• THE FOREST FOR THE TREES

    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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I Got All My Sisters With Me

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You all know how I feel about holidays and family. I mean it’s material. Only then you get older and all the “toxic dynamics” are no longer interesting. It’s like the turkey; you can only stand so much. And then you’re underneath the crawl space with a composition notebook and blanket for the mildewed floor. “Loyalty to the family is tyranny to the self.” A friend told me that a long time ago and I tattooed it on my heart.

What does your tattoo say?

I See My Light Come Shining

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When people discover that I work in publishing, they always ask what I’m reading, and the answer is pretty much always manuscripts. When aspiring writers ask me about going into publishing, I warn them about this occupational hazard. It has always seemed to me that if you wanted to be a great writer, you had to read the greatest writers. Some years back, I was reading the sixth or seventh draft of a book that was never going to find its pulse and I thought: I’m going to go to my grave having read this manuscript multiple times and having never read Crime and Punishment. That night, I went home and started Crime and Punishment. One of the all time great reading experiences of my life.

What do you want to read before you die?

 

If You Don’t Know Me By Now

 

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So nice to hear from so many of you. Sorry to read about losses, too.

I always hated people who said, Thank got it’s Friday. Or hump day. Or Monday is the new Thursday. Or who talked around the “water cooler,” or talked about the weather as if observing rain were original or interesting. Unless it was like two nights ago. Do you feel me? When I was in Miami for the book fair, a young woman got up at the Q&A and read a poem. I would have never done that in my entire life, which has made me re-evaluate my entire life.

Ballsy or obnoxious?

I Couldn’t Believe After All These Years You Didn’t Know Me Any Better Than That

 

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Please forgive me. I’ve been staring too hard at a person I’ve hated my whole life. I’ve been enjoying the sickness that comes with thinking your work might be good. I’ve asked the gods to watch me fold your shirts, smooth the collars, collect the lint into my fat fist. I’ve had blackened fish and gin and tonics with the juice of eleven limes. Please forgive me I forgot all about you, forgot about myself, put on a Broadway show and handed out the programs. Yes, I see floaters. Yes, I can’t sleep. Yes, I always hold the door open even when no one is there.

If you’re still there, please catch me up.

You are My Love and My Life

 

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I applied to four MFA programs. I was rejected by three. I wasn’t hopeful waiting for that fourth letter. In fact, I was morose. I remember going to the Second Avenue Deli by myself. The waiter looked at me and said, “It can’t be that bad.” On the walk home, I told myself that if I didn’t get in and stopped writing that it was on me. I couldn’t let a college tell me if I was a writer. I got in. I had a nervous breakdown. I finished. And never wrote another word of poetry. Good story?

What’s the point of this story?

Sealed With a Kiss

 

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It had to happen. Five a.m. roll call. Do you know where your keyboard is? People always ask me how I get it done, full time job and writing. I hear in their voice some astonishment and revulsion. I don’t blame them. I also hate people who are productive and smug. I once had breakfast with the then CEO of Random House and he told me he got up at four, read the WSJ, NYT, and Financial Times WHILE ON THE TREADMILL. His cuff links were gold skulls. How I do it is I get up at five. And I don’t look at email until 10:00. When I finally look at my email, I refer to is as breaking the seal when the voices and needs of my clients come rushing in and I put on my apron and fill the pockets with seed.

Faces Come Out of the Rain

 

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Where have I been? Where have you been? Who was that woman across the aisle certain she was on the wrong train? Did I help her? Did I help you? Yesterday the coffee cost less than today. I hate people who say live in the present. One day at a time. Forgive yourself.  I don’t ever want to talk about the weather. I don’t need to live life to its fullest. Half full is plenty for me. Is the next stop New Rochelle?

Where have you been?