• 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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I Wanna Die With You Wendy On The Streets Tonight (redux)

I call it the twilight zone. It’s that fateful time between when you’ve corrected your proofs and when the book comes into the world. Apart from social networking yourself up the ass, there is nothing you can do: you’ve written your book, it’s been committed to type, it’s going to the printer, it will emerge  with its own jacket and bar code. Fine, if only the writer could put his brain on ice, or escape to a tropical island, or whip himself into a frenzy attacking a new project. The last is the only inoculation I know of that staves off  pre-publication shpilkes.

You can not help but dream that your book will hit the list, that you’ll banter with Colbert,  opine on NPR,  that the movie rights will be sold. To Clooney! To Scorsese! To Spielberg!  The only good thing about Oprah going off the air is that perfectly reasonable people no longer think they are going to be her guest, or should be. Never, not once, has a writer ever said to me that he thinks his book will have a modest success or almost no impact, even though most books don’t sell enough copies to feed a small family in East Islip  for a month. Writers are dreamers, and never are the dreams more heightened than awaiting publication.  Finally! Finally! An editor I know once likened book publishing to the funeral business given how many books get buried.  Sadly, more people will probably show up for your funeral than your book signing. Oh dear lord, I am feeling the darkness today. Beautiful weather always brings out the worst in me.

What’s the worst part?

42 Responses

  1. “What’s the worst part?”

    I don’t know yet. This is my first time out. It’s not like having a short story or some poems published in a litmag, that’s for sure.

    Maybe the worst part is caring too much. Am I caring too much? I’m probably caring too much. Time to chunk it down, put it in its proper place, get back to work.

  2. The worst part, really, is when people tell you you’re gifted, a great writer and you are sure they are lying. But they are so sincere and kindly that you have to at least pretend to accept. And of course in pretending you secretly wish it were all true. You are brilliant, gifted, and should keep doing this horribly dreadful task.

  3. If it’s a choice between pre-pub shpilkes and no shpilkes (because there’s no book), I say bring it on. Better to be knocked about in the game than to sit on the sidelines, no?

  4. Well, as a matter of fact I will sail to an island.

  5. The one worst off is the middle child in East Islip waiting for royalties to manifest in to Chicken McNuggets.

  6. The worst part? Realizing 5, 10, 15 years later what a loser you looked like with that damn red and black bow in your hair.

  7. Perhaps (to continue The Boss theme) it’s wondering: “is a dream a lie if it don’t come true, or is it something worse?”

  8. I don’t know. I just like writing. I never expect great things. That way I’m never disappointed.

  9. The worst part is the realization that you are just not up for it, in any way.

  10. Discovering bookstores hosting a reading for you cannot order your books (I have two out there. The one published in 2011 is available most places. The bigger one with the bigger publisher, having been published 6 years ago, is in book limbo (available online but bookstores?) For customers who want to buy both for signing this is an issue. Well, actually my issue. I want them to buy both.

  11. discovering that you’re supposed to have a network (i don’t) and you need to blog (i don’t) and you’re supposed to be an interesting person (i’m not) in order to market your book. all this, delivered with a straight face and no intravenous gin tonic in sight. fuck me.

    • Now,now – just schedule your book tour in cities where you can have that gin and tonic (with a nicely sliced lime) provided along with the pens. After what I have seen music groups request in their contracts, only the dry counties will be a problem!

  12. The worst part is looking back at all the years when other things were more important than writing.

  13. When they cast someone too short in the lead.

  14. Betsy are you trying to kill me? This is exactly where I am. Social-networked up the ass, up there out of the editing trench sailing through the air, hearing nothing, waiting to crash to the ground my mouth full of dirt.

    My publishing house is minor, my efforts have been massive and will probably be useless. I spent yesterday warding off articles with this register. And all of last week in despair.

    But it will have to be. For my launch I have a midnight blue dress with sparkles. My voice will crack. Then I’ll get drunk on prosecco.

  15. Like Catherine, I am smack in the middle of where you speak. My book is small, coming from a small but enthusiastic publisher and is being released to a small audience. So my expectations are small. Canada is a whole new ball game when it comes to book sales. But I get two launches, one in my hometown, a free hotel room and a chance to see all my friends together in one room after 18 months of French exile. I don’t dare dream beyond that.

  16. The worst part:
    That I have been told by people I believe DO NOT blow smoke up ass, college level creative writing teachers, (published) writers, voracious readers I know, and some that don’t know who the hell I am that:

    Book One,” Once I started I could not stop reading,” “…this book is phenomenal, it will make you famous.”

    Book Two, “…I could not put it down, wow, I laughed I cried, I cheered for the main character, I could not put it down.’ (No I did not put super-glue on the cover.)

    The REALLY worst part:
    Though I have been told by folks in publishing my queries intrigued them, not one full was requested. Even after reading a partial, not one full requested. As I sit down, maybe that WAS smoke coming out my butt. Regarding fiction I’m ready to go back to piano playing.

  17. Betsy, give your damn keyboard some Prozac. I haven’t managed to worm my way into the process yet. Don’t tell me how bad it is.

  18. I’m not convinced anyone, or anything can pound me too hard when I always beat them to the punch. On the flip side, when I chase possibility, I know I’m prepared. Looking back on all the unachievable things I’ve pulled off, the ones that were preceded with “you can’t do that,” I say bring it on. If this book doesn’t work out I’ll regroup with a better one. Signed, Forever Polyanna (really).

  19. “The only good thing about Oprah going off the air is that perfectly reasonable people no longer think they are going to be her guest, or should be.”

    That is outstanding! Betsy does a good thing. Tom laughs. Tom smiles 🙂

  20. I definitely am a dreamer in general, but I had no delusions of breakout success when my little collection came out. (Oh god, does this mean I’m negative *even for a writer*?)

    One of the worst parts might be explaining to well-meaning acquaintances that just because my university-press-published collection of short stories does not appear on the B&N New Fiction table that it’s actually a “real” book.

  21. The worst part is realizing that everyone at your Big Six imprint has lied to you and lied some more and the only alternative to their lies is silence, when they don’t even take the time to lie to you anymore, about six weeks post pub date, and just ignore your emails or messages after that.

  22. PS–Yes, this is the hardest part. I’ve turned in the book, I’ve had my say, and now I’m in that nowhere place, trying to stave off the inevitable shame, wild-eyed desperation, and raw stink of failure that comes with bad reviews (or worse, no reviews), poor sales, and remaindered copies. On the other hand, there’s that flicker of hope that this time, this time, this time, it will all be different.

  23. Come the time when my book is published, I’m guessing I’ll be a little afraid as well as excited. I’m beginning to see the advantages of cluelessness.

  24. The negative force is strong in you, this day. Bleak, you are. Though you write unvarnished truth. Ah, the truth–handle it, some maybe cannot do. In your words, much unvarnished truth, is found.

  25. The digital revolution in publishing has been liberating. With an e-book, there are no signings to attend. No remaindered copies. No schlepping boxes of books around on a book tour I couldn’t afford to mount anyway. Just electrons. Gorgeous, scintillating electrons.

    So what to do but this?

  26. The worst part happened recently. Agent #1 reading Novel # 1, raving about it, saying there’s a possible auction, movie options, etc. etc. then totally disappearing down a Black Hole. Lies, lies, lies…

    2nd worst: Plodding along after recovering from naive writer disillusionment, publishing in more lit. journals, writing Novel # 2, winning artsy fiction prize complete with NY reading, securing fancy Agent #2. She submits 2nd novel lightly, decides it’s “too quiet,” try Europe, she says. She doesn’t. I do. Am shortlisted in Paris story contest. Does agent care? No. Is she pregnant? Dead? Dunno, won’t return my emails, then disappears down the Black Hole.

    What’s up with these people? Now, I’m sending out stories again and working on a new project, alone, in urban solitude, drinking wine and dreaming of Paris in the twenties when life was perfect. Yeah, right.

  27. Oh, but that’s when you’ve done it. You’ve achieved some velocity, opened the sunroof, arched your back and eased your genitalia into the slipstream. It’s only natural to dream about a tongue from above, in such circumstances.

    It’s a bit distracting, but it’s a shame if you can’t at least enjoy that warm breeze.

    And here’s a second to August’s request for pre-order links!

  28. “I call it the Twilight Zone.”

    Ahhh. I’m still gazing through the telescope, dreaming of that zone.

  29. I, too, am in the Zone, crossing off the days till publication (33 as of today). I am useless, distracted, and … whatever the last thing was. I forgot.

    There sure are a lot of us. Isn’t there someplace we could all meet for a drink (or six)?

  30. Oh, I think that long Twilight Zone moment is the best, and in a strange way I really love it, because you can hope for anything and everything, and all the things you hope for that won’t happen haven’t not happened yet.

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