• 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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Standing At The End of The Road, Boys, Waiting for My New Friends to Come

If you’ve been reading this blog, you know I have no friends. Well, no friends outside of publishing. And they’re only your friends until you get shit canned. Last night, I met some civilians and they were asking some of the usual questions, how do you find authors, how do you know if a manuscript is good, is there any money in it?

–You mostly find authors through referrals (and this does not include my mother who loves nothing better than to foist a manuscript on me by the son of a lady she plays bridge with). A good referral is usually by a client, or a writing teacher, sometimes (and I’ve been lucky here), an editor. This is probably because I was an editor and they think I’m not out to screw people. (Apparently, they didn’t get the memo.) I also find authors the old fashioned way. I read a lot of stuff and call people/writers who I think might have a book in them. Sometimes they are flattered, but spoken for. Sometimes they are flattered but are too busy doing “real” work. And then, every once in a great while, the writer is not represented, has some pages he or she is working on, and it’s like where have you been all my life. Though the writer was hardly under a rock, it feels as if you have discovered him or her and you can barely contain your desire to share this writer with the whole world.

–How do you know if a manuscript is good? How do you know if a scrambled egg with cheese on a roll is good? How do you know if fucking in a stream is good? How do you know if a man driving down a highway will, when he arrives at his destination, either kill someone or himself?

–Money. What’s money?

What questions do civilians most commonly ask of you?

26 Responses

  1. I don’t care for scrambled eggs at all, prefer hot tubs to streams, and cross my fingers when I’m on the highway.

    Haven’t seen enough money to know what it is.

    Most civilians ask me when they can buy my book. I should probably hug them for their optimism, but I generally want to strangle them instead.

  2. Are you still working on that? When can I read it? Do you think I could write a book? I do. How hard could it be? Is it about you or did you make it up?

    Till the day I die I’ll be working on a book you will never be able to read that is all about you and I made it all up. So sue me.

  3. Oh, you’re writing a memoir? I’m going to write one, too, as soon as I have the time. How did you get your agent? Will you introduce me? Will you read my book, once I start writing? Can you recommend a good ghostwriter (actually, they rarely know the word, but you get the idea)?

    • What do you say when they ask for an introduction to your agent?

      I finally decided to give -anyone- an introduction to my agent. I hated wasting time trying to gently refuse the request, then realized it’s my agent’s job to wade through crap, anyway; my job is just to produce it.

      • Sometimes I just say, “No, I don’t do that.” If I’m feeling kind I say “He’s not taking any new clients,” which might have actually been true at one point or another. But I’ve had more than a couple of people use my name without telling me, cheeky monkeys. He would always email me to ask, and after the first couple of times, I said, “Dude, if I didn’t email you specifically about someone (which, btw, I’ve done ONCE in four years), they’re total poseurs.” He’s used to it.

      • If they ask if they can use my name in their query, I say sure. My agent knows that if it’s someone whose work I think she’ll like, I’ll write and tell her about the author. Without that, the query doesn’t carry any more weight than if my name weren’t on it. I don’t say she’s not taking on new clients because she might love the project.

      • I am 100% sure that he is not going to be interested in the memoir of the 22-year-old hairdresser who, like, doesn’t read books or anything, but has had such a “sick, crazy life” that everyone who actually does read would be all over that shit. But that’s sweet. You’re a giver.

      • Shanna, I’m not sweet or a giver. I’m old and sour and stingy.

  4. They’ve quit asking.

  5. You don’t know. There are never any guarantees. Fear is a survival method but it’s also a deterrent to life. Most of the control we wield is in not sticking a finger in the light socket. Beyond that? Not much. That’s why sometimes you just have to jump in that stream and go for it. You might get a leech stuck on your ass or have the best sex of your life. Maybe both. Either way you’ll have a funny story. Much more exciting than the one about the time you said no and walked away. Living a life with no regrets – even when you fuck up – is a chance worth taking.

  6. Off topic, but the bookmark on my browser that always led to this blog now pops up as betsylerner.com. Which I don’t think is your website.

    • Yeah, someone bought your name for their domain. Now instead of being able to just type betsylerner.com the .wordpress.com has to be added. Must be you were getting some decent traffic.

  7. “Are you still writing?”

  8. I’m up!
    Okay, so I go to this after church thing- the Unitarian Universalits- called the UU – because well, I’m a wayward kind of gal trying to find someone who will just talk to me. Anyway, the lady with the name tag that says “Hilda” takes me by the arm and says : “kiddo, I’m the person that’s going to introduce you around. I know, it’s dicey and all, but there it is.” So after about three people, one finally talks to me and asks: “and what do you do.” Now I have to be honest, being this is a church and all so I say :I’m a writer.” He smiles….like aha, sure, aren’t we all got a story in us. We move on.” Three more people ask “and what do you do?” and I’m always honest.” So after an hour a man about fifty- balding, rings in his ears, (I imagine him wearing a toga) asks me if I would like to attend the UU Friday Night frolicks. “The what I say?” “Frolicks,” he says.
    “As in frolick around?” I ask. And then he twirls, he actually twirls. Then he asks: “And what do you do?” and I say: “I’m a writer.” “Super,” he says with the most beautiful, angelic smile I’ve ever seen. He hands me a card with the directions to the Friday Night Frolicks. I smile and say: “See you there, and thanks,” and I did and I must tell you people, that when you need something to help you continue on that old path to writing and your soul sings, find someone to frolick with.

  9. I am a civilian and my civilian friends, of which there are few and we all agree that’s best – typically ask me if I’ve found a job yet. The few who know I’m writing just ask how the book is going, but stop there. I guess it’s my tone when I answer.

  10. I’m in a sub-group of civilians (mother of two year old who has temporarily or not so temporarily abandoned her career). I would seriously give prize money to someone if they asked me something OTHER than these three questions:

    1) Your daughter’s name is June? WAS SHE BORN IN JUNE? Answer is no, just fyi. That would be lame.
    2) Where is she going to pre-school. Snores. .
    3) What did you do before you did this? Long explanation follows – then I want to crawl into my closet and cry.

    • Did you CIO? Breastfeed or bottle? Just one, really? What happens when she’s get old and nobody likes her? Won’t she want a sibling -then-?

  11. “You get up WHEN?”

  12. Isn’t it done YET?

  13. Still trying to write that story? What’s it about, again?

  14. It is good in a stream. Ask the preacher’s daughter if you don’t believe me.

  15. Most of the people I spend much time with are working on two or three or four things, like me: earning money, looking for more ways to earn money, writing songs or poetry or a short story or a screenplay, trying to produce a show. Mostly we don’t ask each other what we’re doing; we know. As for the others, the civilians, I’m more likely to ask them questions and to draw impressions from the answers than to remember anything about what they ask me. Example (though my life isn’t usually this bohemian so close to home): a twentysomething ballerina from Austin is staying in my NYC apartment while preparing for a showing this week; she has learned little about me, I think, other than that I get up every morning and commune with the memoir she knows I’m drafting, but I’ve learned a fair amount more than I already knew about the ballet life.

  16. “What’s it about?”
    (today, while writing long-hand, before work): “Doesn’t your hand get tired?”

    One co-worker in another department asked me, “Can I be in it?”
    And his supervisor warned me, in surly tones, “I better not be in it, or I’ll sue ya.”

  17. “Are you still a photographer?” (My bread and butter.)

    When I reassure them, they circle around. “You’re still going to be a photographer, though, right?”

    More reassurance.

    “But, you’ll still be able to shoot my son’s birthday party?”

    I want to say, yes I fucking will. Apparently they think all I need to do is write a book and my mailbox will explode with hundred dollar bills every time I open it.

    People. I’ll always need my day job. Doesn’t the phrase ‘starving artist’ mean anything to you?

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