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    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 Know I Can’t Let You Slide Through My Hands

Tonight, at the National Book Award reading, the evening’s host thanked all the finalists (including my brilliant client Andrew Krivak, author of The Sojourn) for spending their time writing and revising instead of all the other great things they could be doing like having great early morning sex. Was it me or did a wave of nostalgia sweep over the room? She riffed on all the things a person could be doing besides writing. For me, I always thought the big thing I could be doing besides writing is living. I could give that a try.

What would you do in lieu of scribbling?

60 Responses

  1. Ooh, am I first? Courtesy of Central European Time. Anyway, I’d undoubtedly be much more caught up on reading, television and state-of-the-art mothering methods. And ruminating about anything and everything even more, if that’s possible.

  2. OK, I’m second…again courtesy of European time. When I can’t write, I live. On my daily adventure/walkabout. That gives me lots of fodder to scribble about ;-).

  3. I’d be …. Writing! I don’t write often enough. It’s terrible, all this talent going to waste.

  4. I’m doing it right now.

  5. The 2011 National Book Awards will be webcast live from New York City on November 16th (that’s TONIGHT) at 8pm ET.

    http://www.nationalbook.org/

    Mitchell Kaplan and John Ashbery will receive lifetime acheivment awards. The even will be hosted by John Lithgow.

    Anybody up for doing a live chat on Skype or something during the proceedings?

    Betsy, we’ll be looking for you in the audience; don’t forget to shine up your Doc Martens. I’m so excited!

    • The event will be hosted by John Lithgow.

      Good thing that wasn’t an engraved announcement.

      • I heard John Lithgow on NPR recently, promoting his memoir. I was surprised to hear that what he really wanted to be was a painter. Having just seen him in the new Planet of the Apes movie (it’s what I get for being married to a brute), I can safely say how happy we should all be that he became an actor. The man needs to get an Oscar for that performance.

    • I’ll be watching the webcast. My agent has a finalist, my editor has one, too, and of course, Betsy. Good wishes to all!

      • I can’t stand the suspense of awards shows when there’s someone I really, really want to win. I realy really want Andrew Krivak to beat that Tiger tale, so my nerves will be shot until I hear his name announced.

        I’m counting on Betsy to take notes and to take names for her blog tomorrow. Betsy: even if you disguise the identities I WANT STORIES.

  6. Great early morning sex? No way. Too much morning breath. Afternoon delight, baby. Oh, and I’ve always fantasized about one of those office jobs that sends you places and has company picnics and little retreats at mountain resorts. I’d probably hate it, though.

    • You’d hate it. All those things are merely puppet shows to make you think you’re having fun while they bleed you dry. I’ve been there and escaped. My husband, however, is still suffering the picnics.

      • Yeah. I hate it already. I’m changing my answer: researching shark populations from a boat in the middle of the Caribbean– or the Mediterranean would do, too.

  7. I’ve just restarted writing after a whirlwind 3 weeks. Distracted with award luncheons, black tie dinners, galas, out-of-town guests, a community service project, a sick dog, conventions, 2 interviews, plus the day-job drama, these past days were a blur of multiple wardrobe changes and tight schedules. I’ve missed my WIPs and my poetry journal, spending most of this evening editing and revising several chapters. Very satisfying.

  8. Travel, travel, travel. Brussels, Prague, Warsaw, Vienna, Valencia, Chernobyl, anywhere.

  9. This photo is so haunting. Good luck with The Sojourn, my WWI-soldier-age sons both enjoyed it too.
    If I didn’t write I might be more patient and less tangled, but maybe not. I’d be playing piano in a bar.

  10. I’d so love to play piano in a bar!

  11. Things that could probably get me arrested…..it’s a good thing I found writing! Love your blog!

  12. I like to think I’d make movies.

  13. The question for me is not what would I be doing if I wasn’t writing. The question would be, what would you be doing if you didn’t have kids? The answer: on the front lines with my camera chained around my neck.

  14. Sail to the south side of Cuba.

    • From where? And it sounds to me like the perfect set-up for writing. All that vast ocean, few distractions. Do it.

      • From the gulf coast in a smallish boat, balsero inverso. Stops in Apalachicola, Carrabelle, Panacea, and Cedar Key. Then down the side, around the famous Keys, maybe with a stop to see the three toed cats, then across.

  15. If I wasn’t writing, I probably would have a proper real grown up job, and hate it. As it is I have no job and dislike that state of affairs almost as much, money being unfortunately so useful these days.

  16. The easy answer is that I’d be all caught up on Doctor Who and probably on sleep.

    I stopped writing for a year once. It was awful.

    But if I’d never tried to write, if it had never occurred to me . . . would I be missing something? Would I know it? Would I have gone to library school? Would there still be stories dancing in my head — and what would i do with them?

    • When you figure that out, let me know. I find writing to be a deep and dancing experience. Careful now, I’m learning that I like myself more than I like being…curley tops.

  17. Yesterday when I fell into a pit with the writing, I turned on Cooking TV and tried a couple of the recipes.

    I won’t tell you about the ironing while watching Nazi Collaborators on Military TV. That apparently makes me look like a weirdo.

  18. My things to do other than writing are ritualized. Each day, or almost every day, I hike in the woods that surround me. I take the dogs, and together we set out to find whatever we can.

    And what have we discovered? Abandoned graveyards. Altars that have been constructed. Old farm equipment. Myrtle, planted a hundred years ago, that thrives even after its planters have died. Small creeks. Animals. Carcasses. Life.

    And then, after filling the sensory well, I return to writing.

    • Sounds like a perfect break and a wealth of inspiration.

    • You are so lucky to have that space in which to wander. I have streets around me, now cold and damp and echoing. Some people prefer the city, but I envy your freedom to explore.

      • Thanks. I feel that way, too. I love the city, but country life suits me better. The only thing ruining my buzz right now is that it’s turkey-hunting season and I have to be careful that the dogs and I don’t get shot. Next week, deer season begins, and it will simply be too dangerous, even with fluorescent vests on, to venture onto certain trails.
        When I used to live in a city, I used to wander the streets. Not the same forms of sensory stimulation, but there was some.

      • City streets lure me. I could wander them all day, everyday, and never get bored.

  19. Funny you should ask…

    Sunday was a lovely day fall day around here (I live near Toronto, Canada). As was yesterday. Sunny, warm. Yeah, my igloo nearly melted.

    Anyhoo, when someone commented on the lovely weather and asked what I thought, all I could say was I hadn’t noticed. Other than to let the dogs out, I’d spent the day in ‘my chair’ writing.

    This is all a roundabout way of saying, if I wasn’t writing I’d probably be doing things like, cleaning up the yard, cooking more, dusting (you should see my place!), now that I think of it, the toilets could use a good scrub, the laundry, I could do more laundry and do it regularly instead of hazardously as I do now, I could jar my own jam, walk the neighbors dog…

    You know what? I think I’ll stick to writing….

  20. “What would you do in lieu of scribbling?”

    I do not know. I started scribbling when I was eleven. This “in lieu of scribbling” to which you refer is difficult for me to grasp. Clearly, I do other things (eat, sleep, piss, shit, screw, harvest the dollar crop, feed the cats, read, love my family, etc. etc. etc.), but being a scribbler is such a part of my being in the world, I would not be without it.

  21. I’m not really sure how you can pack so much in a single sentence. I admire it. I’d like to try living too.

  22. I work on genealogy. Memoirs can be interesting.

  23. I find living an essential part of writing.

  24. Anticipation! Good luck to you and Andrew Krivak.

  25. I fortuitously came across the following a few minutes ago, whilst perched upon the crapper:

    “What a deale of cold busines doth a man mis-spend the better part of life in! in scattering complements, tendring visits, gathering and venting newes, following Feasts and Playes, making a little winter-love in a dark corner.” — Ben Jonson (quoted by William H. Gass in “A Defense of the Book,” from A TEMPLE OF TEXTS)

  26. Biking to the beach, or so I tell myself.

  27. Best of luck tonight at the awards. I confess that sometimes I go without writing because I’m too busy with mundane crap. I don’t know why I throw myself so deeply into things I really don’t like, jobs I hate and routines that need attention. If I’m out enjoying myself, skiing, hiking or golfing, I think of things to write, but I’m not actually writing and much of it gets lost anyway. And I can’t recall ever writing anything after morning sex, nothing worth keeping anyway. In afterglow the world is a better place, I remember yet another reason why I love my wifea nd everything I write lacks compulsion.

  28. Right as I sold my first novel, I was applying to library school. When I go to libraries now, I try imagine myself behind the counter and I can’t really picture it. Just one more goal that never would’ve worked out.

    My new goal is to be in a Kia ad!

  29. Travel travel travel! Ride my bike. Hike more mountains. Go on safari.

    (*in other words, anything that gets my ass out of this chair)

  30. NYC lounge lizard and wearer of fishnet stockings by night. Personal chef to Betsy Lerner and her entourage by day.

  31. Exercise? Nah. Probably read more and spend way too much time online.

  32. Sleeping.

  33. I am doing a little too much “life” these days and very much want the time to “scribble”

  34. Betsy, you’re at the National Book Awards again this year. You ARE living. Good luck to you and Andrew tonight!

  35. Drink.

    My writing really cuts into my full-time drinking.

  36. I’ve been trying the just-living thing, and trying to get everyone I can touch in some way on board with me, so we can discuss our exciting lives, but, it seems, right now, at this moment, to not be working out. I must admit, as much as it hurts to admit anything, good or bad, that I might be totally fucked up and I that just living stuff ain’t gonna cut the cake. It all starts good, like anything I guess, but then after a few days things get a little thin and I start getting more than a little pissy, over anything and everything. Thanks God, if that is whom gave me my gotta write it in a book or it ain’t worth the time mind. You did a great service to humankind and made my life the whirlwind of exciting premises that it is. Name a week, I’ll give you a good premise and all the interesting characters to go along with it. I hope this isn’t too far off the subject, but what would I rather be doing than writing, now that I know my window is so narrowly open? Making money. God-dammit.

  37. I babysat my five month old granddaughter today for six hours. Every muscle and nerve and joint in my body is screaming in pain and my brain has gone nutso philosophical. Y’all already know how f-ing cute she is. There is no realistic way to balance any one occupation against another.

  38. I’d be out living and thinking, “Oh, damn, I wish I had something to write this down on.”

  39. I’d probably have a job.

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