FOR THE TREES. It's an advice book for writers, though it's more about what makes writers tick. 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. I post less frequently now, but hopefully with as much vitriol. Please join in!

    Gluttons for punishment can scroll through the archives. If I’ve learned one thing about writers, it’s this: we really are all alone. Thanks for reading. Love, Betsy

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Ain’t No Valley Low Enough

Image result for martini shakerGood news, bad news. Rejection, acceptance. Invited to the party, snubbed. For once they put enough lime in my gin and tonic. For these small things I am grateful. The woman at the bar so vigorously shook the martini canister that I thought I heard the ice rumbling around and felt the coldness near my neck. Red light, green light. Bank account. How much time can you buy to write. Today, on the plane I was surrounded by a family of five. The father attended to all of the children while the mother zoned out watching episodes of Ozark on her device. You made yourself and you can break yourself. Don’t forget it.

Between writing and not writing, where are yon on the spectrum?

If I Can’t Have You I Don’t Want Nobody Baby

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I once had a very contentious negotiation with a lawyer who was representing a producer. I was in way over my head and stayed extremely quiet for most of the conversation for fear of making a mistake. The lawyer grew increasingly frustrated with my silences and I realized I could use this to my advantage. The more he talked, the more he gave away. The less I talked, the more control I had. Finally, when he couldn’t stand it any longer, he said, “Look, sometimes you just have to open the kimono!”  It’s incredible the things people will say.

How do you keep your kimono?




And In My Head I Paint a Picture

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I took pottery lessons as a child. The teacher came around and put his hands over our hands to demonstrate how to center the clay.  It’s a very difficult thing to learn, especially for small hands. The wheel has to go around very fast in order to center the clay, but the speed also makes it very difficult to control. When the teacher came to my station, he linked his thumbs and flapped his hands like a bird.  See? Then he put his hands over mine and applied pressure. The clay immediately conformed. He took his hands away and the clay didn’t wobble. Right there in my own small hands, the clay was a perfect disc. I was able to center clay from that day forward. It wasn’t anything I ever had to think about.

What is this post about?

We Don’t Have Tomorrow But We Had Yesterday

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I recently got some amazing notes on my script. It required cutting a bunch of scenes I had  put a lot of much work into. But I understood immediately upon hearing the notes that they were right. It was like the best haircut I’ve ever had, understanding of course that I’ve never had a good haircut including the one I gave myself in the fifth grade. Great editing is also like losing weight, though again I know very little about that, too.

Challenge: how much can you cut from your current project?

Words are Flowing Out Like Endless Rain Into a Paper Cup

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You have two choices: write or don’t write. Suffer or suffer differently. Lose yourself or lose everything else. You have two choices: write or Netflix. You were a little girl and you kept a diary. You discovered poetry and thought you entered a secret world where you were not alone. Remember when you wrote on the train, your first book then your second. When you were manic you had an idea or five a day. You thought you could save every broken bird. What came of it besides heartache and despair? You stopped writing for five years, then for four, then three. You have no choice: stay on your meds. Write.

Happy new year friends of the blog. I love you! 2019!

Baby Please Come Home

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This is not my top ten list, it’s just a list of some of the books I read for pleasure this year and are all highly recommended by me, the Grinch who stole joy and love and peace and reindeers and the way our faces glow in front of a fire or our hearts fill when the pond is frozen and the moon is low.

Just Mercy – Bryan Stevenson (a brilliant memoir about the death penalty, wrongful convictions and his founding of the Equal Justice initiative. Compassionate, moving and inspiring. Beautiful writer and incredible human being.)

Path to Power – Robert Caro (the first installment of Lyndon Johnson biography I’ve meant to read my entire life. The writing is majestic and you find out things about  Johnson such as that he used to take dumps while giving orders to his aides. I know, right.

Americanah – Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche (a novel about a young Nigerian woman in America. About many things but for me I loved reading about her relationships. As a person with a history of three night stands, I found it it fascinating to watch our protagonist navigate the culture largely through her relationships with men.) Terrifically muscular and nuanced writer.

Calypso – David Sedaris (I simply read everything he writes. I also poked around in his diaries. This is the writer’s petrie dish, where ideas, lines, jokes, everything germinate.) Did he win the Mark Twain award yet?

I’ll be Gone in the Dark – Michelle McNamara (terrifying case of the Golden State serial killer. If you’ve ever wondered about the guy who checks the water meter, yes he is a serial killer. Sets a high bar for true crime.

Educated – Tara Westhover (extraordinary memoir of a  young girl raised without any education in a hardscrabble fundamentalist nightmare from which she escapes and becomes a scholar. The horrible moments are vivid, the quiet moment unforgettable. Also, when a hugely successful new memoir hits the scene my intense jealousy usually clouds the read. This book was just too fucking good. Respect.

Asymmetry – Lisa Holliday (Yes, I was interested because she supposedly had an affair with Philip Roth. While everyone talked about the twist, which I didn’t even get, I thought she wrote with a lot of sophistication and authority. And here’s some of my high minded literary criticism: I liked the middle part best.

Born a Crime – Trevor Noah (I don’t usually read celebrity bios, though I am a Noah fan. One of the bridge ladies recommended and I had to see why this memoir appealed to an 87 year old Jewish lady. It’s a superb memoir of childhood in the most universal sense, but an incredible rendering of growing up in South Africa with a fierce single mom.)

The Undoing Project – Michael Lewis (About two psychologists and their long term friendship which, as all great friendships do, implodes. Along the way you learn all about behavioral economics, or the science of decision making. It’s actually really suspenseful and the science is beautifully synthesized for English majors like moi.

Any recommendations from your 2018 reading?


All We Hear Is Radio Ga Ga

Holiday lights

Top ten reasons I hate year end top ten book lists: random, subjective, indiscriminate, circumscribed notion of taste, clubby, marketing tool, advertising ploy, makes the people who get on them think they’re better than everyone, makes the people who don’t get on them feel bad about themselves, perpetuating the “lie” that they don’t matter,

Jeez, I’ve been absentee. Catch me up! Anybody working on their writing?

Or, please provide top ten reasons you’re not working on your writing.