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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Are You Lonesome Tonight


I started three different books over the weekend and couldn’t commit to any. Is it me or is it Memorex? I think I mentioned that I went off of all social media and was hoping for an instantaneous return of memory and attention span. I think now I have to knock off the Melatonin gummies. I feel like sludge in the morning. I am listening to an horrific story on Audible that is riveting. I’m going to keep going with Jennifer Egan’s The Candy House. I’ll be honest, I was never that kid reading under my covers with a flashlight. I was never that into Harriet the Sky and couldn’t stand Little House on the Prairie. For me, the first book I read that jolted me awake and didn’t let go was In Cold Blood. I read it when I was fourteen. Scarred forever. Bitten, too.

What was the book that got you hooked?

I Want You to Show Me the Way

Do you use outlines, do you use notecards, do you keep a notebook, a timeline, a chronology, a map, a blue print, a ledger, an excel spreadsheet? How do you keep it all in your head, keep track, the passage of time, the meting out of information. How, when you walk deep into a forest, do you find your way out? I’m an index card girl. Or was that obvious?

What’s your poison?

You Give Me Hope to Carry On


The other day, a Youtube fitness instructor said, “I love intensity, but I worship consistency.” She was talking about working out but I knew it was going to be my new writing mantra. Meaning do it even when you don’t want to, meaning work through the rough patches, meaning do this every day. I’m firmly in the camp that you can’t wait for inspiration. Just keep writing and writing and writing. You will get better and better and better. I mean it may get worse, but probably not.

What’s your writing mantra?

It’s Something Unpredictable, But in the End is Right


I was in the third grade when I started keeping diaries. I have all of my diaries. I have shoeboxes filled with every letter I’ve received. I have a stack of screenplays, a file of “ideas,” a half-written memoir about an elderly potter and the year I took lessons from him. It’s a graveyard of sorts. A garden of the half-baked, ill-conceived, and woebegone.

What’s in your garden.

Work, work, work, work, work, work


I can’t believe I’ve never done this before. I decided to see how many times I used the word “like” in a document. Then I searched for “then,” “felt,” “once,” “still,” and “even.” It was SHOCKING. I used “like” over 250 times. I used “then” over 300 times. I spent two days looking at each instance and justified its existence, changed it or cut it. Oh my god. I thought I was a halfway decent writer.

What words do you abuse?

When There’s No Getting Over that Rainbow


Writers often ask me how important is it to have connections to get published. 100%. For as long as I’ve been in publishing I only know of two books that were discovered in the slush pile (though I’m sure there must be more) Ordinary People and The Twilight series. Not great odds. This is what I say: get connected! First, join a writer’s group and get feedback from other writers. You shouldn’t be approaching agents or publishers unless your work has been workshopped and revised. There are also excellent freelance editors who will edit, give feedback and make agent recommendations. Subscribe to Publisher’s Marketplace where you can see every deal and who represented it. You can see who the agent of record is and go to their websites, get their vibe, research their clients and get their contact information. You can read lots of agents’ blog for meat and potatoes advice. There are hundreds of writing programs, festivals, workshops. You aren’t going to meet your mentor or agent there first time out. But you will soak up a lot of information. I’m still friendly with writers I met at conferences 20 years ago. Part of your writing life and getting connected includes building your community.

Do you have a writing community?

The First the Last My Everything


This is not a test. I read the following sentence today in a memoir: My aunt covered me with a white blanket. It stopped me in my tracks. Why did the writer use the adjective “white?” What difference did it make? What did it tell me about the scene? Did it have any emotional resonance. Did it help furnish the scene? I started running through other options: a red blanket, a cotton blanket, a woolen blanket, a satin blanket, an LL Bean blanket, an old blanket, a raggedy blanket, a quilted blanket, a blood stained blanket, a goo goo bear blanket, a banky. The whole reason to use adjectives as far as I can tell is to add veracity through specificity. If you’re going to tell me the color of the blanket, it needs to do some work.

Agree? Disagree?

What Goes Up Must Come Down

Advanced Television.com

When my mother first read my memoir, Food and Loathing, she said it was a pack of lies. I told her to write her own pack of lies. She hated the book because I wrote about my mental illness, hospitalization, and so forth. Over the years, many writers tell me that they can’t write their memoir until their parents die. Some wonder if they can use a pseudonym. Eventually my mother came to respect my book. She received letters from parents whose kids had been hospitalized, or suffered from depression, and in once case committed suicide. They said I was brave, honest, and my book helped them. I don’t think I’m cavalier, but I also believe that if you’re a writer you have to find a way to write what matters most.

What matters most to you?

The Pajama Game is the Game I’m In

World Market

Love writing, hate writing. Love revising. Hate revising. Love being alone. Write in coffee shops. Outline everything. Never outline. Longhand! Keyboard! Writes everyday. Waits for inspiration. Me, I write in my pajamas with a hot cup of lemon and honey. I don’t open my email until I’m done. Then I belong to my email. I’m email’s bitch.

What are you wearing?

Blowing you the Jasmine in my Mind


I hate it when people go off social media and make a big announcement. It assumes that anyone cares in the first place. That being said, I just went off Facebook, Tik Tok, Instagram and Twitter. The four horsemen of the apocalypse. I was so completely addicted that I’d wake up in the middle of the night and watch Amber’s Heard’s testimony for a half hour and then scroll through hundreds of pictures of Tom Holland and Zendaya. I’m not off because I want to be but because I have to be.

What’s your poison?