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Someday We’ll Be Together

Generally I hate hearing that this blog helped people or, god forbid, that something I said inspired someone. Community shommunity. I’ve done everything I can to make you feel as shitty and insecure about yourself as I feel about myself. I’ve begged you to embrace writer’s block and stop seeing your therapists. But every now and then one of you breaks free and makes a god damn go of it. And so please my friends, give it up for Averil Dean. And by that I mean buy her book. Thank you, Averil. I can’t wait to read your book. I love the title and the jacket. Really cool. Congratulations from everyone here on the ward. As for the rest of y’all, I hope everyone completely alienates their families tomorrow by talking about their writing non-stop. Like the entire plot to your novel. Love, Betsy

So I TUrned Myself To Face Me

Dear Friends of this blog: Remember Sherry Stanfa-Stanley? She was one of the nutters who regularly showed up  here at the mental institution. Well, it looks like ECT may be in order. SSS is embarking on a project called THe 52/52 project wherein she attempts to defy life’s all around go fuck yourselfness and, um, break free? Break down? Break out? Get a book deal? C’mon, friend her. Or at least do an intervention. How can you not love SSS? I do. By the way, she wins an eating contest? BFD, I do that every day. (Is it me or does that hot dog look 3-D?)

My name is Sherry, and I am changing my life.

As I whimpered past the age of 50, I realized I’d spent the last 30 years doing the same ordinary things. Every. Single. Day. I know many people, especially my female friends, who are in a similar rut: those who spend more than their share of evenings folding clothes in front of the TV, daydreaming about the world out there while they contemplate having that second bowl of ice cream. So, in the last three months, I sold my house, bought a condo, and lost nearly 30 pounds (with more than a few to go). And then I started pondering how I might shake up my life in a number of smaller ways. Thus was born, The 52/52 Project

As I turn 52 this year, I am embarking on a list of 52 things I’ve never before done—experiences well outside my comfort zone. They range from taking belly-dancing classes (already begun and soon-to-be ended for humane reasons) to spending the night in a haunted house (I do believe in spooks, I do, I DO), to getting a Brazilian wax (just shoot me now). Join me in jumping the curb, taking a detour from the cul-de-sac to visit personally unexplored territories.

Follow along at: https://www.facebook.com/The52at52Project

Hey There, You With the Stars In Your Eyes

Hey Guys, remember when I said stay in touch with good news (though of course bad news and general carping always welcome at the Betsy Lerner Institute of Psychotherapy)? Well, our own Jessica Lahey has landed a major book deal (see below) based on a popular article in the Atlantic. Hot shit. Congrats Jessica, and thanks for not approaching me to agent you. What the hell does a girl have to do around here?

Pubs Have Feeding Frenzy Over Lahey’s ‘Gift’

After a three-day auction featuring 10 bidders, Jessica Lahey’s The Gift of Failure was acquired by Gail Winston at Harper. Winston bought world English rights to the book, based on an article Lahey wrote for the Atlantic, from agent Laurie Abkemeier at DeFiore and Company. Lahey is a middle school teacher and her story, “Why Parents Need to Let Their Kids Fail,” drew impassioned reactions online, after it ran in late January. The book, Abkemeier said, will be “a manifesto and action plan about why parents must learn to refrain from stepping in any time children experience disappointments… so that they may grow up to be successful, resilient, and self-reliant adults.”

It’s a Wonder That you Still Know HOw to Breathe

Today, a client described the feeling of waiting for his book to come out in the new year. “One minute I know nothing’s going to happen, it’s already over.  And the next minute I’m winning the Pulitzer.” I’m not going to say the truth is probably in the middle because more likely than not nothing will happen, another worthy book will slip beneath the waves, or as a writer once said of publishing a book, it’s like carrying a bucket of water to the sea.

We can talk about the terrible odds of getting recognition. We could also talk of the writer’s ego, the grandiosity and the insecurity, the hopelessness and magical thinking. Or we can talk about the opening night jitters, the complete and total lack of control over whether you will be reviewed at all, and if so what will be said, and then, of course, will it sell.

I ask my client what he’s working on. It’s a sleight of hand question to distract him from the oncoming traffic, but I also think that a new project is the hair of the dog and the only way to move on, move forward, to understand that this one book is just that: this one book. It does not a career make (unless you are Harper Lee). Or, like me, you can continue to shamelessly flog a ten year old book. I’ve seen embittered writers who swear off ever writing a book again, write again.

I don’t think it’s about the triumph of the human spirit. In fact, the desire to keep writing and publishing is more likely a triumph of human perversion. I want to know: does it ever get easier. Does a writer ever say, I’m good. Or, I’m happy. Or is that for other people?

Sometimes Your Dreams Get Broken In Pieces

I think I’m done with the five part series on fame. It’s all such a mind fuck anyway. There’s no winning the fame game because everything fades. Because someone else will be anointed, crowned, bequeathed, and beheaded. Of the many lies I hear writers say is that they would just be happy to have their book published. That’s like not being asked to dance after you’ve put on your party dress and stood eagerly all night on the sidelines. It’s like being the last girl at the bar, 3 a.m. with your legs shaved. You are the tree in the forest no one heard fall. The nail in your own casket.

How are we to understand this desire to write and the desire to be read. Are they the same or different? Is writing enough in itself. Would you quit if someone told you that you will never be published?

When I Give Love I Want Love in Return

FAME – A Five Part Series

Part Four

The all time best moment of my life was at a Christmas party last year. This scene actually happened IN FRONT OF MY DAUGHTER. I am introduced by the host to a young woman:

Host: This is Betsy, she’s written a book.

Young Woman: That’s cool. Is it anything I would have heard of?

Betsy: It’s a writing book.

Young Woman: Wait, are you Betsy Lerner?

Betsy: Yeah.

Young Woman: Oh my god, you wrote The Forest for the Trees. That’s a classic.

The only other moment that came close was when my dentist’s receptionist read my book, really liked it and now gives me preferential scheduling.

And fan letters. I think the fan letter may be the purest form of author appreciation. I receive two kinds  of fan letters. The first is where the person loves my book and wants me to sell theirs. As far as I’m concerned these don’t count. It’s like expecting a blow job just because you gave one. The other is where the person just loves the book and has no agenda. I get very few of these.

Please “share” a moment of fame or appreciation for doing that thing you do.

I Can’t Help It If I’m Lucky

FAME – A Five Part Series

Part III

When Food and Loathing was published, something exciting happened. I was invited to go on The Today Show. How the publicist scored this, I will never know. In short order, I was told that I needed a) a new look and b) media coaching. The shopping trips resulted as they always have since fifth grade: in tears. The media coaching was worse. A petite, perky woman with frosted hair,  a fat belt slung around her hips, and bright lipstick tried very hard to get me to sit up straight, look into the camera, and break me of the habit of going silent after a questions was asked, which apparently made me look brain dead. DNR!

I was summoned to the publisher’s office. He had seen the tapes. He said watching me was like playing violin at Auschwitz. I saw myself pulling the bow over the strings. I saw myself standing in Schindler’s line. As a child I had nursed many Anne Frank fantasies — this was not a reach. Look, he said you’ve got to get  a hold of this thing. He said I needed a universal response, a line I could use in any interview that would give me the upper hand, steer the conversation to make my points. He then brainstormed with me, helped me boil my book down into one beautiful sound bite.

Inside the NBC studios, the wardrobe lady ran a lint brush over my body, tsked, and sent me on my way. A make up lady coated me in pancake, and a hair stylist did what she could. I saw Matt Lauer in the hall. Tall! I was seated across from Al Roker, newly thin from his belly band. Four, three, two one: Al holds up the book and calls it the “feel bad” book of the year. High praise, indeed! Then he asked me what I was trying to say, and I pulled out my line. Well,  I said, all women have a secret eating life. That was it, the line the publisher gave me. And three minutes later it was over. Amazon figures dropped into the 100’s for a brief shining moment then skyrocketed back into the ether.

The way I figure it, I have 12 minutes left. What did you or would you do with your fifteen minutes of fame? Besides an Oprah bj.

What You Like Is In The Limo

This begins a five part series on fame. I met with a publisher who talked about a writer we both knew at the beginning of his meteoric career. Now, twenty years later, this writer is still a big deal. The friendship had its ups and downs over the years, but the two were solid now. I asked if the quality of the friendship was still as good. No, not really, the publisher answered, he’s changed. How, I asked, though of course I new the answer as soon as I asked it. Fame.

We talked about that for a while. Some people seem to feel that fame confirms what they felt all along about themselves. For others, it brings on imposter complexes, insecurities, paranoia, etc. I wonder if it’s possible to remain unchanged by fame. What is it and why is is so desirable, cash and babes aside.

In My Own Little Corner, In My Own Little Chair

You know I’ve been whoring all over god’s creation trying to sell my book. I was recently asked what exactly I’ve been doing to raise my profile. I’ve been writing articles for writerly magazines and websites. I sent out an e-card to everyone I’ve ever met, to writing programs and conferences. I’ve said yes to every gig I’ve been invited to including the local Psoriasis Society, but they flaked out. What won’t I do to spread the gospel according to me and my fat ass? I’m about to do an actual book mailing to MFA types in the tri-state area, have crafted a letter that only be described as smeg. I’ve even created an “author page” on Amazon. Oh, and I tweet. That’s a shitload of fun. I don’t do Facebook because of my stalker tendencies and my desire to keep friends at a minimum.

How important is self-promotion, I’m often asked.  Well, it’s very important.  But you want to make sure you do it right, which means that by the end of it you are completely unrecognizable to yourself, that you’ve made of yourself an asshole so blazing the angels sing. And at night, when you take off your bra and lay your weary head on your pillow, and look at the ceiling, a tear slips out of your eye as you remember the fledgling writer who couldn’t afford a copy and you gave her one, insisting she have it as gift. Or the man who brought a tattered first edition and said the book saved his life, only when you opened it, every line had been underlined and the margins were filled with swastikas.  Being a whore, none of this really makes an impression on you. You’d do a horse in Times Square if you thought it would move your Amazon rank.

What would you do for your book?

I Met Her In a Club Down In Old Soho

This Monday night, January 17,  I’ll be at McNally Jackson Bookstore, 52 Prince Street at 7pm. I’ll be “in conversation”with Glenn Kurtz about what’s wrong with writers. There will be a Q&A, I’ll be hawking my book, and with any luck Hawaiian Punch. I was thinking if anyone in the New York area can come that we should have a secret handshake or signal. Or not. Hope you can make it. Betsy

p.s. rumor has it August is coming.

p.s.s. rumor has it I started the rumor.