• 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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Deep Inside I’m Blue

When I handed in my first draft of Forest for the Trees, my editor had one comment. She said is was too negative. She said no one would want to read it they didn’t think there was some hope. She crossed out a lot of paragraphs and wrote “No, no, no” in the margins . I’d like to tell you that I stuck to my guns, but instead I made the changes she recommended. I wish I could tell that I carefully weighed her suggestions but it was my first book and did everything she said as if I were her little love slave. In the end, I had to admit she was right. The relentless negativity probably would have been off putting to many if not all readers. But for the record: writing is amazing and if you’re too dim to understand the gift of language then it’s lost on you anyway. But publishing is cruel and mercurial and inexplicable. It is not a reliable source of self esteem.

What’s your most negative thought about publishing?



13 Responses

  1. My little publishing track record (not the literary/poetic stuff) relies on me being a good doobie. I meet deadlines, I can write to a schedule, I don’t balk at being edited. What I tell my writing friends as a person who works in publishing is “Publishing is a collaborative process.” Do I hate myself for that? No.

  2. “What’s your most negative thought about publishing?”

    Alphabetically or chronologically?

    Ha ha, that was fun. Now, seriously — and I’m going to have to think about this.

    Or I don’t have to, I could just leave.

    I suppose my most negative thought about it is that published writers are expected to give readings and go on book tours.

    My second most negative thought is how many publishers expect writers to handle much of the publicity and marketing. That connects with the paragraph above.

    I’m a bit of a selfish, whining bastard this morning, ain’t I? Publishing could be a lot worse. It could not exist, then we writers would have to create it from scratch. It could not be filled with editors and agents who are good at what they do. It could be pay to play, cash only, money down.

    My third most negative thought about publishing–

    Nah. Never mind. And anyway, you only asked for one.

  3. “What’s your most negative thought about publishing?”

    This is in line with Tetman’s answer above – and sort of ironic as I sit out here on the “internet” socializing here this morning, but, it’s the social media part of promotion. It can be VERY weird. It makes me feel like a whore. I actually prefer the touring part, where I can get face to face with people. It’s always, always more gratifying.

  4. That celebrities & reality stars clog the bookstores and get published all the time, while talented writers languish.

  5. I’m annoyed that agents/publishers etc.seem to expect that my manuscript has had a professional edit (thousands of dollars worth) before I submit.

  6. I’m most distressed from the advice given by an agent at a recent workshop: that she receives so many queries, she is barely reading more than the first few lines. Gave me the mental image of trying to get the quarterback’s attention from a stadium seat near the rafters.

    Still, I keep all those rejection letters to prove those agencies wrong – hopefully, soon.

  7. self promotion is hard and publishers don’t have the $$. then, as an inexperienced self-promotor, you stumble around and step on peoples toes, because you have no idea what you’re doing.

    it’s a shit-show when you stop to think about it.

    it bothers me that the emphasis on self-promotion has taken away from the authenticity of writing, but that’s not going to change. i remain hopeful that whoever is interested in my writing is attracted to my passion/obsession/compulsion.

    who knows?


  8. I attended a panel on how to get an agent at the recent AWP convention in Portland. I learned a lot. A bit distressed that the agents were all in their 20s and 30s–or appeared to be–and were looking for lifetime relationships with authors, not just projects. I completely understand their perspectives, particularly because of the way they get paid. During the Q&A an 80-year old man stood and said “If the actuarial tables are accurate, this is my first and last book. What am I supposed to do?” The only answer given was to get rid of his aol email and get a gmail account. I came to writing later in life myself–in my 50s–have had 4 books of poetry published–two award-winning–and have wandered into memoir. The panel didn’t give me much hope–something, Betsy, that your editor said readers need. I guess I need to triple my workouts so I can live to 100, and be able to sit in the men’s locker room naked talking on my cell phone without embarrassment. Oh, and I already have a gmail account. 🙂

  9. My most negative thought of many about publishing is the tragic reality that I know my readership and how to get to them with a published book, and I have a story I know these resonant minds will read, but it has become clear I cannot get it to them without self-publishing, which I don’t want to do.

  10. greatest fear? Is never getting published. Giving up too soon.

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