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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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Do You Believe In Magic In A Young Girl’s Heart

Just got home from my event at McNally Jackson bookstore in Soho. A finer establishment you couldn’t hope for. On the way back, I polished off two mini Charleston Chews and two mini Peppermint Pattys. I ate one of  the Pattys so fast that I nearly choked, although this did not stop me from stuffing one of the Chews in my face while I was choking. At which point, I started coughing so hard that my right arm fell off and I peed myself slightly.

Thanks to all my friends old and new, and to  all the wonderful nutters who read the blog, who came out.  Thank you so much. It was an okay night. I was nervous. I give  talks all the time, but this was NYC and if you can make it there…I think I finally settled down by the Q&A and was somewhat funny. I always forget that I’m a person of letters and turn into Shecky Greene at these things. Nu?

You know what’s always really uncomfortable: the time you have to wait for the first person to break the ice and ask a question. No matter if I think I have the most brilliant question ever, I never ask it. This goes back to the time in ninth grade when a science teacher said, “There are no stupid questions…until now.” The other thing I’m never going do (again) is volunteer to part of a magic act. No fucking way. Not after what happened at the Century Club.

Sometimes people come up to me and  tell me that my book helped them write their book. That didn’t happen tonight.

49 Responses

  1. good lord, you are a delightful person….what a pleasure, and guess what? I HAVE an agent, so I’m just writing this out of the goodness of my own sweet heart. Heard about you from King’s blog (Bill Warrington…)

  2. Is it a known fact that everyone who comments here is looking for an agent?! *ahem*

    Sorry about the choking. Milky Ways go down better.

    • Nah. I write smut, there’s no hope for me. I come here because this is where the cool people hang out. Where else could I see a picture of a perfectly harmless cupcake and have the conversation degenerate to Little Debbie Does Dallas?

  3. Yes, already have agent . But not a one-armed one who needs pantyliners. Could be interesting. I also have insomnia or would not be here now wondering if I have peppermint patties stashed anywhere. Just discovered The Forest for the Trees. I live in the woods. And the words. So this was good discovery. I loved LOVED sanity in the book. Food and Loathing next.

  4. For those of us interested in reaping benefits, were there any good questions asked last night?

  5. Will you be doing a McNally tour, and coming to Ben McNally Books in Toronto? If so, I will bake some cupcakes today and freeze them for the occasion.

  6. I’m falling for the teaser. Tell us about the magic act. Please.

  7. If you have to channel someone during a bookstore event, Shecky Green is a pretty good choice.

    To misquote Carrie Fisher, speaking events tend to bring out the slapstick in me.

  8. In regards to the last sentence in today’s post: Not yet.

  9. Peppermint Patty’s a nice girl, but she’s not worth dying for. And don’t worry about the pee, you get old enough, you’ll be doing that all the time.

    You wrote a book that was useful. No matter what’s said or not said on any given night, that’s no small thing, Ms. Lerner.

  10. Your book gave me courage to be awesome.

    So please don’t choke on the Patties cause that would be really tragic.

    Lisa

  11. This story was brilliantly written… for a one-armed, incontinent editor, whose one decent artistic achievement in all the years since asking the only stupid question in the history of science has been all but forgotten by her audiences.

    You ought to try writing humor instead of doing it.

    Memphis Trace

  12. I’ve been wondering what to say…it was such a beautiful evening, I’m afraid that words would lessen the experience. The sweetness in Betsy’s eyes says it all, the sweetness and sincerity.

  13. It started off with Betsy taking a poll of the attendees (60+, standing room only) to show by raising hands how many wrote fiction, non-fiction, screenplays, and how many did “God’s Work” (poetry) and how many read her blog, which is when things got rowdy because some of us had stopped off for Happy Hour at Jacques’ up the street and were in the mood to share some Happy.

    Glenn Kurtz started off the discussion by asking Betsy “Why are writers so afraid of writing?” and Betsy answered by talking about how writers underestimate how very hard it is to put emotions into a desciplined format and she said that writers don’t practice enough and that’s why they are unprepared for how hard it all is and by the time she was through she’d said “prick” and “ass”. (Spoiler: Betsy didn’t say “fuck” until the very end of the audience Q&A.)

    Glenn asked, “What kind of practice should writers do?” And Betsy suggested that writers spend some time “writing in form”, like sestinas (sp?) or trying to imitate some well-known writerly voices; Hemingway and Dickens and the like. Glenn asked how come writers don’t do that (he’s coming from a musician’s POV and musicians do scales etc.) and Betsy did a wonderfully enlightning talk about how writers who are overly interested in their OWN “voice” , that is are overly protective of their own work, are not yet working at a publishable level. This was a point she re-iterated during the audience Q&A when a pale, quivering MFA grad asked about handling rejection and Betsy ordered her to grow a pair (I’m paraphrasing) because rejections are valuable information about what you need to work on.

    The biggest laughs came:
    1. When Glenn asked Betsy, with gut-wrenching desperation in his voice, about writers faced with a severe lack of success, “How do you keep going???” And Betsy looked at him with such depth of understanding and said, “I don’t know.” (You had to be there: big laugh, perfect way to detonate the pain, followed up with Betsy’s life advise re: how to be creative and sane; that’s when a fellow Blog Reader sitting next to me leaned over and whispered, “You’re so lucky to have her!”

    2. During the part where Betsy was answering Glenn’s question about how she picks the writers she represents, and Betsy talked about the various intellectual and visceral reactions she gets to good writing and then summed it up by saying the criteria is the same as you’d use when you go into a bar and hit on the one person there who excites you.

    Betsy also talked about writer’s ego, pitching a book in one sentence, how she dosen’t care for the concept of “platform”, how much the market place will or will not determine whether you’re a good writer, learning the difference between appraisal v. judgment in criticism, survival strategies for writers, and how she likes negative feedback because it’s the only kind she’s comfortable with. And she told us her writer’s motto, quoted from Spike Lee.

    Judging by the number of people who glommed onto her after the program, Betsy had quite a lot of groupies in the room. Young, attractive, tall male groupies. That’s the kind of writer I want to be.

  14. i write fiction and would not/could not/should not be represented by you, Betsy. i just come here because you’re funny, bitchy, moody and, well, you care about what’s important. the story on the page, electronic and otherwise.

  15. Ah, continuing to shove food in my face even as I choke. I know it well.

  16. I am grateful for your blog and what you share.

  17. http://jetreidliterary.blogspot.com/2011/01/value-of-rejection-process.html

    (Just found this comment about last night’s talk by the “fetchingly modest” BL)

    • Thanks for posting that. A rejection is simply a business decision. You go shopping for a car, you only buy one of them, not every single one you test drive.

  18. Please come to LA and speak.

  19. I am repped so I’m not here hopin’ and wishin’ and thinkin’ and prayin’. I’m here because I love your blog. The writing. Oh, so wonderful. But if I wasn’t already repped…you would be my one and only. I would let you rep me all day long….

  20. Was awesome to see Temple Grandin w/Claire Danes at the Golden Globes… great year so far…

  21. Come to Paris Madame Lerner. Come choke on something actually worth dying for! Thanks to Vivian for the fabulous play by play…

    B

  22. I have seldom felt uneasy in these situations–nor on the stage. Or leading community sings. I can’t explain it, but with me, it’s a walk in the park.
    Webb

  23. Thanks again for the talk. You were very funny and insightful! I’d be interested to correspond with you as I’m taking a class called The Literary Agent this semester. Are there books on agent-ing that would be especially useful, do you think? Also congrats again to you and Mr. Krivak on the publication of The Sojourn.

  24. I drop by because the owner lets me smoke.

  25. My guru told me that she whose mouth is stuffed with candy asks excellent questions.

    Just kidding. Don’t have a guru. Sorry to miss it, glad ’twas fun.

  26. wish I coulda been there. Vivian, thank you for your account–I really was able to picture it. Betsy, I think your comments were self effacing at best, even a little self-loathing, but I guess that’s the writer in you. I really wish I coulda been there. Hope you will appear again soon.

  27. Betsy, what haven’t you been asked that you’d like to be asked?

  28. […] I was there for 45 minutes, then I dashed to the bookstore (see below, which doesn’t give you any idea how crowded the space was: 60+ people, standing room only, overflow from the cafe into the aisles. For my report on what a hipster crowd of Manhattanites get from my agent, Betsy Lerner, you can read my recap on her blog here: https://betsylerner.wordpress.com/2011/01/18/do-you-believe-in-magic-in-a-young-girls-heart/#comments […]

  29. Public speaking I have not a clue. Public peeing PhD.
    My life was changed by a lift not my face or chest my bladder. I can laugh, jump, prance, cough and sneeze. My panties, hose, pants stay dry .
    I love picking a perfume for how it makes me feel not for how it mixes with a urine accord.
    Be Fucked soon..

  30. […] (Photo Credit: Magic Tricks @ Betsylerner.wordpress.com) […]

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