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    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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We Can’t Play This Game Anymore But Can’t We Still Be Friends

I met with my youngest client today. He had just finished his first book and the mood was festive, or was that the Sauvignon Blanc speaking?  I asked what the reaction had been among friends and family, and he said reactions had ranged from  tepid and dismissive to sometimes hostile. The young man was surprised, possibly hurt. And I say possibly because he seemed to take it all with a grain of salt. I asked about his parents, and even they, who had always been supportive of his writing career, now when he finally had something to show for his efforts, were somewhat indifferent. More than a few friends barely feigned interest in his book, others were happy to exhaustively describe the book they wanted to write. I understand jealousies and rivalries between writers but where was this coming from?

Who’s in your corner? Who ain’t?

59 Responses

  1. Good morning 🙂 Who’s in my corner? Immediate family, even when they think they can read into my writing. Some friends, who make me wonder if I could ever reciprocate (and if not, why not). Some distant souls, who cheer me on. Who’s not? Let’s wait for me to arrive, and I’ll get back to you.

  2. That is really too bad. Especially about the parents. But the grain of salt approach seems to be the right one. I have all kinds of people in my corner supporting the silliest book ever published. Anyone who ain’t in my corner shall remain out of my view and consideration.

  3. I’m in my corner. Alone mostly. My agent is sometimes there with me. My sisters, usually only one at a time. My mom, but only at the level of bragworthy accomplishments. My husband pops his head in long enough to look at the checks. Basically I am cornered by a team of moderately interested apathites (yes I just made up a word – sue me).

    • And the Apathatites came out of the caves of embarrassment and the shame of the unpublished writer in the family was covered with a book jacket and salved with the healing balm of cash. And lo, they rejoiced. But yonder, on the higher moral ground, was a rending of garments and a yelping of pain as those holier scribes bit down on their knuckles and despaired.

      (See what one new word can do? More power to all on the stony slopes, and hats off to those that make it.)

  4. Fuck. Apathites. Get it right!

  5. My experience has been that you can always tell if someone is in your corner by the weight of their hug. If it’s limp, you best watch your back.

  6. I think it’s only when you’re really successful that you find out who your friends are. some friends are just foul-weather friends and only like you when you’re worse off than they are

  7. The back of my pick-up is full of supporters. I really believe they are riding with me in this journey. Though I drive a little erratically sometimes, avoiding pot-holes, they sway and bounce and laugh at my displays of road-rage, because they know the journey is as important as the destination. (They occasionally remind me of that however.)

    When a nay-sayer sticks out his thumb, I don’t stop. The price of gas is bad enough I don’t need some negative asshole telling me how to drive or where to park.

  8. Here’s a big surprise: as I get older, more and more women have my back. This was not the case when I was younger; the competition for resources was too fierce.

    I knew I’d grown up when: I connected a friend with my dream agent who had turned me down, and when they connected, and that friend signed with her, I was truly happy for both of them.

    I know, right?

  9. I’m really surprised and saddened to hear this about your client.

    Everybody has my back. Fortunately, that’s not very many people. I hate trying to answer “that” question: How’s the book coming along?

  10. I love the picture! Thus far, aside from my wife’s intimate knowledge, my writing is secret.

  11. Lola is in my corner, bed, and life.

    Those who haven’t worked, worried, and wished this thing may show understanding and interest, but how can they really know the sweat of high highs, low lows, being lost, and finally, finally making the book real? Then there is the ordinary resentment of people who sit, watching the highwire act, and between mouthfuls of popcorn, say ” I could do that.”

    Many who read well think they can write well, like good cooks think they could run a fine restaurant.

  12. “Who’s in your corner? Who ain’t?”

    In this atomized society everyone’s in their own corner. Sometimes portions of these corners overlap. Sometimes they don’t. The ground and the boundaries are ever-shifting. Sometimes not even I am in my own corner.

  13. Here is a line from a story about my mother who, bless her soul, passed away last July–
    “I hate that my daughter writes.”
    In the story, she goes on to say that if I ever get published, she hopes it’s in one of those magazines that nobody ever reads, like The New Yorker.
    If I ever do get published, I’m sure she’ll be thundering away up there. “Why couldn’t she be a teacher or a dental hygienist?”

    • Maybe she was afraid you’d write about her.

      • Absolutely! But she only showed up in that one story, which I never showed her. In fact, I’ve hardly shown anyone that story! Her grip is still there!

    • Sorry to hear that, on the other hand it’s easier to get out of bed in the morning and fight against outright confrotnation than plain old apathy. And when you get published in the New Yorker, you’ll both be happy.

    • The New Yorker? Honey, that curse was a blessing! Mom is truly in your corner, in spite of herself.

  14. “Foul-weather friends” — a cool coinage. Found myself looking for the “share” button.

  15. Now I’m looking for the “delete” button, as that comment was meant as reply to lizardyoga.

    I went through a little phase of writing Letters to the Editor. I never said anything about them, and after a while my husband got tired of people saying, “Hey, we saw Vickie’s letter,” and him not knowing anything about it. Both he and my oldest daughter said they wished I’d tell them, so I did. Once. They each responded with silence, and I just wasn’t sure what to make of that. When I asked my daughter for a response she said, “Your writing is good. It is always good.” Although they champion my pursuit of writing, I don’t know how they’d respond if I published a whole entire book.

  16. do they really know what is good and what is not?

  17. The FTF mob has one huge corner and we’re all in it.

    My Dad is in my corner, even if he doesn’t quite understand all my stuff and my Mom is in my corner, even though she doesn’t read most of my stuff (except my blog, ’cause it has grandkid hijinks). I have friends who are betas and betas who have become friends—and one beta who isn’t exactly a friend, but is definitely in my novel’s corner, which works for me.

    My husband edges in and out of my corner, though I haven’t bothered to save him a spot there since I asked him to read over something I was excited about and he picked up the pages, sat down, and turned on the TV. That was 2001.

  18. Interesting. My wife and several family members have reacted similarly to my book. Actually, friends seem to be more supportive than family, other writers of course the most. Perhaps the lackadaisacal reaction has to do with family not wanting to set up their relative with too high expectations, having heard how hard it is to actually make it as an artist of any kind.

  19. Any artist is a scary person to a civilian. Who knows how or what or why with them when they, those artist people, might at any moment reveal what most are content to ignore.

    I no longer expect anyone to be in my corner.

  20. After giving an early chapter of my nonfiction book to my aunt, who figures prominently in it, I became okay with the idea of having no one in my corner. In this particular chapter I say that my family and me are not particularly “cool,” meaning that we are effusive and goofy and without any real reserve. My aunt took absolute offense to this, saying, “I like to think of myself as a cool, hip grandmother. I don’t think of myself as ‘uncool.’ Can you take that out?”

    This from a woman who listens (and sings along) to John Denver at top volume, whose hair is always perfectly coiffed into a teased blonde helmet, who loves the Cathy comic strip, who pins shoulder pads into every shirt and sweater she owns, who gives people she’s just met multiple squishy breast hugs. She didn’t say anything else about that chapter.

    That was the moment I thought to myself that a) I should never gauge what I’m offended by as a model of what others will be offended by. And, b) I’m alone out here in the writing wilderness and that’s just how it is.

  21. When I sold my novel last year after toiling on it for 14 long years, everyone I knew cheered – my mother wept with joy in the grocery store when she heard the news, my father is still grinning, and the rest of my family and friends have been ecstatic. I even received emails from high school friends who’d heard through the grapevine, congratulating me for having my dream come true. I feel that I am the most fortunate writer in the world!

    • Kim,

      Chuc cac em hanh phuc va thanh cong!, and may the dragon keep you safe.

      Frank (long ago Co-Van, Buon Y Yang, Buon Don)

  22. I know that all in my immediate family are truly thrilled about my book coming out, plus my old friends and even new ones I’ve met online. I’ve been surprised by all the goodness. Now I’m waiting for reactions and reviews, that’s where I’ll need my grain of salt.

  23. Congratulations to your young friend.

    Unfortunately, he’ll suffer more petty jealousy before he’s done. The measure of a friend isn’t who stays with you through the bad times; that’s a myth. Everyone likes a loser they can best. A true measure of friendship is the one who sticks around as the discrepancy in salaries, house sizes, car prices and travel budget grows.

    • The pessimism continues. He should take heart in the fact that it’s not personal. Those people aren’t hearing Wow! He published a book! They’re hearing they haven’t. I’ve learned to discard those types, or shove them to the periphery of my life and repopulate the inner circle with good energy.

  24. I’m curious about what’s in this book. Would those closest to your client have felt better if it was about zombies, werewolves and translucent beings from a different dimension? (Or is that the subject?).
    My friends are mostly supportive, my wife is supportive as long as I fix the roof before sitting down to write. My little girl is impressed by the words on the paper being all mine. An old ski buddy who has two books out has been encouraging and that is probably the nicest endorsement of all; dude’s been there.

  25. Dismissiveness is probably the word I would also choose. I have one brother that gets excited if he sees me listed somewhere but he has read maybe half of one of my books. No one else asks and they act indulgent if I bring it up. I guess that is why kind words from complete strangers seem so wonderful.

    But the characters I have created constantly express gratitude.

  26. Nobody is as interested in my work as I am, and I have finally stopped expecting them to be. Maybe they never saw me as a writer and so this piece of information does not fit their pictures (even though I have always written but didn’t show it to anyone). Or maybe they are afraid I will write about them– or that I have written about them, that every unsympathetic character is them with a different face. I guess the lack of interest might be good, then, in case I ever do write about the people I know.

  27. Congrats to your client on his book and please let me extend a warm welcome into the UNexpected Lack of Anticipated Congratulatory Enthusiasm Club. UNLACE Club is my imaginary haven for those who have attained a goal, won The Prize, made The List and yet are scorned by friends and family while their well-deserved accomplishment is dismissed or even ignored.

    I’ve been there. Even had a “friend” nastily advise me not to “mess up this chance like I usually do” after I happily called her about winning an award. The silver lining to these storm clouds, though, is that one quickly learns who can be deleted from the awards dinner invitation, the red carpet walk and a mention in the interview.

    Hope his writing career soars!

  28. »Who’s in your corner?«

    Everyone on this blog, even if they can’t stand me. There’s nothing like a good rivalry to juice up one’s day. That’s one way you know you matter, at least in the short run.

    As far as indifferent (or envious) near and dear ones, we can look at it from another angle. Carolyn See suggests that that maybe a newly-published writer’s friends and relatives are just a wee bit cagey, “waiting to see if you’re going to turn into an asshole.” (Maybe that’s why I haven’t finished a work? Shoot, aren’t I an asshole already, so what have I got to lose?)

  29. Everyone I’d say except for other writers- no matter how close they are…

  30. My family could give a rat’s ass. Well, they could, and it would be more interest than they’ve had so far, but I really have no use for a rat’s ass, so I’m fine with that. My friends and fans, however, are supportive and keep asking, “When is that book going to be available? I want it now!” Some of them may not read it, but they want it anyway. And some of them, who are also writers, may not be that interested. They may feign some interest, but deep inside they’re seething.

    Some people may not like how they’re portrayed in this memoir, but I can only write what I see, not to make others feel good about themselves. If I were to do that, I’d have to charge them, wouldn’t I?

    There’s a money making idea! Write books wherein the characters are all known to me and I make them all out to be heroes and paragons of virtue! Then I charge them tons, and they also buy copies for themselves and the five million people they know.

    I think I’m onto something here.

  31. What corner?
    Nobody puts Baby in a corner.

  32. I got wonderful congrats on getting my novel accepted for publication by Viking. In fact, I created a congrats file; it’s got 90+ e-mails from friends, writer friends and family…most know how hard and long I struggled.

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