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    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 Have No Need For Friendship

Betsy: After posting a blog entry about my struggle to write the acknowledgments page for my debut story collection and wondering what might be construed as tacky or overkill, one of my (and your) faithful readers suggested I ask you. I bet you have some good stories about author acknowledgments — the good, the bad, the excessive, the embarrassing, the heartfelt, the beautiful. Any thoughts or stories you’d like to share? NAME WITHHELD

Dear Thanker:

I have one word for people who write acknowledgments: pussies. These aren’t the Academy Awards. I hate them. The best thing I ever did was have them deleted from the paperback edition of The Forest for the Trees. They were mortifying, and my acknowledgments in Food an Loathing make me want to vomit on myself. You are the one true genius of your work. Did anyone help you type? Are there acknowledgments on paintings? Did Mozart ever thank anyone?

Do I read them? I read them first. And why? Competitively. To see who the agent is, to see who the editor is, to see how big of a douche bag the author sounds like with the false gratitude, humility, and appreciation. Have you ever noticed how young writers sound like they’re signing someone’s yearbook in their acknowledgments? I’m not even going to comment on the thanking of parents, the people who fucked you up in the first place and made you run crying to a keyboard to get over yourself.

My back hurts. I’m sorry. What do you all make of the “I couldn’t do it without you” bullshit at the back of books?

Love, Betsy

P.S. Do I like to be thanked in books that I’ve worked on? Very much.Thank you.

53 Responses

  1. I lap that shit up.
    And I already have my acknowledgments neatly typed and double spaced in my head, even though the book has yet to be written.
    It’s full of metaphors for love and light, so Betsy, you’ll be calling me a pussy for years to come if someone hates you enough to send you a copy of my future book.

  2. Then I guess I am a vagina the size of Texas. Acknowledgment of my mom will give her instant bragging rights and a retort when some braggart starts in with…”My Harold is a doctor you know.” She pulls the book out of her purse and turns to the acknowledgment page. BLAM! Conversation over.

  3. I agree with you. Although I’ve never written anything, as of yet, that anyone wants to publish, I still think about the day when one will be, a book that is, a book, and my acknowledgments have always been: To myself, for myself. I get sentimental sometimes thinking that telling the story I want to tell will heal all wounds, so I imagine I would thank my friends who have been more of a family to me than my biological family, bu that’s all bullshit. They love me for me and not my attempts at art. My work is about me. So simple, so forward, so direct. And that’s about it. Sorry about your back, Betsy, back injuries are a mother-fucker, no pun intended, I don’t think. OK! Maybe there was a bit of a snide remark there. Most back injuries are caused by stress. My girlfriend wants to know about the follow-up to Food and Loathing. She’s not a writer so Forest for the Trees doesn’t do it for her. Any hope on that front? Thanks, as always from now on.

  4. I’m with you Betsy. Reminds me of Academy Awards that make me want to puke. Take care of yourself. That I acknowledge.

  5. Wrong, wrong, wrong.

    I confess that I read acknowledgements first, before I read the book.

    Being able to 1) dedicate a book, and 2) acknowledge people who have helped are gracious aspects of publishing.

    • That sounds like heroes for the trees. Where is the story? We have become so old when we should be so young. Meaning to say, I disagree with you.

  6. I say, make ’em as long as you can. People love to see their name in print. The more people who you list, the more people they are to buy a copy of your book later to give to a friend and show them how brilliant they are for getting their name in your book.

    I aim for acks sections the size of phonebooks myself.

    It’s my one and only marketing move.

    Facebook? What’s that?

    And Twitter? Surely you jest.

    Blog? That’s for people who can’t write books.

    And all those endless interviews. How 2007.

    Ooops, sorry Betsy, except for your blog. I love your blog. Will it marry me?

  7. I have a whole three bookshelves of books where my name appears in the acknowledgements. It’s the bridesmaid syndrome. Sometimes I’m wearing a blue strapless number, and other times I’m done up like a trussed Southern Belle with an apple stuffed in my pie hole. When I feel like shit about myself and my writing career, seeing my name in other people’s books confirms that I’m a loser. And yet.

    Acks are entertaining, sometimes elegant, and often absurd, and I’ll bet most authors regret them a year down the line. Especially if they broke up with that agent, that wife, that writing group, in the interim.

    I say, flaunt your style in your acks the same way you do on the page. Minimalist? Leave them out, or put them in a long vertical line like Chuck Palahniuk did in his first printing of Fight Club. Romance? Overwrite ’em. Women’s fiction? Make them funny and full o’ vagina.

    Now, off for another swig of Nyquil. Stupid Disneyworld and its stupid germs.

  8. On the bat’s back I do fly. Shakespeare.

  9. I’ve written a whole book of acknowledgments.

  10. My agent said after my first novel was published that I should have thanked good old David R. who putatively edited the book. Meaning he filled out the check reqs over the years. I said to her, why? Doesn’t he get paid?

    They read as very vain and egotistical. What you put in a book is for the reader. The reader doesn’t give a shit about your emotional support group or your agent or any of that. If you MUST use one please insist it be at the BACK of the book, not at the front. They snap the reader’s already limited patience with you at the front. And you have not done anything yet, as far as we’re concerned, that you should be congratulating yourself about by virtue of these gooey thank yous.

  11. Fuck, I must be losing my mind. Has any of you highly educated authors ever read Gulliver’s Travels? Not the lame movie! The 100 year old book! You assholes! Where-is-the-mother-fucking-story? It’s that simple! (God, I hate psychology.)

  12. I’m with you on this. I have no one to thank. Just myself.

  13. But how do you REALLY feel, Betsy?

    I actually love the acknowledgments, which don’t strike me as phony, but gracious. I always read them, and am often impressed by how heartfelt they seem.

    And personally, I AM truly grateful to my agent, my editor, my parents, my husband, my beta readers and all the people who helped me with research. I would feel like an schmuck if I didn’t thank them.

  14. Sorry. Not with you on this one.

    “To my mom, who deserved so much more than just this measly dedication.”

    • Me neither.

      If I ever publish a book (will have to stop blogging first according to Marcus) there will be a few carefully chosen acknowledgements.

  15. Of course I read the Acknowledgments. It’s research. For my stalking.

    For instance, say I wanted the home address of the book review editor for some hugely influential magazine, let’s say it’s L, M, N, or O Magazine. So, I’d read her book , let’s say it’s about some European Queen, well, not the whole book, just the Author bio on the inside flap of the dust jacket , and let’s say that the Author bio says she lives in some suburb of some huge American city. Well, then I’d read the acks, and let’s say that she thanks her husband with his real name, first and last, whose last name is different from her professional name. All I’d have to do is look up his name in various suburban phone books until I find it (and it only takes a few minutes, by the way). And voila: I have the personal home address of the most powerful taste-maker in publishing. And the names of her kids, who she also thanked in the acks.

    This doesn’t make me creepy. It makes me informed.

  16. I don’t know how I managed to get your blogs but your vinegar is what fuels my day. Love it.

  17. I’m sorry your back still hurts. I hate that!

    I disagree with you about acknowledgments, at least in my case. I wrote the books, but they’d still be only piles of papers without my agent, and the editors (and their assistants) who worked hard and long to save me from myself.

    My last novel was included in the ALA 2011 best fiction for young adults list. That wouldn’t have happened if my agent, Wendy Schmalz , hadn’t sent the ms to Melanie Kroupa at FSG who worked for months to make it shine.

    Thanks again, Wendy and Melanie!

  18. People love seeing their name in print. And, like the penny on the sidewalk you’re tempted to pick up just to see if the date has any personal significance, you can always just skip right on by.
    Hope your back feels better soon.

  19. I started to write an out all my thank you’s once. Then I realized something…no matter WHAT I write I’m going to piss someone off. Someone will get their panties in a wad because I thanked John and not Jim.

    Fuck that.

    I kept it to one sentence and thanked the people who really mattered.

    “Thank you for buying my book”

  20. Thanking one’s editor, agent, the most significant people who have made the book possible, I think, is entirely appropriate. One does not need to gush, but a simple acknowledgment is a kind gesture since, as we all know, Rome was not built alone. I have a friend who has helped support me through the years of writing a book by paying for flights to attend writing retreats, wiring me money when I felt strapped, etc. She says it’s her way of “giving to the arts.” Thanking her, and others like her, once that puppy of a book finally makes it onto shelves is, I think, the decent thing to do.

  21. Whatever happened to saying thank you in person? Is nothing private, i.e. sincere, between 2 people? It’s like when I see professions of love on a baseball park billboard (“Sally, will you marry me?!”) or these days on Facebook (“I love you monkey lips!”). I get the icks.

    Still … do I read acknowledgements? Of course I do. But I only have a 2 paragraph attention span.

    • “Get the icks” Teri, I love that.

      Yup, I made them formy novel. All the while it occured to me that it used to be when I first started querying, much like dreaming of the Academy Awards, we hopeful writers would imagine who we’d dedicate our books to. Used to be you got ONE name. As in, don’t spend it all in one place. Now you can get PAGES, which I think is a bit stressful. Someone will get left out, not intentionally of course, but at some point we have to go to commercial, right?

    • I initially read that as “professors of love on a baseball park”. Possibly interesting images flashed before my mind’s eye, and also I wondered what sort of degree such professors might have.

    • Ew, ew, ew re: proposals at sporting events. I would say no on principle.

  22. OK, is this a memory test? on 9 March the same inquiry was posted.

  23. Heh this made me laugh. I agree.

    I’m all for a simple one line book dedication to one person, but the incredibly long list of acknowledgements – especially when printed at the front of the book, so you trip over them – can be irritating.

  24. They’re talking publishing on Laura Miller’s column over at “Salon”. POD v. traditional, being afraid and staying in your house v. getting your ass out there. I ran Betsy Lerner’s post of a few days ago regarding the “perfect client” to clear the air.

  25. I will thank John Rechy to my dying day in person and in print.

  26. I don’t think I’ve ever read an acknowledgments page. I think those short dedications are all right, but that’s about it.

  27. That post was the ‘best of Betsy’. I loved it.

  28. When I am published I’ll be standing in the pussified line big time. Just a big meow, that will be me with my acknowledgements page. Oh, yeah, I’ve got my list and I’ve checked it two or three times a dozen. I’d be the literary equivalent in my acknowledgements of that schmuck accepting an academy award for something or other whom no one knows or gives a greasy about…except those he’s thanking . . . and he’s still going on when the band plays on…and on…and, I can hardly wait for Godot or anyone else. Acknowledgements? Damn right.

  29. Indicator #37 of unprofessional wannabe-ness: putting energy into crafting the loving and grateful acknowledgements to future books that don’t exist and probably won’t.

  30. All I know is on the rare occasion I’ve been thanked in the acknowledgements of a book, it made my freaking year.

    But I guess you haters don’t care about that now DO YOU?

  31. Betsy,

    You’re right.

    A acknowledgment is like someone else’s clutter.

    Hand relief with no happy ending.

    A box of soggy sparklers. A gold-plated Timex.

    “Thanks, but you can keep the thanks.”

    However, Betsy, you’re wrong about your back — I don’t think it really is hurting.

  32. They pretty much make me want to puke. Did Shakespeare thank anyone?

  33. Well, I read ’em to see if I know anyone.

    And I write them because while I wrote the story, there are certain people who inspired me or thwacked me. We stand on the shoulders of giants and all that.

  34. Acknowledgements are a trip into swamp land. Nonetheless, I stand on the shoulders of others who taught and inspired and cooked and kept me from killing myself. So I might thank them in public.

    But this I know. My novel is very loosely based on encounters with a population of folks without whose courage I’d be out there somewhere dusting an altar rail. I will dedicate my book to them.

    I don’t share the experience of those thousands who have experienced clergy sexual abuse but I do share their experience of having been mistreated, ignored and even physically attacked by ‘the church’ in the aftermath. It is to those brave souls who dared to call a powerful institution to account, to justice, I will pay homage.

    In fact, the only justice I see coming sometimes is the evening I accept the Academy Award for best screenplay. And I think Diane Keaton will be Best Actress. And Daniel Craig for Best Actor (as hero), and Sophia Coppola for Best Director.

    We dream.

  35. “Once again to Zelda.”

  36. The thing about thanking parents who fucked you up in the first place? Thanks for lifting that burden of guilt from my shoulders.

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