• 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 Get What You Need

It has been a glorious couple of weeks for my writers. Kate Marvin received a Guggenheim for her poetry, Bettyville on the bestseller list for three weeks, a full page rave in the NYT for Alice Dreger’s Galileo’s Middle Finger, Cynthia Ozick blurbs Eli Gottlieb’s novel Best Boy, David Orr’s history of the Road Less Traveled gets a rave in Kirkus. As my mother sometimes says, I need a new cup because my cup runneth over.

I’m so busy complaining about work most of the time that I forget how beautiful is this hive. Two long talks with writers about how to work out problems in their manuscripts also yielded good results, and nothing is better than when minds meet. Does it sound like I’m going soft, like I have some terrible illness and suddenly appreciate life? I still hate myself if that’s any consolation. And I hate the Spring.

Tell me one good story about your work. Let’s have a love fest.

40 Responses

  1. my story ‘A Lucky Man’ comes out in The New Quarterly this month. ii watched the movie Rashomon 8X while writing this short story. what a great movie. #smalllitmagsaremymarket

  2. I’m getting wonderful emails from readers of my “Enough Said” column in The Day. That they read and take time to share their joy regarding my words is what it’s all about.
    That’s my love fest entry.

    I still hate my 9 to 5. That’s my reality entry.

    Nice to hear from Betsy.

  3. I don’t know where I’d be without a morning walk. This morning the wind was blowing in my face, light snow stinging and the path slippery. The lake was frozen glassy smooth from the thaw, wind and dropping temperatures. I worked a sentence over in my head until I got it right, an insight regarding what a young boy meant when he said his grandfather hated receiving letters addressed to his late wife. The kid, Kyle, wanted to shelter the old fellow from hurt and the mailman had already been wrestling with the dilemma of delivering mail if it twisted further a deeply embedded knife.

  4. I’m starting to receive some great rejections (you know what I mean) for my last MS and the editing on the wereduck PI book are going well.

    I’m starting a new job (in the same library system) on Monday that should free up more time to write.

    Plus, my daughter and I are planning to collaborate on a webcomic for her summer project (working title: “Sir Isaac the Who and his Quest for a Cool Nickname”).

    Things are good.

  5. I’ve written five novels in much the same way: fast & furious. This one, is slow. Drip by drip. And, well, it READS fast & furious. Apparently, I’m learning.

  6. Betsy, you are in fine form today, but how can you hate spring?

    I got a lovely email this morning from someone who read and loved my obscure, goofy book. She said she had dreams of France that were shut down by her husband, and my travels made her feel like she was there with me. So, I’ll take it and feel good about that.

  7. Though still unpublished, today I recommitted to being a novelist. “Stay the course,” came the reverberating internal command. It also helped to read Raymond Carver’s foreword to John Gardner’s book, On Becoming a Novelist. Encouragement of the highest order. And, I think I just cracked the code on a major issue in my novel. Thanks for the blog posts, Betsy. The Forest For The Trees has often kept me going.

  8. I recently made a life-changing decision that has been percolating for a long time, and I feel like a new woman. I’m retiring, shuttering my little company and renewing my commitment to my long-suffering WIP. I’ve ignored it for so long, we have to get reaquainted. I’m going to finish the damn thing or die trying. No, wait, not die — not something a retired person ever wants to suggest. Life is good today.

  9. I want to respond quickly to this request for submission of a good story, Betsy, before the breezes of spring change the mood. Stars all in alignment this week…asked to write about “aging gracefully” (and all along I thought the Botox was working) for an anthology on women and power; contracted by a new professional women’s (regional) magazine to write regular features; best for last…showed outline of Ten Rules for Ladies to woman VP of major corp who committed on the spot to buying 100 copies for her organization. Now all I have to do is finish it.

  10. Today is my 70th day in a row to post to my blog, crisplyspoken.com. I began blogging every day on February 1. Not every entry is all that, but it’s a string I’m proud of writing.

  11. Ooooh, a love fest!

    Good: Nine months in, my foray into bad genre fiction continues to reap over 10K a month. (Six novellas, each took a week to write)
    Gooder: The single page story I’ve been working on for five years is close to done — or, at least, I think I’m half way there.
    Even Gooder: My first “real” book has been edited by someone amazing and brilliant, who not only turned an average book into something good, but grew me into a much better writer in the process. (Hi Suzy!) Hopes are high.
    Gooderest of all: I’ve been privileged to be allowed to format the book of a writer (and person) I greatly admire, a book so clearly and beautifully and simply written it renders futile my every attempt to create physical pages that will do it justice. But crikey, I’m doing my best.

    None of these things would be happening if not for Betsy writing The Forest for the Trees. So, know this, writer freaks. What you write CAN make all the difference to someone else’s life — so just fucking write it, it matters.

    It’s not Spring here, and I still hate me too — but half of that is a new hate, for being so fuckalucking positive about a few things.

  12. I was contacted by Boston publishers Bedford/St. Martin’s/MacMillan Higher Education, asking permission to use one of my photographs of Annie Dillard in textbook, “St. Martin’s Guide to Writing.” A little bit of interest goes a long way healing this fevered brow needing a kickstart. sigh.

  13. Well right now I’m having a big old love fest with George Hodgman’s Bettyville, which I’m reading every night before bed. I recently heard his NPR interview (where he was so damned charming) and now I’m going to be sad when I finish his book.

  14. I’m traveling. Spring in Europe is nice, Betsy. Will continue to revise my first novel when I get back home in May (the second one is set aside this year). A friend has just agreed to read it when it’s finished, more likely by the year-end. That makes me feel good and encouraged. Betsy’s post and discussions here make me feel good too. Thank you all.

  15. I survived AWP and found a friend who I conned into reading my MS.

  16. “Tell me one good story about your work.”

    When they laid off sixty percent of the support staff at the end of March, I was among the forty percent they kept. And now I get overtime!

  17. One good story about my work – I’m writing! I WILL finish that fucker.

  18. given the GONZO “loathing” in the title of 1 of your books,
    maybe you could help me find somewhere to let this (1/10)
    find some GONZO fans . . .???
    thank you,
    I’m a big fan
    1 // Silence of the Slaughtered Cows
    If you squeeze an official NFL football hard enough, under enough relentless media pressure per square inch, it will tell you the name of Mrs. O’Leary’s cow that kicked over the lantern that started the goddamn Chicago fire. Now that doesn’t necessarily make it “official,” does it, my friend?
    But, tuck that same football under the crook of your arm. Feel the bleating of the 3,000 young heifers as their legs are savagely broken right before their throats are slit open in some slaughter-house squeeze-chute in order to supply enough premium cowhide leather to stitch together an entire season’s supply of game balls for the National Football League to punt, pass and piss away.
    After dangling upside down on a hook for about eight seconds of a gravity-induced, “open-fire-hydrant” bleed-out, these genetically engineered, football-producing farm animals feel no pain as they are skinned and separated from their own hides, which are then split, sanded and stitched together in a deranged sacrificial offering upon the altar of the NFL “brand.”
    That robotically heart-warming, cold-and-calculated mercy killing of those 3,000 happy, little heifers is actually the best part of having the most skin in the game since pigskin. Each tanned-and-treated hide then takes a painless, laser-calibrated short-cut to being cut up into enough pieces of premium cowhide leather to give birth to 20 new official NFL footballs.
    The real tale of blood, insanity and savagery takes place in a secret laboratory of animal husbandry. That’s where mutant DNA is combined with stem cells of steaming semen from NFL quarterbacks’ sacks to genetically engineer not only the cow, but also its hide to clone the perfect official NFL football.

    • The quarterback takes the snap and drops back to pass. He suddenly and inexplicably caresses the underinflated ball and inhales the familiar scent of the opposing quarterback’s nut sack, reminded of their weekend together beside the blazing fire at “hunting camp”, a private cabin in the woods by a mountain lake. He’s only vaguely aware of the onslaught of slaughtered and skinned zombie cows stampeding onto the field until they blitz him relentlessly and he goes down, the television cameras cutting quickly away from the blood and body parts. Not quick enough, as social media picks up the fumble and the public’s thirst for a new blood sport prompts the liberal media to lament the return to gladiator mentality. They become the first to be fed to the lions on opening day of the new season.

  19. I am just so fucking happy Betsy Lerner is my agent. That’s my story.

  20. Betsy, you got game, and you help us with ours. You started coaching us with Forest, and still do. Thank you, darlin’.

    My writing, like my life, is in irons. I’ve managed to injure my back, painfully. Sitting, driving, sailing, and moving quickly are suspended, and my sunny disposition is partly cloudy. My boats languish, and I miss them.

    Still, it’s been a good year, with new friends and characters, and a trip to Cuba on the horizon. Life and writing are fine, and I’ll be fine. For now, though, this pain is my body’s way of telling me I’m fucked. Liar!

    • Frank – if you haven’t already, you have to, (make that HAVE TO) try two things. I’ve had chronic back pain for years. And I mean, the debilitating sort that makes me look like I’m approaching ninety when I get out of bed in the a.m.’s and like I have a corn cob stuck up you know where when I bend over (and I do this sideways mind you) to pick something up off the floor.

      So. I finally bought that SmartRelief thingy put out by Icy Hot. It’s like those TENS machines physical therapists use, but it’s a home version with a disposable pad (good for about 30-40 uses) and works with a small battery pack sort of thing that you snap on. THAT, and Blue Emu. Trust me. I use the SmartRelief thing first, then I rub the Blue Emu onto my lower back. For about 4 months now, I’ve been pain free, have stopped using both, but if it crops up again? Out comes the little pad and the jar.

  21. This morning I wrote about a woman I knew when I was little. She was a very troubled soul and yet we got along well. She had a lisp and it endeared me to her, most likely, because I had one, too. There is more to it but it’s a start.

  22. Your writers are lucky to have you, and BETTYVILLE is the best read I’ve had in months and months. Can you at least cop to the fact that you’re kind of a genius agent and editor?

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