• 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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It’s Based on a Novel by a Man Named Lear

Thanks for all the great suggestions. The clock is ticking down. Now I want to be really petty. Shocking, I know. Lately I’ve been getting what I consider to be specious fan letters. They are from people who claim to love my writing, love The Bridge Ladies, love love love. Then, because they love me so much and feel so connected to my writing, they want to share theirs with MOI. One person wrote, “I think you’d make a great agent for me.” Another said, “because I love your writing so much, I’m hoping that you will love mine.” I think it irritates me so much because I just want to be like other writers, not a writer-pimp, which is I guess what I am.

Does anyone else around here have an identity crisis when it comes to being “a writer?”

17 Responses

  1. Holy shit, yes. When I was a kid I just wanted to be “a writer.” Then I went to school and chose journalism over English because there was a writing job at the end of that path (this was before it all went to hell). Took a magazine writing class–a literary journalism class, ahem–taught by my Dumbledore who introduced me to Talese, Wolfe, Mitchell. And god damn–the idea that I could do the same things in the novels I wanted to write (and was trying to write) through reporting–this license to just hang around and not be a weirdo. I was smitten. So I did that, but sometimes, it’s just not the same. I work on a short story and want an assignment. I take an assignment and wonder why I’m hustling after this when there’s that novel that’s been waiting long enough for me to start another round of revisions. I know there are people who do both, but it seems like cheating.

    Oh, and I’m working on an essay right now.

    WHO AM I?

  2. Nah.

    Sent from my iPhone


  3. Daisy, loaded with smooth white petals, fiction, non-fiction, fiction, non-fiction…………..fiction, non-fiction. I guess it’s non-fiction. Sweeps petals under the rug.

  4. That would really irk me to no end.

    I’m not having an identity crisis at the moment.

    I did have this oddball encounter though. I went into a Wendy’s one day about two months ago to get a salad. The girl behind the counter was being so nice, so positive, and apologies in advance to anyone out there who might work in fast food and see this, but honestly, one too many act like they’ve been shoved behind the counter with no idea of how they got there, and why the hell do I have to talk to you and take your order, and put your lousy lunch in a bag for you???

    So, like I said. She was NICE, acted like she enjoyed her job.

    So, when it came to be my turn, I smiled back at her, and she took my order, and was outgoing, and polite, etc. etc. Well, aha! says I. An opportune moment to gain another reader.

    My impressed self says, “Do you like to read?”

    “Oh yes, ma’am. I read people real good.”


    “No, I mean, do you like to READ. You know. Books.”

    “Oh. Yes. Yes I do.”

    I give her a bookmark because, ya know, I’m feeling all positive about my Wendy’s experience and I want to SHARE something, and give her a little something. It’s a very tiny thing, but by God, if I’d had an actual book with me, I’d have given her a copy.

    She takes the bookmark and her mouth opens, and she taps it with her finger and says, “Oh, yes! Umhm. Yes ma’am, I’ll read this!” And she’s flipping it around to check it out, and everything.

    I tell her what I tell everyone. “There’s my social media stuff so you can connect with me if you want. I’m on FB, Twitter, and I have a website, etc.”

    A week later, I get a private message. And to make this now long story a bit shorter, she wants me to read her stuff. She wants me to “help” her get published. She tells me she’s written something that will help people, make their lives better, and they will be forever changed. And this goes on. And on. And on. For weeks.

    I did give her some advice. I gave her some links. I dropped hints that I am pretty busy. I then dropped hints about how I didn’t have help, I did it on my own with my friend Google and head down writing and learning by my lonesome. I tried to shut it down. But it kept on until I had to block her.

    I thought of mentoring her, but if you’d seen her PM’s…. We first need to have a basic fundamental grasp of spelling and punctuation.

    I bet you’ve read a lot of that same thing and I’m channeling one of your query letters at the moment.

  5. I try not to cross worlds, so I keep my fiction writing secret. I work in medicine and often get tapped for my writing skills, mostly patient chart stuff, which is fine though it really messes with the muse. Oftentimes, after days in the office writing real life scenarios, my creative side shuts down. Then I go back into hiding to write my own stuff, by my fire escape, far from anything medicinal. Like a prescription, it works.

  6. A long time ago, hitch hiking around the country, I got a ride with a wonderful woman and for the majority of our short time together we spoke of the arts, particularly music and writing. She said something that stuck with me, essentially, “Everyone needs art, literature and music, but no one wants to support the artists, writers and musicians.” Then a popular song at the time, “Dust in the Wind” by Kansas, came on the radio. I was sick of it, having heard it numerous times a day during various rides. The woman paused at one point and said, “Just listen to this violin part!” She was so enthralled by it and so enthusiastic that I truly listened to the music for the first time and at that moment began to understand the importance of seeing, hearing and feeling.
    I suppose my identity comes from that encounter coupled with the feeling of traveling and being in motion to see what finds me. I tell people I write but all I’m really trying to do is go by instinct and put into words what I see, hear and feel.

  7. Dear Betsy:

    I always take a moment to figure out your Pic of the Day before I comment and todays’ was especially fun to parse. NICE.

    Going to London? There’s a speakeasy in Spitalfields called The Mayor of Scaredy Cat Town that is a hoot. It’s too dark to read in there but that’s a good thing.

    It sounds as if some of your readers want to use the reader/writer relationship to their advantage as aspiring best selling authors, something that all us non-agenting writers don’t have to deal with. But readers trespass on boundaries all the time, they leverage ALL THE TIME. I know someone who wrote a book about living in Paris and she gets letters from readers who want her to send them lists of the best hotels, restaurants, and sights they should see, relevant to their particular interests, when they blow into town. I know another writer who did a book about the cold case dept of the NYPD and she gets letters from readers begging for her help (unpaid, of course) in cracking the unsolved, years-old murders of their loved ones.

    I confess that even I was once so déclassé as to write to a NYTimes columnist for a favor. I really had no idea how presumptuous that was until Mary Cantwell wrote me back and told me in very stern terms that she could not and would not help me get my hand-embroidered maps into the Arts section. The thing is, I didn’t feel bad about writing that letter, not until years later, and now I can’t remember how it came to be that the Times actually did send a photographer to my little studio apartment to take load of pictures of my unique hand-embroidered maps. . . the article that would have made me a famous hand-embroidered map maker never ran but I’m sure that’s because I was too dumb to stage the photo shoot with, like, a dog, or a junkie neighbor. It was the late 1980s. You live and learn.

    I’m a Capricorn, and we are not identity crises people. I don’t fret over the authenticity of the relationship I have with my readers. I show up in my illustrated travel memoirs, and if that’s not enough for some readers they are free to mope around Susan Branch’s icky neck of the genre.

  8. ‘Does anyone else around here have an identity crisis when it comes to being “a writer?” ‘

    Not like I did when I was younger. I don’t know when it went away, or where it went. I turned around and looked, and it was gone.

    On my bios (not ‘basic input-output system,’ but ‘biographies’ — but you knew that), the ones that we writers write because editors like to know something about us and claim to make no judgments of our work therefrom, I identify myself as ‘a litigation paralegal in Chicago,’ then list a few of the litmags that have published my work, and I list my two published books. That’s the kind of writer I am — not much sense in getting all twisted up about it.

    Listen, gotta run. My litigation paralegal job starts — shit, right now! And my office assistant — the cat named Franny — is trying to jump into my lap.

  9. I’ve always thought that the title “writer” was what I would let other people call me. I just go about my work (well or poorly) and let it be called whatever it is.

    • Paul, this reminds me of something I read a while back. I can’t recall who wrote it or said it, and I don’t remember the quote exactly, but it goes something like this: In America, you’re an artist when you call yourself an artist; in Europe, you’re an artist when other people call you an artist.

  10. you agents are in a group ALL BY YOURSELVES.

    writers are a buncha assholes, especially in the face of an agent, Betsy. your agentness is always going to be there and people are always going to want something from you. this you already know.

    FYI if it wasn’t the fact you’re an agent, it’d be something else: your hair is too curly to be taken seriously; your husband makes too much money therefore you’re not a legit writer because writers have to suffer; real writers don’t wear doc martens. who the fuck knows?

  11. When actions speak louder than words, here I am, stuck in the middle with you, and the rest of yous.

  12. I just have to add…a little less than fifty years ago I painted a picture of an owl which looks exactly like yours Betsy. It won an Honerable Mention in the first art show I entered.
    I loved that hooter, and for the life of me, I haven’t a clue where my painting is now.

  13. When facts confront delusion, I secretly like myself. I know that’s lame, but what it is what it is and there’s no arguing about it.

  14. Betsy, we miss you.

  15. I’m running a documentation project at a financial institution. Everyone calls me writer these days. Quite amusing really. There’s lots of exposition, no dialogue, and the plot line’s flat, but every now and then I get to see an auditor knock a few heads. Can’t wait to move on to the user manuals.

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