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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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Oh, Mirror In The Sky, What Is Love?

Whenever assistants ask me what to look for in manuscripts, I always say page turners or prize winners. There is an assumption in my directive that the two are mutually exclusive. That’s a big topic which I’m not prepared to get into while watching The People’s Choice Awards.

What I’d love to find out is which you would rather have, assuming you could only have one, a big prize or a bestseller? Literary acclaim or ca-ching? Reputation or readers? Apples or oranges?

56 Responses

  1. this is a trick question, right? as soon as you get one you want the other.

    • for now, i will go with cha-ching as i am up all by myself trying to complete an email marketing newsletter that earns me my current cha-ching.

  2. I can heap praise upon myself as I pay my mortgage.

  3. Either one would do but a bestseller would be nice.

  4. Mangos!

  5. Readers for the first book, reputation for the second…. I’m feeling greedy.

  6. I’m broke, have a car payment due and haven’t yet paid the rent. I’ll forego the money. I want eternal acclaim.

  7. To your lastest statement we would rather have reputation then readers. We have not heard from you yet, but we like what you have to say. Thanks for being so open and honest.

  8. All I wanna do is (BANG BANG BANG BANG!)
    And (KKKAAAA CHING!)
    And take your money

    MIA

  9. I want readers. I want to know that I’m not just throwing my words into a bottomless, empty hole in the ground.

    Even if the choice was between readers and money, at the end of the day—and it’s been a loooong day—I think I’d still choose readers.

    Of course, that’s easy for me to say—I’m still hanging onto the day job . . .

  10. I’m a cheap date. I can live on sweet nothings.

  11. I would rather write a popular book that people read and loved than a perfect little prize winner that died as soon as it was published – if books are still being published in the distant future.

  12. Literary acclaim, definitely. Right now I have day-job writing, which also provides me with plenty o’material for the night-job writing. Also, I’m still feeling burned by my front page interview in the high school newspaper about my independent project play. The vindictive reporter — who was geekier than I was — twisted my words so that I talked about “wanting to write well but hey, you have to please the masses…” I didn’t really need that.

    So, I would rather be quietly renowned than thrust into the spotlight.

  13. I’d rather have readers who want to read my work than readers who feel they have to (either because it’s been assigned or because they want to tell people they’ve read the new award-winning work.)

  14. The literary award.. I can live on my pension–not affluently, but I can buy groceries and pay the bills. I still get a thrill when I hold the one award that I have won. You can’t buy that feeling.

  15. Show me the money…but not so fast; I’ll go for acclaim–lives longer, harder to get, difficult to spend.

  16. Acclaim of readers in the form of putting their money instead of their mouth into it.

    I particularly appreciated that Cold Mountain was a hit with readers much to the dismay of the literary snots of the world. And that Frazier followed that up with Thirteen Moons that set mouths afoam. Hell hath no fury like a critic when people refuse to embrace their wisdom.

    The ideal for me would be to publish a work that captures readers in spite of any wringing of hands or gnashing of teeth amongst.

    Memphis

  17. TO COMPLETE THE THOUGHT:

    The ideal for me would be to publish a work that captures readers in spite of any wringing of hands or gnashing of teeth amongst WANNABE WRITERS.

    Memphis

  18. Jay-Z asks this same question on Kanye’s newest album: What would you rather be/Underpaid or over-rated?
    Give me over-rated any day. If my ego’s bruised, I’ll buy it a diamond encrusted ice pack to help heal up.

  19. Bestseller. Then I’ll buy myself the therapy that comes with being torn down by other writers for getting big bucks instead of literary accolades.

  20. Pageturner!!!

  21. CA-CHING and Bling Bling.
    Everything else can follow.

  22. I just wanna be loved!

    Throughout my entire life, I’ve unintentionally found ways to run from money any time it appears. I’ve been perpetually poor and it’s okay. I write with this in mind and it makes everything a lot easier.

    So now just give me the Pulitzer (or maybe the Pushcart) and no one gets hurt.

    (National Book Award is fine too.)

    Lisa Kilian

  23. I’d say the prize winner because that most likely means I wrote something true to my vision and my heart.
    Which is why I’m in this anyway.

  24. “You like me, you really like me.” Who cares? I’d go with the bestseller. More permanent satisfaction and–mostly–my own doing.

  25. Oranges like Gary Soto’s:

    I peeled my orange
    That was so bright against
    the gray of December
    That, from a distance
    Someone might have thought
    I was making a fire in my
    Hands.

  26. blood oranges.

    i just want to write good stories and have someone, other than me, read them.

  27. Apples, readers, money, the prize.
    But I’ll take what I can get.

  28. II’d hate to write something people would put down after a few pages…so page turner it is…along with enough money to put my son through college, buy a brownstone, visit the pyramids, etc etc

  29. ca-ching.

  30. I thought about this long and hard and I think I finally have an answer…

    Oranges. They rarely get mealy and the peel is like nature’s individual wrapping. As for the rest of it, who knows.

  31. Here’s the deal. If you write a “people pleaser” that isn’t great but it sells a trillion copies, then over a trillion people know you wrote something that wasn’t great. All the money in the world can’t make it great.

    So I would choose literary acclaim. Future writing students could learn from it and the work could outlive all the people-pleasing works that died a sudden death.

  32. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Rachelle Gardner and Emily Sutherland. Emily Sutherland said: Interesting discussion! Couldn't resist commenting. RT @RachelleGardner: Big prize or bestseller?….from@BetsyLerner: http://bit.ly/i3gko2 […]

  33. Whether it is a best seller or a prize winner, either way there’s a serious spotlight involved. That part makes me really uncomfortable. It’s all the hours I spend alone with nothing but my dogs and my laptop. So if I have to be uncomfortable, I’d rather have the cash. That way I can buy fabulous new shoes to ease the pain. Probably purple.

  34. Money is such a long-shot, I think. Better to write from the heart, I think (though yeah I could ease some family suffering–they’ve had enough–with a little money).

  35. No doubt about it: A “ca-chinging” bestseller. And since I live in Florida, give me apples…I’m tired of oranges.

  36. Readers– no question.

    In some ways this is a question of who you would prefer your readers to be, the elite or the many…

  37. I just want to write something I’m proud of.

    • Mark Twain said, “We can secure other people’s approval if we do right and try hard; but our own is worth a hundred of it, and no way has been found out of securing that. ” Better go for the money Solange.

      Memphis

  38. It probably depends: if I already had fuck-you money, or a value reasonably close to it, I’d take the prize and prestige. In other words, if I’m not real worried about money, then the money doesn’t really matter that much.

    But if I’ve been plugging along for a long time, the prize isn’t something I can eat and it isn’t something that’ll let me quit my day job. So I’d take the money.

    In other words: if I’m like 98% of writers, I take the money.

  39. Both all everything

  40. Bestseller. Ca-ching. Readers.

    Readers, readers, readers, readers, readers…

    Isn’t that what you say writer’s want the most, Betsy?

  41. Ha! And by writer’s I meant writers….

  42. I used to want the whole fruit salad. The apples, the oranges, all of it.

    These cynical weird days though, I’d take a 1,500 print run at a small press and have a small but loyal following of nerds.

  43. If push came to shove or if I was dangled over a precipice and forced to tell the truth it would have to be ca-ching, bestseller, money-in-the-bank all the way. I’m a capitalist. No apologies.

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