• Bridge Ladies

    Bridge Ladies Sometimes I think a meteor could strike the earth and wipe out mankind with the exception of my mother’s Bridge club — Roz, Bea, Bette, Rhoda, and Jackie — five Jewish octogenarians who continue to gather for lunch and Bridge on Mondays as they have for over fifty years. When I set out to learn about the women behind the matching outfits and accessories, I never expected to fall in love with them. This is the story of the ladies, their game, and most of all the ragged path that led me back to my mother.
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The Way I Feel When I’m In Your Hands

My office is starting to look like a maternity ward at the full moon; it feels like all my clients are delivering their pages at the same moment whether it’s a final manuscript, a draft, a chapter, a treatment, a partial. If I know one thing about writers it’s that they hate waiting to hear what people think. The minute they hit send, the bomb starts to tick. Lots of writers go right to the dark place, imagine the worst. Though some are confident, and when they hand you the pages they will tell you so. It makes me think of a small child proudly handing you a page from a coloring book, the crayon insanely outside the lines. Some go into free fall and pick at their own flesh. Some start shooting off revisions: Wait! Read this draft! or If you haven’t read yet! It’s the worst, like waiting for a guy to call after you’ve fucked him.

How do you handle it, the waiting? The horror.

34 Responses

  1. I sent my novel to a major publishing house and they asked to read it. They kept it for a year as an exclusive, then rejected it. Then, I sent it to a second major house and they, too, asked to read it. They, too, kept it for a year as an exclusive and then rejected it.
    For 2 yrs, I’d had hopes beyond my dreams; a “real” reason to get up each day.
    I haven’t queried again yet, though, because I’m getting shy of the old, familiar hope, with all its extended fantasies of a better life. If you don’t have it, you can’t lose it.

    • Time to sleep around.

    • yeah, that’s nuts, exclusivity should only come with a deadline. Otherwise, what motivation do they have to get on the stick?

    • When I was waiting to hear back from publishers about my novel I confessed to a friend that I didn’t feel like I was handling it very well, she said ‘oh honey if you’re not on the bathroom floor with a bottle of vodka rocking back and forth, you’re doing just fine.’ So that’s my bar for ‘handling it well’ now.

      Another friend (who had been through the process and not sold her novel) advised me to try to enjoy what the process if I could. In many ways I look back and have some happy memories of waiting- namely that feeling that any day could be the day I got the news that I’d been dreaming about my whole life. Guess that’s what keeps us all coming back, the idea that there will be this one moment that makes it all feel worth it.

      Looking for publication is like looking for love in many ways: when you find it, for a brief shining moment all the hurt that came before doesn’t seem to matter anymore.

  2. I freeze and don’t write another word until I hear back. I clean junk and pretend I don’t care if she likes it or not. Lucky for me, my agent is good about getting back quickly or emailing something like I’m halfway through and loving it, so the torture doesn’t last long.

  3. I am currently waiting on not one, not two, but three separate projects. The waiting began in January. January. Still waiting. I am at the stage where I am practically gnawing off my own hand. Practically. But if I did that I wouldn’t be able to write my wip. I’ve just managed to find the energy and motivation to write again. Would be a shame to cut off the flow at this point.

  4. You have just described the bereft place I am in right now. My agent has had my revisions for three months and still no word.

    If this were dating I would already be sleeping with someone else. Call me impatient, fickle, without a shred of trust and you would be correct.

    Truth is I don’t know what is unacceptable/accepable behavior in any relationship. So why should this one be an exception.

    Give me a clue, Betsy. How long is long enough?

  5. Whenever I’m waiting for a writing-related response, I just remind myself that patience is one of the Seven Heavenly Virtues.

    Right.

    I possess none of the other six either.

  6. I hit refresh. A lot.

    I either destroy my intestines with anxiety or I forget to worry. There’s seemingly no happy place in between. And I don’t get a choice in the matter.

  7. I usually reread whatever I sent, over and over, vascillating between mad love and loathing. When I can’t stand the sight of it and no longer give a rat’s ass what the recipient of my glory thinks about it, I move on and write something else.

    When I finally get feedback, I instantly deny all suggestions for improvement – “Are you f’ing kidding me? That’s the most brilliant part!” I eventually come around, however, and revise/tweak/cuss a lot.

    Except one time when my previous agent wrote me an email, after I’d waited an extraordinarily (for her) long time, and said she couldn’t represent it, that she had no idea what I was trying to do. I considered it the best thing I’d ever written. Took me 6 months to gut it up and leave – we were friends, so it was incredibly difficult, but she just didn’t get me.

    After that, waiting is infinitely worse. Before I signed with her, I point blank asked my now agent if she’d throw a project back at me with no feedback; just a cold, “No,” because that was way harsh and I’d like never to do it again. It was a full manuscript I sweated blood over. I still love it. Have plans to revise and tweak and send to New Agent sometime this year. Then I will have a nervous breakdown. Or eat a lot of donuts.

  8. Ok, I don’t handle it. I plunge into the horror.

  9. I tell myself it’s not the end of the world.
    I tell myself a rejection doesn’t mean I’m a bad person.
    I tell myself there are more things to life.
    I tell myself to get back to work.
    It’s like talking to a post though, ’cause I sure ain’t listening.

  10. Betsy,

    Bruce Barber http://www.thereallifesurvivalguide.com recommended your blog. I will be dammed…I used to think I was the funniest person I knew and now I think with this last blog you’ve taken my crown. As the Life With Wendy ADD mom…a/k/a Woman driven by distraction, I HATE to wait. I would rather jump through the phone do about 200 jumping jacks, (despite the fact that I will undoubtedly pee my pants), and compete in the long jump contest than wait. Good luck.I suggest disconnecting your internet and taking the phone off the hook.

  11. I think as a writer, you do more waiting than writing. So it’s a talent you have to master just as much as wordflow.
    And it sucks because your mind can do some crazy stuff to you while you wait.
    How do I cope? I try to pick up new hobbies — something tedious that will take an inordinate amount of time. And once in awhile, I actually turn the stinking computer OFF for a full afternoon, so I can’t check my email.
    It doesn’t really work, but I try to pretend it does. 😉

  12. There will be a special place in heaven for all writers who had to wait more than four months for their own agents to get back to them with any news at all, writers who signed exclusives for more than two months and never heard back from agents, writers who received praise for their works and were told that they would receive a call next Tuesday but never ever do and despite looking up accident reports the writer cannot find the name of her agent, not at any emergency room and then lo the next week she sees on PM that the agent has just sold a book at auction that has the exact same arch of the novel as hers. And finally, those writers who had more than three agents who ignored them despite email inquiries no more than every six months. We will all be treated well in that special place in heaven for those who have gone completely around the bend and whose work was discovered ten years after they died having let the gas run in their closed car until they died and then it won the Pulitizer.

    And then there is a special place for those agents. And we all know what that’s called. Coming to be the tormentors of the agents are all those who have told the writer: “It’s just business. It’s like oil on water.”

  13. I used to have Post Office Syndrome–as soon as I sent the ms, I began revising it in my mind, then I felt compelled to email the agent, “Wait, don’t read that ms, I’m sending a revision!” I’ve since learned that agents hate this, so I don’t do that anymore!

  14. I haven’t done it yet. These comments have some interesting ideas to keep me occupied during those knuckle-biting times, though!

  15. I love agents who blog, so I focus on one every week. Just wanted to let you know that I highighted you in my Agent of the Week post. Here’s the link if you want to check it out:

    http://writingwhilethericeboils.blogspot.com/2010/06/agent-friday-betsy-lerner.html

    Thanks for a great blog.

  16. Don DeLillo says a waiting writer is mad, and someone who should not make any important decisions. I remember the madness and avoid car lots.

    • So does that mean I’ll NEVER get my decision-making powers back again???!! I love this!! 😉

  17. i start another project.

  18. Self medication. Lots of self medication.

  19. The whole publishing industry is like trying to stuff an oyster into a parking meter. There is never a hard place to push.

    Most of my adult life, whether in the employ of others or as an entrepreneur, I was paid to make things happen. When I entered the world of publishing, I discovered there was absolutley nothing I could do to make things happen. The ball is always in someone else’s court.

    It’s taken a lot to accept this, but finally I have (and without professional help).

  20. When I was waiting to hear back from publishers about my novel I confessed to a friend that I didn’t feel like I was handling it very well, she said ‘oh honey if you’re not on the bathroom floor with a bottle of vodka rocking back and forth, you’re doing just fine.’ So that’s my bar for ‘handling it well’ now.

    Another friend (who had been through the process and not sold her novel) advised me to try to enjoy what the process if I could. In many ways I look back and have some happy memories of waiting- namely that feeling that any day could be the day I got the news that I’d been dreaming about my whole life. Guess that’s what keeps us all coming back, the idea that there will be this one moment that makes it all feel worth it.

    Looking for publication is like looking for love in many ways: when you find it, for a brief shining moment all the hurt that came before doesn’t seem to matter anymore.

  21. “arc” of the story, arch, hey, could be if you run into a rainbow.

  22. I assume that any piece of writing I send out will be hated and rejected, probably used as cat litter or perhaps to make paper airplanes. Then I try to cheer myself up by remember the piles and piles of rhyming poems about cats they used to get (and probably still do) at the review journal at my old university and figure at least I’m not that bad. Then I try to work on something else but then figure that’s sort of pointless, since clearly I’m doomed to failure. Etc.

  23. Denial (that I care), Anger (that I haven’t heard back), Bargaining (“they’re just really busy”), Depression (they hate me)…Rewrite.

  24. This pretty much describes what THE WAITING is like for me (hysterical, from Nathan’s blog today):

    http://stiryourtea.blogspot.com/2010/06/day-in-life-of-writer.html

  25. Thanks, thanks Kyler. Love it!

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