• 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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You Are Everything ANd Everything Is You


A writer gets a prize, a Whiting, a PEN, something sweet and it goes to right to his head. Yes, I am finally recognized for my gift. I’ve wanted this forever and I deserve it. Champagne! A new suit and tie. They like me, they really, really like me. Another writer beats himself with his prize. His impostor complex rages. He can barely look you in the eye when you compliment him. It’s a fluke. It will never happen again. He doubles up on therapy.

Which writer will better survive his prize? Is the prize half empty of half full?

37 Responses

  1. No idea. I only know that I’m “imposter complex” writer and I feel like dying most of the time.

  2. The prize is only half way there no matter if it’s half full or half empty. You’re only as good as your next project.

  3. Through the lense of the Day Job, the writers who display their Pulitzers,framed magazine covers and shelf of best sellers with a little dust coating them are usually better clients/citizens.

  4. Deja Vu? Hey, look at July 12, 2012. The title is the same as today’s entry. Same song, capitalization of letters is a little different, though. (I think.) “You are everything, and everything is you…”

  5. The only way out of the dilemma, in my view, is to understand that we are only instruments of the story that wants to be told, that our talent is only borrowed, that our skills are forged on an anvil of self-discipline and self-realization, that the path, if well-chosen, is also the destination, and that it’s all to the glory of God. For those of an atheist or agnostic bent, credit Nature, the “human spirit,” or genetics, i.e., Mom and Dad. In other words, “You didn’t build that.”

  6. A huge life lesson we all need to learn — harder for some than others — Take in the applause.

  7. Let me win the prize first, then I’ll tell you.

  8. You like me! You really like me! You . . . .Do you still like me? What if I stop doing what it is you liked about me? What was it that you liked? You do still like me, right? What if you decide you were wrong—can I keep the prize? Or will people laugh every time they see it, knowing it was a huge mistake? No . . . I don’t have any awards to mention, thanks. Oh, look, they forgot to list my award—if they really cared they’d know. . . . Why doesn’t anyone like me? They never did . . .

  9. I like validation. Recognition for something I work at is always appreciated. Cash is alright. And, like I said to Jeremy the Bartender the other night after ordering a shot of Bulleit Kentucky bourbon, “What, only half full? Keep on pouring, bud!”

  10. When a reader tells me they love what I wrote, my head swells, my feet lift off the ground. When someone in publishing tells me that what I wrote moves them, is innovative, has reached beyond promise and delivered I am humbled. To win a prize, recognition and my fifteen minutes etched as a one liner on a little brass plate…it would be nice to be cocky for at least once.
    We must remind ourselves that for every half full/half empty, half was consumed and half left behind. Which half was enough?

  11. Good one, Betsy. Love the photo. Says it all.

  12. The writer who doesn’t beat himself up will become the better writer, ultimately.

  13. You can’t get caught up in that shit. I wouldn’t mind a few strokes but in the end all that matters little. Fuck a bunch of prizes.

  14. The prize is half full unless the writer is full of something else. Again, all things in moderation is the way to go. Extremes are often more destructive than constructive. Winning an award is the cherry on the sundae. Accept it gracefully, seize the adulation, revel in it, then move on. Another achievement to add to life’s resume. Leave its mention, if you are so inclined, for your subsequent author appearance/speaker bio bona fides or your obit. It’s what comes later that counts: when it’s time to get back to work and add to your bibliography.

  15. Can I vote for the writer who, while not putting tremendous stock in prizes in the first place, is nevertheless thankful for the recognition and the (hopefully) increased sales it will bring. Also, for some reason this post is making me think of Jonathan Franzen and David Foster Wallace. In which case, I’m pretty sure Jonathan (whose books I do love despite major personality flaws–sorry Betsy) is still with us.

  16. There’s an in between point. A decade ago, my very first agent was trying to sell my first novel. She worked hard, but it didn’t sell. In the meantime, I wrote another book. She read the first five pages and said that it would be a problem for her to send it out. I really wanted that book published so I sold it to a small but reputable house–Academy Chicago Publishers. The book was nominated for a Lambda Award–one of its competitors was Harvey Fierstein who would soon win his Tony for Hairspray.

    I decided to go to LA (from New York State) for the ceremony. My biggest problem was what to wear. I live in the Adirondacks. I wear LL Bean stuff. I didn’t own a dress. I looked in the Talbot’s catalog and found a nice looking woman wearing a lovely black suit. I called the Talbot’s number and told the person who answered that I wanted to be the woman on page 56 of their catalog. I ordered the whole outfit, right down to the shoes and pantyhose.

    The ceremony took place in a fancy hotel and we had a lovely dinner. I took my then agent as my guest. When my category came up, Rod McKuen announced the five books as the jackets were flashed on a huge screen on the stage. When Harvey Fierstein’s book cover appeared, the audience clapped–huge and my agent moaned. Then Rod McKuen said, “And the winner is…Letters in the Attic by Bonnie Shimko!” I (in my brand new suit) went up to the podium and gave an acceptance speech–and it was pretty okay. It’s eerie, though, because the spotlight is so bright that you can’t see the audience. I must have said something funny because I remember them laughing and clapping.

    That award didn’t make me feel “better than” or mentally ill. It did open some doors, though. When I looked for a new agent, I didn’t have any trouble finding one.

  17. “Which writer will better survive his prize?”

    Neither. They’re both fucked from the get-go.

    “Is the prize half empty of half full?”

    It’s shadows on the cave wall. Don’t spend all the money in one place.

  18. At my old job they gave out these hokey little prizes at every staff meeting. If you won, you had to walk to the front of the room to receive it. That’s all. Walk up, get the prize. One time I won a day off with pay–the best prize of all–and I would have turned it down in a heartbeat so as not to have to take The Walk. Which is ridiculous, but there it is. I cannot imagine the horror of winning a prize that would require a speech.

    So if we’re talking survival in purest terms, I think the entitled writer is better off. At least he’ll survive the award ceremony.

  19. Which writer will better survive his prize? Either one – both have been validated. The only difference – one thinks “finally, those dumb asses see me for what I am”…, while the other thinks, “maybe I haven’t been wasting everyone’s time.”

    Is the prize half empty of half full? Neither – in my opinion, the entitled writer would see it as full, up to the brim with all of the praise deserved. The other – who can’t believe he’s actually received the damn thing – it’s empty because it wasn’t really meant to be, a mistake, an error for sure.

  20. Prize? No prize? I’m pretty sure if you’re a half full or half empty type, you remain thus, underneath, prize or no.

  21. Confidence is almost everything. A writer with confidence can take criticism and can improve. This is how really good writers become great — they build their on success, while self-loathing writers often tear themselves down before someone else can do it.

    Most of the “great” writers with huge bodies of work I’ve met have been pretty obnoxiously arrogant. The really wonderful but shy and retiring and/or modest writers hardly ever produce as much as you wish they would.

    My experience as a self-loathing writer has been like that of a mountain climber who constantly shoots himself in the kneecaps. Humbleness and true modesty are freaking poison to the artist.

  22. “People without hope not only don’t write novels, but what is more to the point, they don’t read them. They don’t take long looks at anything, because they lack the courage. The way to despair is to refuse to have any kind of experience, and the novel, of course, is a way to have experience. The lady that only read books that improved her mind was taking a safe course—and a hopeless one. She’ll never know whether her mind is improved or not, but should she ever, by some mistake, read a great novel, she’ll know mighty well that something is happening to her.”
    — Flannery O’Connor

    I can’t explain how this answers your questions but to me it just does.

  23. […] open-ended questions to writers via five blog posts. The first one’s here.  Then comes the second, the third, the fourth, and the […]

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