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Oh, Mirror In The Sky, What Is Love?

Whenever assistants ask me what to look for in manuscripts, I always say page turners or prize winners. There is an assumption in my directive that the two are mutually exclusive. That’s a big topic which I’m not prepared to get into while watching The People’s Choice Awards.

What I’d love to find out is which you would rather have, assuming you could only have one, a big prize or a bestseller? Literary acclaim or ca-ching? Reputation or readers? Apples or oranges?

In My Own Little Corner In My Own Little Chair

Okay, fuck the query letter. But before I take my pre-holiday dive into depression, weight gain,  and the return of the winter rash between my big and second toe, I have to tell you something, Nation. Tonight, from 6:45-8:30, I was in the GREEN ROOM of the Colbert Report. I was there, of course, with Patti Smith. Mr. Colbert is too big of a pussy to have me on his show and take me up on my challenge to eat through an interview. But the laugh is on him, because I ate through his green room: raspberries, blackberries, pineapple slices as thin a permanent paper. There were six kinds of cheeses, crackers, prunes (though maybe just large olives), and a HUGE JAR of m&m’s. Yes, folks, this is LIVING.

When he came to meet Patti before the show, he was super polite. Amped, but polite. Whoa, they pile the make-up on. A dog called Elvis was running around, very cute little Benji style dog. The lady said it was a rescue dog. I always feel a little shitty when people say they have a rescue dog and it’s not just because I paid a small fortune for a cockapoo to be shipped from Ohio. Or maybe it is. Did I mention that we got totally GIFTED with SWAG. Yes, that adorable woman running around Manhattan with a cap emblazoned with “C” is me. I’m never going to take it off. Patti did great, by the way. It’s on tonight, Monday, if you’re up.

Well, my carriage has turned back into a pumpkin. My footman a big fat rat. What is your craziest fantasy of success as a writer?

In My Life I Love You More

I received over one hundred emails today — my inbox runneth over. I’ve heard from old bosses, booksellers, colleagues, friends, writers, beloved clients. I ‘ve heard from people I barely remember and people I slept with. I’ve heard from friends of the family, and family. I’ve heard from England, Holland, Italy, France, Korea, and Japan. I’ve heard from scouts, movie people, even other agents. I’ve heard from people I can’t stand who have treated me like crap and people who mentored me and helped me grow. I’ve heard from people I hate and people I love.  But of all these friends and lovers, there is no one compares to you.

My mother congratulated me and then said, “why do you think it won?” And that, my friends, is all you really need to know about me.

What do we need to know about you?

I Thought Love Was Only True in Fairy Tales

Sitting on another late train home opening my mail. All the usual stuff, droves of fan mail, scores of query letters, and then a letter from The Writer Magazine. They want to excerpt five pages from my opus The Forest for the Trees and they will pay $200 clams.

My friends, you may think that this means little to a power agent such as myself. But you would be wrong. Every dime a writer makes from writing is a direct hit to the ego. It’s the ca-ching Samuel Johnson was talking about.Getting paid for writing is like having sex in a bathroom stall at Phoebe’s Bar on the Bowery.

What’s the least amount of money you ever got paid for writing and what was it for?

Guest Blog #1 – Vivian Swift

Hello everybody, this is world famous author Vivian Swift filling in for Betsy today. I know, I know — I look familiar: Haven’t we met? I get that all the time. ALL THE TIME. Just last week, at Betsy’s book event at She Writes in Manhattan, I introduced myself to three or four complete strangers and two of them looked at me funny and asked, “Haven’t we met before?” I hate that. Like I said, I get asked that all the time; I just have one of those all-American cover girl faces. And an identical twin sister, but that never figures into the scenario except for that one time in that airport bar in Rome.

When somebody asks, “Haven’t we met?” what they are really saying is “You’re too ordinary for me to remember but I, on the other hand, am unforgettable, so now you have to do all the work and figure out why I think I know you. And make it snappy.”

It’s not that I’m easily offended. (Which I am, but that never figures into the scenario, unless we really have met before, and then I will get all Real Housewives of Atlanta on your ass.)

The reason this question bugs me is because even though I was cautioned by Betsy in the “Publication” chapter of The Forest For The Trees about what getting published will and will not do for your self-esteem, I still think that getting a book published is utterly transforming. Getting published gives you a sheen, a glow, an aura of specialness not unlike a halo — and it annoys me when people don’t see that. For chrissake, I am a published author. I’M IMPORTANT.

But lately I’ve been thinking. Oh sure, once you get published you do rise high above your formerly drab self, it’s true. But then you discover that you’ve been promoted into a whole new world of anonymity — after all, tens of thousands of books are published every year. I’ve read that the number is anywhere from 50 to 80 thousand books in America alone. With all those books that readers have to choose from, then, to those inundated readers you look just like every other author out there. Even if you’re in the ten percent of authors who are really, really cute, that’s still a lot of authors in the beauty pageant.

My job as an author (which is quite different from my job as a writer) is to stand out from the crowd. I remember when Laura Hillenbrand’s book Seabiscuit came out; she got a lot of press for having written a good book, of course — but she got just as much attention about her having written it while suffering from chronic fatigue syndrome. All over the land, talk show hosts and glossy magazine editors got the hots for her because –hallelujah! – they could interview an author who had a completely different story to tell about being a [boring, stay-at-home, intellectual, whiny word-processing] writer! Steig Larson: he went one better than disease — he got dead. Stephanie Myers: Mormon. J. K. Rowling: former welfare mom.

The only thing keeping me off the New York Times best seller list is that I forgot to tell my publisher (when they asked me for my bio) the one, single-most, publicity-sexy thing about me that will make TV, radio, and print editors take notice. And, by extension, make readers by the millions remember me. None of this “Have we met?” shit ever again.

But I’m working on my second book for publication, and this time I’ll be sure to mention that I am Angelina Jolie’s prettier half sister (tres relevant: my book is about France).

What is the sexiest thing about you, as a writer? Whether it’s true or not?