• 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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The Land of the Brave and the Home of the Free

Clue Game Weapons Transparent, HD Png Download , Transparent Png Image -  PNGitem

Everyone does it, though people still deny it. I’m talking about skimming and you know who you are. Is it a nasty habit, a survival strategy, a lost art? I didn’t start skimming until much later in life. I know I run my mouth a lot, but I’m a goody two shoes and skimming always seemed, well, wrong. I’ve always been convinced that I would miss the most important plot point or insight into the main character’s motivation. Colonel Mustard with the wrench. Skimming FOMO. Plus, retention has never been my strong suit, and I still sound out words when I read which also makes skimming difficult. I guess the question is why do you read? How do you read? What do you read for? My mother believed skimming was a war crime.

When do you skim? Come clean. This is a safe space. LOL

We’re Only Dancing on this Earth for a Short While

US Capitol Rotunda Photograph by Robert Powell

We are living on the edge. We are riding on the rails. The nails are loose. The roof blew. How can you run when you know? I was a Watergate baby. Deep throat and wire taps. The spiders from Mars. Last tango. So moist and creamy. Four dead in Ohio. Revenge is a dish that tastes best when served cold. The world he left behind not so long ago. I bet you squeal like a pig. Here’s the story of a lovely lady. I like the moment I break a man’s ego. The lovers cried and the poets dreamed. Not a word was spoken the church bells all were broken.

Got any favorite 1970’s references?

I Hate Myself For Loving You

I’ve been trying to work up my annual hate list, but I keep hitting a wall. I think this year has been too devastating to dick around. I definitely hate it when I get caught masturbating on Zoom. And I hate it when everyone uses the word “drop” to mean released, such as Taylor Swift dropped her new album. I hate the deep divisions in our country, I hate the virus that is ravaging the nation, I hate that people can’t be with their loved ones when they die, and that too many are dying and dying alone. I hate that bookstores are shuttering. And I hate the word shuttering for closing. I hate that a house has fallen on us. I hate that the year of perfect vision became a blur of pain and suffering. I hate that I still hate myself. But there it is.

What I really want to say is that I love all of you who show up and leave your sleekness on the blog after all these years. I wish you a healthy healthy healthy new year. Please never stop writing. How else will hold each other up?

And if you feel like it, tell me what you hate. My misery loves your company.

Will You Still Need Me?

I wrote every day until I was thirty, or almost every day, in diaries. I’ve saved every letter I’ve received and most ticket stubs and assorted clippings. I’ve always hoped that I would sit on the front porch of a nursing home in Pennsylvania or upstate New York and read it all and chain smoke.

Anyone else have late life plans?

I’ve Seen Sunny Days that I Thought Would Never End

A profile of a writer in today’s NYT really affected me. I mean first I had to get over the fact, as I do every day, that the NYT didn’t profile me when my book(s) came out, but I digress. Yi Miris has written a novel called Tokyo Ueno Station. She made a suicide attempt at 14 and was coaxed off a ledge by a janitor who brought her home and gave her, along with his wife, a meal. “Her depression persisted, and she tried several more times to kill herself.” Those sentences are so easy breezy, as if she sneezed several more times at the opera or tried on a pair of black pearl earrings a few more times before settling on the emerald cut chandeliers. She kept writing, she fell in with some thespians and had a romantic liason with a much older director. At 26 her first novel was published and won a prize for debut novelists. “Since then,” she says, “I have written every day. It’s just how I live. Life itself is writing.” Sometime I do think writing is the opposite of suicide.

Life itself it writing. Discuss.

Wherever He Laid His Hat Was His Home

Loyalty to the family is tyranny to the self. I’m sure I’ve quoted this line before. It’s my motto, I have it tattooed across my back, I fly a banner with those words over Jones Beach every summer, I say it every time I’m about to cross a family threshold or look in the fridge. It was spoken by Ninette T. Loos Blanc, an extraordinary woman in her 90’s who I used to bring groceries to on her fifth floor walk up apartment. I was a depressed college sophomore. Her overheated apartment had few belongings, a magnifier, a mirror, a fish bowl with opaque water. It smelled like old slippers. My friend Raymond used to brush her long white hair. It was like silk and I always think fondly of those words around holiday time. I am still that college sophomore climbing those steps, filled with dread and inchoate rage against my parents. They’re gone now. I miss them, of course.

What did your parents give you?

Faces Come Out of the Rain

I know I can be, um, blunt and off putting, but I want to talk about depression and how much it affects writers and how we are going into the dark months. As I’ve shared here, I’m bi-polar and thankfully have been stable since 1996 which means I’m up for my silver equilibrium anniversary. I don’t take this for granted. I’m vigilant about my medication and seeing my doctor and getting my blood drawn. I was probably in therapy for 20 of those 25 years. I have never forgotten those years in my teens and twenties with shame and loss and and terror. The thing about depression (and mania) is the belief that will never end. It does end. Medication (though it may take some time to find the right ones and doses) works. Therapy helps. I kept diaries throughout my hospitalizations and they all say one thing, in essence, which is I do want to live just not like this. Oh, and I had a crush on another patient named Kyle.

Please beloved community of freaks and geeks, take care. This is going to be a hard winter. What’s your strategy? What are you working on?

I’m Not Too Blind to See

I just watched this documentary about artists and actors, and they ALL agreed that what’s most meaningful to them about their work is the PROCESS. Process, shmocess. I’m sorry but I don’t give a fuck if you get up at 5.am. or write all night. I don’t care if you put on a bow tie or sit in urine-soaked sweats. I don’t care if you read poetry first to “prime the pump” or if you can’t read anyone else’s work while you’re writing except Jonathan Swift lest you pollute your vision. Notebook, legal pad, computer, I don’t care if you write the sentences on the roof of your mouth. I don’t want to watch you eat, I don’t want to watch you masturbate, I don’t want to see your grocery list, I don’t care about your dog and how some of your best thoughts come while you’re stacking the dishwasher. Don’t tell me about your dreams, ever. I don’t care how you thought you were writing one thing when you started and now it’s something else! I’m more interested in how a magician turns a coin into a woman sawed in half than how a poem, burp, became a short story that, burp, meant to be a novel. What am I interested in? RESULTS.

Will I burn in hell?

You Were Only Waiting for this Moment to Be Free

Let’s write the fuck out of this year. I mean balls to the wall. Lunch money! Pirate teeth! Bone marrow! The eastern chipmunk! The unfurled flag! I want to eat my pages. I want to go viral, I want to direct, I want to lose myself in a holy transference. When I go out to pick up my paper at 5:00a.m., the world is dark and quiet. The leaves scrape like my dad’s razor. Every day at exactly the same time, a man walks by swinging a blue flashlight to mark the way. Sometimes I wish he would take me away.

What the fuck is wrong with us?

Are You Ready for a Brand New Beat

Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid' - Baltimore Sun
Woodward and Bernstein

I came of age during the Watergate era. The journalists were the heroes. Politicians were gross. I adopted an air of apathy toward government, which made it easy not learn anything or try to change anything. Look how well that turned out. So today as I consume my 14th Diet Orange Crush and channel surf, I’ve been thinking about the writer’s responsibility. What do we owe ourselves, our readers, and the larger world. Are we under any obligation to be part of the literary community? Give back? And if so, what does that look like. Honestly, I’ve always liked the part of being a writer where you got to stay in your hole and watch the shoes and hems shuffle by.

How are we going to write about this day?