• 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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I’m Tired I’m So Tired

I’m in a good mood. I admit it. Sorry, August. But since I’ve been back, there’s been a lot of good news. So much so, that a) I’m sure I’ll be hit by a car and b) leads me to believe that going away for ten days might be the ticket instead of sitting at my desk and gnawing at my limbs and digits. The truth is I’ve learned over the years how to compartmentalize the agony associated with waiting to hear if an offer will be tendered, if a book gets reviewed in the NYT, if there will be a movie deal, if there will be a Turkish deal, if the jacket will be beautiful, if the title will be perfect, if the writer  produces a book better than he or she thought possible, and beyond what anyone expected. I first learned how to wait as a teenager waiting for guys to call. Here’s what I could accomplish while waiting: organize my drawers, whiten my teeth, decoupage a box I bought at a tag sale, tweeze my eyebrows beyond recognition, re-read Me, Natalie, and eat a pound of pasta. As an agent, I handle the waiting by getting busy with administrative duties and sometimes slipping into a movie.

How do you handle waiting?

58 Responses

  1. I have three kids – need I say more?

  2. “How do you handle waiting?”

    I don’t “wait.” I get on with it.

    And I write fiction because I always lie.

  3. Mostly by resenting happiness, but every now and then I take a break, and resent success instead.

    Being an agent is frosted fucking cake. How many writers do you have? So you send out fifteen books, ten of them sell. What do you care? Ten sales is ten sales. Sure, you want the others to sell, but it’s a numbers game for an agent. There are odds. There are trends. There are editors with specific tastes and needs and histories. Ten of your previous year’s books didn’t even swirl the bowl long enough to leave a stain, but one’s still selling. Same with the year before that, the year before that. Which means you’ve got income. You think you’re working with words, but you’re playing the numbers.

    I don’t know what it takes to be a writer. I wish I did. But I know what it takes to be an agent, because I’ve seen it. It takes an ability to pay the rent during your internship, and a conviction that -your- adoration of Harry Potter is something special. Plus, you once read most of Wuthering Heights for a class.

    Waiting is easier when you know there won’t be a review in the NYT or a movie deal. When you know the jacket will embarrass you and the title will be perfectly unremarkable. The distance between the top of your game and the bottom is indistinguishable, and there are no expectations because expectations require respect.

  4. There’s really only one thing to wait for, so I do my taxes early.

  5. I stopped reading after the admission of the good mood. Tidy work Betsy.

  6. My agent sent my book out to a load of editors in London thirteen days, two hours and eight minutes ago. I’m not waiting, I’m gradually going crazy. Not a word from anyone.

  7. Waiting used to kill me with a small constant ache. Now I’ve become more worn down and blasé. It would be untrue to say I am capable of compartmentalising things. I ain’t.

  8. I don’t have an agent or a work in limbo, so I don’t suffer the same pains. But there’s always the last issue of the magazine, or the next, and the story after that.

    When I’m waiting, I’m doing things, going places, meeting people, listening, watching, stalking the next story, or the one after that. A shark, moving, feeding on words and phrases. A ray, gliding across the bottom, looking for a munchie

    Waiting is doing something else, putting in something besides seat time, unless it’s working on the next thing..

  9. While waiting I usually de-clutter and practice my acceptance speech.

  10. I have not learned to deal with the waiting. There is only psychotic swigs between extreme hope, “Today, today is THE day!” and abject self deprecation, “Who am I kidding, this will NEVER happen.” Luckily for my husband, children, agent, and fellow day job coworkers, this is a solo roller-coaster that exists only in my mind. You know, one of those rickety wooden deathtraps.

  11. Waiting for the pitch to spark is like buying a lottery ticket a few days before the drawing. Like my mental list of what I’m going to buy and who I’m going to share the money with, I dream, I practice what I’m going to say when the agent calls and plan my first reading and book signing. The anticipation of winning the big numbers and the anticipation of success seems to be all I get. It’s enough sometimes, those few days of dreaming, but as I get older and realize there is an end to this thing we call life, that someone else gets to stand in front of the cameras with a big cardboard magic-markered check hurts. I used to be happy for the winner, now I just wonder, why the fuck not me. Don’t spout odds…it’s 50/50, I either win or lose. Unlike random numbers I do have some control, it’s called writing. That’s what keeps me in the game. But someday……

  12. i like to clean out my pantry–by eating everything in it starting with the kid’s candy box (and no, that’s not a euphemism).

    right now, i’m waiting to hear back on a job. it’s been a week since my last of four interviews and it’s killing me not to send the recruiter an email every four hours, “have you heard anything? did i get it? are they still interviewing other candidates? should i email them another thank you? send them more samples of my work? write a personal note in blood on the pages of their last annual report explaining in detail how perfect i am for this role???”

    i thought maybe to curb my waiting-anxiety i would make a list of all the reasons i don’t want it…but that feels too much like tempting fate. what if the job-gods only saw that list vs. all the ones i’ve made about how perfect my life would be perfect if i only got this one thing.

  13. There are different kinds of waiting for me. The writing stuff’s a breeze compared with potential bad news from family & friends. If I’m waiting for the shit to descend, I light candles and pray.

  14. I also spend a lot of time organizing my drawers, but I thought it was only a male thing.

  15. I localize my manic-depressive cycles and rev ’em up, pumping that mood swing in the hopes that if I let go at exactly the right point, I can sail away and land on the day the waiting is over.

    Or, I eat ice cream and try to forget about the whole thing.

  16. Not very well. I like to think I can occupy myself while waiting for the phone to ring or what will appear in today’s batch of mail, but the reality is my circuits are gunked up and I focus only half heartedly on everything else. I’m like a child with a full bladder, dancing an anxious shimmy and shake while waiting for that bathroom door to open before realizing too late I was turning the handle the wrong way the entire time.

  17. While I wait for your reply to my query of May 12th, I keep working.

    Best, Jeffrey

  18. Easily, because I always assume the news at the end of the wait will be disappointing. Pessimism is the impatient writer’s best friend.

  19. I am not in a good mood. During the wait, I just might climb over the balcony of this dump, into the next apartment and shove the resident’s cigarettes down his throat. Stupid bastard smokes on his balcony every time I try to sit outside or open a window for fresh air. Everything stinks. This whole giving up the material world and creating meaning in my life is a lot more difficult than I thought. This week’s epiphany: I like, no I love having enough money to keep the assholes at arms length. And I miss my obnoxious, pretty car. So much for Eat, Pray, Love. Please, please let me find a better attitude in the wilderness of Norway.

  20. More years ago than I care to admit, when I first became a writer and I was getting distraught over (1) waiting and (2) rejections, I literally pulled the covers up over my head….for about ten seconds. Then I said, “Okay, asshole, if this is going to be your reaction, DON’T BE A WRITER.

    I chose to be a writer and I don’t get bent out of shape about the crappy pieces of it.

    It’s my choice, and I don’t regret it.

  21. I think waiting should be rerouted into other activities, other positive, helpful, focused-on-others activities. However, that’s just what I think. What I do? Stress, obsess, digress, make a mess.

    Thank God you’re back! And I’m back from delivering my older child to camp and can breathe again.

  22. From age 10 on, I stayed home alone while my mother worked. Everyday she left me a list: do dishes, do not use stove!, make beds, finish library book, call and check on Grandma, wash and fold towels, finish math chapter.

    Waiting = make a list.

    Yet further proof that we are all basically 5th graders all our lives, pretending to be adults.

  23. I clean vents on the cold air returns with a Q-tip.

  24. What timing on this post.

    It took something like, oh I don’t know, eight years (off & on, with a three year gap in there somewhere) to write the first book, and after it was finished, things happened pretty fast from January –> March of this year. I was spoiled by that speed. Thing is…I’d like to believe my agent has a never ending list of editors, that he will keep on until it sells, but reality tells me at some point the submission process will end. When I compare that to waiting, I prefer the wait because in that way, I can still have hope.

    I knew the best way to handle the waiting was to write and now, the second book is almost done. This is where the other wait will come in…when I send it off to my editor in a couple weeks or so. I’ve noticed waiting creates something like an endorphin rush. It’s addictive. Waiting to hear back from the editor or the agent makes my heart race every time I open email or hear the phone ring.

    All that waiting – now and to come – means I’ll move onto a third book. It would seem my entire life is nothing but waiting and questions. I guess in that regard, I’m better equipped to handle the wait. The questions remain unanswered.

  25. I’m off topic here. There’s a good comment thread over at “Salon” where a writer tells her story of how she went for it and lost (not published)

    Here was my contribution to the thread:

    Eh, we live in a culture where you’re supposed to “go for it.” Our film industry breaks down extraordinary efforts into 30 second montages, and in the end the protagonist – that special someone – wins out.

    I did the same thing and it turned out the same way. Then when I returned from Spain, one of the garbage writing jobs I had was translating something called “The Dog of Flanders,” in which the poor dog dies and the little boy artist loses the drawing contest to the rich kid with all the resources. Not surprisingly, it was headed for a foreign market where people expect crappy things to happen. I wish I’d seen it before I launched my great adventure. That said, I had a “great adventure,” wrote a book, and learned a lot through, well, losing.

    By the way, 30 years at this have taught me the arts are no meritocracy and a piece of drub gets published just as quickly as a true literary masterpiece. You could have blown somebody, happens all the time. You could have been so tiresome in your persistence as to have worn a handful of people down in exchange for their eternal enmity and a shallow form of success. It depends on the drive of the nut behind the work. You were not quite as driven as you thought, but you sound rather grounded and capable of happiness despite the fact your BIG DREAM failed.

    “Fame and fortune” are two things that seem very silly and frivolous to anyone whose literary apprenticeship has been honest and fruitful.

    Finally, you’re not dead and neither is your book.

  26. With the patience of a tree, I wait. Disheveled from the breezes of so many around me swirling in excitement with their successful deals and fund-fueled lives, I stay my quiet course enjoying the birdsongs. In this current drought when that which holds me to earth is shrinking away, I’ll continue to watch the sky for rain clouds. My only fear is the ax.

  27. I’m not very good with waiting but, funny you should ask, today I’m working on it.

  28. The worst wait is for party guests to arrive, I sweat cold. The rest, well fuck it: a check clears or it bounces, the cat recovers or she doesn’t, the souffle rises or not. Sometimes I feel like waiting is all there is. Which makes me want to cry until I remember that I have a million things to attend to and since I have a goal of being useful to the world I can get through most days without hiding under my desk. I used to be good about getting writing rejection but that thought became hubris and now I suck. Was a finalist for an award and checked my email obsessively until I realized the notification of winners date was well past and I checked the website. Bridesmaid. Damn. On to the next wait.

  29. I survive by continuing to have a full-time job. The needs of my own kids, plus those of my many [MANY] middle school students, quickly drown out any nefarious angst-demons I sense in the dark corners. You know the ones, jabbering away about rejections and line edits. Hideous creatures.

    I could not be more pleased for you, Betsy. Good news abounds in my neck of the woods, too, and now it’s all “be careful what you wish for” and the pesky work and other details that accompany all good things. Mazel tov.

  30. Contemplate the merits of CreateSpace. No more: agents not returning my emails, smary book covers designed by girls down on their luck, editors who went to Brown and haven’t left NYC in fourteen years, and lack of publisher support. I smell freedom.

  31. file; clear my workspace; make a buncha lists. edits are good for waiting periods. one becomes ruthless.

    i wonder what the history of the word ruthless is?

  32. I’m patient. Maybe too patient.

    If I think an and is inevitable, I won’t initiate it.

    Hey, I wrote a book inspired by an abusive relationship I eventually. I stayed too long. Eight years is a long time.

    Help get it published –

    Thank You.

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