• 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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He Who Does Not Feel Me Is Not Real To Me

I’ve often talked about the peak moment in an agent’s life when he gets to tell a writer that there is an offer. What I’ve not written about is all the rejection any agent has to shoulder  on behalf of his or her clients, and how those rejections get processed. For  me, they only make me stronger and in that way being a stubborn bastard has suited me in this line of work. My mother once said that I never think I’m wrong (not a compliment), and that I always get what I want (again, not flattery). What she missed in the observation is that I’m a determined mother fucker. I eat rejections for breakfast. I paper the walls with them. Make origami. The longer you hold my head under the water the happier I am. Not at first; I used to flail. You couldn’t survive as an agent if you didn’t know how to cope with rejection and help your writers cope with it as well. Last week, I had to deliver a rejection to writer. His response was the best: no worries on passes, my main fuel for writing is revenge, anyway, so he unknowingly just gave me a boost.

Do you write out of revenge? And if not, why not?

50 Responses

  1. Revenge is tricky, for me, a white-hot liquid that both fuels and consumes. The plasma in my veins and the poison that leaves me a charred husk. I’m a cliche. I’m a phoenix. I’m biohazardous waste at the bottom of a red plastic trashcan.

  2. I don’t write out of revenge, but I have designed (and copyrighted) a lapel pin I call a “pintell”. As revenge, I cut out small sections of my rejection letters and impale them on the pin shaft. Adorning a jacket or shirt collar, that little piece of jewelry is quite the conversation piece with the writers I encounter.

    Anyone want to place an order?

    • Where can we see one?

      • I’m not savvy enough to embed one here (and since this IS Betsy’s party, I wasn’t sure that was OK) – let’s see if I can send a jpeg to you directly.

    • Wow, Karen, what an idea! I’ll take two!

      When I saw “pintell”, I thought of “pintle”, a vital piece of hardware that holds the rudder on. Without them, you’ve got problems.

      The best are bronze.

      • Ah, Frank you bring back the day when the spouse and I owned a ’69 Camaro convertible and a sailboat. We lived in a rented hole, didn’t know who Jimmy Choo was, and had the best weekends. Ever.

      • The name WAS based on that nautical term – there’s no way to get anything past this group!

  3. I’m so freaking codependent that when my agent sends me one of those rejections, knowing that I’ll be disappointed, I feel like I should bolster her up. You know, let her know, “Aw, I’ll survive.”

    But, of course, in addition to being codependent I’m a bit of a stubborn bastard myself. Yes, my best writing comes on the heels of rejection. And yes, it has a lot to do with vengefulness.

  4. For the work, Picasso’s Guernica is a good guide. Fueled by a righteous anguish he reported and more. And that more was and is his great revenge. A type of justice that puts the pettiness of rejection in true and lasting perspective.

  5. Write for revenge – you bet! All those horrible nuns who never thought I’d be anythihg. Those teachers who passed me over for a taller child or a prettier child. In particular that teacher who when I was five years-old told me I sang like a frog and had better shut up while the others sang.

  6. If not revenge then at least I’ll-show-the-fuckers

  7. I can see where you’re coming from. In truth, I think I’d be a quick ass agent. When I see talent, I bloody want to shout it from the roof tops. I want to empty my bank account and buy every last piece of art work and wrap them around my already overcrowded house. Any rejection letter would seem idiotic to me. I’d write that person off. Clearly they know nothing. But something interesting happens when it’s my own work. Suddenly I’m not so tough. This person, who was an imbecile just moments ago, suddenly matters. Revenge doesn’t come into play. Now needing their approval seems paramount. Perhaps I should pretend I’m an agent, instead of an artist. Tell me, do you wear a hat or a boa or fake fingernails? Sometimes wearing a costume helps get me get into character.

  8. Revenge writing! Every day! But the act of writing makes me happy, and thoughts of revenge die before they can reach the page.

  9. My hand squishing your heart relentlessly re-balancing the scales, you motherfucker.

  10. I hate rejection but I deal.

    In fiction I’m so used to it, it’s like the shitty friend who hangs out with me even though I can’t stand them. I let them come over and play with my dolls because I’m afraid if I don’t I won’t have any friends at all.
    What’s weird is that my toys are great, they just haven’t discovered that yet. Their loss.

    Non-fiction, if I’m rejected, don’t touch my fucking dolls or I’ll ring your uneducated, pompous, mindless, skinny-assed chicken neck.
    Confidence is everything.

    Revenge writing…someday, but I’ve got to wait until my brother dies.

  11. A few of my characters are wrestling with revenge . . . No, I lie—they’re shooting at it.

    But though I don’t write for personal revenge, exactly, I wouldn’t mind if a couple to-be-nameless people saw my book for sale and got cankercramp in their wizened little hearts.

    Except they won’t, because they wouldn’t remember me, anyway. People like that rarely do remember their old chew toys, which is why cold, indirect revenge is such a tricky entree.

  12. Great piece, Betsy. “I eat rejections for breakfast” is a classic!

  13. Hell, yeah. That’s the exhilarating freedom of fiction.

  14. Betsy – this post couldn’t have come at a better time. I suppose all agents work differently and I’m still learning how mine operates. I just signed with him in early March and he’s shopping the ms around as we speak. He’s on fire about it, so I know he believes in my writing, and will do what he can.

    Revenge writing? Yes. I think I already had a bit of that satisfaction from the first ms when I signed with my agent. Just doing that was one of those, “see? HE says I can write, so there!” sort of moments, even though I didn’t directly come out and say it. I just smiled when I told them…to me it was affirmation that maybe I can write something halfway decent.

  15. Am I the only one that can’t write for revenge?
    Anger, envy, all of it brings out the lead-laden purple prose in me. I think it’s fantastic at the time, but when I go back my writing brain has been elsewhere focusing on nonsense instead of the words.
    I write best cold and calculating, writing a science to me rather than a paint-spattered canvas, a place to document the loathing.

  16. No. Overused expression warning: revenge is a dish best served cold. I’m aiming for something more fulfilling, like the perfect plate of gnocchi in a back alley, dimly lit restaurant off the beaten path in Sorrento. Fresh tomato sauce, perhaps a little heavy on the salt, but that can be rubbed in later wounds.

    Determination? I’m with you on that one; I’ll keep searching through many phases of the moon to find that tasty gnocchi.

  17. Bottom line is you’ve developed the perfect Darwinian adaptation for your species. Hard-nosed, virtually indestructable stubborness. The agenti horbilis. Subqenus–“I’ll be bach” you witless bastards. Writers would do well to mimic this adaptation as yours apparently has done.

  18. No. I write for redemption.

  19. To Her Royal Highness Besty, Eternal Queen of Provocation….

    First Beauregardless The Wonderdog ends my slumber with a foot close to the groin and licks on the head, and now this reminder of an old battle.


    We all know evil bastards who sow pain and destruction, and it seems to sustain them. I know one in particular, one born to wealth and power who destroyed lives and careers and good names as easily as blowing his nose on a linen handkerchief. He never worked for what he had, and the world was his bidet.

    He only dinged me a time or two, but did it all to some people I knew didn’t deserve what he served. Once, he slammed his hands on a table and shot up, yelling, his face inches from mine. For a half second, I thought he was going to hit me, and smiled steadily at him.

    I’ve struggled with the notion of writing about him, and stepped back. To write this story would not change him, but it would damned sure change me, and not for the better.

    He deserves no wit or word, and my revenge is that he is not relevant anymore. His crimes are, as far as I know, unpunished, and that’s the way it is in this universe of imperfect people.

    A Cambodian child once said that the best revenge is to be a good person, and live a good life, and that makes more sense than anything I know on the subject. I’m working on it.

    As for evil bastards, fuck them and the irrelevant horses they rode in on.

  20. I’m not a vengeful person, but I’m working on it. Two things happened this week: 1) an agent told me my writing is impeccable and beautiful. 2) I got my first (form) rejection. By email. My response: totally disregard agent one and stay up all night figuring out a way to rewrite entire manuscript and query because obviously, it sucks. Headed out to do battle with evil, blackberry thorns and dandelions until I know I won’t do something stupid with the delete key.

  21. Yes. I write out of revenge. It’s my revenge against a world in which step by step I lose everything, until all that I have left is everything I’ve lost, and then I die.

    As for eating rejections for breakfast, did you know they can also be eaten for lunch and dinner? You can even snack on them and you won’t gain weight. I’ve been getting by on a steady diet of rejections for years. They’re more nutritious than a body may suspect, but one must be careful–they do not go well with alcoholic beverages.

  22. I write satire. If I’m not mad, I’m blocked. Revenge Rules!

  23. I do write out of revenge. An odd sort of revenge; one that consists of all the personal rejections, “gifted, talented, great voice,” I hear from agents (but not quite good enough, you know; not quite good enough). So I tend to revisions, then write another novel. I keep in mind the best revenge is cold, and like so many cold things, it will taste so sweet when I am finally offered representation. Not if; when.

  24. Love your writer’s response. He can’t lose.

    I can’t write when I’m vengeful. I’ve learned to work the heavy bag or take my scowl for a walk. With prose, I’d rather aim for the g-spot of melancholy. But in the journal I often go after the silly motherfucker who forgot to include clear instructions to this this. Somebody in quality control has some explaining to do.

  25. I might want to write out of revenge, but I seem to do best if I can let that go and write as honestly as possible, even if that ultimately makes me more vulnerable. (Though I think I am talking about a different type of revenge, here — not against rejections from agents/editors/publications, but rather from criticisms, insecurities, perceived nemeses, etc.)

  26. I’ve been thinking about today’s post, just about all day at work, my job is pretty much mindless so I can actually think of other things, anyway, I came to the conclusion that I do not write out of revenge, at all. I’m pretty easy going, piss me off; I write you off…ha, clever little play on words there. I don’t try to get even, I get ahead.

    When things don’t go my way, I move on; sometimes after a good cry. I don’t like rejection. It doesn’t make me mad, it puzzles me, upsets me, makes me wonder what the fuck it is they really want because I don’t send anything out until I think it’s really ready.

    Rejection makes me feel clueless, and sad, and then I go to work on something else, and then I go back to rewrites without any diatribes.

    I am so thankful to have come as far as I have in writing because I write like I play the piano, by ear.
    You should hear me play Ebb Tide; fucking awesome.

  27. Well, I’ve been thinking about today’s post, just about all day at work, my job is pretty much mindless so I can actually think of other things, anyway, I came to the conclusion that I do not write out of revenge, at all. I’m pretty easy going, piss me off; I write you off…ha, clever little play on words there. I don’t try to get even, I get ahead.

    When things don’t go my way, I move on; sometimes after a good cry. I don’t like rejection. It doesn’t make me mad, it puzzles me, upsets me, makes me wonder what the fuck it is they really want because I don’t send anything out until I think is it really ready.

    So…rejection makes me feel clueless and sad and then I go to work on something else and then go back do rewrites to my original work, without any diatribes. I am so thankful to have come as far as I have in writing because I write like I play the piano, by ear.

    You should hear me play Ebb Tide; fucking awesome.

  28. Though I love the idea of revenge, I have to admit I write out of boredom. I find most things (and sadly, people) in this world boring as shit and I write to entertain myself.

  29. Not sure I would call it revengeful writing, but it sure comes out better, after rejection!

  30. I write for revenge.

    And I write to get the last word.

  31. This post made me laugh out-loud.

    Affirmed why I don’t send things out, YET. Not that I’m afraid of rejection, hell my life is all about rejection. Me rejecting me mostly.

    After reading here I’m thinking my writing is all about revenge against all the futher mucking bunofasitches who reject me for saying it like it fucking is for me! God damn them! Wink.

    That said, when it’s time, and it is getting closer, I hope the hell I run into a tough, savvy, agent like you. By the way have you visited my blog? My memoir is quite compelling and really well written. No really, it is. Just in case you decide to arc over, there are excerpts scattered though-out my page. I know, I’m a shameless whore.

  32. I don’t quite know how to answer this. When I first read the question, my answer was a resounding NO, out loud. Then I said, out loud, well, maybe. Then I started thinking about all the chapters in my memoir about the many guests I’ve had at my bed and breakfast and the trials and tribulations attached to some of them. And, I finally came to the realization that yes I guess I do sometimes.

  33. For a man who says “no worries” as a response and he’s writing out of revenge, his words should seek as much havoc as possible but for verbal conversation, the listener should wear caution as the world is unstable as it is. If I wrote out of revenge or behaved as such, I would be less worthy of my past and I push to write for purpose, one that is not revenge but understanding. Understanding motive, now does that writer write on the issue of revenge? The underlining of voice and words speak volumes in thought and skilled understanding is often about reading between the lines and in the smallest of pause for feelings and being felt may just be in the empty spaces of writing but not mind. So, basically no need to write out of revenge. Stubborn paper is just as strong as steel buildings.

    Just getting reject responses and I applaud each one as they redirect me and it’s better indeed than no response at all. We all have that right, a yes or no, right? Seen you tend to at least do that in this hectic world of principles.

  34. Revenge is an angry emotion and I don’t want to create out of anger.

    It’s not revenge, it’s cathartic. I feel it needed to be written and it came easily because it was inspired by the life I’ve lived.

    It’s not revenge. I’m dedicating it to the two people who inspired it.

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