• 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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One Toke Over the Line Sweet Jesus

Oh my goodness. Where have we been and where are we going? What is a writer’s responsibility in a pandemic, in an election, in a time of unrest and agitation, violence and injustice? Are we small and insignificant? Are we the mighty sword? How do you write when people are dying, when suffering is pervasive, when the economy is tanking, when governors are kidnapped, when all the dogs have been adopted.

I’ve missed you all. Catch us up. xo

31 Responses

  1. I think people are using their writing as a way to cope. There are a lot of things right now in the world that people need to cope with. I know I do.

  2. I’ve been telling our graduate students since March that, pre-pandemic, your writing may have been the thing that made you most anxious, fearful. What if your writing became the thing that you could most control. most predict, a place and space for productivity and moving your project, your degree forward? Schedule your writing, commit to your goals and to yourself, block the rest of it out for an hour, and do it. Every day you can.

  3. My creativity seems buried under a landslide of worry, and I don’t have the energy to try to dig it up. It’s one of the many things I miss from the Before times.

    • I feel this, too. My mother died in April and I’ve been caring for my father and trying not to be angry all the time. I know I should write, but I just can’t make myself.

      • Lisagolden, it is okay to refocus energies on caring for a father, grieving a mother, venting that anger. All of that makes perfect sense. Perhaps we can use writing as islands of reward/relaxation/earned time apart from the rest of 2020.

  4. No way no way no WAY am I letting the state of the world take my writing (and drawing) away from me! Uh uh, no ma’am. I doubt my words make me a mighty sword – I may be just a dull butter knife for all I know – but they’re all I’ve got. We could be in bombed-out London in the WWII, or in a ditch in No Man’s Land or stuck in a broken elevator all weekend, needing to pee incidentally, but we will write or drag a stick through the dirt. We will pontificate and slant rhyme and rail against the dying day… Phew. That took a lot outta’ me. Now I need a nap.

  5. I am not sure how difficult it is to write surrounded by death, fear and uncertainty in a pandemic but reading has never been so marvellous a way to forget the world outside and become list in other worlds. Betsy one of the books I have enjoyed most is your Bridge Ladies. Funny, tender, a great look at card games which I love and the world of our mothers’ generation, the relationship between mothers and their daughters. A triumph of a book. Kind, sensitive and intelligent. Good on you Betsy.

  6. I write almost every day and have been. In mid-July, I FTF. (acronym for you “old-timers” out here) It was a whopping 118K. I’m self-editing, whittling away terrible words and have it down to 109K. Still got at least another 4-5K to cut.

    A writer’s responsibility while everyone fights with one another and the virus is to write. On the flip side, a writer’s responsibility while the world is awash in peace, love, and the ability to conversate without a rage induced meltdown, is to write. We should write while people are dying because there are those who are living who want to read books. I say we are small and insignificant, but we can be the mighty sword when necessary.

    The one thing I hope is true – all the dogs are adopted.

    Oh, and I have that song on a 45. 😉

    On another note,

  7. I’m fucking querying, because I too finished the fucker. One request for a full, two nice rejections (including the request for full), and a whole lot of nothing. I’m rewriting my query letter right now. It’s an exercise in selling and concision. I’m good at one, but not the other.

    I’m messing around with some new ideas, no pressure. Feeling irrelevant as I cast around for new topics is probably good for me. We’ve always been fucked,now it’s just dazzlingly clear. But you guys are good for my heart.

  8. I’ve struggled to write much since March I was able to deal with copyeditor and proof reader comments as that seemed more business less creating. Then I started a second novel, but it died. More recently I have a new idea and I’m mulling it, writing long-hand a bit, mostly just letting ideas come to me. It’s set in the past which is a jolly nice place to spend time.

  9. That is how I feel. Thank you for talking about hard topics!

  10. I thought I posted a comment, but maybe I deleted it! So possibly repeating myself: Betsy, I have been meaning to let you know how much your book Forest for the Trees has helped me! I have been writing in some form most of my life, began writing essays in earnest about 8 years ago, and then three years ago began a novel. And yes, it seems I did have to wait until my mother passed away last fall (Dad died 7 years ago) to finish it.

    I now write a column for our local paper in Colorado, and I feel I should be addressing current events, and so I try to do this within my “personal reflection” style of essays.

    But to be honest – and maybe this is selfish in these times – I am sick of the news, and sick of current events! I want to write about what is personally interesting to me: love, my obsession beginning in my 50’s with the past, nature, magic.

    Thanks for asking this question.

  11. Hi. Good to see you all (i.e., “youse,” or “youse all,” or “youse guys”) again. I did a system update and for a short spell WordPress insisted, first, that I am not me, and then, that I had spoken my allotted fill and should just move along, nothing to see here.

    But here I am again, the herpes you never could get rid of (I speak metaphorically, of course — I know not the health status of any of you, or you all, or youse guys).

    Where have we been and where are we going? We’ve been down to the foundations, and we’re going — hell, I don’t know. We’re going to die. Before that, we’re going to pay taxes. That’s all I know about that.

    What is a writer’s responsibility in such times as we are living through now? At a minimum, I think our responsibility is to avoid making things worse. Avoid it like the plague. Any plague. The old-fashioned bubonic kind that slaughters half the population in three short days, or the new-fashioned kind that sickens and kills at the pace we have been witnessing, or the persistent kind that is a plague of disinformation, suspicion, ignorance, and fear.

    Our size and significance, reltively speaking, depend on factors usually far beyond our control. Who could have foreseen that Greta’s voyage would so deeply frighten and anger so many? Who could have predicted that George’s death would have sparked what could prove to be revolutionary change? How likely could it have seemed that Donnie’s often barely intelligible twitterings could have wrecked a political party and a national government?

    The pen is still the mighty sword. Rusts it in its scabbard? Thoughtlessly wielded, it harms both good and bad.

    Sometimes it is difficult to write. The tales one wants to tell seem irrelevant, almost an insult to society. All we can do is find some truth and tell it.

    Wash your hands. Don’t touch your face. Don’t go out unless you have to. If you have to go out, wear a mask. Keep your distance. Be patient. We’ll get through this.

  12. Hello everyone!
    Lately I’ve been writing about ghosts, so I guess that has some connection to current events. More specifically they’re about ghosts from out west, one a Wyoming cowboy in the middle of the interstate who I drove through and the other an unhappy prostitute in a Crested Butte rooming house that was formerly a brothel; I woke up alone, but the bed was shaking and the springs squeaking. I had been sleeping like a log after a fun day on the slopes. Have you ever fucked a ghost? There’s really nothing there.
    Other than that, well, you know, the encouraging signs are that many people are fighting harder to make the world safe again but it’s impossible to gauge the evil we’re up against. And nearly a quarter of a million ghosts will soon be howling along streets deserted on Halloween.

  13. hello,

    writing more than i thought just to keep going. working another draft of my ms. not feeling particularly relevant in many ways but that’s just the zeitgeist of 2020–the starring role is held by a knobby virus.

    where have i been? at home, trying to stay healthy, worry eating away my myelin sheaths. do you ever get the feeling you’ll short out?

    FYI i’ve long held the idea of “keep moving, no matter what” and i’m wondering about that, but that’s another story.

    rea

  14. This was a much-needed email, and I didn’t know that until it was there. Thank you. Lately, I’ve been flip-flopping. On the one hand, I’ve been more productive because of two online masterclasses. On the other, I feel restricted by the way the pandemic has rendered certain stories (and plots and characters and details) out of touch or ridiculous. This is, of course, when I feel like writing and am not too immobilized by dread etc. No resolution, no wisdom to share — just the state of the affairs. Greetings to all youse.

  15. I have perfected extreme social distancing, baked pineapple upside down cakes, started a new blog where I promised to write and then let it fizzle out, considered surgically removing a Chihuahua from my hip, read myself senseless, and yesterday mourned the 2 year anniversary of my spouse leaving me. That plus all the great news coverage and I’d say life is grand. Nice to hear from you Betsy et al.

  16. Yup, I’ve been reading sentences that blow me away. Was that me? How did I do that ten years ago? (Dystopian for seniors) Stop laughing. This is some good ***t but really, in this climate is it worth it?

    Random thoughts:

    All this time is wonderful and yet… it’s built on the backs of the suffering.

    If the world were healthy again (was it ever) we’d be busy and complaining that we are pinched for time.

    I keep thinking that what I write now might be my last words before someone shoves a ventilator in my mouth.

    But…the woods which surround my little house are on fire from the colors of the leaves. No smoke. Storm surge is not a worry, high winds are and they are calm for now. My music is sweet, my belly is full and my coffee is hot. I am blessed in this time of fear.

    Back to strengthening the backbone of a story I started when wisdom was a metaphor for old age. Old folks as expendable and youngsters as saviors. Timely. Who woulda’ thought?

  17. “Let us remember…that in the end we go to poetry for one reason, so that we might more fully inhabit our lives and the world in which we live them, and that if we more fully inhabit these things, we might be less apt to destroy both.” ― Christian Wiman

  18. As many have suggested, there will be a before and after, and it will affect my writing. What stories are worth telling and which are just silly, frivolous indulgences? What matters in the eternal scheme of things? Surely not my tales set amidst my first world comforts.

    Last week I saw an old man take a crap on the sidewalk, across from a homeless shelter. It was locked and there was no where else to go. The shop girls are now streetwalkers. The addicts rule the streets as the rest are working remotely in the country. It’s sad and overwhelming, forcing me to pause and consider if my stories hold merit, these tales of a white girl with a roof over her head, an education and some money in the bank. I don’t suffer, not like the man in the street. Shame on me for clogging the airwaves with my high brow musings. Think before you write, I tell myself. Ask the difficult questions or just shut up.

    It’s hard. I fill notebooks with these thoughts. I paint old wooden floors to drown it all out.

    • I have just written your words on a post-it: Think before you write. Ask the difficult questions or just shut up. Attributed, of course. Thank you.

  19. Yeah, 2020 can see itself out any day now.

    I’ve experienced the deaths of two loved ones plus my beloved canine companion Ringo, the near-death of my mother (actually calling her in the hospital to say our goodbyes because they wouldn’t allow me in to see her—thankfully, she survived), and lost my job of 28 years. Oh, and there was a pandemic, too.

    You bet your ass I’m writing. Maybe not as often or as well as I should, but I am putting pen to paper. And I am concentrating all my other energy on Nov. 3.

    Happy to see Betsy and the rest of you back in this little corner of the world.

    • So sorry to hear of all this, Sherry. And yes! November 3rd. Might there be a light at the end of this tunnel. Hope.

      • Thank you. Yes, I’m ready for us all to put this year, as well as the actions and anger of this administration and its supporters, behind us! “Hope” is the operative word. ❤️

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