• 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 Are My Inspiration


I’m sure I’ve quoted one of my heroes here before, “Loyalty to the family is tyranny to the self.” Or quoted Philip Larkin’s This Be the Verse:

They fuck you up, your mum and dad.
    They may not mean to, but they do.
They fill you with the faults they had
    And add some extra, just for you.
But they were fucked up in their turn
    By fools in old-style hats and coats,
Who half the time were soppy-stern
    And half at one another’s throats.
Man hands on misery to man.
    It deepens like a coastal shelf.
Get out as early as you can,
    And don’t have any kids yourself.
Look, it’s Thanksgiving through Christmas and no one goes unscathed. So don’t feel
bad. It’s hard enough being a writer, having people take you seriously, this is your brain on drugs. I know you know. And yes, stuffed mushrooms are delicious. Am I an open book? What have been trying to say for the last thirty years? John Lithgow is a terrific actor.
What’s the meanest thing anyone ever said to you about your writing?

23 Responses

  1. “you FINALLY got published. by who? OH. WELL. it’s not like you have an agent.”

  2. From my mother: “If I just had a red pen…”

  3. Friend of mine got busted for pot when I was in college. Indiana, mid 1970s. He was in deep shit. I wrote an editorial for the school paper,spewing moral outrage regarding weed considered evil and illegal. Received many compliments and Right On’s. Woman at the cafeteria, a student worker, overheard me talking with someone and said, “You wrote that? That was very immature. Anyone who smokes marijuana is stupid” (or words to that, like, effect). It stung, but I thanked her, glad to be Peter Pan/Harpo Marx for at least another day.

  4. Why should anyone care about science/family? (Two different comments, both on a manuscript about science and family)

  5. Timing here is impeccable! As I try to adjust to this whole rating/review thing…

    Just yesterday someone said the way I ended the story was a “cop out,” and to suggest a child who’d been through what Dixie goes through doesn’t need therapy, “is dangerous.”

    How about maybe looking at the message in this story as…hopeful?

  6. He didn’t know he was being mean. He meant it as a complement.

    “You write like J***p cooks.”

    J***p is a terrible cook. She uses dried seasonings full of chemicals I can’t pronounce from foil pouches of secret sauce.

    I hope my work is fresher than her meatloaf.

  7. My husband read a couple of chapters of my children’s book to my daughter one evening (it had won a couple of awards and stuff but he had never read it) – afterwards I asked him what he thought of it. He said, “Oh, it was fine.” That was it.

  8. “Oh, yes. I remember [a manuscript that I had submitted to a contest] – back when you thought you could be a writer.” (slight laugh).
    From a cousin who has worked in the theater biz and should know better.

  9. “I read your book. It was cute.”

  10. Q — “What’s the meanest thing anyone ever said to you about your writing?”

    A — “We really like this piece, but we can’t use it.”

    I have heard this more than once (and more than twice).

  11. “This reads like a Lifetime movie–but a good one.”

    Pretty sure “good” was an afterthought for her mostly passive-agressive note.

  12. “The ending was not a surprise.” (when the original title was The Surprise Ending.) But this editor missed the irony in that title. I have since changed the title 2 times after that.

  13. “What you’ve got there is a good piece of popular fiction and XYZ MFA Program is the cure for the disease.”

    If I’ve done something “popular” for the first time in my life…gosh, do I really want the cure? Yes, I’m being sarcastic. It hurt like hell.

  14. When your oldest and closest friends say nothing, nothing at all.

  15. Betsy, I’d like to share this Dorothy Parker poem with you:

    “Fighting Words”

    Say my love is easy had,
    Say I’m bitten raw with pride,
    Say I am too often sad-
    Still behold me at your side.

    Say I’m neither brave nor young,
    Say I woo and coddle care,
    Say the devil touched my tongue-
    Still you have my heart to wear.

    But say my verses do not scan,
    And I get me another man!

  16. I’ll read it later. Leave it on the table by the TV.

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