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    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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Ain’t It Hard When You Discover That

FIRST PRIZE: Didion (Helen Mirren) and Dunne (Anthony Hopkins). They always write in the nude (she wears heels) and have high tea at 4 and a celibate relationship.
RUNNER UP: Dear Madame HBO Prez: Your contest intrigues me. How about a sexy, dark flick about the complex relationship btwn. Susan Sontag (Susan Sarandon) & Annie Leibovitz (Meryl Streep) for your next project? Yes, Annie writes books, too, and Susan’s, well, she’s a legend. Just thinking..
DISHONORABLE MENTION: Well, what about a work in progress? The relationship between B Lerner and J Donatich – filled with varieties of religious experience, ambivalence, food, loathing, and trees. A child and a dog. Not to be missed.
MISERY: Tabitha and Stephen King. He’d be the box office name but she’d be the star. It’s clear, from his alcoholism to his car accident, that she’s a force to be reckoned with. Plus, I’d love to see the inside of their home.
JUST BECAUSE: The irascible ghost of Samuel Clemens appears to a wannabe country singer, and guides her to fortune, fame, and an unrequited love that spans the ages: NEVER THE TWAIN SHALL MEET: THE MARK AND SHANIA STORY.
Thanks to everyone who participated in the contest. Will the winners please send me your snail mail address to askbetsylerner@gmail.com and you I will send you a treat.
This week I’ll be reporting from the Book Expo, the industry’s annual book trade show, the goal of which is to score hot galleys and tote bags. I’m not that great at it to be completely honest. I’m a lot of things, but a schnorer I’m not. I think it’s connected to not feeling particularly entitled. I’ve always admired and been disgusted in equal measure by people who seem to feel entitled. And I’ve often wondered how this relates to writing. Some writers can actually presuppose interest in their work, others strive to believe that  someone somewhere will care, and most spend thousands in therapy coping with imposter complexes and the like.
What about you??

30 Responses

  1. Nothing. I’m like everyone else. Born to die. What could I deserve that’s any different from what anyone else deserves?

    What’s this whole “deserve” thing about, anyway? Show me the body of a baby killed in an airstrike and talk to me about who deserves what and why.

    Sorry. “Deserve” doesn’t mean anything intelligible to me.

    • Deleting deserve.

    • Proposition 1

      1 The world is all that is the case.
      1.1 The world is the totality of facts, not of things.
      1.11 The world is determined by the facts, and by their being all the facts.
      1.12 For the totality of facts determines what is the case, and also whatever is not the case.
      1.13 The facts in logical space are the world.
      1.2 The world divides into facts.
      1.21 Each item can be the case or not the case while everything else remains the same.

      Proposition 7

      Wovon man nicht sprechen kann, darüber muss man schweigen. (“Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent.”) —Ludwig Wittgenstein, Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus

  2. Never been to BEA, but been to AWP a bunch. All that swag. All those books. The pasted on smiles. The feigning interest. The sad, sad booths heaped high with product and nobody buying.

    I always look for the tables with food. M&Ms will do, but chunks of fudge are better. Right, Lyra?

    • Suzy,
      In the middle of a panic attack in that room, I will forever remember you bringing us over to that fudge. Everyone should be so fortunate as I was at that moment.
      Although I have it on good authority that if I go to AWP Boston, a fellow blogger will guide me to her favorite pubs there. My dearest Suzy, she may have you trumped.

  3. Oh, Tetman. I love you and what you do with words, but “the body of a baby” stops me dead in my tracks.

  4. Yes entitlement sort of awes and disgusts me too. I lived with someone who fully expected recognition and when it came, was blasé about it. I stupidly tried to tell him should be grateful, it might not knock again, but he failed to register my concerns. I realise I was expressing my own fears of being on an empty path.

  5. I’ve always felt like I should be entitled to life’s sweets. The only explanation I can think of is that it was passed down to me from my wicked grandmother ’cause lord knows my mother didn’t teach me that shit. The gene has since passed onto my second daughter and I’m doing everything I can to exorcize it.

  6. Those with imposter complexes who wish to spend thousands in therapy, I’m free weekdays after lunch. I will warn you, entitlement run amok is sticky and may require a significant financial investment.

  7. I’d love to see all of these, but the Mark and Shania story made me laugh the hardest.

    I feel like an impostor about a lot of things, but I truly believe there’s a huge audience for my trilogy, as long as the Baby Boomers, of whom I am one, don’t die before it’s finished. It moves slowly.

  8. I went to BEA once. It was in LA. I went because my first novel was nominated for a Lambda award. The Lammies are presented the night before BEA starts. Since I was going such a long way, I stayed a few extra days to attend Book Expo and an Ellen DeGeneres show. Ellen was amazing. BEA–not so much. It reminded me of Halloween. So many people trying to get free stuff. Some people even had those carts with wheels that old people take to the grocery store. (I’m not being ageist–I’m old and about a minute from needing one of those carts.)
    M

  9. I believe you can feel entitled when you ARE entitled. That feeling isn’t about ego and attention. It’s just you recognizing yourself because you’ve written the true and honest thing, in your own voice.

    I think choosing one’s subjects in ways that honor who are are is really the bugaboo haunting so many writers.

    I’m convinced my new mystery series (THE RABBI’S MOTHER) will be a hit, not because I’m such a wing-ding writer — I’ve never thought that — but because I’ve finally found the story, characters, theme, and tone that realio-trulio reflects me.

    So, bring on all that entitlement. It took thirty years, and I’m tickled to receive.

  10. Hey Tet and Bet,

    I’m jealous, Tetman got Betsy to reply.

    My mother always said, “Honey, you deserve everything you get.” I know exactly how she meant that.

    Entitled, well I’m entitled to one thing and one thing only…not sure what that one thing is yet.

  11. I’m too miserly to spring for HBO – but just might if one of those winners were on.
    As for Book Expo – I thought I wanted to go and was disappointed I can’t – until reading this post and comments.Thanks. I always feel repulsed by the scramble for freebies. Even being cheap, I’d rather cough up the dough.

  12. I don’t feel particularly entitled — at expos, I end up listening to spiels about things I don’t care about and can’t use just to score a mini-Reese’s, an ARC, or a free pen from the display. I can’t help picturing myself on the other side of the table.

    On a more personal level, it’s difficult, if not painful, for me to ask for what I want, but it still hurts when no one offers me a cookie.

  13. I don’t think I have any special right to be here, or to live another minute, let alone have anyone interested in my writing. Even with hard work and skill and more hard work, the good and gifted sometimes fail…. fail to get an agent, to get published, to get recognition or adoration, to sell.

    It’s worth asking what you really want to accomplish, and what it’s worth to you. How much will you give to take what you want?

  14. My sense of entitlement isn’t limited to only what I think everyone should read (my books). I also believe that the world would be a better place if everybody would just let me be the boss of everybody, so in addition to my writing I also give freely of my verbal instructions, moral judgements, and fourth order intentionality presumptions. You don’t even have to ask; you are welcome to my opinon as soon as it crosses my mind — I’m not stingy with valuable information.

  15. Wait a minute, wait a minute.

    Some folks are diminishing the worth of what we do. As if our words are not worthy. I wrote an essay years ago, I won’t go into the subject matter now, but the feedback I got…an estranged father and son reunited BECAUSE of what I wrote. The old cliché, “if I could help one person…blah, blah, blah,” really means something.

    This doesn’t make me feel entitled, I don’t deserve anything special, because I am not special, I’m just like any other slob trying to make it. But whatever our demons, foibles, or hang-ups, what we do matters. If I didn’t believe that I’d go back to crocheting afghans.

    Betsy, revel in the absurdity of it. I do that all day long.

  16. I’m entitled to write as much as I want for the rest of my life. Write, submit, query, again & again & again. I don’t feel entitled to literary fame & fortune, or to coerce anyone into liking or publishing my work. That would kill the alchemy of magic that can occur between a writer and a reader. Chemistry is everything for me. Either you like my stuff, or you don’t. I won’t be shoving it down anyone’s throat.

    Just my opinion. I’m entitled to that, too.

  17. because i work about 80 hours a week, i think i deserve a few days off from work. perhaps i will see you at the book expo!

  18. Last year, one of my friends loaned me her press badge to attend the book expo at an ALA event. I had no idea that such an ID would have publisher reps and assorted expo staff pleading, smoozing and just blatantly sucking up to a person they thought might include one of their titles in a book review. Heady stuff for someone toiling in the land of not-yet-published! At the end of the day, I dragged over 40 lbs of books, info sheets and trinkets to my friend’s home; had I known to bring a rolling cart, I could have filled it three times.

    Beyond the surreal, semi-star treatment, I wasn’t blind to the reason for the preening effort of all these folks: it was to Promote. I was seen as a means to an end and that realization showed me the shallowness of my situation. It was a sad dance. I didn’t regret returning the ID to its rightful owner.

  19. Here’s what I feel entitled to, dear wordsmith,
    Here’s what I feel is there for free:
    A parcel I’ve carried for 100 years that weighs 1000 pounds. The contents evade my gaze, all that weight coming up empty.
    A bruised heart that aches with each act of kindness.
    Eyes that respond honestly and a smile with no strings attached.
    A ride to a state of sunshine after standing too long in the Mississippi rain.
    Words that make me smile, cry or challenge what I thought I knew.
    A song that is there for the taking as long as I keep searching.
    Take me seriously or take me as I am
    But sweet songbird of dawn, just take me.

  20. When I was growing up my best friend and I used to joke that once we were queen of the world New Jersey would drop into the sea. Or at least change their road system to be compatible with that of NY. I don’t remember our other points.

    Surely I’m not the only one to admit to being a brat and feeling like all this work should come to something. What? It would be nice not to die with all my writing in a laptop taken apart for scrap.

    How many times do I think what the fuck is wrong with people–that’s an entitled thought, I think. It usually ends with the thought that many people would observe me and think the same thing.

    Seriously, “getting what you deserve” goes along with “everything happens for a reason” and “that which does not kill you makes you stronger” as the three most fucked up bullshitty cliches there are. “At the end of the day” is the media’s most favorite bullshitty cliche to repeat.

    I think the question is really fascinating and complicated.

  21. Jesus, Betsy. You’ve got Patti interviewing Neil, and Stephen Colbert lurking somewhere in the house. Who the hell cares if you’re entitled or not? Grab your good fortune and run.

    The one and only time I went to BEA, my biggest score was an autographed anniversary copy of The Outsiders. Still love that book, forty years after the first time I read it.

  22. I deserve support, the kind that gets my first book published.

    I’m a good guy and karma has, thus far, failed me miserably. (an abusive marriage, MS, broke, etc.)

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