• 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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Put It In the Pantry With Your Cupcakes


35945-200x249-thimbleA writer called me today and asked for some advice. His own agent had stopped returning calls and emails. What should he do? I hate to say it but it’s a little like romantic relationships. When someone doesn’t return calls or emails, it’s time to move on. You want an explanation, you want closure, you want another chance, you want a little fucking respect. People usually don’t call back because the news isn’t good and they don’t know how to deliver it. They feel bad, awkward, and it starts to get easier to avoid than face the person. Look, there is no excuse. But it happens. And it happens a lot.  If you’re a writer it’s the air you breathe. You submit your work to magazines and never hear back. You contact agents and never hear back. You finally get an editor and he takes ten months to read your book. You get your book published and no one reviews it.  Your mother doesn’t read it. On and on. What do you do? How do you stay in the game?

What the fuck do you do?

26 Responses

  1. I keep writing because not writing is not an option.

  2. You just keep doing it. Or you don’t. It’s a very weird profession. There is so little EXPLANATION for things. I’ve come to accept that. It’s my own craziness, the fact that I DO accept it. Here’s what I think, every time I start a new novel: maybe. Reminds me of my daughter when she was about two years old. We’d tell we couldn’t do something she wanted to do, and she’d say, “Maybe tomorrow.”

    Indeed. MAYBE TOMORROW. (And that daughter? Well, you’ve heard me brag about her before — degrees from Yale, Harvard & Stanford. Apparently, the “maybe tomorrow” philosophy is potent.)

    Should I write a self-help book called MAYBE TOMORROW?

  3. I don’t define myself by my writing. I do other stuff that makes me happy. If my books sell, fine. If they don’t, that’s fine, too. In the grand scheme of things, publication is pretty far down on the list.

  4. It’s hard. It’s incredibly hard. You have to have brass balls to keep at it. But who among us actually has them? We’re more sensitive than the average bear, not less. The writing thing is pathological sometimes. We fail, and lesser writers succeed. There’s no justice. I don’t subscribe to the “I can’t not do it” school of writing. There are a zillion things I can do – and do do – instead. But here’s the problem: they don’t fucking matter. I don’t know how else to define myself other than to do good deeds for other people. So I do that. I cook for people: parents, sick people, friends, friends of friends, chemotherapy patients, diabetics, etc. HEY, I KNOW! Maybe I’ll write about that!
    Oy veh.
    But seriously!
    See what I mean?

  5. What jodycarr said — “You just keep doing it.”

    The only way to stay in the game is to stay in the game.

    Up your dosage of phuckemol, get back in the ring, and fight the next round.

  6. My solution is to write without finishing anything. This way I can still feel like a writer without that awful part where people start to read it.

  7. It depends on how passionate you are about what you do. Or you can always abdicate, which sucks the most.

  8. If it were easy, if all those in attendance were respectful, if all roads were smooth everybody would be doing it.
    Some try, some succeed, some fail, some take the off ramp. Me, I just keep, keeping on, because I don’t know any other road.

  9. I ABSOLUTELY do not let myself think this was. Denial re. the industry works for me. Then:
    write submit, hopefully publish something…
    Rinse. Repeat.
    Then I die.

  10. I survive by a constantly shifting combination of denial, magical thinking, posting on my blog where 10 people love me, complaining, actually writing, drinking, and copyediting. The latter not only pays my bills, but also reminds me that I write better than other people.

  11. You can accept this painful, passive existence and hope for success in a system that delivers failure to the vast majority of participants, or you can change the rules by which you play. Assuming you want to be traditionally published, and almost everyone does, what levers are within your grasp to help make that happen, including social media and research capabilities? Grab ’em. Want to sit at your keyboard and hope for the best? That’s okay, too, but then you have to quit complaining, or at least not expect anyone to listen.

  12. I really feel for that writer. Without knowing more, it does seem like the relationship has fizzled, and I’m sure hearing your advice wasn’t easy.

    Writers are told to be professional at all times, yet the common courtesy extended towards those who read and consider the work doesn’t always translate to the other side. It’s like different rules apply. Or maybe it’s simply expected writers come equipped to read between the lines. Me? I like directness – even when it’s bad.

  13. Mountain stream, keep on moving. Flowing fast after a summer storm; frothy water. During a drought, just a trickle. Nearly stagnant but always heading toward the waterfall. Crashing into the pool below. Sometimes caught in a circular eddy, eventually returning to the path carved out, rushing to a destination.

  14. Writer’s conference, workshop or retreat for a shot of motivation.

  15. I spend mindless hours online researching stone cottages for sale in Ireland instead of writing a new, savvy pitch letter for potential agents. If the crumbling cottage overlooks the sea or has land to hold sheep or a horse, I consider it a bonus. If I had a successful career as a writer, maybe I could actually afford the cottage. Good times!

  16. Just keep working, because you will never know why anyone does what they do.

    The best explanation I ever got from someone about why certain people weren’t calling back was this: “it’s because they don’t want to speak to you…”

    People don’t call back, don’t do what they say they will do, don’t ever do it when they say they will, and never act as if, when seeing you face to face, that they owe you an explanation for why they failed to deliver.

    You save a lot of energy that you can re-direct to your art by understanding this. In the unlikely event they do call you back, etc. –a posture of bemused gratitude, mild surprise and slightly distracted attention to them is something like grace.

    They will feel that they made a good decision about you.

  17. I research the shit out of Amazon, find a niche genre that has more readers than writers, work out why the bestselling books in that genre are selling, then work my slot out writing something people actually want to buy and read, instead of the crap I prefer to write, which they don’t.

    Then I publish it, market it, and when other (completely unsuccessful) writers plonk one-star reviews on it, and use that review to tell me all the things I did wrong (and they know these things are wrong because they read it in a How-To-Write-Fiction-Good book), I laugh at the reviews and go look at how many books I sold that day, and how much cash that will give me.

    I have a series with over 100 one-star reviews on it. Terrible reviews. Some of them were even valid, to an extent. But for each of those reviews, I sold over 1000 books. And there’s five times as many five-stars anyway. There are people who love them, and those are the people who matter, and those people deserve more books to read. I don’t care who thinks the books are bad. I can’t control what others do or think. But I CAN keep writing and keep improving my craft. And I CAN enjoy the money that comes from writing stuff I don’t really want to write, AND the satisfaction I get from writing the stuff I DO want to write.

    It’s easy to stay in the game. Getting out would be the hard part, and I can’t imagine why anyone would want to.

  18. I whine a lot. But privately. Only the people closest to me know how truly desperate I get over this vicious business.

  19. i write to try and figure things out and that’s never going to stop because i have no idea what’s going on. if someone is interested in my obsessions, they’ll respond but only i can control my curiosity.

    there’s no money in writing/art/creating, never has been. i don’t know why so many people believe they are the exception to this?

    • Very true. I walked into a Barnes and Noble yesterday, a overwhelming store in Colonie, NY. There were acres and acres of books, each one wishing to be the next big thing.

  20. You don’t. You retire. After three published books and countless articles and essays, I finally realized that much of the reason I wrote was for ego strokes and approval. When I let go of those shallow needs and tried to write “for the love of it” I realized I only loved a very little bit of it. The rest was heartache and bullshit.
    I used to tell people that I was a writer because that was all I could do. It’s not, for any of us. So I quit teaching at an Ivy League (adjunct, of course) and I’m headed to grad school for social work at age 53. I hope for a steady job making a difference. Maybe I’ll write about that.

    • Of course you will. There’s tons of writing opportunities in human services or medicine, even if only getting it right on a patient or client’s chart. That kind of writing can yield lasting rewards.

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