• 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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Our Breath Comes Out White Clouds Mingles and Hangs in the Air

Every now and then I realize how basic it is. Writers need reassurance. It doesn’t matter how cocky, egotistical, self involved, faux humble, reclusive or sweet and chatty they are. When they call me they want one thing. Milk and cookies, a finger of bourbon, feathers soothed, temples massaged. They need the beach, the ocean, the reef, the wave. They need bucket hats, mac and cheese, slow dancing, and peonies. Writers need to know that their work isn’t for naught, or not in vain, or alone in the dark, or in the middle of the night with nothing but a magpie making fun of your name.

it’s 9:00 pm what do you need?

14 Responses

  1. Hell yes, I think we all want that. At some point though, if we persevere and keep writing and rewriting, we learn our words generally aren’t going to met with a bunch of peonies. I am always disappointed at less than positive feedback, but I’m become grateful for the opportunity to learn and improve.

  2. “it’s 9:00 pm what do you need?”

    When you asked, sleep.

    Now that I’m up with the birds, (magpie excluded, non-native) you, as usual, nailed it.

    It’s so simple. Tell me something good, and I will love it again, enough to keep going, to put in another page or two, or the whole shebang. It doesn’t have to be much. It can be a single solitary word.

    A week ago I submitted a proposal for the next book – I’ve been slogging over it for months filled with self-doubt b/c I’m writing in a different time – as in Civil War. My agent came back with one word – in all caps to boot. EXCELLENT.

    It was enough – but hey, I’d take the mac-n-cheese and all the rest, too.

  3. “it’s 9:00 pm what do you need?”

    It’s 6:00 the following morning, and I need breakfast — the standard: yogurt, black tea, water, and supplements. I need to lose the thirty pounds I’ve gained over the past thirty years, without losing any body parts. I need to write while the day is still quiet. This is writing, this monloguey stuff, this comment on this obscure blog. What happened here? Our number was once legion. Now, so many are gone. I’ll go in a minute or two, soon as I’m through here, and do a spot of work on the book I’ve been writing since shortly before the pandemic smacked the human world upside its forsaken head.

    What did I need at 9:00 last night? It surprised me, the need that called me then. I could hear my neighbors, young and old alike, out back, laughing and talking. I needed to go out for a few minutes and be near them and away from my reading and writing and photography. The night was cool and breezy, thunderstorms over the lake, coming down from Wisconsin. The children played with their toys and games, and the parents played, too, cocktail glasses and cans of beer in hand. Lightning lighted the sky. Trees danced in the wind.

    • I heard my neighbors last night, too, Tetman. They were talking on their back fire escape, across the alley below our bathroom. It was around 10 o’clock and I couldn’t hear what they were saying but there was some laughter then comfortable silence, just enough normalcy to push this Delta crazy Covid crap away for a while. I guess I needed that more than I thought.

  4. I need an Angel from Montgomery type of deal. I read that the title of that John Prine song refers to Alabama death row inmates hoping for a reprieve that wings it on down from the governor’s office in Montgomery. The last lines in the chorus are “… just give me one thing that I can hold on to/ to believe in this living is just a hard way to go.” I guess writing is my angel.

  5. it’s 9:00 pm what do you need?
    I’ll tell you what I need and I hope I can get through this without falling apart.

    I need to know that I am leaving footprints.

    The words I have slaved over, shared and spit onto paper matters because the DNA of them is not fiction. They are about me which means they are about the collective we. I need to know that splaying myself for others to dissect for the past forty years has been relevant. We are all different and yet we are so very much the same. I cling to that sameness while around me we are splintering into subgroups I am woe to recognize. Where has normal run to.

    I retired my newspaper column a couple of years ago, not because I wanted to. The newspaper is now half the size. I miss the introspection and the deadline. I am blown away that people still recognize me in the produce isle or a local restaurant because now I look like I’m the mother of the head-shot that accompanied the column.

    Even though so much has changed I am not putting away my personal writer’s petri dish just yet.

    So Betsy, what do I need?
    Sometimes all you need is for someone to ask, “What do you need.” Thanks.

  6. I need to find my way back to the words, but those neural riverbeds are buried now in sand and I can’t remember where they used to be. I need to matter to myself. I need to stop this endless cycle of grief that begins every summer when the pine trees ignite and skeletonize the landscape; each one feels like a personal recrimination, Mother Nature’s dead child offered up on the evening news. I need to remember that the planet is old and sturdy and will survive us, spinning as it does around and within other spinning objects—the vastness of which is beyond our ability to comprehend—and that endless peace awaits us all.

  7. I need all of the above and acknowledgment I exist. It turns out a year of agent ghosting wreaks fucking havoc on your self-esteem. Send a form rejection letter, that’s fine. But to labor over the letter and get no acknowledgment? Feh.

    • I try never to ghost but sometimes queries fall between the cracks. Or if someone sends me something that isn’t among the genres I list in my agent bio on our website I’ll delete it. I’m like if you can’t take the time to research what I handle then why should I take the time to politely reply. Would you go to a criminal lawyer for a personal injury case! A dermatologist for migraines? Also, I want to say that I’ve been ghosted many times both as an agent and writer. Here’s how I handle it: no skin off my nose. Move on. More fish in the sea. Whatever. Go fuck yourself. People are ghosting more than ever. They are also inundated more than ever. It’s all part of this ecosystem. Make sure your work is truly ready and polished. Your letter is crisp, your title to die for, your credentials noteworthy. Do your research!!!! And then, truly, fuck me dead and move on.

    • I try never to ghost but sometimes queries fall between the cracks. Or if someone sends me something that isn’t among the genres I list in my agent bio on our website I’ll delete it. I’m like if you can’t take the time to research what I handle then why should I take the time to politely reply. Would you go to a criminal lawyer for a personal injury case! A dermatologist for migraines? Also, I want to say that I’ve been ghosted many times both as an agent and writer. Here’s how I handle it: no skin off my nose. Move on. More fish in the sea. Whatever. Go fuck yourself. People are ghosting more than ever. They are also inundated more than ever. It’s all part of this ecosystem. Make sure your work is truly ready and polished. Your letter is crisp, your title to die for, your credentials noteworthy. Do your research!!!! And then, truly, fuck me dead and move on.

  8. All I really need is the kick in the balls I deserve when I don’t get the work done.

    Such niceties as milk & cookies and massages would be lovely, and yes, I’m as needy as the next lazy, depressed, woe-is-me-I’m-a-writer — but honestly, if writers want some guarantee our precious work isn’t in vain we should maybe work harder at learning to write better and just get the fucking job done. And not just every so often — if writing’s your job do the job, and if it’s your calling have some respect and truly give yourself to it.

    Anyone who can’t stand the heat should be set on fire, so they fuck out of the kitchen and stop getting in the way of whoever’s preparing the food.

  9. What I needed? All of this. Thanks, Betsy and everyone.

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