• 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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Those School Girl Days of Telling Tales

As a young college girl, I took a course on comedy with the late and great Charles Ludlam, founder and creative director of the Ridiculous Theatrical Company. I also worked backstage on two productions. I learned so much from him, about timing, about timing, did I mention timing? And once, when he sent me and a techie to fetch costumes from storage, we dressed up and made love in a coffin. When Charles was asked how he was so prolific, he responded that he never faced a blank page. He always stopped mid-page so that when he returned to his typewriter the next day there was something in progress. And I freely pass that smart advice to you my darling readers.

What advice have you got? For me. For us.

57 Responses

  1. Betsy, I can’t believe it….Charles was the person I used to run into more than anyone else in New York. The best Halloween I ever had was seeing his Irma Vep in the West Village. And I got into one of his shows, but after a rehearsal or two, decided it wasn’t for me. They just don’t make ’em like him anymore. My birthday just ended, so it’s fitting that I should be the first commenter if I hit Post Comment soon enough.

  2. Never make love in a coffin that can be locked from the outside.

  3. Well, if you ARE going to make love in a coffin, the ones with the velvet interiors are nice. Especially if they have that French fold design–but try to avoid those Last Supper murals. Sorta creepy fucking underneath all of those Jesus and his boys pictures.

  4. I’e been told to keep going. No matter I’m doing. Keep going. Keep writing. Keep breathing.

  5. Start where you left off.

  6. My gawd, tell me more about the coffin.

  7. I agree with your esteemed friend. Best to leave off with a trail into the woods.

  8. When you’re daughter screams “I hate you! You’re the worst mother ever!” look her in her eyes and whisper, “I know, sweetie, and it’s okay.”

    • *your*

      • Oh, yes. Bracing for it. Haven’t had that yet, but she’s just 13.

      • mac, there’s gold at the other end. My youngest, who has his own family now,thanked me for dropping the hammer on him when he lost his mind in high school. That was on the day he graduated from college, and a treasure.

    • A mother’s wisdom.

    • Wait until the teens and you get the “Whatever” followed by the eye roll. I used the I hate you to good effect once. She was concerned my husband and I (who had a fight) were going to divorce like her friends’ parents. I told her, you’ve been angry at me a lot, did I leave you? And explained that parents who love each other sometimes disagree.

    • When my daughter would scream “You’re So Mean!” I’d say “Good, because I’m going for the Mean Mom Award and you know how competitive I am.”

      • *Like*

        “You’re confusing me with someone who cares” works wonders for me, especially with the smaller ones. They haven’t a clue how to take it.

      • When my daughter would be in full-tilt scream, I would put my hand up and say, I don’t intend to listen to this and walk away into my bedroom and lock the door. At first she’d stand on the other side and continue the rant, but it wasn’t as much fun for her without me to look at. Finally all I had to do was go into my bedroom and lock the door and the flames would burn out pretty quickly. She hated that. 🙂

  9. I agree with Charles. Stopping in midstream helps me pick up again.

  10. Failing to finish a scene is bad bidness for me. The finished scene or thought, even if it’s the wrong one, is a place to pick up again. It always surprises me that when I come back and start to read the last several paragrahs, how much I find and change, and how much it spools me up for what’s next.

  11. I don’t like to stop in the middle of something I’m actually physically writing. But I use a variety of that tip: I try to know what the next scene is going to be. Often I’ll wake up with it half-written in my mind. I love it when that happens!

  12. work on one thing at a time.

  13. Or there’s this guy, Hemingway, who said, “The best way is to always stop when you are going good and when you know what will happen next. If you do that every day you will never be stuck.”

  14. Write even when you don’t feel like writing.
    Stop me if you’ve heard this already: A chicken and an egg are making love. Shortly afterward, enjoying a post coital smoke, chicken says, “Well, that answers THAT question.”

  15. Since we’re writing on computers, it is all one big page. Perhaps stopping in the middle of a scene can keep you hungry to get back to the “page.” I mean you made love in a coffin; surely there was a submarine or a circus car or a tire swing . . . . Anything to keep it going.

  16. “What advice have you got? For me. For us.”

    Eat plenty of whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetables, fish, quality yogurt, nuts, and drink wine.

    Plenty of wine.

    But not too much wine.

    Yes, I’ll have another. Thank you.

    • Only drink when editing. Get the pages super-polished, print them up, move to a comfortable chair, bring pen and a glass of wine. The alcholol helps to smooth choppiness, particularly with dialogue, and helps to highlight anything boring or disordered. Writing new sentences from scratch while drinking is a waste of time. But if you’ve got the work to the point where you think it’s perfect, a glass of wine helps find little problems that can quickly be fixed. If you start hacking at it, you’ve had too much to drink. Stop now.

      • Good points. I find that a small amount of incinerated hemp extract functions well for me as an editorial aid in much the same way you are describing with regard to wine; and likewise, too much is a hindrance and not a help.

  17. >>What advice have you got? For me. For us.<<

    Don't talk on the phone while driving.

  18. Coffin…yowza !
    How about an ambulance and get this, the back of a Lays Potato Chip truck, crunch, anyway, best advice ?


    Do it .

  19. Go back and find something you know needs to be fixed. (you know exactly where it is because you’re obsessing over it) Give it a tweak and then keep writing. The fix is your warm up act.

    Um, we will need more details on the coffin.

  20. A liberal application of bum glue. Set ass in chair and write. Even when you don’t ‘feel like it’ or when your ‘muse’ doesn’t speak. Write.

    And if that doesn’t work, try writing.

  21. When you’re stuck on a scene, write in something basic, mark the place and keep going. The solution will probably present itself later. If it doesn’t, maybe that scene’s not really a part of the story and should hit the cut pile, or be written from another point of view.

  22. When looking at a blank page, I think, “Maybe I don’t want to be a writer, maybe I want to be an options trader. Hmmmm”

  23. Get off the internet.

  24. 1) Stop when you know the next words to be said.
    2) Don’t drink while writing. It’s romanticized bullshit. Writing is sloppy when drinking and every word counts.
    3)Don’t stop because you’re drawing a blank. It’s not writer’s block. Sit down and write something else, anything else, but get your hand/fingers moving. Sometimes your brain cramps up and your hands can lead the way.
    4)The only way to be a writer is to write. Period.

  25. work on a major project and a side project, simultaneously. when you get bored, you can shift over to the side project and let it rip. no rules, no consequences, just fun. you have two projects ready at approx. the same time.

  26. Write when you’re happy, write when you’re sad, write when you’re drunk, write when you’re mad.

  27. My mom always said (when my sister and I were whining), “If somebody has to be miserable, I don’t see why it has to be me!” –And then she would proceed to do whatever she chose to do, disappointing us in a way that taught me something: How to be a female who doesn’t feel like she has to please everyone. Valuable lesson.

  28. I have to get to a stopping place. It doesn’t have to be the end of a chapter or even a scene, but I have to be through with the characters in that moment before I can stop. Then to start again, big deep breath, fingers on the keyboard, and write, damn it.

  29. I remind myself that no one’s going to see my work until I’m ready to show it–and sometimes, not even then. Cheap notebooks, decent pen, and if your handwriting begins to resemble that of an MD, you know you’re in the zone.

    Drafts are meant to be messy. Get in there and scribble.

  30. My actual life is the bad novel I am escaping. My writing is a pleasing hobby. Love it.

  31. I knew Charlie and some of the gang. (Who could forget Lola or Black Eyed Susan?) Lived next door. Went to his first production when he came onstage in drag swinging from a rope. a forgotten genius, but it’s good to see he’s not totally forgotten.

  32. I’m here collecting the wisdom. I must remember the stop in the middle of the page advice because getting going again is the hardest part for me.

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