• 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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Words Fall Through Me

While we’re on the subject of movies, I watched ONCE tonight and I found myself sobbing at the end. It’s the story of two lonely people who briefly make some music together (that’s literal not sex) and for various reasons must part. It’s so simple. So moving. These are the stories that are very hard to sell. They are considered small, quite, inconspicuous. How the fuck it got green lit or financed I will never know. It’s also a musical. WTF. And now it’s a big hit on Broadway, too. What’s the lesson? Do your work. Just do your fucking work. You want to write about a mushroom cap, write a about a mushroom cap. THe other day I saw a photo of some sculpture that’s at the bottom of the ocean and you have to scuba dive to see it. Right on! I mean this is a gigantic world. Make your sandscape. Make your horse out of tape. I knew a girl who sculpted with butter.  Write your epic, toe your name in the sand. This is for you but it’s really for me, a hundred note cards blowing in the wind. One potato more.

What’s your most insane idea?

46 Responses

  1. Ah, therein lies the problem. My ideas are pretty sane. They’re the tiniest “what if” of disruption. A single mom who writes copy for the peel-off strips of maxi pads and keeps falling for the wrong guy. A jock girl whose former beauty queen mom doesn’t get her. A woman who makes millions in the sex toy pyramid scheme, and can’t stop fucking married men. Yawn, right? I just can’t get a hard on for murder or intrigue or zombies.

    I loved ONCE.

  2. I’ve just been reading about Sixto Rodriguez, a songwriter who was supposed to be the next Dylan. His music didn’t sell, so he quit to be a day laborer in Detroit. Turns out that, unbeknownst to him, a great deal of his oeuvre fueled the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa. Now he’s on Letterman and getting a second chance. But his music was doing what he’d intended it to do all along, just not in the way he’d likely imagined. In yesterday’s post I mentioned that I don’t really go to movies, but in the case of In Searching for Sugar Man, a documentary of the what became of Rodriguez after he dropped off the music business radar, I’ll gladly make an exception.

    Insane ideas: that I will never die. I just can’t shake it.

    One women’s WTF, ah ha and oops moments of life.

    It’s about why I wrote, what I wrote, and what happened after, but you already knew that. (Can’t sell it…I get that.)

    I was told (by a group of successful writers and college level writing teachers) that students and writers, as well as readers, would like to read about the force and fallout of my almost 100 published essays.

    But, as they say, (and my latest and least favorite 4-letter word), ‘platform’.
    I am a minnow in a mud puddle.

    I am stuck wondering…is anybody really interested in my Erma Bombeck / Andy Rooney kind of thinking?

    • Motherhood, the Second Oldest Profession, If Live is a Bowl of Cherries, Why am I the Pits? Not sure how those ended up on my stack of books from childhood, junior high, I don’t remember exactly but I do remember them. If that has any relevance.

  4. A few years ago, in a weekend writing class with Amy Bloom, I was working on a story where a young Resistance fighter lived in an Austrian cave with a bunch of handicapped children, hiding from the Nazis. She was disguised as a nun and her lover was there, too. Anyway, AB said it was an absolutely crazy premise, (nuns in caves with sick kids? Come on.) but to go forward with it anyway. I did. I ended up publishing the story, then I worked it as a thread into a novel. It’s not published yet, but I’m trying.

    I still appreciate her encouragement for my insane story. She didn’t care about the market or what was in vogue at the time. She just said, “Write it.” I remember her words every time a crazy scene pops into my head, and I go for it.

  5. ONCE was a favorite movie of mine. Saw it three times. Yes, it’s crazy that it got made.

    But in all the reading I’m doing on other blogs, and articles out there, I’m beginning to possibly come up with a thesis for why certain projects ultimately make it and others don’t.

    (For example, read today’s “How I Got My Agent” by Jenny Milchman.)

    But back to my thesis.

    Only Connect.

    You have to. Betsy, you’re doing it, and now I am, too. I find it exhausting and overwhelming, but I know it’s important to do. Not just for my work, either. It’s important for my character.

  6. Agents are always pointing out what they are looking for. Hard boiled is out and OCD forensics is in. Vampires and apocalypse. When I slap myself awake, I see much of what is in my head is cliche. Maybe forty days in the desert would help.

  7. “What’s your most insane idea?”

    That a trick question? You workin’ for DHS or sumpin’?

    Lessee… my most insane idea… probably at present it’s that I can publish a children’s book about cats and a poetry book based on Psychopathia Sexualis and not have to change my name on one or the other.

  8. I’m a sucker for those quiet stories about people in the most ordinary of circumstances and despite the fact I’ve read how hard it is to sell those kinds of stories, they are what I try to write. (try being the key word)

    So, maybe that’s my most insane idea…the fact that I insist on writing that way in the hopes something will get published.

  9. That I can change the past. I’m friggin’ revisiting the past by working on a memoir and at times I think it gives me a better understanding of what happened. I THINK it gives me a better understanding is the operative phrase. This is dangerous territory for me because then I start dwelling on things, what I should have done or said, how something could have been avoided–specifically a couple of car accidents, the result of drinking and/or excessive speed, duh — or why I left home when I did. But there’s no going back. I know it. So it must be insanity when I get lost in a dream about how things could have been.

    (I enjoyed the movie, “Once”. The only thing that bothered me was the hole in the street singer’s guitar (a Takamine). Willie Nelson[‘s guitar has at least one also. How do those guys do that? They must play all the time, 20 hours a day. I mean, I’ve played hard and there are a few scratches through the finish of my 25 year old acoustic but to create another soundhole and expose the bracing, the inner skeleton, of a guitar, that’s some serious picking. Does Glen Hansard have sandpaper fingertips or something?

  10. Thanks so much for this post. I have been seriously thinking about giving up on a novel because I feel ridiculous talking it. Dead great-grandfather rises out of the bottom of a lake to follow the pregnancy of his lesbian great-granddaughter. Hellooooo. But still. There’s sculpture’s at the bottom of the ocean. And Once. And Betsy’s notecards…shuffling…shuffling.

  11. Two guys head to Cocodrie, way down in Louisiana, ahead of a hurricane, to rescue the contents of a wine cellar. They are trapped there, with only vienna sausage, boiled peanuts, and lots of wine.


    Our guy arrives in Egypt, goes to a remote village to study ancient jocular formations. This place is the site of an ancient market, where there is an inscription which reads “The mouth of a perfectly contented man is filled with beer”. With his friends Amam and Strabo, he explores the subjects, until one nightr, when Amam, speaking in neologisms, tells our guy he must leave, and quickly.

    He is introduced to Yuri and an old Russian airplane, and is flown out, skirting the cities, where there are lots of fireworks going off, which happen to be Arab Spring.

    These two hop-scotch across the Med and all of europe, making several stops, listening to american music; Yuri is a particular fan of Norman Greenbaum as well as The Doors.

    They end up in Islay, Scotland, where there are more distilleries than any place else.

    Note: the village, inscription, and Islay exist. So does Cocodrie, though it’s not a good place for a cellar of any sort.

  12. I’m currently working on a story set in a thriving ghost town that’s hanging by its fingernails to the edge of a cliff. One of the characters falls (or is she pushed?) down the hillside, which leads to a head injury followed by acquired savantism that allows her to forge artwork after seeing it once, a talent her shady stepbrother would love to exploit. Then there’s the boy down the street who’s now a man and who loved the girl she was and not the damaged woman she is but can’t seem to tear himself away. So who pushed Celia that long-ago night, and what will become of the creepy love triangle, the artwork, and the town which is being threatened by a heavy rain?

    Oof. Yeah, this sounds like a butter sculpture. Too much of a muchness.

  13. My most insane idea (to date) was to yell at the guy who aimed a gun at me and then slam the door in his face rather than dive for cover. Even the 911 operator was impressed. About 20 minutes later, the police found this guy hiding under a house a few doors away. He had been out of prison 10 days. The arresting officer suggested that while the element of surprise certainly helped me and not the perp, I shouldn’t try it again. Sometimes, I remember that advice.

    • You never know, Karen. A guy made a traffic stop on the interstate in the wee hours, and as he approached the car, the driver came out with a cocked and locked .45. His response was “Mother fucker!” and he took the guy down and thumped him soundly. Not recommended, but it can work.

    • As for trying it again, Karen, maybe you won’t have to. I mean, what are the odds something like that will happen again?

      • I must live a charmed life. A few years later, I noticed the car behind me had made every turn I had made for about 6 miles. Angered, I pulled into my driveway, then jumped out holding the metal security bar I normally locked across the steering wheel. This bad guy (he was in the process of blocking my driveway with his car when I jumped out of my car) paused, then quickly sped off. I got a partial plate # but never heard back from the police. Urban Living and the element of surprise. sigh.

  14. Expecting to earn a living as a writer points to a paucity of bricks in one’s load, so what do we have to lose?

    I need a movie or a book to cry to. Foer got me with Extremely Loud, but I’ve been dry ever since. I’d like to write a book that moves me and at least one other person to sob in response to an emblematic phrase, sort of like The Manchurian Candidate, but in a good way.

  15. PS I missed yesterday’s post–favorite movies about writers. Let me add mine: An Angel at My Table. Jane Campion. Fabulous.

  16. I choose to answer the other question today. I like it better.

    I always leave the landscape cleaner than I found it. I take everything with me . Except prisoners.

  17. I love this post, especially because I’m feeling insane right now, drinking Pastis in a cheesy bar listening to a gospel Nina Simone version of Elton John’s This is the Song and I’m thinking my novel should come out as a cheesy growling song – why not? – with back-up girls and a thumping chorus.

  18. A woman and her boyfriend are far at sea when a storm hits, disables the boat, washes away all the food, her boyfriend dies, and she has to eat him to stay alive.

  19. 1. Kids.

    2. Asking my Mother-in-Law to move in with us.

  20. I don’t know how insane it is but I’m working on a new story about the extreme fragility of life. It’s a story about loss and identity and salvation disguised as one of a global plague-like disease that reduces the world’s population by 20-30%.

    Not sure what prompted it but it began with this question: If everyone I love in this world was dead, could I still be me?

    I wish I could come up with a really outrageous idea. Mine seem so… benign.

  21. Don’t know from insanity, but…ONCE on B-way
    also earned its money back in record time.
    Or at least it was reported that way in what passes for news these days.

  22. Okay, hey I wanna play too.
    How about a one armed guy that murders some other guy’s wife and the fugitive is put in prison somewhere in Maine where he hangs a poster of Madonna on the wall, not the singer but the other Madonna. He makes his great escape through a really dirty tunnel and comes out on the other side riding over the hills of Germany on a motorcycle; yea, Maine to Germany, very long tunnel. Anyway, he meets an older woman in a white dress with a Tuscan sunburn and chipped fingernails; she’s been doing her house over. They fall in love and she’s offered a million dollars to sleep with a really wrinkly blond guy who is into the environment, plays baseball and used to hang out with a guy named Butch. But when she goes to the guys house for the million dollar check she notices how strange the house is, all windows and lots of shades, fifty actually and they are all…you guessed it, pulled down and it’s dark inside. But just as she is about to leave she notices that hanging on the wall, in a cuff and chains, is a withered arm some guy gnawed off to escape. Guess who it belongs to?
    Great ending huh.

  23. Going up to a bunch of high schoolers and asking them where I could score some weed.

  24. South of Cincinnati there is a cemetery with a large community of black squirrels, and a few reds and grays. They have taken their names from the tombstones, and often watch the humans who come there. Sometimes, though, they hang out and tell stories they’ve heard, or talk about adventures they’ve had. Some of them swear a great deal, and all hold dogs in contempt, but fear cats. One, Live Oak Lee, travels a bit by hiding in a caretakers truck. Lee claims to have been as far as Cleveland, where he sneaked into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

  25. Right this minute.

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