• 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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Is It Hard To Make Arrangements With Yourself


B+.  I give myself a B+ for the tour. Guys, I did everything I could. Wore dresses, heels, make up and  bling. I flossed like a mother fucker. I met some incredible booksellers and librarians. And lots of bridge ladies with teased hair and leopard print tops, bags and shoes. Love talking no trump with the bitches of South Beach. I have to take some points off for forgetting to use sunscreen and eating for two. Missed you guys.

What’s the worst author reading you ever went to?

21 Responses

  1. They’re all good. Sometimes the worst ones are the most interesting ones. Except when the air conditioner fan belt is broken or there’s a jack hammer just outside the window.

  2. One of mine. Two people came. While I was reading, the husband stood up, reached behind me, grabbed a book off the shelf, sat back down, and read about WW II. His wife listened politely. When I was finished, the man said, “Where’s the part about the girl who gets beat up by her boyfriend like our kid?” After I explained there was nothing like that in the book, he glared at me, grabbed his wife’s arm, and said, “Let’s get outta here!”

    For writers who think that publication will bring gobs of joy-not always. Sometimes it makes you want to dig a hole and crawl in.

  3. If I were the author my greatest fear would be that only one person shows up and it’s because it’s raining and they don’t have an umbrella.


    I’m the only person to show up because I’m soaked, and dash inside to dry off because I left my umbrella in the car.

  4. I’ve been to some pretty terrible poetry readings. Good poetry readings give you the whole Emily Dickinson feeling, you know it’s a good poem if you feel as if the top of your head has been taken off. Bad poetry readings make you want to rip your own head off just to make it stop.

  5. Many years ago I organized a reading in New York for the Women’s National Book Association. I was speaking to one of the authors scheduled to read, and it was the first time I heard someone use the word “twee” in conversation, a word which I’d never heard before. She was speaking disparagingly about another writer. I kind of looked at the woman blankly and smiled as if I understood what she was talking about. Later, as this same person read endlessly from her memoir-disguised-as-a-novel, she glared like an elementary school teacher at someone who was whispering, then she carried on reading from her very sentimental, self-important book. And carried on. And carried on. If I’d had a hook I would have dragged her off the stage. As the person hosting the reading, I felt responsible for the discomfort of the audience. It was awful. Even now that I know what it means, I would never use the word twee.

  6. I need to floss like that, too. Two readings come to mind: Jhumpa Lahiri, who I think really wanted to be elsewhere (though did make a snippy mention of a head cold), and Amelie Nothomb, an absolutely lovely and prolific Belgian writer whose Q&A was spoiled by the interviewer/host, who posed questions that incorporated about five critical spoilers spanning the length of the book. Good on you, anyway. Congrats! I shall go pester my indie bookseller over here (Switzerland) pronto.

    • I love Amelie Nothomb. I can only imagine that she took the high road and was artistically gracious. I can’t help but wonder… did she wear her hat?

      • But of course she wore her hat 🙂 She was so gracious when we got to speak to her afterwards, too. Get this: she writes (longhand) four novels a year, chooses the best and then reworks it for publication. Her working hours are 4am-1pm; she believes local time in Japan, where she spent time as a child, never left her. For what it’s worth, she spends the rest of the day, alone, on admin and correspondence.

        • Thanks for these wonderful & inspiring details! I’ve read all her books, and can only imagine how cool her hat was.

          • All of them?! That is a feat. If you wrote her and told her, I’ll bet she would reply. By the way, I like how she spoke of the inspiration behind her rendition of Bluebeard: everyone, even in this day and age etc., deserves to have a secret.

  7. Two of the most praised and famous literary fiction writers. One woman,one man. The woman told us her shoes were too big then proceeded to read random sections of her new book (checking her watch constantly), then took 3 questions and left. The man told his enormous audience he’d talk for 45 min only and, while reading, kept checking his watch and announcing the time: “Okay, that was 7 minutes,” and “Now I’m at 26 minutes. Is this going really slow or is it just me?”

    Both took rudeness to a new level.

  8. I don’t really have any bad reading stories.
    One of the best was hearing Julie Andrews in Boston. She had her memoir and a children’s book and when people heard THAT voice, many cried. Plus, she talked to everyone, even as her handlers were trying to shoo them away. A lovely and iconic lady.

  9. I went to see Cormac McCarthy in Ithaca, NY a decade and some change ago. Mostly he sang, played guitar and told a few stories. He was pretty good. I spoke with him at the break, mentioned All The Pretty Horses and the Border trilogy and he gently
    interrupted me and said, I’m not the writer; I’m the other Cormac McCarthy.

  10. I was the only one who came for the event.

    Maestro. World famous. I was the only one for his reading. I think he was crushed. Trooper about it, but crushed. He read a section about his first interview as a fill-in for a music director who had passed away unexpectedly. Something about stories of being uncomfortable and self-conscience by someone uncomfortable and self-conscious.

    Wait … That’s every reading.

    There were cookies. We ate every one.

  11. I bet you killed it. You’re modest. You’ve written three books that I know of and I’m only on the chapter about Bette and this is your best. You killed it. I know it. I’ve only been to two readings. One good, Katherine Dunn, a natural people person, and one not so good though kinda famous. I’m still in the if you wrote a book you can read camp so what’s the deal. The way I see it I have two narratives for women this age, Rosy the Riveter or Betty Boob, but I never see too much about the women who tried to do the right thing always. Like my grandma, and in turn my mom. You hit a nice vein here. It’s there. Gotta go finish it now. I know you won’t let me down, Betsy. (You forgot your sunscreen? That’s how people get cancer.)

  12. Well Betsy, I’ll give you an A++ on tonight’s reading.
    Laughter, insight, your mom, almost all of the bridge ladies, what a great time. I felt like I was at a family get together.
    Loved, loved, loved it.

    I got to meet Betsy and you guys didn’t. Neener, neener, neener.

    Okay now, you can all go back to your regularly scheduled programs.

  13. I can’t think of a bad one I’ve been to. I just found out that there’s a poet who holds regular open mic sessions in my little town so I’m going next week. Maybe I’ll have an answer then.

    Betsy, I finished your book and I loved it.

  14. Glad to hear it went well. The reading in the bathroom must have been a challenge.

    “What’s the worst author reading you ever went to?” I used to go to open mikes in Albuquerque; those were not really author readings such as that to which your question refers.

    (I love making sentences like that; or, such as the above sentence; er, like that’n thar — up thar.)

    I’m a literary heathen, my scrivener’s manners all down in my knuckles, dragging along the blasted pavements of the city that never wakes — I rarely go to readings. That being the case, I would prefer to tell you of the most memorable I attended.

    It was at Page One bookstore in Albuquerque. Summer 2000, if I remember right. David Sedaris was on tour for Me Talk Pretty One Day. This was shortly before he broke big; the next time he came to town, he played a large auditorium at the university, but this time, the last time we mere mortals could see him read at a bookstore, so close to us we could touch him, I was there.

    He blew us away. I already knew he had a gift for it, having heard him on the public radios — but he blew us away. He was so good, such a confident performer. I stopped reading my stuff at open mikes after that. I was already the best in the room — I was, no need to be modest about it (big fish, little pond) — so long as that room did not contain the likes of a writer and performer such as Mr. Sedaris. He showed how it was done, how it could be and should be done — I couldn’t touch that.

    After he read, I stood in line with the other dazzled fans and bought a copy of his book. I still have it, in no small part because he autographed it.

    Let’s see, what did he write … “So nice to FINALLY meet you in person.” Little did he know.

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