• Bridge Ladies

    Bridge Ladies When I set out to learn about my mother's bridge club, the Jewish octogenarians behind the matching outfits and accessories, I never expected to fall in love with them. This is the story of the ladies, their game, their gen, and the ragged path that led me back to my mother.
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I Love You For Who You Are

Dear Ms. Lerner:

Are there different ‘types’ of client? The midlist author with no idea his career is in irretrievable decline (although you’re fully aware)? The literary author trying to deny the fact that she only had one book in her? The Shotgunner, who sends you a different idea every month? The Hibernator, who you don’t hear a whisper from for years, until a new manuscript arrives at your desk? I’ve always wondered if agents have a ‘Field Guide to Clients.’

Also, what percentage of clients sell a couple of books then never write anything else? What percentage keep writing, but stop selling? For how long?

Sincerely, W

Dear W:  Clients, like agents, come in all shapes and sizes. Insecure, egotistical, driven, lazy, perfectionist, intrepid, resourceful, blaming, determined, fragile, headstrong, complaining, stoic,  you name it. I think I even wrote a book about it. More interesting is to watch how any given writer responds to going through the process of sending  out his work, looking for an agent, getting a publisher, getting his edits all the way through to post-publication. Every aspect about the writing process is character-defining.  For instance, when one writer gets rejected he takes his marbles and runs home. Another swears he will never quit as a result of getting turned down – he doesn’t care by how many. One writer gets a great review, believes his own press and never writes another true word. Another writer gets a great review and develops a case of stage fright, never writing another word. One writer gets slammed by reviews and becomes a pit bull, another grows timid and eventually silent. Your books slips beneath the waves: do you?  A Field Guide to Getting Your Ass Kicked is more like it. A Field Guide to self-loathing and doubt, a guide to self-flagellation and self-aggrandizement and hemorrhoidal hell. A field guide to every insecure thought and jealous rage. A field guide to my brilliance, to my ass, to misanthropy, my loneliness, my love. What species are you?

22 Responses

  1. I’m just finishing up that book you wrote – had to read the other one first. It confirmed what I’ve been denying. I am a writer. Hope like hell I’m one of those people who perseveres. But who am I kidding? I wouldn’t have the good sense to pack it in if someone told me there’s no way anyway. Go Celtics!

  2. All the adjectives could have been used to describe me at different times. I don’t take my marbles and run home. And I love reviews. It means people are reading my stuff. Of course, I like the starred ones best. I’d rather be well reviewed than well paid. I know that sounds crazy, but it’s how I feel. If a book slips beneath the waves, so be it. Hopefully, there’ll be another one. And who knows, the drowning book may may wash up on shore and be found by a movie producer. One of the things that keeps me going, other than my modest successes, is the fact that I don’t try to compete with other writers. I go at my own pace, write what I like, and hope for the best.

  3. abrupt.

  4. woke up this morning to the sound of birds singing at my window, out in Pensacola Bay, just a quarter mile away, the tar balls are just rolling on in….then I turn on the news to this headline: “New California bill would penalize spouses who hire hit men” I am not a pelican and “my mother is a fish.”

  5. That California. Always so progressive.

  6. I always think my stuff is hot shit. I don’t care what somebody thinks about it unless the person is someone I admire. I also think that most people are narcissistic morons, so this hardly ever happens.

  7. I think I’m a bird on a wire. I’m trying to balance between being humble (I think that’s important for a writer) and being confident that what I’m writing has value.

    • I’m curious. Why do you think humility is an important trait for a writer? What is humility anyway?

      • i think some level of humility is essential to learning any craft, you need to know you suck to improve…i remember reading somewhere that Updike said the hardest part of being famous was believing his reviews, the loss of self doubt that goes with it…

  8. I’m pretty tenacious. Let’s see, what kind of bird would that be? Judging by the activity at my birdfeeder, perhaps a red-winged blackbird? Not rude and pushy, like a bluejay, but a bird who comes back again and again, and waits patiently to have his fill.
    Great post, BTW!

  9. A swan. I try to put on a brave front to hide the terror I feel inside.

  10. I am a species that survives on positive feedback and encouragement. My writing could suck but if you have someone encouraging me, I will keep at it. My last editor was a Columbia English grad and would revert back to classic English whereas my work was short form, comtemporary, real life, stream of consciousness. It wasn’t working for either of us.

    The whole experience reminded me of when I went to my husband’s families home for dinner for the first time. Determined to show them that I had the potential to be the next Martha Stuart, it took me about 3 hours to bake one pie. When everyone was digging into dessert my husband looked at his brother and said “Rich how is it?” I stood back proud as a peacock waiting for all the accolades. He looked me straight in the eye and in a very honest way said “It isn’t that good.” I was mortified!! Evidently I forgot the sugar. So true to form, I stood up took the whole pie, plate and all, and threw it in the garbage.

    When my editor came at me with the last draft of my book and basically said it wasn’t that good, I reverted back to my apple pie and my instinct was to throw it in the garbage and start over. I am a perfectionist and I need to feel it in my soul before I will let anyone look at it.

    This time, I stepped away, regrouped, processed the information, and then came back stronger than ever, writing the memoir as a series of blogs. Someone is put into our lives for a reason. Criticism serves its purpose. My motto is absorb it, learn from it, and then kick ass!!!!!

  11. Extinct

  12. Lately, I’m a pterodactyl, a 50 yr old hippie YA author trying to fit in at Romper Room with 19 yr old YA authors.
    It is painful in ways I never imagined.

  13. Perhaps you’ve heard this story.

    Flannery O’Connor attended the Iowa Writers’ Workshop in 1946. When she read her material, some of the other writers complained that they couldn’t understand what she was saying due to her Georgia accent, and someone else was asked to finish reading her short story.

    When the reading was finished, Miss O’Connor’s critics were merciless. However, she simply sat there and wrote down everything that was said or suggested. The group reconvened days later to share the revisions on their work. Once again, Miss O’Connor’s short story was read aloud.

    She had not changed a single word.

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