• 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 WANNA HOLD YOUR HAND — Part Three of a Five Part Series: Things Writers Say That Make me Nervous

This is a big one. A big lie. And whenever a writer tells me this, I think long and hard before taking him on. Can you guess what it is? Okay, stand back, here it is: I don’t need a lot of handholding. LIE. LIE. LIE. Sans truth. That’s like a guy saying he doesn’t like blow jobs. Or a gal saying she doesn’t like Bosch appliances. Look, anyone who thinks they don’t need handholding through the fun-loving process of getting published is kidding himself. But it’s worse than that because invariably the person who makes this pronouncement is the one who needs far more than hand holding. He needs pep talks, commiseration conversations, babysitting, spoon feeding and diaper changing.

I don’t mind hand holding, in fact I’ve sort of built my reputation on it. But the fact still remains that a client who makes me laugh, who takes his lumps and comes back fighting, or who just works incredibly hard, that writer will continue to inspire me (both to hand hold when needed, but more important to keep me working hard for him). The worst is when a client calls and you groan before picking up the phone because you know a litany of complaints will follow. THe complaints, of course, are valid. News flash: publishing isn’t democratic or fair. Neither is the fact that I didn’t get asked to my prom. Or that the medication I take to make me stable makes me heavy. Or that I can’t hold a tune. Look: Tell me you need a little hand holding. Tell me you need a lot. Tell me that there aren’t enough hands in the world to hold what ails you. Just don’t lie to me.

Come clean. How much do you need?

43 Responses

  1. I’m getting a new puppy tomorrow. 8 wks old. I haven’t had a puppy in many years. Today, I wrote nothing. I puppy-proofed my kitchen. So what do I need? The list is long.

    I had a pedicure today. A treat before the big arrival. The gorgeous skinny blonde next to me was getting her toes polished for her wedding this weekend. She had an infant on her lap, and she kept telling the nail tech how little her fiance does to “help her” around the house, how he doesn’t “help her” with their baby, how she hopes he’ll start pitching in. Well I haven’t slept a wink because the puppy is coming and I’m like a kid before my birthday, and it took everything I had not to tell her to RUN, RUN LIKE MAD from this jack-wad because he’s never going to hold her hand or help her do squat.

    • Congrats on the puppy! was this a b-day present to yourself? My ten year old canine, known as Bad Dog, has been a beloved companion, in spite of the needy, sneaky habits that inspired her nick-name. Get some sleep tonight — you know that puppy will be awake a-l-l night tomorrow.

      • Thanks Karen. I’m going to need a sleeping pill tonight. You know I’ll be up every 3 hours for the next few weeks, but how fun.

  2. Sorry, I’m one of those people who try very hard to be self sufficient. A reaction to the rejections – in the family dynamic, in romance, from former employers and friends: my life experience has taught me to suck it up, wring my hands alone at night and move on. On the other hand, my clients are all high maintenance, drawn to me like those moths to the flame. In my patient glow, they careen and flit as I light their paths – it’s part of the job, there will be an invoice for all this hand holding and I have more material for my writing efforts.

  3. when i was smaller than an acorn, i stayed at my grandmother’s house every weekend. on card nights, the women would gather around her kitchen table in front of the avocado-colored appliances to play rook. if i wasn’t getting the amount of attention i deserved, i would sneak off to a bedroom and stare at myself in the mirror until i forced tears. (i know, it was my very own x-man power.) weeping, i would lean against my grandmother’s or aunt’s arm–avoiding the tip of their Virginia Slim smokes–until somebody finally asked, “what’s wrong sweetheart?”

    right on queue, i got to say the line that brought the house down, “i miss my daddy.”

    (he was dead.)

    my need for attention has been remedied only slightly since. obviously. he’s still my punch line to get attention.

  4. I don’t know how much I need, but I figure if I didn’t need a certain amount of some form of hand-holding, I wouldn’t be parading my ego around in the costume of a creative writer.

    But I didn’t go to my prom (here comes that ego now, all tarted out like a bargain gigolo). It was the same day as District Literary finals. I made the right choice, won something in something, and went on to Regionals. And anyway, the girl I asked to the prom said she wouldn’t go with me unless I stopped smoking pot. Fat chance that. She wouldn’t hold my hand, either, or any other part of me, so after I got my ass handed to me at Regionals, I retired to a room of my own, where I spent the next seventeen years whacking off and smoking pot.

    Ah, the good old days.

  5. Hand holding? I need hugs and slaps. I need a shove, hard, against the massive boulder of my anxiety-induced inertia, until I build momentum, then get out of my way.

    I want tough love and tea. A sofa on which to sit and sigh. The occasional lunch at an expensive vegan restaurant.

    One of my favorite parts of FftT is the story about the author on the verge of a breakdown who took up residence in the office whilst finishing her work. I want someplace and someone I can run to when I want to run away, only to be turned around by firm yet gentle hands to face myself.

    Bolsters. Lots and lots of bolsters.

  6. More often than not, I probably need a swift kick in the ass. Tough love works best on me.

  7. Writing is a lot like posting cock-shots on the Internet. No one asked you to do it. Most are repulsed you’d force this upon their innocent eyes. But still I stand, dinky out, wondering if it’s pretty, discolored, magnificent or J-shaped? So yeah, I guess I need hand holding. Don’t worry, I’ll wash.

  8. My agent is like me, a mix of ferocious and funny, cold as ice and cosy warm. You never quite know who’ll you get. I need her to be a pit bull on my behalf (and she is) but not use those sharp teeth on me quite so assiduously, which happens. I’d rather have a few bites than sloppy kisses and no decent deals…I need someone who completely “gets” me and what I am trying to accomplish.

    I don’t need endless schmoozing; she has much bigger best-selling clients and they are paying more of her bills than I, so it’s not the right choice to take up too much of her time. She has the crucial ability to see more in me and my ideas than I sometimes can. Is that hand-holding? No. But it’s really essential.

  9. Betsy, you usually make me smile, but this one really did me in. I never went to the prom, never wanted to, and I declined an invitation to the Sadie Hawkins Day dance. I think my agent figured out how to hold my hand: plenty of funny emails back and forth. Having a blast in the midst of chaos.

  10. I need a lot of hand-holding and don’t get as much I’d like. 🙂 And I’m very up front about my neediness.

  11. Since I am not acquainted with any agents, I don’t know. You see, I write “nice” novels. They tend to be humorous and have happy endings. But, I think I’d at last try to be cooperative is an agent asked to see any of my work. Seems the right thing to do.

  12. I like handholding – but I once had a therapist that should get a medal of honor when I was still sorting out my stuff – I was so needy. I think there is a wide gap between handholding and nursemaiding. I hope to be one who needs healthy handholding. I never went to my prom, nor did the other few of us high school hippies – I sort of regret it now, but felt proud about it then.


  13. i was accused a week or two ago of being an approval junkie.

    Hello. Writer.

  14. @Heather Marsten: I love the debate: where do you draw the line between caring and enabling?

    Anyway–how much do I need? None. I’ve had enough.

    • Now I realize you don’t need to enable to care – in fact sometimes tough love, making a person face their consequences for their actions is the most loving thing you can do – if eyes are opened and people realize that they have to make changes.

  15. Only when I feel insecure and unworthy.

  16. What I need and what I get are two very different animals. My agent is A-list, uber-professional and brutally blunt. There’s no hand-holding. Sometimes it takes me a whole day to recover from a one-line email. Those emails have the power to a) send me into inspired all-night typing frenzies, or b) crush me like a small dried-up bug. It all depends on how fragile I’m feeling on the day.

  17. I don’t really like hand-holding. All that sweatiness and heat. I’d take inspiration over support any day.

  18. I’m partial to full body holding from just about anyone who will give it

  19. I’m usually okay if I know I could get my hand held if I wanted it. Sometimes that means I wait too long and fall apart before I ask, but still. I hate hugs, though. Everybody hugs these days. It’s horrible.

    • LOL. I love a good hug!

    • I met my first hugging family when I was 15. I walked into a new friend’s house and the mother and father BOTH hugged me hello. Totally freaked me out. But boy how I liked it.

      Hugs can be an acquired taste. I’m glad I acquired it.

      • Here in the South, hugs, kisses (both the real deal and air) and the assignment of nicknames are all part of every encounter – social and business. As a transplanted Northerner, it took me about 3 years to get comfortable with all this schmooziness. Now, I’m in the thick of it: calling people ‘babe’ and accepting hugs from my contractors. Quite civilized.

  20. I need a house-cleaner.

  21. I’m of the swift kick in the ass camp.
    I’m a hugger, family, friends, kids that need it. I’d hug you to say hello but once down to business, I’d be relieved to see the Doc Martens at the ready.
    Yes, ma’am, may I have another…

  22. I don’t see myself as the baby in that photo; I’m more the diaper, so I guess a change is inevitable.

  23. You can hold my hand anytime. 🙂

  24. Hand holding, shoulder patting, hugs, pep talks, therapy …

  25. Well, then you’d think me a liar. If someone tried to hold my hand in a business situation I’d think they didn’t trust my abilities or mental capacity to understand what they told me. Not enough coddling as a child and too much to prove as an adult, I suppose. However, I’m always up for humor and sarcasm.

  26. I’m not sure but probably far more hand-holding and coddling than I think I do. I do realize that much!

  27. Over the years, I’ve gone from a wide-eyed search for sweeping ideas that would change the world, to a simple strategy of not being a pain in the ass. It works!

  28. About a million bucks, a few blow jobs, and some peace and quiet. Oh, I’m sorry, this is sans a best-seller, probably. Oh, so, if you even looked at me, I wouldn’t complain.

  29. I’m sorry, that’s a lie. I complain about everything. But I don’t mean it.

  30. Ah this is so true! I’ve come to fear these words as a publicist as well. Just be honest and say you’re going to be the one who calls me on Sunday morning because you can’t figure out how to work computer so I can be sure to bill you by the hour.

    As a writer, I need someone to hold my hand but I try to spread it around–that what my mom/ friends/ dogs are for. That said, as much as the publishing process is angsty for me, it’s probably not as mystifying/ terrifying as it would be for someone outside the business. Is it better or worse to know full well what you’re getting into? That’s another question altogether.

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