• 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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I Throw My Hands Up In The Air Sometimes Saying AYO

Letter from Cancun:

So while I was winning every wet t-shirt contest up and down la playa, this 29 year old young writer scores a seven figure book deal for her YA paranormal series. What’s wrong with this picture? It could have been us. We could have entered the feathery serpent’s grasp together, the equinox burning its true face on Chichen Itza where girls in embroidered white dresses danced and boys trembled.

I’m so impressed with Amanda Hocking for self-publishing nine novels. Apparently, she tried  the traditional route, couldn’t find an agent and then said, fuck it, I can just publish these myself. I haven’t been able to find out how she grew her audience (apparently 900,000 copies of nine book sold) and while it’s tempting to imagine that she’s the love child of Laura Albert and Dale Peck,  so far it looks like another garden variety twenty-something out of Minneapolis jacked up on Red Bull has slapped it!

I read three books on vacation: (do you give shit?): Iphigenia in Forest Hills by Janet Malcolm, Carrie by Steven King, and The Savage Detectives by Roberto Bolano (I would have finished but I watched six consecutive episodes on the plane of Two and a Half Men).

Tell me about your week. Did you finish a piece of writing? Start one? Send something out? Get rejected, accepted, in waiting hell? Did you write your own acceptance speech or deliver a death sentence? Did you write for your morning hour, or just before you went to sleep? Did you steal office supplies? Make love to yourself? Eat pie?

91 Responses

  1. In waiting hell.

    That’s exactly what it was.

  2. The rejection shithole of all shitholes.

  3. Worked on the revision of my novel, THE RABBI’S MOTHER for my brilliant agent. Did taxes. Listened to a fantastic audio book called SHATTER by Michael Robotham, cleaned the farmhouse, did the laundry & sheets, paid the bills, walked three miles every day, and had two martinis every goddamn night. No sex. That’ll be next week.

  4. Read The Writers Chronicle articles claiming the memoir is dead. Made chicken and dumplings for the neighbors. Read a classic. Picked up dog poop. Downloaded my first e-book. Counseled someone on how to cancel their wedding. Bought 3 memoirs and kept working on mine. Drank.

    • Okay, so that wedding shit storm smothered every inch of this week and me along with it. The other stuff happened in a fogged state. I should have drank more.

  5. I ate pie. Lots and lots of pie. Cake, too. And a bag of stale Raisinettes.

  6. It’s so kind of you to ask. I placed ninth in a small nonfiction contest at The Write Helper, and last week I won the memoir division of the Author! Author! Rings True literary competition.

    Carrie was not my favorite Stephen King book, but it was a gateway drug to his other work. I prefer The Stand.

    It sounds like you had a most excellent vacation. I’ve missed your posts while you were away.

  7. I read Unbroken, Bill Warrington’s Last Chance and the interview of Ann Beattie in the spring 2011 Paris Review. She’s still my hero. Morning wrote only three times but then I traveled from one remote mining town in the Colorado Rockies to one sliver moon shaped Bahamian island, passing through Kennedy twice with 5 different kids. No excuse, I know.

  8. Missed you. Stood up for my revision to good end. Wrote into part two of new novel. Read Paris review interviews and thought how much I feel that way too but I am a striving nobody so who cares.

  9. My editing life ate my writing life. It could be worse, I could work at a law office.

  10. Welcome home, toots.

  11. Wept through eulogies. Hated fewer people.

  12. I spent the entire week teaching a short story critique class and a query-writing class at the Catholic Writers Conference Online. Right now, I’m utterly critiqued-out, so I’m knitting a pair of slippers.

  13. All of the above.

  14. Played a lot of computer games — I’ve switched to the time management ones, since my eyesight is no longer up to finding tiny objects.

    Helped prepare our library for a flood that may or may not be five feet worse than the worst one on record.

    Wrote one scene five goddamn times — finally figured out what was wrong at two in the morning, got up, and scribbled it down in block letters.

    Took a pistol safety class and learned that I can hit the broad side of a barn, but not necessarily a small paper target 15 yards away. But the instructor said he’d look over a couple scenes in my WIP to make sure the characters weren’t firing without a cartridge in the chamber. And I’m so getting my FOID card so I can go back to the shooitng range!

    And for the past twenty hours or so, I’ve been mourning Diana Wynne Jones and celebrating her life by re-reading Witch Week and a Sudden Wild Magic.

  15. I continued to float my dragon novel, DRAKO, among various agents, took a week getting rid of a virus, continued work on my other two (unfinished) novels, THE PIANIST, and GO WEST (YOUNG MAN). Also worked through learning some valuable items on MS Word.

  16. Tapped the authentic stuff. No more holding back. I’m feeling manic and high and the pages are flying from my fingers.

    No ancient pyramids in my week though. Just fresh, light amber maple syrup on homemade pancakes. Maybe it’s a sugar high or, maple syrup is the cure for writers block.

  17. Welcome home, Betsy! So nice of you to take an interest in your patients’ – I mean your readers’ – lives.

    This week, I ran my town’s used book sale, to raise $ for the Friends of the Library. It’s really just an excuse for the town to come out of hibernation and socialize after a long New Hampshire winter.

    On Monday, a big-time Hollywood producer asked for a ms of my YA novel because he heard from a friend of a friend that he would like it. That was a bit surreal. Then I sent off my nonfiction proposal to a publisher and gave myself permission to work on my aforementioned YA novel, DRINKING FROM OBLIVION, while waiting to hear. Then, a day later, a sorta kinda dream agent (besides you, Betsy, OF COURSE) emailed and asked for whatever I have to show her of the nonfiction project based on my blog. She said, and I quote, “I love the sound of your project. And I love your writing.” I will live off of that for the next six months.

    Dear Betsy, I fear I am a slut for agent, editor, and reader praise. Some weeks, my happiness is predicated on what lands in my email inbox. Some weeks, all it takes is a good used book sale. This week was a little of both.

  18. I fucked with my new Blackberry, determined to grasp a few more of its applications. There are still things that aren’t exactly clear to me (RSS? PTT?) but I’m coming along. My first night with the phone, I managed to check my email, surf the web, and download my ringtone (The Get Smart theme. How cool is that!?) But for the life of me, I couldn’t figure out how to make a call. In the process of learning, I unwittingly called my sister four, or eight, or possibly ten, times. The first few times she was gracious. After that she got peevish.

    I suspect that my foray into social media will continue to tax everyone around me.

  19. Was hypnotized by a legion of ants.
    Did a shitload of laundry.
    Not so much writing, I’m sorry to say
    but I kissed away a whole lot of boo boos.
    And, during bath time, refrained from throwing the toaster into the water.
    I’d say, all told, it was a rather successful week.

  20. Amanda Hocking is impressive. How did she grow her readership? According to her blog: hard Net 2.0 work. Plus she first published chapters on-line.

    I’m about to send my MS to my agent: draft 3. I’m already celebrating. I know this is #3 of about 6 drafts, but each draft is a victory.

  21. Finished my book and started revising it, surprised to find out I kind of like doing that. Went for a couple of good skis in the woods before the last snow of the season melts away. Attended an otter’s (four otters actually–Louie, Remy, Squeaker and uh, the last name escapes me…)birthday party at a mountain museum. It was a kid thing, but the cupcakes were good and I do like seeing the otters swim in their tank. They had advertised there would be an egg hunt. I thought it would be for the kids, but instead brightly colored hard boiled eggs were placed on rocks in the otter enclosure and watching an otter swim while grasping an egg is pretty cool. Watching them crack open an egg on a rock and smear the whole semi-solid mess in a trail down to the water ensured I’ll never eat a hard boiled egg with the same dignity and poise again.

    Hope the Mayan sun and jungles were kind and the sand on the beaches didn’t burn your feet. Welcome home.

  22. With Betsy away, I went cold turkey, stayed off the social networks and hit the keyboard. Helpful that it rained all week here in sunny California.
    Went from 79 to 95 thousand words on my memoir, no joke. Part rewrite, true, from years old material in other formats. One more day to finish this draft and then query…yes, here.

  23. Took a week off. Made drapes. Planted a rose bush. Cried. Howled. Sweated. Made meals out of nothing. Cursed. Monday morning–back to the book. Sanity returns.

  24. Traveled from Mumbai to Kuwait, then to JFK, where my flight was delayed for several hours, causing me to miss my Atlanta connection to Jacksonville. Then I crashed for two days at the Marriott, sleeping so deeply I drooled hard enough to get dehydrated. Then I went to a Ratha Yatra festival in St. Augustine, where I’ll be living for the next few months, trying to crank out enough pages so I can send something to Betsy.

  25. Wrote a blog post about why I’ll probably never have an “orgasmic birth,” suffered first crayon-on-wall attack by toddler, made a mean lasagna, and saw new “Jane Eyre” movie with my mom.

    Ms. Hocking is impressive. Go, Minnesota!

    • “Orgasmic birth”? These ladies must be either designed or wired just a little bit differently than the rest of us.

      Or have one hell of an an anesthesiologist.

      • obviously they didn’t have mine — he almost killed me. Nothing like a near-death experience to begin parenthood!

      • I listened to the orgasmic bunch that made me feel like I was hurting my baby by having a repeat c-section and my daughter paid the price. Then the breast feeding Nazis descended on me, clucking their tongues when my too weak baby couldn’t nurse. I wasn’t doing it right. Then the home health aid mistook the bruises caused by countless needles for abuse. Some of these do-gooders really have to learn to mind their own f-ing business.

  26. Hey Betsy, I’m reading Savage Detectives too! Love the part about what constitutes losing one’s virginity. Your true visceral realist, Kyler.

  27. I took Song of Solomon (nearly finished it), Mildred Pierce (started it), and Three Stages of Amazement (read it the nights I came in drunk), and my laptop, thinking the writing paraphernalia would somehow anchor me, reel me back into the room when I needed to escape assimilation anxiety from being amid the Latin School parents who also accompanied their senior children to Mexico for a boozefest at a booze Palace in Playa del Carmen. But alas was so riveted by the drunken teen-aged dynamics/antics, not to mention the great parental zipcode divide, I didn’t write a word.

  28. Last week was yet another always-the-bridesmaid experience: my monologue was not included in a production because the actor the director wanted was not available. sigh.

  29. Failed the underground Disney guidebook litmus test and stood in many lines with kid/husband.
    Got caught having quickie w/ husband while (I thought) kid was still in shower.
    Spent half a day apologizing to kid and overcompensating by buying overpriced Disney crap.
    Watched 73-yr-old father cavort obscenely with new gf so got taste of own medicine.
    Woke up earlier than kid/husband/father/father’s gf to scuttle off to the Disney Hotel business center to work on next draft of YA due to agent by end of month.
    Instead of working on said YA got caught in work-related email hell and spilled Nescafe on keyboard of new MacBook.
    Watched my spray tan fade.
    Vowed to go to Costa Rica for one of those vegan-eco-small-footprint trips next Spring Break.
    As long as the hut we’re in has two bedrooms.
    With doors that lock.

  30. Got word from my agent who’s read 150 pages into this draft of the novel and so far, very good. So good she’s line-editing. She gave up on line edits during the last draft because of bigger problems…so this means I resolved the bigger problems to her satisfaction…

  31. I lost my fucking mittens so wasn’t allowed any pie. Explain that to me.

  32. Edits. Thought about the whaleback, wondered about the origin of the wind off the Rockies. Baked a fudge cake. Re-reading Johnson’s and Carver’s shorts.

  33. I fell in love, over and over and over again, with Charles Simic, and fantasized about having a really great reason to move to Iowa.

  34. Welcome back, Betsy, I also missed your posts but was impressed – based on your previous posts – that you left us hanging for a bit.

    I went to an Andrea Levy reading (she’s charming); signed up for a weekend writing workshop and scoffed that the only required reading would be the leader’s own book (as a writer friend pointed out, maybe she’ll even sign the copy we have to buy in advance); and felt the pull of the hype what with all these PYT’s getting deals and others paying crazy sums to go to fab locations and Write.

    Also found time to write.

  35. I get as much done in a decade as most people do in a week.

  36. Geeze, got to the chapter of your book What an Editor Wants, reading on the bus back and forth to work. I was trying to read The Tin Drum but I found myself falling asleep not giving a shit what that guy has to say; it might be beautiful in ways, but I hate being bored, so I gave up trying to be smarter than I am and went for what I want, so your book is enlightening me. Thank you. I feel a little bit of a fool, of course, as I have made every mistake, and then some, that you have mentioned. But, I believe in myself again. I’m not taking the rejection personal. And I’m impressed with the care you express. I always imagined throat cutters and hyenas Maybe you and the likes of you are different. That gives me hope again. My plot is not stupid, or so confined by popular culture, I’m not impressed by money when it comes to art, I’m not twenty, thank god. My week? Niggardly work—truck driving, making sure all the important folks have the gas and food they need, a thank-less business. But, Today! Sunday! My girlfriend said man what a good day: We went to the gym, she dragged me to the grocery store, we had sex, although we used a little porno because apparently my tongue action isn’t what it used to be, or we’re getting old, but the movie worked, she was was happy, Then! I made a home-made pizza and we watched a movie, a drama— The Trial. I’d love to say I wrote a book or a chapter but my two main characters don’t know why they do what they do. I’m starting to think I shouldn’t think about it too much and just let ’em have it out, one must die, or maybe not. Never mind. Great picture! That is where we belong. I think. Maybe we’ve been bamboozled and those structures are not what the granted professors profess. Anyway, Love you. I’m broke as hell but in the next year I’m going to buy at least two copies of your book for presents (don’t pack your stuff!) Beauty, beauty, beauty.

  37. Welcome back Betsy! I worked on my new column and travelled to Hawaii for a wedding.

    It’s been all silence on the agent front for a while. The Amanda Hocking story makes you wonder if it’s worth the effort to go traditional anymore. Never thought I’d say that but proof, pudding.

  38. Walked around Regensburg, where it is spring. Indexed for money (how many individual human names are there in the world? The horror). Started reading The Tin Drum because I’m in Germany and never read it before. Outlined and sketched in a story, which I must neglect until the dang index is done.

  39. Too sleep to write much (have arisen at 6am to write!). I tinkered with my blog, added social media functionality. I crafted a query for my novel, ONE BY ONE. I found a bunch of writers to follow on TWITTER. Worked on preparing a video for my Kickstarter project (am trying to raise money for a book trailer for my soon to be self-published THE GRIND SHOW novel). Began writing a YA novel entitled MEMORIES FROM THE FUTURE about the wholesale kidnapping of the youth of 2011 by the remnants of our species from 2133.

    Hoo boy. Alright. Time to get to work. Welcome back, Betsy!

  40. I got a dog, from the shelter, and we’re getting to know each other, and wonder of wonders, she and the cat are going to get along. Of course, I’m annoyed now cuz I have to get dressed and take her out at least twice a day for walks and fresh air, but since otherwise I’m perfectly capable of staying in my nightgown for three days in a row, never washing, etc., that was kind of the point of the dog. And a bonus of dog walking is getting ideas … yes, I got a new idea, a terrific idea, for a plot twist. My novel is nothing BUT plot twists. But it’s fun. And her name is Bella and the cat’s name is Tweeter.

    • Oh, and I read One of Our Thursdays Is Missing, the latest from Jasper Fforde, and it is terrific, although nothing can match the first ecstasy of reading The Eyre Affair. I adore wordplay, and he is the Supreme Master.

    • Good for you!!! I wish more people who want a pet would adopt from our many, many overcrowded shelters. Bless you, Bella, and Tweeter…:-))

    • Bless you for adopting your new friend. I’ve had my shelter dog for 3 years and I adore her — and you’re right that writing ideas will come while you’re on those walks.

  41. Good move. My dog gets me out when I’m too cranky to think of it myself, and I do some of my best writing in my head when I walk. Besides, how can you be cranky when the dog is so damn happy to be out in the world? Congratulations to both of you.

  42. I managed to revise one novel chapter — a little below my goal of revising *five* chapters. And then when I finished, I realized it was likely a lazy revision and that I didn’t truly address some of the bigger/scarier things that need to be addressed. So I’ll probably be working on that again this week.

    I also traveled most of the length of the PA turnpike twice in a 36-hour time period, went to some time-warp dance club full of fabulous people wearing things like white leisure suits and 80s belted t-shirts, and freaked out the waiter in a Mexican restaurant. Also, was asked to be a bridesmaid.

  43. ¿There’s a difference between making love to yourself and eating pie?

    ¿Even if you do it without cutlery?

    Memphis Trace

    • Rent the film Sweet Land and watch the apple pie scene. I think you will find there’s little difference, even with utensils.

  44. I’m trying to wring out another chapter from my polo mystery and doing my best to ignore the women’s lit – slash – YA languishing in agent purgatory.

    I’m also waiting for the temperature outside to push above freezing, so I can install a catch on the screen door, so I can sit on the deck so I can write outside…

  45. First, just finished “Forest from the Trees” – love it!!! After 20 years in publishing, every thing you said felt like I was hearing it from an old friend. I’m also old enough to have been there in the glory days…as I remember, drink in one hand, American Express Gold Card in another…an acq. editor living Hunter S Thompson style.

    So…on inspiration from you, I did something crazy and pitched a book series to a big packager in NYC – sent it unsolicited to the VP (big no-no)–lo and behold, it got passed to an editor who LOVES the idea. Last week my short one-page premise was rejected with an outline of questions and the note “I do wanna love this” — I took this as a good sign and am bustin’ out the full proposal now! THANK YOU for the great insights!

  46. I ate pie. Strawberry Rhubarb to be exact. Almost as good as Cancun, so I feel no jealousy.

  47. Not what I’d dreamed of years ago when I took up cudgels, but Amazon added me to their “Vine” reviewer program and I picked Saramago’s “Small Memories” for my first free book.

    Somebody cares.

    A woman read my Amazon review of “Bardot, Deneuve, Fonda” (Roger Vadim) and purchased my two POD novels on the strength of its humor and insight. My wife was pleased, which counts for a lot since I’ve not made her rich in the way she expected when she first melted at the sight of my baby blues.

    I wrote articles for BNA, including coverage of Ben Bernanke in San Diego, and worked on my novel in progress, all without ever resorting to the use of “shit’ or “shithole” or “fuckhole,” or “fucky-fucker” and still have what passes for a career this morning.

    I got through one hundred pages of “Freedom,” and while I’m not convinced Mr. Franzen is the second coming, I am pretty sure he pees standing up.

  48. First I cried when I found out that Elizabeth Taylor had died, and then I cried when Michael Scott proposed to Holly.

    Today I yelled at an old lady going 20mph iin a 30 mph zon, and I told someone who wants to friend me on Liknedin that she is still dead dead dead to me.

    In other words, I’m back to normal, now that Betsy’s back.

    • I’m beginning to suspect that particular social network is only for the living dead – all the invites I’ve rec’d from “L” are from people I’ll never miss – and never want to contact again. Ahha! – a paranormal series in the making!

  49. Worked on copy edits, and had a small nervous breakdown. (Not that the two are necessarily related.)

    Received two re-gifted movie tickets from my boss, who apparently forgot I was in the room when she received them.

    Celebrated my son’s 18th birthday, and watched him win a theater scholarship for his best-in-state monologues. Mad talent in that kid.

    Was scolded for my lack of marketing savvy and a misplaced apostrophe.

    Published one smutty e-book.

    And missed you, Betsy. Welcome home.

    • Ahem … we can find said e-book over at Noble Romance Publishing. Just downloaded THE KEY … so easy. Looking forward to the read.

    • he gets it from his mom, i suspect.

      now when he goes to college, he can say things like, “i come from an artistic family. my mom’s a published writer, you know.”

      woot. woot.

    • Thanks for that, Teri.

      I’m trying to keep the dirty stories under the radar, Amyg. Can you imagine reading a sex scene written by your mother? {{shudder}}

  50. I had beaucoup discussions in Canada with my YA writer friend about what constitutes YA. Also about what the fuck is wrong with my manuscript, a subject of which I never tire. Read Mathilda Savitch, which was fabulous, and a couple of others that were not. Drank really good red wine. Skin to win, biznitch.

    • So what constitutes YA?

      (Extra points if you use the phrase ‘Net 2.0’ in your answer.)

      • No idea. I argued that if the writing’s great, I don’t give a shit how old the protagonist is. Wait, when you’re having a discussion, are you supposed to listen to what the other person is saying? If you do that, when do you have time to formulate your next witty bon mot? Clearly you are doing it wrong.

  51. Hey Betsy! Love the blog. Right now I am in (hopefully) the last of my drafts for my query letter: Novel set in Atlantic City during the waning months before the casinos come. Two best friends spend what may be their last summer together. (by the way, this is NOT my real summary). Called Dancing on Seaside (dancingonseaside.com). I plan on sending it out soon.
    But, for real…another paranormal series? Christ, I wish this thing would just die…Yeesh…

  52. Working on my WIP, pages just flying along, and then I had to write the death of a 3 day old baby. It had to happen. I cried, and had to close the file and not look at it for the rest of the week. I’m better now. Sigh.

  53. Baked a pumpkin pie, without the crust. (I’m allergic to both dairy and soy; how retarded is that?) Call it pumpkin custard if you must. Finished it in less than 24 hours. Also finished a piece for an anthology on women’s mental health about my anxiety and PTSD. Now I feel ridiculously exposed, like those dreams where you are at school and you realize you are naked. Oh, shit. I take it all back. On to the next five deadlines that multiplied like slutty bunnies while my back was turned.

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