• 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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You Were Only Waiting For This Moment to Arise

National Book Award reading tonight. This event lasted longer than the Academy Awards: Four hours from the welcome reception to the medal ceremony, to the reading (twenty authors, twenty!).  Some of the authors were fantastic, a couple disappeared themselves, a few had that pronounced MFA way of reading where the breath comes at exactly the wrong beat in some sort of forced air way that is both counter-intuitive and not. I fell in love with the poet Terrance Hayes. Patti was wonderful. I sat in the audience as if watching my child’s first violin recital; prouder I could not have been.

So tomorrow’s the big night. I’m not the kind of person who says “whatever happens we’re all winners,” or “the journey is more important than the destination.” Even if it’s true it sounds so gross. Though I have to admit that the best part of tonight was hearing so many voices, and thinking about all the work it took for each writer to arrive at this moment in his or her life.

So give me your acceptance speech, the one you tuck into your pocket just in case.

31 Responses

  1. As much as I love to write…I have never been able to stand up in front of a group and speak…so I have no acceptance speech.

  2. …It’s probably really pessimistic that I don’t have any acceptance speech–in my brain, my laptop, back pocket. I’ve never needed one and I’ve never thought I would.

    But then again, I don’t do anything with the intent to ‘win’ any award. I just do it because I want to. Life is a bit funner that way (maybe).

  3. I thank Stephanie for making it possible; Gordon for making it necessary; and my mother, for reading bedtime stories to me when I was a little boy, thereby giving me the love for the written story before I could even read.

    (Others to be added as time allows and circumstances demand.)

    Yeah, I’ve thought about it.

  4. Nowhere close to thinking about acceptance speeches, but I think this is a beautiful post.

  5. Tom Brady said it best after the Patriots undefeated regular season in ’07: “It took lots of hard work.”

  6. Years ago when I was a waitress writing for the local rags in Sun Valley, Idaho, I begged a ticket off a friend to the local writer’s conference. I listened enraptured to W.S. Merwin and Frank O’Connor and Anne Lamott. After Anne’s talk, I had to pee, so I ducked into the restroom of the gradeschool where she was speaking. Normally I will hold it til I get home, to the point of severe discomfort, to avoid a public toilet. And when I use one, I shroud the seat with toilet paper—I mean yards of it, the Egyptians would be proud. Well there in that stall, I dropped my pants and turned around and found myself about to plop down onto the seat—the bare seat. I arrested my descent just as I was about to hit the porcelain. I was shocked at my brazenness, at how at home I felt. What are you doing? I asked myself, bare butt hovering in mid-air. Just because they’re writers, they have clean asses?
    Then I did the mummy thing with the seat. But I peed the pee of the someone who has found her tribe.

    • Whoops….Frank O’Connor would have been quite a trick. Frank McCourt. Never underestimate the power of editing for accuracy.

  7. Wow, wow, thank you, really I can’t believe this, this is amazing, it was such an honour even to be nominated in the same breath as such literary luminaries like (fill in other shmucks names here) I never really thought I had a chance. Let me catch my breath, I’m still trying to recover from the limo ride over here tonight. Who knew they send all nominees over in a stretch Hummer with twin hookers and countless icy bottles of Chrystaal. I can’t say my wife was entirely pleased but she was impressed by the gesture. I could have done without the monkeys flying out of my ass but you take the bad with the good I guess. Where was I ? Oh yes, the book. When I set out to write this title my I saw it as an existential reimagining of A Pokey Little Puppy combined with Silence of the Lambs with a dash of The Brothers Karamazov. Which is of course the title of my book. Anyway, I’d like to thank Martin Scorcese, George Clooney and Angelina Jolie for their wonderful film adaptation, my agent for all those free lunches while I cried on her shoulder and drank to excess, the oublishing industry for temporarily forgetting their fatwah against me and of course my lovely wife, Shania nee Twain for her loving support. Oh shit, not another monkey.

  8. I don’t know about speeches but I write my future acknowledgements page in my head ALL the time. I thank mom and dad, my devoted reader friends, my mentor and that intern who that one nice editor name checked in his rejection letter as being a fan.

    I will probably add a line a line for blogging Betsy and her brazen band of commenters as well.

  9. The words “acceptance speech” make me want to dive under a table.

  10. thanks to my husband for listening to me blabber on about writing, even though i’m convinced i sound just like the parent voices in Charlie Brown cartoons. thanks to my kids for not complaining, too much, about the burnt frittata i tried to serve them last week, understanding that i needed to read “The Corrections” way more than i needed to cook. thanks to my reader who slaps me upside the head when i sound like a smart ass, go off on a tangent, don’t go far enough, etc.

    and something about lotsa hard work, encouragement and constructive criticism along the way. even the assholes who were competitive and dismissive helped out.

  11. look Ma, no hands.

  12. “First I’d like to thank my agent, Betsy Lerner…”

  13. There’s just one thing.
    You see, we nevah,
    do nothing
    Nice, and easy.
    We always do it nice —
    and rough.
    Now we’re gonna take the beginning of this song…
    ———————-No wait a minute — sorry — that’s Tina Turner introducing “Proud Mary” — wrong speech — I’ve just got so many speeches in that pocket….

  14. Yea!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Patti won!

    Betsy, too.

    I’m so happy for you. And so proud.

  15. Congratulations and thanks to you and Patti both.

  16. I’m floored. Knew you both deserved it, but to see it come through… I’m so, so glad for you both.

    By the way, everyone can listen to Patti’s reading from last night here at NPR.


  17. A friend of mine was at the ceremony, too, and texted me a photo he took of the winners. Patti looks SO happy.

    I posted it here:


  18. Congratulations, Betsy!

  19. Congrats. So happy for you both.

  20. Congratulations! yay!

  21. “Just Kids” is a pleasure to read.

    Congratulations Betsy and thanks for your exquisite discernment.

  22. Congratulations!!! Just woke up and checked the news!!!! Fantastic!

  23. Congratulations. I read part of Patti Smith’s acceptance speech:

    “There is nothing more beautiful than the book. Please don’t abandon the book.”


  24. […] Trattandosi di un premio prestigioso, se ne parla un po’ dappertutto, ma io vi propongo il piccolo post della sua editor, Betsy Lerner, che era presente alla cerimonia di consegna dei premi ieri sera, con i reading dei […]

  25. Congrats, Betsy. That was a pretty great acceptance speech from your author.

  26. Congratulations to you, Betsy! I hope you truly take in all these words of affirmation and congratulation because you do deserve every one of them. Your approach to agenting — as you have described yourself as taking a major hands on role in early editing — gives you ample reason to take great pride in this award. I hope you are eating caviar and chocolate and simply basking, basking in the light.

  27. Thanks to my parents, who never shooed me out of the room because the grown-ups were talking.

    Thanks to Miss Adelle for ignoring the rules when she gave me my very own library card at age ten.

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