• 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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All Those Dreams We Held So Close Seemed To All Go Up In Smoke

Some comments lately have noted that my blog is more negatively cast than my book, FOrest for the Trees. They should have seen the first draft of the book. My editor covered the margins with her blue pencil saying the same thing over and over: too negative, too dark, too pessimistic, and my all time favorite, “why would anyone want to read this?” LOL! Actually, at the time, I was pissed and hurt. Wasn’t I a realist, after all? I never promised you a rose garden. For every happy writer there are thousands working in obscurity, collecting rejection slips, miserable and anguish-filled. And in my experience even so called successful writers can hit a patch of black ice and wind up in a ditch, shattered and stuck and totally fucked. This is not a game for the faint of heart. You need guts, courage, talent, wit, cunning, stamina. You need to be smart and clever, handsome and strong, or strange and winsome. You need to have bad teeth and habits, a flat ass and corns. You need to be the ugliest person in the room and proud of your penis. I’m sure you need a waist coat and velvet slippers. You need to love women and carry chap stick and run a never ending ticker tape of words inside your noggin.

I made the book nicer because I wanted to get it published (yes, you can stick to your guns). And I also saw what she was talking about. Mortals do need hope. But this blog  is me, straight up.  If you want nice, buy a Hallmark card.

55 Responses

  1. Informative, witty, funny, incisive, valuable, and profane, yes, but I don’t see your blog as negative, Ms Lerner. Thanks for the tip about those cards, too.

  2. If I wanted nice I wouldn’t be here. Besides, nice is highly overrated. I’ve always been nice, and what do I have to show for it? Nothing. Just a lot of people who think they can get me to do stuff for them that I don’t want to do. Life is hard. Life sucks. This is what I tell people when I’m trying to make the depressed ‘feel better’ and the sad become happy. Strangely, it works more often than the other approach, which is to tell them that life is all puppies and rainbows if only they’d straighten their shit up and get with the program. Life is hard, and it often sucks. And to succeed in anything, you gotta get with the program and work at it. Right now I’m trying to find thousands of dollars in deferred revenue that someone misplaced because this is what people pay me for. Is it fun? Not particularly — I’d rather be writing. But this is what I do. Later on I’ll figure out how to fit the writing in because life is imperfect.

  3. Amen, Sistah. And now I’m going to slash my wrists.

  4. I may well be the ugliest person in the room, and I’m definitely strange, but my penis seems to have disappeared!

  5. Honesty is so seductive! Keep going, Betsy!

  6. i adore your piss and vinegar. who wants to read a bunch of sappy optimistic bullshit?

    i have a feeling my agent will say the same thing about the negativity in my novel… but i believe there’s a market for the more pessimistic folks. people want to relate and feel a part of. too much happiness alienates…

    not everyone sees the glass as half full. shit, sometimes i don’t even see a damn glass…

  7. Yes! And I also need bad skin, insomnia, delusions of grandeur, monk-like habits (including the hair shirts) and a drawer packed with strange surgical-looking instruments.

  8. Betsty, I honestly won’t read your stuff if it was all puppies, kitties and rainbows. I will never completely shake off the darkness. Your blog lets me know I am not the only one.

    • I’ve been in the darkness so much that . . . and here I insert something witty. But at the moment I’m out. So many of us have darkness. Mine comes back now and then, and if I thought no one else had any I’d probably feel really bad. Why should everyone else get to live in the light? But so many of us don’t that I’m okay with it.

  9. You mean your blog is negative? And dark? Gosh, I must be in worse shape (physical & mental) than I thought!

  10. Nice is . . . nice. Truth is better.

  11. Thanks, Betsy, I’ll keep that in mind. I didn’t know where to go for nice till you told me. You sweet thang, you!

  12. ” I’m sure you need a waist coat and velvet slippers.” If that were my line, I’d have chuckled to write it.

  13. I loved your book, but I like the real you better. After all, one person’s ‘sugar-coating’ is another person’s ‘lying.’

  14. So glad you’re proud of your cock, Betsy. Let it all hang out–it’s a lovely thing. Your people need this good place.

  15. I like the blog better than the book. What does that say about the way our roads are traveled?

    • A large portion of writerly angst at least for me comes from that old whore people pleasing, a rope around the neck of creativity–the safe word is self–remember you have one–personhood, not a merely a possible paycheck—I’m telling you that’s when the work flows.

  16. Flat ass and corns. Check.
    Now. Where be those fucking velvet slippers? They sound nice.

    • I was just thinking that. It’s not all stormclouds and poison if you believe we writers can be dressed up comfy/sexy like (the best combination, I believe).

  17. but aint it good to be -ah-live-hive-hive-hive….

  18. Nice is overrated. This blog is just fine the way it is. Those Hallmark cards make we want to upchuck anyway.

  19. The book made me cry just in the Amazon sample.

  20. And what I’d liked most about the book, Betsy, were the hints of darkness, the writhing, the hurt. If you made that first draft public, I’d likely fall in love with you.

  21. I read your books because I read your blog first. I wanted more Lerner, quickly. Your writing is so smart and funny and honest. But the truth is you are a conflicted optimist. You know better, but you go to work regularly as a literary agent in the old model of publishing, for Christ’s sake.

  22. What a drag it would be to have to pretend to be something you’re not on a blog. Isn’t life filled with enough moments that require pretending already?

  23. You made me feel things nice, by your own way.

  24. It’s true this blog is sometimes like a slap in the face, one you knew was coming and decided not to dodge. Sometimes it is a comfort, but mostly I feel left in the cold.

    I did like the book enormously. Not because it was sugar-coated but because it was structured and earnest and good, hardy work. You don’t need to make excuses because it doesn’t exclusively tell the ugly truth.

    And having read some if your more joyful blogs I do believe it is another part if you.

  25. “shattered and stuck and totally fucked” – That’s my answer next time someone asks me how I am.

  26. Dear Betsy,
    This blog post has changed my mind about you. Perhaps I can still love you, but I can never be In Love with you again.
    You did LOL.
    GRRRRRRRRRRRR.

    Though I do feel better now, probably because, deep down, I knew you never loved me back.
    Was it because I am prouder of my father’s penis than I am of my own ?

  27. I’m with Frank.

  28. “This is not a game for the faint of heart.” This made me smile and feel all proud and stiffened my, um, spine.

    I have many faults, but I am not faint of heart. I’m still in the game.

  29. Honest is nice.

  30. Yes, I read this blog to get the goods, the down and dirty, Betsy Lerner straight up, unplugged. Also, reading about all the rejection, suffering, angst and anxiety makes me feel kinda normal. But I also read it for the laughs. “The ugliest person in the room and proud of your penis.” Love it.

  31. Well lemme see, my teeth are pretty good.

  32. “Caring enough to send the very best” doesn’t necessarily bode nice. I think that’s why the racks holding cards without messages (politely labeled “blank”) are rarely full – people need to express their own thoughts and sometimes decent cover art is all they want to buy.

    • Oh – and I forgot to mention: the last time I was in that brand of card store, I saw they were selling a series of children’s books that involved a talking plush animal. ‘Wonder if they are considering any YA or “nice” general reading manuscripts – sans plush toy, please!

  33. What I liked about Forest for the Trees was your honesty. When I attended a workshop you gave, I appreciated your straight forward comments. What I like about this blog is that you say what’s on your mind and don’t sugar coat anything (I also enjoy the interactions with the participants– nice to know I’m not alone, although it often feels that way). I’m noticing a pattern here…

  34. Betsy: About that original version of FFTT, the one that’s all dark and ornery and dripping in bile. I really want to read it now.

    Any chance of a FFTT.2 being self-pubished?

  35. AMEN! Betsy, you are my daily dose of reality and I LOVE it, every word!

  36. What I see in Betsy is not so much the quality of niceness (although she can drum up plenty when it’s needed), but of goodness. Goodness encompasses all kinds of virtues, truthfulness being paramount among them, or maybe in a tie with humility. It’s often disguised as crankiness and anger. A lot of the niceness I’ve seen is nothing more than a thin varnish over rage. I do not get close to such people if I can help it, because telling them the truth, even it it’s just your own truth, will get you on their eternal shit-list faster than anything. Nice is a fair weather friend. Goodness, you can take to the bank, the cancer ward, the prison-house, the grave, and beyond.

    • True, true, a thousand times true.

    • Unfortunately, most people think you’re an ass when you tell them the truth and it doesn’t jive with the version they’ve built in their head. I prefer honesty even when it hurts. Then I know the compliments are real too.

    • “Nice is a fair weather friend. Goodness, you can take to the bank, the cancer ward, the prison-house, the grave, and beyond.”
      For me, that is the best and truest comment here, and why I read this blog every day.
      The book was wonderful, but the blog, with no punches pulled, promotes a forum of honest open truth, and that is even better.

      • Thank you, Mr. iPants.

        Deb, I’ve let fear of being thought an ass make me try to be nice, but it’s no use. People tend to see right through me, and get even madder than if I’d just hauled off and belted them with a piece of my mind to begin with. Since I don’t want to be Miss Popularity, why should I worry if some people don’t like me? But I do, alas, I do.

      • Hear, hear!

  37. I want to read the first draft version more than I wanted to read the published. Can you auction it off?

  38. Nice? Well if I want nice, I’ll ask my friends and family to give me nice warm fuzzies about how wonderfully I write.
    When it’s honesty and constructive feedback that I’m looking for, I want words from Honest Abe aka Lerner, even if it means I might need my pillow to cry into as I read about how I can improve my writing. Then I dry my face and get on with it!

  39. My ass is as flat as Kansas and I have enough chap stick to take care of the next 10 years of Bread Loafers.

    And I have you–a shining beacon of darkness. Your book, your blog, and all your ugly followers.

    Life is good.

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