• Bridge Ladies

    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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You May Say I’m a Dreamer

Guys, it’s been four months since I stopped taking my meds. No, just kidding. It’s been four months since I stopped doing the nasty on a daily basis and by that I mean posting here. To catch up, I finished my screenplay in February and have sent it to five producers. It’s a good thing I’m not waiting for the phone to ring. It’s a good thing I’m not jumping to the conclusion that the script is a piece of shit because not a SINGLE one has called. It’s a good thing that I can hate myself in a deep and meaningful way without the help of anyone not reading my fucking script. I know I have to send it out to like four thousand people before giving up. I’m also aware that it’s more fun to stick your hand in a blender that try to get somewhere with Hollywood. I wish I could make the fucking thing myself with sock puppets. God, that’s not a bad idea. Girl, take a note.

Anyway, do not offer any kind words of encouragement. That would just be gross at this point. Just tell me what you’re working on, and how hard you’re working. I miss you.

Love, Betsy

90 Responses

  1. i am working my short story cycle through Humber School, learning how to add another arc to add cohesion. i could puke. i am so close to being done that it feels like i’m walking through the much at the edge of the lake. the sludge that catches you, throws you off balance, ducks you underwater.

    what i’m dreaming of is my next collection of shorts, set entirely in the town i grew up in and i’m kinda fired up. i really, really, really wish i was generating new material.

  2. Oh, I hear you. I did not query novel 1 or novel 2 because they were not good enough. After many years and revisions, I queried novel 3. Twelve agents have asked for the full and then passed. I wrote novel 4. While it “festers,” I returned to novel 3 to revise yet again to improve pacing. But after 2 weeks, I’m beside myself. Losing my interest and passion. Can’t seem to improve pacing. Not sure if I should keep querying as is or junk the whole thing. Feeling confused and depressed and still paying off that MFA student loan. Cheers!

  3. I’m working on a memoir about my friendship with a rock star from Slovenia, and it’s goes to the translator the end of May. (Due out there in September.) I’m up at 5.30 a.m. and get to sleep at midnight. My brain is fried.

  4. I weep over my dad’s death, buy new shoes, and think about what it would be like if I were rich.

  5. I think I speak for all of us when I say we miss you too. Big time. Kvetch away. We don’t mind.

    In this corner I’m finishing a novel I’ve been working on for fucking forever. Am sure of the voice, language, but it’s a lyrical hillbilly mother/daughter saga. No war, no overarching political issues, no murder mystery or even incest. Is there room these days for yet another family novel. Well, whatever, I’m charging ahead.

    • I would like this story…if by hillbilly you mean Appalachia or such. Those are the kinds of stories I’m drawn to…Have you read Gap Creek by Robert Morgan? That was a story about a young couple’s marriage and their interactions with each other, family, and a couple others…nothing major happened there either, but God I love that book.

  6. I love that sock puppet!

    Just been blogging mostly. Book reviews for publishers. Nothing paid, but it’s giving me practice and I’m enjoying it. Gotta start somewhere, right?

  7. Working on chapters 2 and 3 of my memoir, planning to serialize it. Watching my granmama, iron my uncle’s shirts while humming His Eye is on the Sparrow and listening to the radio and the latest installment of Stella Dallas- Backstage Wife….can a girl from a little town in Pennsylvania find happiness…..

  8. Okie-doke, deep in revision on a second novel. My agent has a memoir and first novel that she’s determined to sell and I’m not going to say how many years that’s been going on…I’ll curl up and weep if I have to type that. Writing on…what else to do?

  9. My new novel, You Know What You Have to Do, was released a few weeks ago. I’m working on another novel called Me and Bobby McGee. It’s about a girl in the foster care system whose singing talent and obsession for Janis Joplin change her life.

  10. I have a novel circulating places. Some like to read it, but don’t want to represent it. Basically, it’s about a young college instructor who takes his summer class to the Sleeping Bear Sand Dunes and accidentally sits down on the back of a friendly dragon. Wish me luck anyhow.
    -Webb

  11. Hahahaha, me offering you encouragement, that’s like Billy Ray Cyrus telling Timberlake to scrap the suit and tie for a T-shirt and jeans.

    But since you asked: My weekly column gig…well…another paper wanted to take me on. I’m in eight papers now, 100,000 households and looking for a quarter of a million by this time next year. I’m bulking up my platform because my ass is already big enough.
    I am under no illusions that what I write will ever be considered great American literature, will change the world, or be viewed as anything more useful than lining a birdcage. Readers like it, I love it, so why not.

    I’ve taken the column route for two reasons.
    What I write is like a personal photo album. And, I simply like to puzzle thoughts into words and words into an image which I would save on a sym card if my phone took pictures. It’s not that I am too cheap to upgrade my portable communication device, or that I have a particular affection for my old Nokia flip-phone, it’s just that I am intimidated by anything calling itself smart. As in phones or food I’m hardly qualified.

    Gee Betsy, I miss you too. You’re still my dream-agent.
    Wry

  12. Seven-eighths into a rejections-advice rewrite of Pigeon Drop and a couple chapters into each of three possible projects, including one that won’t let me go, but is dragging me places I’m not sure I want to go. Which probably means I should?

  13. Trying to cram two chapters from an old unfinished novel into a short story to send out and get published somewhere so when I’m ready to submit the novel I’m working on now I’ll have something to say in the query letter. Makes me feel cheap.

  14. Betsy, dear – if the screenplay is any good it will be snapped up immediately and for big, big bucks.At least that’s been my experience!

  15. Spent too much time on one paragraph on the tenth page of chapter 11; it still isn’t right.

  16. They never call, they never write…

  17. Working on my book proposal about a bunch of moms (self included) from all over the world who moved to Canada so their kids could attend a school that “re-wires” brains. Torn between two titles:
    The Kitsalano Cure
    Or
    The Motherhood of the Wandering Mind
    And…ignoring my own personal lottery ticket (submission to Sundance theatre Lab)
    And now…sewing eyes onto some old socks.
    Thanks for this one, Betsy!

  18. Sorry, nothing to report. Not the kind of thing you’re talking about here, anyway. My writing is still in the “piece of writing that goes no farther than the one person for whom it was intended” zone. A few days ago, I happened to remember when I had a yearning to write something special, something that would make people feel better, make the world a better place. I wondered if I was doing everything I could to give my writing its best chance. I haven’t come to any conclusions on that, but before that day was out, a friend responded to an e-mail in a way that let me know my words had mattered to her. At the moment, I’m just having to believe that you are right, and that there is enormous value in that.

  19. Thanks for asking. I am finalizing a number of short stories in the hopes of getting, say, 5 worthy of submitting somewhere decent (5 so I can submit without obsessing and just get a little mechanical system going). At this point, one is ready: it looked me in the eye and revealed its essence, and then I just did what I needed to. I am waiting for that excellent experience to repeat itself. In the meantime, I’m tripping over myself and getting distracted by, err, life. So it takes me a ridiculous amount of time to finish even one, and I am getting all mid-life-crisis-y either because of that or just because it’s time.

    Live music, by the way, is turning out to be a better source of inspiration than listening to authors speak right now. In fact, I ended up doing the groupie thing with a very big UK band. I met them after a show and couldn’t sleep well for days. I think I was very dorky, but fortunately everyone else seemed to be. I am working on an essay about this, though I may end up being too cagey to submit it.

    On a related note, I’m hoping to forge ahead with Novel 2, which will have to be my love letter to Rock & Roll in some way or another.

    Keep going, all. You too, Betsy.

  20. Hi Betsy. I sent out mid-February, to the four that asked to read the ms when it was ready . So far, The Void of Unknowing. Spring has been so repressed here, that I look out every morning at the tight-closed cherry buds, and imagine I see growth. Progress. The reward of the blossom, let alone fruit. And I know I chose the right tree, and I dug the hole, and yes ok my husband actually planted it but he’s waiting too so it still fits.
    And Spring is coming,. But meantime, if one more person looks at me in sympathetic concern, and compliments me on my persefuckingverance, I shall not punch them in the face. I shall be gracious. (Repeat x100)
    Good to hear from you.

  21. My sympathies, Betsy.
    My 2nd novel – a completely new version of my 1st – is with 4 publishers following 2 rejections. Yesterday I got so completely angry with my writing on novel number 3 – self-indulgent shit, it was – that I threw those 35k words out, began again and finally wrote something worthy. The point is, now I’m unsure about novel 2 as my writing has improved of late, though the story/pace is solid. Should I rewrite it again? Can I bear to do so (she says pulling her hair out)? Happy (not really) nail biting.
    Rose

  22. Oh how shitty Betsy. I’m not at send-out stage but I always have stories hanging around with magazines, waiting to be read. I had one accepted A YEAR AFTERWARDS and it’s coming out in five months. I had another piece accepted in May 2011 and it’s out in August. I just had another published with a big party I couldn’t go to, and they haven’t even sent me a copy let alone replied to my email.

    It’s excruciating, this waiting. There is a point where it makes all endeavour seem to be a sliding pointless thing requiring far too many levels of belief.

  23. I have gotten a group of super-readers from my local high school to workshop/critique my YA novel. It was as easy as talking to the school librarian to set up and I am giddy with anticipation for our first meeting to see what they say. I was at the school library yesterday and it was so evocative of my own time in high school–I felt young and old all at once. I took my reading very seriously back then. Still do, I guess.

    There is a foot and a half of snow on the ground just outside my window and it is still coming down. There is something so delicious about being up so early to write (3 a.m.) encased in that silent white blanket.

    • Good for you, Mari. That sounds great. I’ve been lining up daughters of friends, but am concerned they won’t want to tell me bad things. Great idea to set up a focus group of (kind of) anons.

  24. I finished an extensive rewrite in late January and have since sent out a few queries. One asked for a full but it’s been 8 weeks and I haven’t heard a peep. Why do agents do that? I understand not responding to queries but asking for a full and then not having 5 seconds to spare to politely reject? That’s bullshit. Most agents are writers. They know what it’s like on this end.

    Anyway, I’ve been compiling a list of others who may like it but that process is so tedious and time-consuming, I just haven’t had the energy lately. Too busy trying to mold my body back into summer shape.

    Good to hear from you, Betsy. I miss mornings like this.

  25. This is the smartest thing I’ve ever heard. Will the readers also include kids? This inspires me to get some local actors from a college for a table read. Thank you! So much.

    • Anon,
      I don’t know if you were asking me this question, but here’s the answer anyway…Yes! My workshop is with all high school kids (well, and the librarian) who are hand-picked because they like similar books to mine. The workshoppers are made up of my future readers–girls who dig love stories.

      A bonus is that the brilliant librarian is also on the book committee that chooses library books for the entire county’s school library system. She told me that publishers regularly give her books to critique pre-publication to get a feel for how she and the committee think that an upcoming book might do.

      I simply cannot wait! And might I say may God bless libraries and librarians for all eternity!!!!!
      Mari

  26. Memoir, first chapter rewrite. Actually copying the whole thing all over again, changing some as I write and taking the suggestions to heart that an editor at a writer’s conference suggested. Also working on a synopsis that I either love or hate on any given day, but figure it’s a good thing to have in my bag of tricks.

    And I’m working (mostly in my head) on a piece about the postal service, but I don’t know how well my premise will go over, that you have to kill the head so the body will survive.

    On an unrelated note, almost done with a song about a friend’s suicide that has a pretty melody and an interesting bass run. First time I’ve written the music before the words. Music=light, words = dark?

    One of my fears: Only way to keep current in today’s market is to write about something before it happens.

  27. Nothing tangible. I’ve been clipping branches for the past week, tending to a yard that’s been ignored for the last few years. Being outside is good, listening to life and trying to breathe through the daily anxiety. I’ve got a killer idea for a story but I’m too scared to write it, let alone mention it. Like Mike said above, that’s the ticket. The problem is I don’t want it to come true. I would die if it came true.

  28. I’m in first draft mayhem. It has occurred to me recently that I’m still obsessing over the same topics I obsessed about with the last book, circling around to try another angle. I don’t know how to correct that, so I’m trying to disguise it by writing in threesomes and coming up with cute new ways for the characters to say ‘wanna fuck?’.

    • I took the word swinging literally, setting up a contraption made of the softest rope slung around a pair of rafters and looping back around a few feet from landing on the bed. It was concealed by a trapdoor in the rustic ceiling. Sad to say, it didn’t see much use, viewed more with respectful curiosity than romantic intrigue. And it proved to be unstable as well. One thing I can say though, It’s always worth a try.

      • Respectful curiosity sucks, and not in a good way. You’ll have to work on your sadistic leer and mustache twirl if you want to tempt the ladies.

      • Yeah, that’s me; the sadistic leer disintegrates into a cat who deep fried and ate the canary grin and things go in a whole different diection.

  29. Betsy, it doesn’t seem like you’ve ever avoided pain in your life, but every working screenwriter writing online has advised that it takes a minimum of 3 screenplays and 5 years to become proficient in screenwriting. It’s a totally different discipline than novel-writing. You have to think of budget concerns. You have to think of plausibility in actors and set designers performing your work. You have to think of not losing the audience for a minimum of 90 minutes, preferably 120. Readers can close books and come back to them, not so with movies. It has to be a literary document and a working document, a blueprint. And it has to be sent to readers who work as screenwriters in the industry, no other opinion is useful.

    I’ve written 2 screenplays so far, neither of which will be sent out to anyone. I’m about 5 pages in on the third one. I restarted my first novel this week.

  30. I’m rewriting the memoir I’ve been working on for years. It’s round 10 for some chapters, round seems-like-100 for others, but it’s coming together, finally, in a way that feels right, like the story’s been there all along, waiting for me to age and catch up. I’m also working out everyday whether I want to or not; up at 5, in bed reading at 8; stuffing a giant stalk of kale in my morning protein shake. As dull as dirt as this sounds, I’m guessing it’s no coincidence that I feel my healthiest physically at the same time the writing is going well. (note to future self)

  31. I’m deep in final edits on a YA novel called Eating Mud Pie. Query is honed and ready to go. I’m scared because it’s the first time I feel that yes, absolutely I am the person to write this story. The higher the hopes, the higher the fall. Just call me Eeyore.

  32. Sock puppets rule.

    First book is currently “inactive,” even though my agent continues to believe it will be published one day and that’s enough for me. He gave me the option of going out with the second book (pending some revisions) under a pseudonym. I decided not to do that and instead, got to work on a third book that is different from what I’ve been writing. Some out here know I was “advised” to do this for various publishing reasons, and I feel grateful to have an agent and editor who cared enough to set me on this path.

    I’m working hard and I’ll have the first 10,000 words by Friday. Yes, they will be part of that “shitty first draft,” (courtesy to Anne Lamott for that wonderful chapter in her book) that I’ve whined about ad nauseum. I’m going to quit bitching about it, how different it is, because if I’m being truthful, I’m excited about the possibilities. I’ve got subject matter that hasn’t been heard about much…(my agent hadn’t heard of it) so I hope I’m able to do it justice and not waste a good idea. The book will be set in Mississippi…literary suspense – or so we hope.

    Finished in February?? It’s only April. Breathe. xoxo Donna

  33. Nice to be missed, Betsy. We miss you too. I’m getting to a critical point in my WIP novel that I have been alternately slaving over and ignoring for two years. It takes some doing to spend all my time in the mind of a 19th century woman, while typing on a computer and answering a cell phone. But she’s a pip so we’re enjoying each other’s company. But bad things are about to happen to her, and it’s keeping me awake at night.

  34. I’m working on a short story about dental surgery and an unrelated death (almost finished) and a couple of pieces of flash fiction, but I’m always trying to write a novel. It’s coming along slowly.

  35. Hi, Betsy, good to see you again. It always is. You know your posse loves you with a sickening sycophancy. Not to mention a genuine affection.

    CITIES OF WEALTH AND SORROW was a finalist in the Emergency Press 2013 International Book Contest. That’s as far as it’s gotten so far. It’s out to a few other contests and has been rejected with love more than once or twice. But probably not more than thrice.

    PORT REPUBLIC is finished but not yet out to market (another little match girl scantily clad on dark and snowy streets). It’s a novella of historical fiction set in the American Civil War, a rewrite of a screenplay I first hammered together almost a decade ago. I actually stuck my hand in a blender once, when I was a bartender and was stoned. Between that and dealing with Hollywood, I think I would prefer the Kobayashi Maru option.

    Things have been slow at the office and I’ve been doing market research while there for the above two books and for my short story and poetry collections and for FRANNY & TOBY, a book about cats who can read. It’s either a children’s book or a middle grade book or a fable, it hardly matters to me what it’s called so long as I can find some way to call it published.

    Two of my stories appeared in quick succession in early March, just in time for AWP. One was “Extinguisher,” which was published in SALT HILL 30. It was accompanied by an essay the editors asked me to write about method and such. It was a story I first wrote over twenty years ago when I was very much under the influence of Gordon Lish. In the essay I tell how that all plays out in practical craft terms.

    The other story was “The Lock,” which was published in NOON 2013. I about creamed my jeans when Diane Williams said she wanted to publish that. She edited the hell out of it to make it acceptable (the editors at SALT HILL also provided invaluable assistance in making my pieces better for their mag). NOON is a gig I’d been angling for years. To have a story appear there was one of those Okay-now-I-can-die events. Diane Williams and Christine Schutt and Noy Holland were gods to me when I studied with Gordon Lish in the early 90s. To finally write well enough to have my work appear alongside theirs was the fulfillment of a dream.

    I have four or five other stories that have been accepted but haven’t been published yet. I usually don’t say much about such things. Magazines can always fold before the piece comes out. That happened to me with THE QUARTERLY twice; that magazine went down twice and both times I had cargo on board. One of the stories was finally published eleven years later in THE NEW YORK TYRANT, but the other two were never picked up again.

    The beat goes on! Give my love to the girls of slender means. xo, tc

  36. I’m still coming down to earth and trying not to panic. I wasn’t aware that the fulfillment of all my hopes and dreams would induce so much nausea.

    • Look who’s test driving the new avatar. You look beautiful, Jess.

      • Thanks, Averil! My agent demanded a photo shoot. That crazy chick – she said the photo my dad took in his backyard might not look professional enough for a book jacket. Humph.

    • Oh Jess your picture is amazing. That’s not nausea, that’s butterflies. So happy for you. I love it when dreams reach fulfillment; it gives us all hope. Congrats again and again.

      • Nah….I’m pretty sure it’s nausea. Butterflies don’t make me barf.

      • Jess, I get the whole barfing thing. A few years back I was interviewed in Fox News national in NY because of a film I made. I was so nervous that for three days prior I had diarrhea.
        Bad part, I really dislike Fox and felt like I went over to the dark side.
        Good part, I lost six pounds.

    • I noticed the new pic too! Nice! But I thought the other one was nice too…very natural wind blown sort of free look, you know?

  37. Finishing my second draft, listening to the news, busting my ass.

  38. At the end of the revision of We Are a Famous Love Story I started when I found Betsy’s blog and she posted “perhaps it’s not good enough”. Excitement about it is fleeting and tentative.

  39. How nice to hear from you again, Betsy! I am traveling in Europe, leaving my novel draft for a while. Hope to have some fresh ideas when getting back to it 3 months later. All the best to you as always.

  40. Miss you too. Finished second draft of new novel yesterday. It’s nowhere close to done. But it’s closer than it was.

  41. I decided to put my Great American Novel to the side, for now. It’s still simmering, gaining momentum, but I know it’ll take years to complete. In the meantime, I’m self-publishing a series of erotica short stories on amazon, which are crap, a little perverse and gratuitously explicit. These masterpieces are climbing the ranks alongside titles like “Forced to Comply”, “Teasing Trent”, “Public Breeding: Stranger on a Hiking Trail” and my personal favorite “Fucked by Bears.” It’s also earning almost $200 per day. Yes, you read that right. I’ll get back to my opus one of these days. By then I might be driving a red convertible Mustang.

  42. You joke about sock puppets but just think about what Todd Haynes did with Barbie Dolls… Superstar: The Karen Carpenter Story. It’s a cult classic…

  43. After a year of fermenting, I wrote a page today.

  44. Awhile ago I entered an online twiction (Tweet Fiction) contest, stories of 140 characters or less. WTF, need 2 work on brevity. I was notified that I had won second prize, publication in the magazine and a poem written by the editor and his dog, Francie. Dog poems usually make me howl. I didn’t hear anything for awhile and figured that the postal service must be cracking down on personal emails. Just 15 minutes ago I checked the magazine’s website and read the domain’s website expired 3 weeks ago. You win some, you lose some; dogs giveth and taketh away.

    • Ouch…sorry about that Mike – the internet and all it’s magic, eh? Poof – we have a website! Poof – you won our contest! Poof – we no longer exist. I love your perspective – captured in the last sentence. Funny!

  45. A bunch of crap at once. As usual.
    Hey, I miss you, too.

  46. I’m writing a revenge novel.

  47. I’ve been gone too long. Like, for real. I’m trying to keep my crazy in only a few places – is a lie. Really, I’m just at that stage where you’re the next person in line so you can’t meander anymore even though when it’s your turn, you might get sent back to the beginning. So basically I’m standing still and not blinking.

    That’s the business side. The other side – and for this I am SO excited – is actually working. I was worried I was more in love with hearty revision than I should be after this last r&r but thankfully, something broke loose and I’m plotting a novel, just writing down the logic of the place and it is so stupidly satisfying that I wonder what everyone who doesn’t write is DOING with their lives. Those moments. Delicious. That and I’m back to episode three of the tv show and mmmmmmm. Also tasty.

    What can you love like work? Really?

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