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    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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If I Was Your Girlfriend

Vivian, what's this stuff worth?

A relative I haven’t heard from for years leaves a message. I take a week or so to return the call, torn between guilt and aggravation. He says he has something to send me. For a brief moment, I imagine that some more crappy jewelry has turned up that belonged to my Grandmother Frieda. But no. It’s exactly what I think it is: my relative has a friend who has written a memoir. Would I take a look? No one, to date, has ever gotten in touch with me because they miss me or love me.

The most memorable was a woman who stole my first college boyfriend. Can anyone steal anyone else? Of course not. The guy cheated on me with her. She was pretty in a horseback riding kind of way and had super shiny brown hair. Turned up a few years ago with a well crafted letter and box of pages. Really? There are like thousands of agents in this cow town. Please, don’t send me your fucking manuscript, don’t pretend we had something in common, and whatever you do, please don’t catch me up on your life. The chatty part of her letter is what really galled me. Why not just say: I fucked your boyfriend and I’d like you to read my manuscript. How about that for a change?

Am I being small? Should I admire any writer for using whatever he has to get an in? Is that what it takes? How far would you go to get an agent or editor to read your book? I’m really a pisher when it comes to pushing my own work. Maybe that’s what this is about. On the other hand, she fucked my boyfriend.

38 Responses

  1. What a wonderful opportunity this woman has provided. She has laid bare her ambitions before you. With a few choice phrases about her work, you could reduce her to emotional rubble.

    Whether or not that’s worth doing depends on how you’d feel about it in the morning. Otherwise, return the manuscript with a form letter signed by an assistant.

  2. The boyfriend thief was tacky and clueless.

    I’d be annoyed by the out-of-the-blue call, but you don’t owe your relative’s friend any special treatment. Maybe you’ll like the memoir and the three of you can all go out for ice cream.

    Thanks for the laugh. I needed one tonight.

  3. Two words. Hell. No.

    I used to turn the other cheek. Which is hard to do when you’re face down under a bus. But after extracting enough knives from my back to set the table for the World Cup, I finally wised up to the sad truth: there are some %#@# people in this world. Really. I finally learned to save my mushy, cream-filled center for my small but loyal team. Tony Soprano was on to something. You’re either in, out, or undecided. In evolutionary terms, we (us doormats) should develop a poison that we can spray from our mouths at predators. It’s not personal.. They may not be out to get me, but they will eat me if I let them.

    Am I still on topic?

  4. Oooo. o_O I get into “girlfriend” voice on that one. That hussy was shameless.

  5. sorry to interrupt the dialogue….at Huffingpost there is an article by Jesse Kornblutt about a self-published memoir by Jeannette Katzin. 4o agents turned her down so she self-published; anyohe want to bet how many agents are now calling her and offering representation? Yean I know, she a lucky writer but she has also sold many books….point is that Jesse thinks agents did not even read past the first paragraph or so.

  6. I’d be more annoyed with the relative than with the shiny-haired horseback rider. She did you a favor. You could have ended up with the cheating creep. In my opinion, her sending you the pages and trying to be your “friend” is sweet revenge. You have something she wants and admires, but this time she has to grovel. And this time you get to shove your success in the slut’s face.

  7. I honestly think the best course of action for the boyfriend-stealer is to send her a form rejection. One way or the other, she thinks you remember her: either you remember her as a wonderful person who cares about her life (the chatty part of her letter) or you hate her because she borrowed your boyfriend. But she thinks you remember her.

    A form rejection will make her wonder if you don’t remember her at all. A form rejection will help you resist the temptation to tell her off or to destroy her by saying something cutting about her manuscript. In fact, this seems to me to be the perfect time to send a letter beginning with “Dear Author.”

  8. Hell no, say I. To both of them. Yes, writing requires a great deal of shameless self-promotion, but querying the woman whose boyfriend you screwed? Uh, no. That’s going way too far.

  9. sorry for the spelling errors..I had not yet finished my first cup of joe.

  10. Ooh, philangelus, that’s dastardly. LOVE IT.

  11. Shameless self-promotion needs to have limits. While using a personal connection to get attention is potentially a good thing, using “yeah, your man was a really good lay back in the day” is probably not the best route to take. I’m one for holding grudges long enough that such a submission would have ended in a bonfire.

  12. a few years back a forty-ish mother of two underwent breast augmentation surgery as an outpatient at the office of a Charlotte plastic surgeon and died after the procedure due to an anesthetic mishap. About two years after the incident the nurse anesthetist who had cared for the woman was charged with murder. They’d gone to the same high school and the woman getting the boob job (who apparently didn’t make the connection), a former cheerleader and homecoming queen had snubbed her.

  13. I think if you can find an ‘in’ why not try to exploit it? However, I would draw the line where it is obviously too far beyond the pale and your horsey friend with the memoir definitely crossed that line and yeah, she has a set as big as the horse she used to ride…not the boyfriend…the horse. And, yeah, that thing about old friends/relatives, etc. not contacting you other than wanting a favor…who needs it.

  14. I wouldn’t go to family or a friend or former friend because they wouldn’t be able to be objective. They’d be reading me, not my book. If I were on the other side of the equation, that’s what I’d tell family/friend, and decline to read. The horsey (interesting “horse” phonetically in this case) woman: my bad side would probably take over and use the opportunity well. Like Phil’s Dear Author suggestion. I hate that I love that!

  15. After I published my book I got a call from a relative, too: his 9-year old daughter had written a book “and it’s really good!” and all she needed was an illustrator to make it a best seller. My relative smacked his forehead and said, “Hey! I know an illustrator!”

    Actually, I’ve been contacted more than once by unpublished writers looking for an illustrator for their unpublished chldren’s books (but, so far, only once for a book actually written by a child). I now have an attachment , about the correct way to query picture books, that I send in reply to all these requests. As you said, Betsy: these fucking people.

    To the relative who asked me about his kid’s book I only said “I don’t illustrate other people’s work.” I was nice because I have to see this guy at family functions. OK, the guy was my own half-brother. Who, even after I GAVE him a copy of my book, has never said a word about it. Not even “thank you”.

    But I digress. Can I please be you for a day? So I can read your relative’s friend’s book and then give it back to the relative and ask him why he WASTED MY TIME with this SHIT STAIN of a manuscript? WHY? Do you think I have nothing better to do WITH MY TIME than read some illiterate HICK’S pretentious SLAUGHTER of a [novel/memoir]?? HUH???? ARE ALL YOUR FRIENDS LIKE THIS MORON???

    And then I would hold on to the horsey bitch’s proposal for weeks, months; as long as it took for her to email me with a seemingly casual follow up query that hides her eroding sense of self…”Hi! Just wondering! Did you have a chance to read my ms yet? Thnx!!” And THEN, that’s when I send the form rejection letter, signed by someone with a very round, girlish script with the -slash – BL after it.

    • Oh, wait. I didn’t answer the question. How far would I go to get my ms. read by an editor? Not very: I’m a Capricorn. We don’t grovel.

      And the jewlery: they all look dubious but the only piece that really mortifies me is the heart-shaped pendant. Pave amethysts? Are you kidding me? PAVE amethysts?? That’s just pitiful.

  16. Don’t hesitate to be small, when warranted. A horse’s head in the bedsheets comes to mind.

  17. Possibly there is no other more sane process than the current one. Your blog shows how miserably inadequate and inept a process is, that entices those trying to get a legitmate shot at having their work properly assessed, to try all sorts of atiface and leverage schemes.

    Aside from that, I think forgiveness is a powerful force toward achieving personal happiness. Revenge? Not so much.

    • Bill, I love you , but that just sounds like you’ve never really tasted the sweet nectar of evening the score.

    • I’m with Bill on this one. After slipping into girlfriend voice – which regardless of my intent turns me into a stereotype (think sbbf – sassy black best friend – on an ABC sitcom) – I can’t help but think of the person I want to be and work on the forgiveness part.

      Which has nothing to do with reading her manuscript. Sometime following peace with an individual means making sure they are not a part of your life.

  18. I think it’s a girl thing.

  19. I think it’s hard not to use personal connections at all if you’ve got them but I find it mortifying. I try for a soft approach like asking friends in the biz for ideas of who to send to etc; then if they’re willing and interested they can ask to see it and if not it they don’t have to feel guilty and awkward.

  20. Nope, not being small at all (about the boyfriend-stealer). It’s good to forget things…but forgiveness? Overrated. I wouldn’t even look at her query/manuscript. After all, if you love it, would you really want to work with her? If she’s this much of a go-getter I’m sure she’ll send it off to someone else.

  21. I have nothing to say about this subject. I’m getting in touch today with Betsy just because I love her.

  22. 1. The horse lady has been following Betsy’s blog for weeks if not months and thus has her answer already. No need for Betsy to do anything more.
    2. It made me a little sad when Betsy said nobody has ever contacted her out of love or missing her. I hope that that is not true. I can’t believe that it is.
    3. I’ve read Karen McBryde’s response, above, three or four times and I cannot decide if Betsy needs to take out a restraining order on the horse lady or Karen McBryde. Betsy, do you know Karen from your high school days?

    • It is true, Tricky.
      And I don’t know “Karen McBryde.”

      • Mine was an associative response to Betsy’s post. The absurdity of the story I related therein has stuck with me since I first read about it in the Charlotte Observer (I am a resident of the city of Charlotte in case that helps with the TRO) several years ago… that a person randomly cast in a power position (the nurse anesthetist) finds an opportunity for revenge against the high school mean girl in a setting as banal as a plastic surgeon’s office and executes on it. I was in no way endorsing her behavior or suggesting that Betsy off the boyfriend thief. Whether said antecdote was relevant to this discussion I guess is up to the individual.

    • The responses here have been very interesting, but I think Karen is making the point just how far revenge can go. I was in a group once that said, “The greatest form of revenge is good will.” I like that, and it seems like Betsy always takes the high road. (I wrote an email to you today, saying I miss you and love you, but didn’t want to bother you at work, so I deleted it. Maybe I should’ve sent it.)

  23. take her manuscript and rip it into little pieces and make a collage of her screwing your boyfriend.

    remove batteries from fire detector.

    set it on fire.

    have the janitor sign the form letter.

  24. Obviously, I never go far enough in exploiting my contacts. Never have and most likely never will. I’m way too Emily Dickinson for my own good.

    As for revenge, it is, as they say, best served cold. So I’d say by the time you finish her book, clever girl that you are, you’ll know how best to respond.

  25. Betsy; you could know whether there is any potential in the first few pages. If it pans out, and who knows what happened to her life after the boyfriend thing, you have something. But there has to be a condition: You get to write the preface without her editing it!!! Oh, what a story you could tell.

  26. On one hand, she did you a favor. On the other, she’s tacky.

    Can you work with tacky?

  27. Oh, Betsy– you kill me!

  28. Here is the thing…as an agent that must piss you off and we writers get that. On the other hand my neighbor is Steven Carter, my friends college roommate is Alice Hoffman. Both refuse to even speak to a new writer…including me.

    Trying to get an agent who will look at your work? Many say “only upon referral.” Ok so let me get this straight my manuscript ends up in a pile with the local flyer for Kohls and I can’t call you or talk to you?

    So what do you do because sometimes we feel fucked if you do and fucked if you don’t.

  29. Request the partial. By snail. Make sure you let her know she should pay extra for priority and delivery confirmation. Then wait six mos, ask for the full. By priority snail. Then wait until three mos, have an assistant send a note that it’s been misplaced but to send another partial. By priority snail. Wait six mos, ask for the full. Then send a form addressed to Dear Author. Make sure it’s a “Just didn’t fall in love with it” version.

    It’s the least she deserves.

  30. If the boyfriend-stealer’s book was the next Twilight, would the boyfriend thing still matter to you? Because the only thing that could make that relationship more bitter would be if you passed on her book out of spite and it turned out to make millions. Are you upset because these people are exploiting your relationship or because they’re exploiting it to shill a crappy book? Are you less bitter about having to read a crappy book when it came from someone you didn’t know?

  31. To Nationally read, word for word, stopping for his laughter and repulsive comments, the atrocities that were done to a woman while being raped. He raped her again, nationally. He is a repulsive, disgusting “person” who deserves the cruelest kind of retribution.

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