• 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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When Will Those Clouds All Disappear?

Spent a few days in Ann Arbor to help raise money for Dave Eggers 826 volunteer tutoring organization. Given my crush on The Eggman, I had to say yes. I gave two talks, signed some books, did a q&a and had Mojitos with some of the staff and writers, including our own beloved Sherry Stanfa-Stanley. It was good to know that a) commenters are real people and not a figment of my overactive imagination, and b) SSS is a great person. Seriously great.

When I was in LA last month, I went to a talk Eggers gave at the LA TImes Book Festival. He was extremely self-deprecating about his memoir, A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius.  At the Q&A, a young man stepped to the mic. He said he loved the memoir, that it had influenced him deeply. His question for Eggers: Am I a fool? I suddenly understood in a flash something I never fully understood  about self-deprecation. It’s insulting. If someone loves you or your work, they don’t want you to take it away by belittling it. For me, in my life, realizations have never resulted in actual change. I mean I chip away.

So, what do you like about this piece of shit blog?

89 Responses

  1. I love that you remind everyday that writing is personal and public. I love that you let your slip show, you let your savvy out–you let us all know how important the whole shebang is. I love that you are sincere. And I realize I used too many S’s.

    And I love Eggers for the same reasons.

  2. you, you and you.

  3. I was in Ann Arbor for Betsy’s presentations and it’s good to know that she is a real person and not a figment of my imagination and that she is also a generous soul. On first meeting, Betsy struck me as shy & reserved while at the same time being exuberant & joyfully clever. Regular readers of this blog may find the shy and reserved assessment to be off the mark and maybe I’m wrong. But I’ll punch anyone in the nose who disagrees with Betsy being a generous, exuberant, and joyfully clever soul. Fisticuffs anyone?

  4. At first I thought, I must unsubscribe. Betsy Lerner is drunk. She’s just typing with two fingers. This humor is scatological and jejune. I should be reading those other four volumes of Proust. Around this time I realized that I treasure funny, dark women willing and able to reveal the naked demons that dance before their eyes. Now I read your blog every time – even when I’m really, really busy. You’re worth it.

  5. it reads true. oh, there are questions about what/who we’re reading, doing, worrying about, fucking, writing.

  6. You met Sherry Stanfa-Stanley. I love Sherry so I’m jealous and happy. And though I’d like to be more contrary this evening, the sun is finally shining, I wrote what I think is a publishable piece on a Sunday, and I feel good. So there.

    Mazel tov.

    • Good for you on writing that piece, Teri! Talk about an accomplishment for the weekend.

      I too am a little jealous. And I only live a few hours away from Ann Arbor, so if I had known/planned, I probably could have been there. Ah well. Sometimes you just have to make asparagus soup and write a bad novel scene instead of meeting Sherry and Betsy, I guess.

    • We’re next, Teri. My kids, your dog, a picnic on the beach. . . .

  7. The tense tug-of-war that transpires between thought and emotion. The push and the pull. The snark and the compassion and being open to the beauty that emerges from the unraveling of those mental threads. Kind of like a hockey game. Or a Pixies song.

  8. Take what Carolyn Cooke said, remove the bit about Proust, and substitute “bipolar” for “drunk”. That’s me, down to the em dash.

  9. I love the peeps that you attract.

  10. Your unrelenting honesty about who you are.

  11. I would love to drink mojitos with Sherry. The blog? Well, I appreciate the bits of brilliance you throw out here. The one about all the hope in the barrette plastered to a little girl’s head still resonates with me. It makes me feel like a kindred stranger. Isn’t that what it’s about? This whole writing thing?

  12. I like the BS detectoring and the wiseassery and the quiet encouragement when it counts.

    It’s supportive here, in a signular way—and not nearly as dysfuncttional or codependent as we like to pretend.

    And people like Sherry hang out here, and Betsy is ringmistress, so there you go.

  13. Those epiphanies, no matter how mind-blowing, have a limited half-life.

    I guess what I love most about this delicious blog is your courageous honesty.

  14. I read your blog for the same reason I re-read The Forest for the Trees. Just when I’m ready to give up, you remind us that giving up is the only guarantee that we’ll never be published.

    As for self-deprecation, I’m fucked. Without that I may have to start trying to like myself or at least pretend that I do.

    • Absolutely. This blog got me writing again. But it also helped me understand the above and beyond to get published. Might be writing stupid or smartass comments, but working hard behind the scenes.

  15. The thing I like about this p-o-s blog (Yeah, irony, I get it) is your remark about self-deprecation. Very insightful. Kind of like a little light bulb went off in your head. But you are not into self-deprecation, usually. I’ve heard you mention a couple of times how good you are at certain things. Which you should. And Dave Eggers’ self-deprecation is phony. AHBOSG was a self-indulgent rant. My comments on the back fly leaf were so long and detailed I had to go back and edit. Even the brief excerpts I have read from you on this blog indicate that you are perhaps a real person.

  16. That you see the world differently than I do, for better or for worse. I think I’m going to learn a lot here.

  17. I think we’re all pretty sure who the seriously great person is here. But thanks for the shout-out. It was a fabulous weekend times ten. Thank you.

  18. I don’t give a rat’s ass about your piece of crap blog. That’s why my mouse hand hovers over the unsubscribe link each time I open your email.

    Keep up the shitty work.

  19. I’m not a writer. I’m a therapist. I love this blog — only discovered it recently. You’re funny and smart. I like how much content you put into a short space without making it feel crammed.

  20. I am not a real person.

  21. If someone loves you and your work, they shouldn’t be threatened by your own self-deprecation. They are because they see it as a reflection of their own intense feelings, a belittling of themselves. How could you possibly be responsible for the projections placed upon you?
    Dave Eggers has done so many amazing things. Because his work rang so true for this man doesn’t mean that he owes it to this fan to take it all seriously. Isn’t there enough of that in the world?
    You mean so much to many of us on this blog because you’re honest, and yes, self-deprecating, and damn funny, and as a few people have noted, a generous soul.
    Why should you have to change you, because someone feels it lessens their own being? My God, there has to be a limit to what an author, a human being has to accommodate, no?

    You and Sherry drinking Mojitos. I hope you got to see a fellow pea in a pod. She is equally funny, self-deprecating and sincere and we wouldn’t have her any other way.

  22. Your wit, your writing, your insights. And when you aren’t being witty — those serious moments? I adore those. When you are just frank. Gloomy or ecstatic. Whatever.

    Weird — I was thinking of Eggers today. I was thinking how no one should write the “my mum died of cancer” memoir. Ever again. There’s nothing left to say after AHWOSG.

  23. It’s the only pub insider blog that isn’t fueled by vapid, pedantic drivel. Well, maybe that’s a little strong. It’s one of a handful of blogs that isn’t fueled by vapid, pedantic drivel.

    • Because of this blog, and a road trip to the Pacific Northwest two weeks ago, I know that Princess Sisi is also real person of serious greatness. She can lead an out-of-towner to the best bars in Portland and is one of the last babes of minor royalty who can drain two big-ass martinis in under forty minutes and not get all skanky like those Windsor sluts.

      It was so exciting to meet another Commentor, and talk about our crush on Betsy, and all the other figments of Betsy World. Meaning, we talked on and on about our fantasies of August.

  24. I agree with Princess Sisi. I get my vapid, pedantic drivel elsewhere, and come here for your raw gobs of insight. That’s right, I said gobs.

    I also like the fact that there are no bots here. Speaking of which, cheap high-class sneakers are available at really good price over at my new top class site http://www.wtfdon‘tclickthisit’sajoke.com

  25. What they said…

  26. It’s all been said so well already.

    Your humour (self deprecating and otherwise), your advice – wise and wise-ass, your love of language and wordplay,your gumption. The space you create for us to vent, share and riff off on another.

    And whether I laugh or am moved by your posts, there’s a connection. And I’ ve made connections because of your blog. So thank you.

  27. The real love that’s in it

  28. It’s safer than heroin, but it still gets me high.

  29. I Love You.

  30. The pictures and images you use are cool. Also, you encourage some really great discussions about what other writers are thinking, going through and inspired by. You send out the invitations, set the table and do the cooking. We bring the strudel.

  31. I love that you write from the place where one thing turns into another; where words come into the world and come from the world into you; you write from the place where you are maker and being made all at once. You are brave to do this and generous, hugely so.

  32. I love your blog because you are funny but dead serious about your business. Plus who eles has RapGenius listed under their links. Word.

  33. Also it was a plesure to meet you during the 826 conference I learned a lot.

  34. Your clockwork reliability, which is what makes this place the hub of activity it is. I always know where to find my peeps.

    Also, and it pains me to say this, your high tolerance for bullshit. Your aversion to censorship makes for a much more interesting and diverse community, and I like the idea that whatever is written here is forever part of the conversation, for better or worse.

  35. Hey! Jews do guilt, not self-trash-talking. Cut it out.

  36. I love the song lyric headlines. I used a lyric today for my own blog headline despite the shameful fact that it was Ke$ha, but I did it anyway. Your blog makes me aspire to one day use a higher caliber of lyrics.

    I could say a lot more about your blog but I think other people are going to say it for me. Also, I don’t know if I know how to not be self-deprecating, which is a little worrisome.

  37. I love the way you love words. I love the way you use words, sometimes poetry, sometimes information, sometimes incomprehensible on first read, always (always) intriguing. I love the titles. I love the way you don’t censor yourself or others. I love learning what you know about publishing and editing. What I hate is that it even occurs to you to call this blog a piece of shit, in fun or sarcasm or any other way.

  38. I read the blog for your writing, Betsy. It doesn’t matter what you’re talking about. It’s the sentences.

  39. The times when your writing is sheer poetry. Certainly not any of the slavering sycophants and their at time embarrasing slurpees.

    • You’re looking quite lovely today Anon and that comment is swooning with cleverness. Did you know I’ve written a book? I bet a big, strapping brain like yours would love it! Cheers! xoxo

  40. I promised myself that if I wrote this, you would never see a query from me. First of all, I loved Forest for the Trees before I even knew who you were.

    Second of all, you are one my favorite writers. Period. I like David Mamet, Sam Shepard, David Sedaris, William Shakespeare, and Betsy Lerner.

    The (extremely short) posts on this piece of shit blog are like fireworks–they awe, they exhilarate, they move, they touch, they amuse, and they frighten. All the things people look for in a writer. I’m never disappointed. And I love the song titles as titles. That’s what drew me in the first place.

    You’re going to hate me for saying this, because we hate people for saying things about us that are true that we don’t want to think are true, but are anyway.

    But you are a poet.

    Really. You are.

    Thanks for being one of the best writers I’ve read and one of the best agents I’ll never query.

  41. I love the way you sling a swear word.

  42. You like to jump out of dark spaces and laugh when you scare the shit out of people, that’s what I like about you.

  43. It was so great to meet you in Ann Arbor. You are seriously wonderful.

  44. Betsy, you know what I like about you?

    You really know how to dance.

  45. Just as you like to be reminded that commenters are real people, I’m happy to be reminded that agents are real people; and you are as real as it gets here on this blog.

  46. She does an aleman left with her partners and a do-se-do better than anyone I know.

  47. I love that you can ask “What do you love about this blog” and the answers come flying. It always feels like a party in this place. Some nights are more fun than others, but there’s drinking, trash talk, gossip, and delicious nibbles of the edible variety and of the written variety. The conversation is spicy like ginger ale. Your sentences and the questions you ask us are a juicy, thick, crispy skinned turkey leg that keep us chewing into the black night. There’s always hanky-panky going on in one of the upstairs bedrooms and the music is loud.

  48. I like the general vibe. There, I said it, and now I sound like a hippie.

  49. Late to the party – darn those day-job meetings! but I’m interested particularly, with the question of self depreciation and life-changing moments. ‘have been thinking about this for hours – thanks, Betsy for keeping me unfocused on my clients…

    As an insulation from gushy people hovering too close into one’s personal space or a reaction against questionable sincerely, ‘honest’ self-depreciation can’t be beat as a social navigational tool. It gives everyone a chance to catch their breath. Insufferable is the self depreciation thinly disguised as a type of lint brush to pick up more platitudes! In that instance, I just want to start agreeing with the depreciator (“yes, you’re right, you really didn’t deserve such good luck”).

    Aren’t life changing moments/realizations everything but one-size-fits-most? From the early encounters (wow! rose thorns really do not need to be touched) to the more complex, subtle lessons of living among other people, we adapt and learn in various intensities. For me, the most feared encounters are the moments/realizations that upend one’s life and give you no choice but to adapt or perish. I’ve had a few of those and would prefer to just ‘chip away’ all the rough edges.

  50. The humanity, and the absolute find-no-where-else humor. Priceless.

  51. Do I love you for your blog, or do I love your blog because of you? I fell in love with the first entry. I found this and it made me think of you:
    Ode to a Four-Letter Word

  52. Totally understand. I’ve been trying to understand self -deprecation for a while now. Why do I lower myself to people I think are totally stupid in order to get along with them? : I want to get along with them. I think artists have this, really, sort of Buddhist, outlook on life where they accept the unexplainable as, I’d rather not say old hat, but, old hat. It’s life. I can see what you mean by fans not wanting the artist to belittle their work. They are hanging onto it for purpose, for some sense of sanity. Totally get it. I guess the cure for this is somehow try to get over shyness, abandonment issues, Buddhist’s issues, if you want to be in the public eye, and just really be yourself in the face of everyone else who wants to be themselves by being you, yet with their own thoughts and ideas of what this weird old world is, and, if this is the case, you therefore probably have a strange dynamic with which to deal. As far as this blog being a piece of shit? Have you been eating Jumbo Jacks again? I tried to stay away, I swear. You’re too human, too inviting. Ah, back to my original point. At my job, blue-collar, the rampant emotion is if I must do this, so do you. So, when someone pulls themselves out of that work-a-day world they might feel a little guilty about it, thinking they are abandoning people they have grown to love, or they want to keep in touch with, and then somehow hope those same people with paychecks might buy their stuff. ? . Betsy. You’re the best to me. Well, I exaggerate, and write. For now, like a typical adolescent crush. I’m new at this. And I’ve been reading Dickens again, thank god. Back to sanity. I love your blog, and I’ll try my hardest to not be so obnoxious. Pretty please?

    • Yikes! Seconds. Do your best, folks, from banal conversations to a table at the Jack-in-the-box. To, beautiful nature scenes, to immoral Amore, the world is not constructed by symbols and mores, only we humans do that. So be it —

  53. Because you have made me look at my writing more critically. And I’m laughing while I do it. I mean, jeeze, if you can’t laugh, what’s the use?

  54. I like the curse words. You’re like the Charlie Parker of verbal obscenities. Syncopation, complicated harmonies and metrics. Fabulous. Keep it up.

  55. I shoulda read all the comments like a good party goer, but I’m tired and I have a headache. Hello Betsy Blog Followers.

    Hi, Betsy. I have missed you and your blog more than Moe missed Curly. I was at BEA and actually had the insane idea of trying to find you. The idea lasted a nanosecond. I signed ARCs 3 tables down from Caroline Kennedy, which natch made me feel like I was Somebody. It was only a feeling and didn’t last long.

    Now I’m writing Book 2 of the two-book-contract and scared shitless it will blow.

    Hope to stop by again, sooner than later, because you’re totally more cool than Caroline K.

  56. Why do I like it? You’re funny and honest. So am I. I hope you’ll check out my blog.

    p.s. I thought I posted this, but maybe I forgot one filter step. Sorry if it’s a repeat.

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