• 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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The Sun Is the Same in a Relative Way But You’re Older



So a writer approaches me with his manuscript. I see that he has fantastic credentials, has published widely and in all the right places. The concept seems muddy to me and I tell him so, describe how I would refocus the project. I think about taking it on, but step aside. Honestly, it feels like a lot of work with no certain outcome. Still, I provide a few comparison titles to give the writer my take on the project and urge him to find a new title. He’s very appreciative and asks for a few agent names. I don’t usually supply names (do your homework!), but I do here. The writer has been especially polite so what the fuck. He writes me today to let me know that one of the agents I recommended took it on, sold it for a bucket of money, and the book is debuting on the NYT bestseller list at #5. He’s writing to thank me.*

Thank me? How about fuck me? I guess I have to file this under win some lose some. Or I could beat myself forever and ever, which, if history is our guide, is my method of choice.

How do you punish yourself?

*this little anecdote is a composite of two stories.



11 Responses

  1. Holy s**t is all I have to say about this story.

    As far as punishment gies, losing sleep over truly trivial things is one way. There are others …

  2. Forever…and ever.

    Sent from my iPhone


  3. “How do you punish yourself?”

    I am that I am.

  4. Ink. I write the stories I know. I set them amid the lies of fiction, sure. But the germs of the ones that work mostly come from real life mistakes with people and family. It’s a rich palette. It’s picking at scabs with a belt sander.

  5. Recently had a life-changing former dream burst into flame and extinguish in a matter of minutes. Why do things like this happen? Why don’t the gods of fuck-you just let it ‘lie’.
    After half a day of (I can’t believe this happened, now) I chalked it up to bad timing.

  6. Stupid, stupid, stupid is a refrain that has ricocheted around my brain.
    A woman I once worked for, someone never before viewed as wise, once told me, “If it’s not a matter of life or death, don’t worry about it.”

    (No batter hits 1.000 — after the required #’s of at bats — and you’ve had more extra base hits than K’s.)

  7. In this case, the crime was extreme caution–a personal misdemeanor. The punishment? Excess, not excessive: a small tub of dark (80% cacao or higher) chocolate ice-cream (ok, sorbet; this is punishment, after all); extra laps in the pool; and, finally, one reckless (i.e. not cautious) action, self-imposed (suggestion: taking on a project that, on the surface, has questionable odds but possibly huge pay-outs; how about a memoir about False Vertigo?). And if none of this sounds like adequate punishment, here’s one last suggestion: make yourself read a long text with lots of parenthetical comments (at a time when there’s no Tylenol in the medicine cabinet).

  8. Seems to me this person was vengeful and intended to sock it to you. Else why bother even contacting you? Wasn’t he content enough with the success? A manipulative son of a gun. Screw him.
    Plus, you sent out good karma. It’ll comeback, some how, some way, from this universe.

    • I don’t think the person was vengeful, Diane. For one thing, Betsy said at the end: “*this little anecdote is a composite of two stories.”
      So the whole story actually isn’t real, certainly not in the sense where we should be judging the behaviour of anyone in it.

      Still, if it had been a true story about one real person, and if I was that person — I too would have written to thank Betsy. Not to manipulate, not to be vengeful or sock anything to anyone, but because I would have been grateful for the help that led to my success.

      If the story had been true, and the person hadn’t written to thank her, he’d have been an ungrateful arsehole. Also, in this story, Betsy stepped aside, declining to take on the project, declaring it “a lot of work with no certain outcome.” She gave a small amount of advice, passed on the names of other agents more likely to be interested, and didn’t do any of the work required to make the manuscript a success.

      It was just a little teaching story of sorts to get us thinking — and this is one reason Betsy’s blog is so valuable to many of us. Her questions encourage us to think in ways that may help us somehow. And for that, I hope, Betsy’s karma will be good.

  9. “How do you punish yourself?”

    I punish myself by being more me, or me more, or less me, or me less. I punish myself by wasting the years worrying about how old I’m getting, too old, with so little time left to do what I must, and it becomes more the truth every moment I waste doing it. I punish myself by not going to sleep when I’m tired, because sleep scares me, but of course, I never die in my sleep, I only get tireder and older and stupider and slower while I don’t, and I wish I could say that all this stupid shit punishes only myself, but it doesn’t, so I punish myself with that piled up pile of regret.

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