• THE FOREST FOR THE TREES

    THE FOREST FOR THE TREES is about writing, publishing and what makes writers tick. This blog is dedicated to the self loathing that afflicts most writers. A community of like-minded malcontents gather here. 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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You’re My Blue Sky, You’re My Sunny Day

The Outdoor Scientist by Temple Grandin, Ph.D.

I’ve had the great privilege of working with Temple Grandin for over 25 years. The Outdoor Scientist is our latest collaboration for kids. It’s about all the things Temple loved to do in the outdoors as a child interwoven with mini biographies of scientists who were inspired by nature. The chapters are on things like rocks, the ocean, the woods, the night skies, etc. Today it hit the Indie Bestseller List at #9. If you know a kid who might like figuring out the age of trees or hunting for nurdles on the beach, think about buying him or her a copy. Thanks so much for allowing me the public service announcement.

And the Traffic Wrote the Words

9 Children's Books Starring: BUNNIES!

You’ve probably read that book sales increased 10% over the last year, and even higher in certain categories such as kids’ books. Audio books! People who weren’t big readers started reading more and big readers went ham.The big question is will it hold. Once people go back to having pool parties and seances, will they still be turning to books? Hard to say. God, I hope so. I meant to read all of Shakespeare’s plays and only read Macbeth and 1/2 of Hamlet. I read The Waves, which took five months. I read a biography of Dorothy Parker. I read half of Obama’s memoir. I read Shuggie Bain, Think Again, Say Nothing, Microbe Hunters, Hidden Valley Road, Homeland Elegies, and Green Lights.

What did you read in lockdown?


Feelin’ Good Was Good Enough for Me

Well, well, well. Our kids are knocking it out of the park. Bobbi French’s first novel, COME HOME, FRANCES DELANEY, just got sold to Harper Canada. What’s up with Canada. Maybe we should all move there. Here’s a little interview we did. I basically butchered her answers because Bobbi answered too earnestly. I’m sure if anyone would like to see the interview in full, Bobbi will gladly provide. Couldn’t be prouder of any of you who break through. Equally proud of anyone who keeps writing in the face of the what the fuck.

FFTT: How was writing your second book different from your first? 

BF: Dead easy and lots of fun. I have no real education other than reading a squillion books in my life. I knew little about the elements of writing good fiction. It was a bit bewildering and strange and exciting to be doing something so new.

FFTT: What’s it like being a Canadian author?

BF: If people don’t like your book, we’re obligated to apologize profusely.

FFTT: What’s your secret to plotting?

BF: No secret really. I do have a secret weapon. When I got stuck early on, I engaged a professional editor/manuscript evaluator etc. (Bethany Gibson, certified genius) who helped me a great deal to organize my narrative.

FFTT: What’s your favorite sentence in the book?

 BF: “The End”

FFTT: How do you come up with characters’ names?

BF: Ha! The only research I did for this book was in choosing names. My novel’s setting is the island of Newfoundland in a fishing community that dates back seven or eight generations. Also, my names had to be Irish Catholic. So, I trolled through birth and death records and chose accordingly. Naturally, the first question my new editor asked was if I minded changing my main character’s last name. I changed it from Delahunty to Delaney. Tomato, tomahto.

FFTT: Do you hate it when people ask what the next one’s about?

BF: I really, really do. Mom, if you happen to be reading this, what did I tell you? Stop asking me.

Please leave a little love for Mademoiselle Bobbi!

Ain’t No Mountain High Enough

New Girl in Little Cove!!! It’s on!!! Our own Damhnait Monaghan has published her wonderful new book in AMERICA!!!

I couldn’t be more proud. I feel like we raised her! We are your village, Damhnait!! We deserve some credit, don’t you think? Please everyone raise a virtual glass. More important pre-order! Leave some love for Damhnait!!

“Fans of Richard Russo’s That Old Cape Magic, Emily St. John Mandel’s The Glass Hotel, and Patricia Harman’s The Runaway Midwife will enjoy Rachel’s fish-out-of-water journey to acceptance and understanding.” —Booklist

“If you loved Come From Away, don’t miss this charming debut novel.”
Kate Hilton, bestselling author of Better Luck Next Time

I, I Will Be King

The Portable Dorothy Parker

Anyone watching the Hemingway documentary? Honestly, it’s better with the sound off. There’s almost nothing I’m more interested in than writers’ lives, but I couldn’t get past the first half hour. I’m so tired of the man, the myth nonsense. I don’t care about bullfighting and deep sea fishing. I’m tired of family secrets and tinted photographs. Four marriages, blah blah blah. Why am in such a mood? Give me Dorothy Parker any day of the week.

Who’s your literary hero.?

But What a Shame That All We’ve Shared Can’t Last

I’m an early bird. I have to write before the sun comes up and the birds start their chorus. I can’t touch email, facebook, insta or my latest obsession tik tok. Tik tok is a brilliant name for the platform because you literally hear the clock ticking down as you throw the best years of your life away watching videos of dogs sleeping and middle aged couples trying to lure each other to dance, and firemen who dance to Billie Jean. You hear the sound of your life being drained from you, your mind retreating into a fine bowl of apple sauce. So before that and work and children and husband and my own darn dog needing a walk and water and food and belly rubs, I get up to write. My house quiet, my brain as quiet as it will get. I used to write at night when I was young. I also used to smoke. Writing and smoking was heaven. Of course, I used to write poetry then. One boy I kissed said my mouth tasted like an ashtray.

When do you write?

There is No One Here Beside Me

I hate the expression “you really find out who your friends are”. People say it all the time when there’s a crisis. A death, a job loss, illness, etc. Who comes running with the casserole, who sends a text every day with a cute fucking emoji. (BTW, no friend would do that. There’s nothing worse than “thinking of you” smiley smiley red balloon. How are you doing abashed eyes, kissy heart, puppy, rose. My friends are the people who forget my birthday, who stopped sending cards in the late eighties, who don’t have my back and I don’t have theirs. They’re just people I’ve known for a long time who tolerate me and vice versa. They are the people that didn’t get dropped, cancelled, or quit. Or haven’t dropped, cancelled, or quit me. They are people with whom an intense interest at the beginning didn’t destroy long-term potential like so many. Longevity: is it what it’s cracked up to be? Cause for celebration when a friend moves across the country. Like is as good and in many ways better than love where friends are concerned. Friends are the people you don’t fuck.

Define friendship.

I hopped off the plane at LAX With a dream and my cardigan

Dear DJ:

First, thanks for forking over the $2 bucks for my book and fuck that library for getting rid of it. That is really a slap in the fucking face. Your teacher shouldn’t have told you to give up and keep a diary. She just should have said, keep a diary. Because all you need, or need right now, is like five years of writing under your belt. You wouldn’t expect to be picked for a an orchestra with less than ten years of practice, you wouldn’t perform surgery with less than what 10 years of medical school, you wouldn’t get recruited by the MLB. Writers have to write a lot, and get rejected a lot, and take workshops as you are, if you can stand them. Get feedback, listen to what you don’t want to hear, and keep going. It’s really good to be lonely and frustrated if you’re a writer. Couldn’t be better. Fuck that library. I love libraries, but that hurts.

How long did you write for before you got your first nibble or publication anywhere?

If You Wanted the Sky I Would Write Across the Sky

I’m often asked if getting an MFA is worth getting. Well, if you like to be shredded, if you enjoy alienation, if you welcome debt, if you enjoy spending time in an asylum, if you take pleasure in discovering that poets you once adored are douche bags, if you want your father to disown you, if want to watch your imagination shrivel and your sense of humor dismissed as unserious, if you want a costly useless degree then I would say, you should get an MFA. Go for it.

Curious if any degree you have has helped you.

Am I Hard Enough, Am I Rough Enough, Am I Rich Enough?

I went to the dentist today and there was a new technician. She asked me what I did for a living. You can see my rat brain darting around while she’s going on her archeological dig in my mouth. How to answer? Well, I never say writer. I want to. I wrote a few books. I mean I’m fucking entitled to, but unless you train ten sharpshooters at my head the words do not come out, spill forth, are uttered or muttered or whispered or coughed out. I just can’t say, “I’m a writer.” It would be easier to say I’m a surgeon or a fabric consultant or a social psychologist. And what does she care behind her two masks and Darth Vader visor. I could tell her anything. Finally, I say I’m a literary agent. She cocks her head. Most people haven’t heard of literary agents, so I rush in to say, I work with writers, I sell their books to publishers, I take their first born children and use their blood to make a sign upon the door.

What do you do?