• Bridge Ladies

    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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You’re Just Too Good To Be True

I got up again. Got up in the dark and parked my ass in front of my computer and starting working on the screenplay that will never be optioned, sold, made or streamed. The reason I did it is because I can’t bear not to finish it. Because some tiny part of me believes that there is a Santa. And that if I want to sit in his lap, I have to be a very good girl. I also love my characters. I love them so much that I can’t believe people don’t like the main guy. I know he’s an asshole, but he’s my asshole, if you read me. I probably love the very worst parts of my screenplay even more. Here’s what I’m saying: so fucking what. Finish it. Start a new one. And then one after that. I was never Cinderella.

31 Responses

  1. I am delighted to hear you say you love your characters. You know, almost no one says that. Do you think it is because they don’t think they are real? I love my characters. Hearing that someone “judged” the morality of one of my creations was a HUGE compliment. And what does being an asshole have to do with it anyway. . .

  2. I’ll bet you were never a fairy godmother, either. But I hear you, even though I’m not about to sit in Santa’s lap. I mean, I knew him when. He doesn’t want the good little girls to know about that.

    When I say “I hear you,” I mean something like this: Lately I’m working every morning on a major rewrite of a novella that was supposed to be a novel and I first wrote more years ago than I care to say. I gave it a big rewrite four years ago and thought I was at last done with it and it was good enough to be published. But I trotted it out a few weeks ago to take it to market again and saw that it wasn’t good enough to be published and it wasn’t done with me. So now I’m giving it the aforementioned major rewrite but I am slam-dunked if I can anymore figure who might want to publish it. All I know is that even though I would rather be writing something new–or I think I would rather be writing something new–this old piece has me by my creative short’n’curlies and will not let go until I give it what it presently needs.

    You’ll be done with your screenplay when it’s done with you.

  3. Must be an autumn-induced urge, or maybe from reading about Intel’s interest in funding creative projects, that got me re-looking at my script. Then, in a strange coincidence, I learned about a new play writing lab that starts in about a week. So, I signed on. Determined to get some professional eyes on my beloved idea before the end of the year, I’ll settle for a Good Elf at this point.

  4. I think I’ll join Santa’s queue today too. After valiant work on new pieces which won’t be impossible to publish, I have a copy of my hovering novel here for final revision, a final stab in the dark.
    I too am in love with my characters and hear their expectant whispers.

  5. dance like no one is watching… or rather, write like no one is reading. we don’t get to know the results. we only get to know right now. this is what i keep telling myself.

    • My stories crawled straight out of some beautiful twisted corner of my psyche like bastard children of heartbreaking angels and bloodsucking mosquitoes. I wrote like no one was reading (and I too *love* my characters). But now I’m being told by editors that (great writing! But…) my books straddle several genres, that they’d be hard to market, to classify, to find the right shelf for.

      So when should we write from the heart (or lower) and when should we consider the bigger picture?

  6. Art doesn’t get made, worlds don’t get created, if there aren’t people dedicated to doing so despite all the whispery inner doubts (and the loud outspoken doubts from the wicked outside).

    It would all just be fairytales and plastic smiles and insta-true-love, and nobody would know otherwise.

  7. ah. the asshole. the unlikable character. stick with him and think of england. this country is oppressive with the likability mandate.
    i believe deeply that there is value regardless of the market. these early morning seshes…are decent.

    • Yes, the English do seem to get away with less than perfect characters in both books and TV/movies. Somehow those wonderfully flawed characters don’t seem to translate (e.g. American versions of Ab Fab, Cracker, Skins, and Prime Suspect).

  8. So far, these six comments warrant being in hard cover.

  9. Oh there’s so much to love about this post starting with the photo. Ah Betsy, not a dark side in sight. On y va, on y va.

  10. “…so fucking what. Finish it. Start a new one. And then one after that.”

    Yes! Love.
    Stop being precious about the whole thing and get to work. Well said.

  11. I’ve read — or tried to read — a few books lately where the bad guy was totally evil, and found the stories completely unbelievable. And unreadable.

    Your guy may be an asshole, but I’m sure he has some redeeming or likable features. Or anyway I’m sure you’ve given him enough dimension to keep someone reading or watching.

  12. And when it’s done, live with them. Love them with all your heart until you start to hate them, just a little at first, mostly because they don’t understand you, but finally full blown hatred because they won’t let you go. Move away. See more than they ever did. Miss them. Visit occassionally and be reminded why you left in the first place. Go further away and return when they’re old, very old, so old you cqn’t understand how they’ve aged so much. Who are these people? Look at them with fresh eyes because soon it will be them going out into a new world, leaving you behind. Repeat.

  13. I’ve loved books that other people didn’t because they didn’t find the characters likeable or sympathetic. I don’t get it. I think deeply flawed characters are more interesting. Definitely more fun. But that’s just me.

    I’m close to finishing my book, a humorous memoir. As the saying goes, it’s like birthing an elephant. Between that, social media, the proposal, my life is all but devoured. Sometimes I ask myself why I do this. There are a million reasons and there are none. All I know is, I’m finishing this fucker if it’s the last thing I do (and sometimes I think it may come to that).

  14. “Rudolph with your nose so bright. Won’t you pull my sleigh tonight?”

  15. Yes, Betsy, there is a Santa Claus. He’s recovering after a near fatal sugar coma last winter. Resources close to The Nick say he was unaware the consumption of large quantities of baked goods was unhealthy and could cause obesity. Families may be facing charges of negligence for not including warning labels on cookies, whole fat milk and hot chocolate left at residences on Christmas Eve 2010. Nestle’s Toll House division is also being eyed as a prospective defendant for producing foods known to be addictive. Punitive damages are pending further investigation into alleged mental hardship suffered at the hands of TSA.

  16. there’s a thread running through these most recent posts, starting with last week’s commentary on the Arbus bio and suicide leading to this post, that mirrors an essay I was going to link in response to the suicide blog, Camus’s treatise (Le Mythe de Sisyphe) on the absurd man (which popped my top when i read it in college), where he posits that if we accept that life is meaningless (because we die) and therefore has no value, what is our impetus to keep living in the face of that absurdity? to kill oneself would be to give in to the absurdity (just as giving up on your screenplay would be to give into the absurdity of a marketplace that favors circumstance over merit) because what meaning is there in death (or an unfinished screenplay)? How do we justify continuing to live (or write) in the face of that absurdity? Any attempt to reconcile the contradiction inherent in choosing to live a meaningless life, either by killing oneself (selling out), or taking it all up on faith, is to give into the absurdity (by escaping it through suicide or denial/faith). The only way to confront the absurd is to struggle against it by continuing to live (sitting back down to finish the screenplay) in the face of it.

    • Life has the meaning we give it. Its meaning does not exist outside of that. Once we’ve reached the point where we’ve faced the perceived exterior meaningless of our annihilation in the face of infinity, the simple act of continuing to live imparts the meaning. Even suicide at that point would be to give one’s life a meaning. The feared meaninglessness of life is chimerical. It doesn’t exist. Hell, Santa Claus has more reality than the so-called meaninglessness of life.

      To repeat and elaborate: The simple act of living gives life meaning, even for a person who never has a single troubling doubt about the meaning of life and spends every day sitting in a tree and playing the flute. It’s inescapable. Even for an infant slaughtered in a misguided airstrike–even for an aborted fetus–life has meaning. We are the meaning-seeking and meaning-giving beings.

      Yes, I’ve thought about this before, and yes, I’m making it up as I go along.

  17. Have you all read Murakami’s What I Talk About When I Talk About Running? It’s really fabulous and gets deep into the ways in which athletic training and writing are similar

    My point is, I’m a lifelong athlete and so know that in sports you have plateaus. They are maddening but you have to push through them. The same is true for writing. So yes, write another and another after that.

  18. I know exactly what you mean. I’ve got an asshole that I love more than the stars in the sky. Whenever I hear Denis Leary’s “I’m an asshole!” I get weak in the knees.

    I like what Tetman said, about being done when your work is done with you. It’s like being in Dorothy’s cyclone but instead of the wicked witch and Toto whirling around me, I’ve got themes circling in my head and heart. There’s no way to get out, to get away. They’ll subside when they’re good and ready and if I’ve got a brain about me, I’ll write about them before they do.

    It’s the force that gets me out of bed when the rest of the house is sleeping. I don’t understand it but it’s there. You can wrap it in pictures of Santa or Oz or some other kind of deity but for me it boils down to something so magical no scientist has ever been able to bottle it. It’s hope and it exists in each of us.

  19. You’re awesome.

    I think you should post it here. As a series.

  20. So glad to see you’re getting back on the old bastard’s lap again, Betsy. The pleasure of rubbing coal on your palms until it diamonds up. There is nothing like it, is there?

    Just saw Moneyball, so excuse the mixing of posts here, but fuck the trophy. Stay in the show.

  21. I love you, Betsy Lerner. Thanks for that shot of courage.

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