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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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I Want to Feel What Love Is

You know it’s time for the Q&A when the author closes the book, takes a sip of water, asks if there are any questions, and then stares into the abyss, known as who the fuck will ask the first question. It’s that awkward silence like before a guy makes a move, the silence after the toast at a dinner party, the silence when your spouse says: I’ve been thinking.  The author asks again, his throat papery dry: any questions, no, no questions, surveying the crowd. Well…Then, there it is: a life preserver, a rope ladder, a lit cigarette. You will live. And then another question. And now your shoulders relax and you start fielding questions like Derek. I, for one, can’t ask questions because of having been traumatized by a 10th grade science teacher who said that the phrase “there are no stupid questions” was wrong. Proof: my question.

Do you ask questions? If so, like what?

28 Responses

  1. Why? Why, why, why?

  2. That happened to me the other week when I was interviewed with two other writers for an Italian festival. It was all talk talk talk until silence followed the announcement for question time. Then thank God someone piped up and I was off about whips and tractors (still can’t believe I said that)

  3. I’m living in socialistic utopia. There is no need for questions because the supreme government being has already decided what the answer will be – even if you don’t know it. Should anyone ignorant to this fact breech a presentation or reading, the blank stare is the universally accepted mode of answer, followed by ‘it just is.’ Audience behavior is to be limited to silence, a nod, or the repeating of ‘ah ha’ or ‘mmm’ to voice adoration. Dissent is remedied through social isolation, or in extreme cases the inciting hatred law. After all, equality is not made up of banana splits and 50 flavors of Ben & Jerrys. It’s a vat of plain vanilla sans the sprinkles and hot fudge. The Earth Institute via the United Nations assures me I will be happy once I learn this. I can’t wait.

  4. First of all, this happens 100% of the time. Not a single hand goes up when you turn to the crowd for questions. Everyone freezes. As a speaker, I’m always prepared with a few more remarks to fill the space while people work up the gumption to raise their hands. And then they do.

    And yes, I ask questions. They vary, but I often make something up just to help the author out. I’m a self-appointed shill.

  5. At the library, I ask questions about other people’s questions—because sometimes they don’t know how to ask for what they need the first time. Or the second. Or the third.

    But the last time I asked a question as a member of an audience, I wanted to know how a panelist would have answered,a certain question, had he not been cut off at his third word by another panelist.

    The moderator asked me to repeat myself and two other (louder) members of the audience did it for me, in chorus—I figure if two or more people also want to know the answer, it wasn’t a stupid question, right?

  6. What if?

  7. I figure if someone else doesn’t ask my question than I’m the only one left wondering. Instead of being the one everybody raises their eyebrows at…why the fuck did she ask such a stupid question…I’d rather be left unsure.

  8. Don’t ask. Don’t tell.
    People are nosy and ask the most intrusive, annoying questions. If I were at the podium I wouldn’t even offer the option. I like the mystery of the reclusive writer.

  9. My husband and I were laughing about the stupid question quote yesterday. There are stupid questions, annoying questions, and inappropriate questions. Some use questions to deal with their own personal issues. Some change the subject and go off on tangents. It is important to ask questions, but make them targeted. Make them move the discussion forward. Make them relevant to the discussion. Show that you’ve paid attention to the speaker.

    I love your site and the issues you bring up on your blog. Have a blessed day.

  10. “What was your biggest surprise while you were writing this book?”

  11. In my 8th grade Health class, taught by the girls’ gym teacher Miss Purdy (the class was not coed and Miss Purdy was about 70 years old), we were given the talk about human reproduction. We were told how the sperm fertilizes the egg and how the egg grows for nine months, and how married people introduce the sperm to the egg via sexual intercourse once or twice a week.

    So Nancy McArthur raises her hand and asks, “If married people have sex twice a week, doesn’t the sex overlap?”

    That’s when poor Miss Purdy had to tell us in detail about this sexual intercourse business.

    I’ve always admired Nancy McArthur for daring to ask a stupid question and now, even though that was over 40 years ago, I could kick myself for never asking her what she had in mind when she asked about the sex overlap.

    Better to ask and feel stupid than to not ask and always wonder.

    • I, too, am intrigued by the sex overlap. Did she think it was like meal planning, where there’s only one type of sex so if you do it twice a week, you’ll be repeating the type? Did she think each act of sex lasts an entire week? I’m so confused. Or perhaps she was more clever than we think and just wanted to get Miss Purdy to explain the birds and the bees?

    • Hey wait a minute you mean married couples have sex once or twice a week, don’t tell my husband.

      The next question is, does he want more or is he getting enough?

  12. On a special Career Day at school when I was in 9th grade, I ended up in a classroom with a nervous man giving a talk about the joys of being a technical writer. When he finished speaking, he asked if there were any questions. You can just imagine the dead-eyed, stone silent response of a classroom of apathetic high school kids. The silence stretched, it got more and more uncomfortable, and I could actually see the sweat pouring down the guy’s face. He was in agony. I quickly raised my hand and, for the first time in my life, I asked a question for the sole purpose of relieving the poor bastard standing up for his own non-participatory Q&A.

    I still remember what I asked: “Is there any connection between creative writing and technical writing?” He was so thrilled to have a question that he was off and running with an answer, which I remember essentially boiled down to “no.”

  13. who is your mentor and why?

  14. I’m the Program chairperson for my Rotary Club (my speaker roster has ranged from high-ranking g-men to the owner of a local bookstore). Invariably, it still becomes my responsibility to also ask The First Question – unless our resident grouch feels compelled to say something inane. My questions focus on a small but interesting aspect about the speaker or request more detail about a current project. I consider that role as part of the job of Program chair – am I wrong?

  15. Boxers or briefs, pens or pencils, Coke or Pepsi, computer or legal pad, coffee or tea, fiction or non-fiction, iPhone or Blackberry, white or rye, agent or no agent, cats or dogs, self-published or traditionally published, gay or straight, enthusiastic or discouraged, rich or poor, Times New Roman or Wing Dings, rare or well done, yadda, yadda, yadda…
    Too many questions, so little time.

  16. What was the favorite story you left out? The one that just couldn’t be jammed in. How long did it take you to realize that that one cut made the right difference?

    I’m currently trying to stuff a spring into a pin hole, by way of context.

  17. Oh, well, when I was visiting NYC preschools, I was the one who always asked what the emergency security measures were (this was only a year after 9/11.)

  18. I ask. Among others: Open source or rights managed? A soon to be obsolete question.

  19. I’m a back row person but if a favorite author is inviting questions about a book or process–how can you not ask one or all of the questions that come up when you’re reading? Or even just say wow.

  20. I’ll ask questions if it’s an important enough topic to me.

    And I too tell my students “There’s no such thing as a stupid question” is wrong. Can’t help it…students have proven it to be true over and over again. I could write a book and call it Stupid Questions…short stories from a teaching life,

  21. Saw author Robert Massie speak at Princeton University last night. He was very smart. When no one asked the first question, he said, Let me give you some ideas of what you might want to ask, and he did it very warmly. No one wanted to ask him those things but it jumpstarted the Q&A. Worked very well, I thought.

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